Calcium is essential in the feed of chickens as it helps in the formation of the bones and the formation of the eggshell. So a lack of calcium in the diet of poultry birds can lead to some serious problems for them. There are natural sources of calcium for chickens and other poultry species which are discussed in this article.
For any poultry farmer worth their salt, feeding a balanced diet to their animals is essential. This means making sure to include calcium-rich ingredients in the feed in order to promote strong bones and healthy eggshells. However, some farmers make the mistake of skimping on the calcium, resulting in weak bones and shell-less eggs or eggs with soft shells.
Calcium Deficiency in Chickens
A lack of calcium in the diet of chickens can negatively impact their health and productivity. Calcium is essential for the maintenance of the skeleton, egg production and shell quality. Additionally, calcium plays an important role in blood clotting, enzyme activation and deactivation, and hormone secretion. If hens do not have enough calcium, they can develop health problems that can impact their egg production and overall wellbeing.
The following are some of the effects of calcium deficiency in chickens:
- Low egg production
- Fragile egg shells
- Weakness and coordination problems
- Leg weakness
- Osteoporosis and bone fractures
- Bone and joint deformations
- Dystocia (retention of the egg) can develop in laying hens
Also Read: Nutritional Composition of Major Livestock Feed Ingredients
Natural Calcium for Chickens
To ensure that your birds are healthy and productive, it is important to provide them with a good source of calcium. The following are five natural sources of calcium for both meat birds and laying birds.
1. Oyster shell
Oyster shell is a natural and common source of calcium used in poultry feed. It contains an average of 36-38% calcium, making it an excellent option for the diet of domestic birds. It provides the right level of calcium and prevents mineral deficiencies that cause poor growth and productivity in birds.
Some benefits of using oyster shells as natural calcium for chickens are that it decreases egg breaks due to hardening of the shell, increases egg size and improved production, and decreases lameness. Additionally, it reduces bone decalcification in hens.
2. Diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth, also known as white earth, is actually fossilized algae found in bodies of water. It can be used for different purposes, such as an organic or homemade dewormer for chickens, or as a food supplement. As a food supplement, it provides chickens with a good amount of calcium.
What you should do is just mix the diatomaceous earth with the feed of your birds. The standard quantity of the diatomaceous earth to mix is 5% of the quantity of feed that is to be supplied to the chickens.
Limestone is a very common ingredient in poultry feed. It contains high concentrations of calcium, making it an excellent choice for birds that require calcium supplementation. It is not as easily absorbed as an oyster shell and can be less expensive, but the calcium content is still relatively high. The insoluble form of limestone supplementation with higher concentrations of calcium is the more efficient type to use for birds that need more supplemental calcium.
Eggshell is another natural source of calcium that is easy to access. It is sometimes used as a supplemental source of calcium for birds that need extra calcium. Egg shells are usually used in the form of a fine powder mixed with feed, making it easier for birds to ingest.
Bone is another natural source of calcium used in poultry feed. It is obtained from the bones of animals that have already been slaughtered for food. Bone meal can be used in many different ways and is beneficial for a variety of different things. It can be used to help aid in the growth of a chick’s bones during the first few weeks of life. It is an excellent source of phosphorus and calcium and can help increase egg production in egg-laying birds.