Today many populations of wild birds rely on the bird feed offered by backyard feeders to provide them with the nutritional elements that they need to survive. This is particularly true in areas where natural habitats have been lost to residential and commercial development. However, one of the nutritional needs that is not usually met by generic bird feed is adequate calcium carbonate.
Calcium Carbonate and Bird Health
Calcium carbonate is an important nutrient for birds. It is required to protect their bone health and to produce their egg shells. In fact, egg shells are about 95 percent calcium carbonate. When birds don’t get enough calcium in their diet their egg shell quality can be negatively impacted, which reduces the survival rate of chicks. This is why it is a good idea to supplement your bird feed with egg shells in the early spring when most bird species are nesting and laying eggs.
Natural Calcium Carbonate
Historically birds harvested the calcium carbonate that they needed from the calcium found naturally on the soil’s surface. However, air pollution near urban settlements have led to the development of acid rain with pH levels of between 4.3 and 4.5, which is well below the natural pH level for rain of 5.6. When acid rain saturates the soil it dissolves away the calcium carbonate on the surface. This depletes the amount of calcium that is available for birds.
Preparing Egg Shells for Calcium Bird Feed
You don’t want to add raw egg shells to your bird feed. Instead you will want to thoroughly wash out the empty egg shells and then bake them in your oven on a cookie sheet at 250 degrees F for about a half hour. This will sterilize the egg shells and prevent salmonella contamination of your bird feed. After your baked egg shells have cooled you will want to cover them in a paper towel. Then you can crush the egg shells into small pieces that are between 1/8 inch and 1/4 inch wide with your hands, a rolling pin or a hammer.
Creating Egg Shell Bird Feed
To create your own egg shell bird feed you have a few options. Your first option is to simply pour the pulverized egg shells into a dish and place the dish out by your bird feeder. Your second option is to scatter the pulverized egg shells over the ground near your bird feeder. Option three is to mix the egg shells in with your wild bird feed. You can do this by dumping the bird feed into a bowl and sprinkling the egg shells over the bird feed. Mix with your hands and then pour the mixture into your bird feeder. The final option that you have is to mix your egg shells in with suet. This can then be formed into feeder blocks and set out for your birds.
Advantages of Egg Shell Bird Feed
There are several reasons why you would want to add egg shells to your bird feed. The first reason is that it provides your birds with a nutrient that they desperately need. The second reason is that it will help you to attract a unique collection of local bird species to your yard, including species that normally don’t visit bird feeders like wood warblers, gnatcatchers and orioles.