PHOTO: Personal Creations/Flickr
You might be surprised how many ways eggshells can be put to good use: around the house, in the garden, even for health and happiness. Read on for an eggucation in how to use them, starting in the chicken house and working our way to the keeper’s home.
1. Use Them as Pet Food Supplements
Most chicken keepers have probably already heard about feeding crushed eggshells back to the chickens as a calcium supplement. “Chickens need calcium to make eggshells or they start pulling it from their bones to supplement,” says Caroline Turben of ExtravagantGardens.com. Turben’s hens eat the crushed shells at will. “Truth be told, they like it,” she says. Turben first sterilizes the shells by baking them, while others grind them to a powder before feeding.
To sterilize eggshells, dry them on a cookie sheet for approximately 30 minutes on low heat (180 degrees F). Let the baked eggshells cool. To pulverize, use a small grinder, such as a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. Crush to desired consistency. Holistic veterinarian Judy Morgan suggests storing the eggshell powder in a covered container in the refrigerator.
Turben’s flock keeps her well-stocked with shells, which she then feeds back to the chickens, who then make more eggs with shells. It’s a natural loop that feeds hens’ health and then the hens feed us.
But eggshells can provide needed nutrients for dogs and cats, too.
“Powdered eggshells are a great mineral source,” says holistic veterinarian and author, Judy Morgan, whose expertise is food therapy for pets. She says that home-cooked diets play a large role in the treatment of her patients. “Dogs and cats have a higher calcium requirement, and the calcium-to-phosphorus ratio must be balanced appropriately,” she says. Because of this, eggshells are the most common natural calcium and trace-mineral source in the diets Morgan prescribes.
Sprinkle or mix sterilized powdered eggshells in pets’ food. Morgan recommends about 500 milligrams of calcium per pound of meat fed. “Usually about half a teaspoon,” she says. “Although the calcium level varies between eggs, that’s a close approximation.”
Dr. Jennie Ann Freiman, a wellness blogger at OObrooTips.com, skips the prep work and feeds her dogs the whole egg—shell and all. Besides the calcium, which feeds strong bones and teeth, Freiman says that the shell membrane contains glucosamine, which is great for joints. (Perhaps that’s what puts the springiness in her two labradoodles’ step.) Be aware: The FDA does warn about possible salmonella poisoning from consuming raw eggs.
2. Place Them for Pest Control
Just as spike strips can stop a fleeing criminal in a souped-up car, a thick boundary of broken eggshells placed around tender plants may deter marauding slugs and snails. They don’t like the sharp edges and do a quick U-turn, say proponents of this method, including TillysNest.com blogger and author Melissa Caughey.
A experiment on AllAboutSlugs.com debunks this technique, but many gardeners swear by the shells. If you have a slug problem, what have you got to lose but possibly unwanted guests? You might as well give it a try. For best results, surround each plant with a solid line of shells. Don’t leave open spaces for the pests to slip through. Consider sterilizing the shells first, so the wet inner shell membrane won’t instead attract slugs.
Speaking of attraction, try using freshly discarded shells with their membranes as bait to trap raccoons and rodents. Or work at repulsion instead: Many homemade deer repellents use eggs because deer don’t like the smell of them, so turn them off by laying out the fresh shells from your breakfast omelet in your flower garden with the membranes intact. You can also make a spray from water and the egg itself.
To keep cats from using your garden as a litter box, use broken eggshells to dissuade their tender paws.
3. Add Them as Soil Booster
“Plants need calcium,” says Turben, who relies on eggshells, compost and other organic matter to keep things growing and healthy. In her neighborhood, blossom-end rot ravaged everyone’s tomato crops a couple of years back. “Mine were untouched,” she says.
In winter, Turben adds eggshells to the compost pile. “But during the spring and early summer, I’ll take some of what I’ve ground up for the chickens and powder it down even further. Then I sprinkle it around the bases of veggie plants.”
If plants could talk, Turben’s would be crowing—just as she is about the added calcium from eggshells that keeps them growing well. If you vermicompost, calcium from eggshells you provide will help keep the worms happy and healthy.
4. Make Seed-Starting Pots
Use eggshells as starter pots for seedlings, too.
“Just for the early stages,” Caughey says. She then transplants the starter pots, whole, into the garden. “Just crush the shell gently to allow the seedling’s roots to grow into surrounding soil,” she says. “The shells take a long time to break down, but they will feed the soil, too.”
5. Clean Your House With Them
Sterilized eggshells, crushed or powdered, can be star cleaners around the house. Make a cleaning paste by mixing sterilized, finely pulverized shells with a little lemon juice, vinegar or water (plain or soapy). The nontoxic abrasive can be used on pots, pans or wherever else you might use a store-bought abrasive cleaner.
For stained tea or coffee cups, narrow glassware and long-necked containers difficult to get a sponge into, or items with gunk in nooks and crannies, add sterilized crushed eggshells along with lemon juice and water. For sparkling results with minimal effort, let the item stand for a few days, giving it an occasional swirl, then rinse.
You may have heard that eggshells can unclog drains, but that’s not quite true. Putting shells down the drain could actually clog your pipes, but bits placed in the sink strainer will trap debris the strainer holes let through. Dispose of collected debris, and then add more shell bits. If the shells break down small enough, they’ll clean pipes as they pass through.
6. Add Them as a Laundry Whitener
Added to the laundry, porous eggshells can absorb dirt and stains that water lets loose, making clothes look brighter and whiter. But be sure to put the shells in a mesh bag — an old pair of pantyhose, tied off above the shells could work—to keep them from clogging your machine or pipes.
7. Add Them to Your Coffee
Egg coffee is another great in-home use: Add some crushed, sterilized shells to coffee grounds to take the bitter bite out of fresh brew.
According to food-science blogger Martin Lersch, who has a Ph.D. in organometallic chemistry, the additional proteins from the shells bind to the astringent and bitter-tasting compounds in the coffee to form solids, causing them to sink faster to the bottom of the pot. The end result is a clearer coffee with a pleasant and mild taste.
8. Make a DIY Facial
For a tightening facial, mix an egg white with finely powdered, sterilized eggshells, a natural source of calcium, which is needed for effective cell regeneration and regulation of skin pigmentation. Spread on clean skin, and let dry. Remove with tepid water. The slight abrasion of the crushed shells helps slough off old skin, too.
9. Repair Cracked Cuticles
Cracked and dry cuticles can get a boost from the hyaluronan found in the shell membrane. Tape small pieces of freshly cracked eggshell with the membrane side down over your fingernails and cuticles. Leave on for a few minutes or until the membrane dries.
10. Soothe Bug Bites
For bug bites and itchy skin, drop an eggshell into apple cider vinegar and let it soak for a couple of days. Dab the mixture on minor skin irritations. The apple cider vinegar helps balance the pH of the infected area.
11. Strengthen Your Nails With Them
Powdered, sterilized eggshells could also be added to clear nail polish; the extra calcium helps strengthen them.
12. Use Them as a Toothpaste Additive
Some people even add shells to a baking-soda paste they use to brush their teeth. Toothpaste and nail polish often have added calcium for just this purpose.
13. Make Blooming Eggs
Caughey pushes flower bulbs in shells she’s cracked the narrow tops off with care. She adds pea gravel for stability and small flower bulbs, such as grape hyacinth, daffodil or crocus. “Add some soil and top with moss if you want,” she says. “Then put them in a sunny window, and water.”
Display the blooming shells in eggcup holders, nested in a dish of gravel or even in egg cartons. Caughey likes the pretty ceramic ones and finds interesting the idea of using eggs, which begin by holding life force themselves, to give life to a plant. “When entertaining, wouldn’t it be fun to use blooming eggs as placeholders that guests could then take home?” Caughey asks. Write names with a painting pen or permanent marker, or splash on chalkboard paint and use chalk for names.
14. Use Them in Homemade Candles
Bursting with décor ideas, Caughey suggests using shells with melted wax for homemade candles stabilized in a nonflammable holder. Be sure to monitor open flames.
15. Make an Egg Topiary
Caughey has also made a decorative egg topiary by gluing blown-out eggs onto a Styrofoam cone and filling in with decorative moss.
16. Create Egg Carvings
When you start hatching new ideas for shells’ second lives, the possibilities are almost endless. Just ask Gary LeMaster, whose artful egg carving has grown into a thriving business.
LeMaster, who has been featured on The History Channel, sells his finished designs at TheEggShellSculptor.com. He carves a variety of eggs, including goose, emu and ostrich, but his chicken egg creations are some of the most popular, including The Beatles eggs he modeled from a photo he took at their Chicago concert in 1965.
LeMaster likes the dark brown Maran eggs because of the contrast created when carved. He buys the eggs from breeders. “They compete to see who can get the darkest eggs,” says LeMaster, who has grown weary of all the egg jokes he hears, but admits, “I am a little cracked.”
If you’re interested in carving eggs, LeMaster warns of a quick addiction to the art. At TheEggShellSculptor.com, he offers live streaming classes and has taught more than 4,000 students. Carving shells and teaching others to carve them keeps LeMaster happy.
17. Use Them in Nail Paint
Denise Heavner also finds joy in the art she creates on what she calls convenient “mini-canvases.” Not the eggshells themselves, but canvases we have on each hand: our fingernails. Heavner is a licensed nail technician with a private studio in her Ohio home, and her public studio is her popular YouTube channel, DeniseJohn65. Some of her 65,000 subscribers’ favorite videos are ones using eggshells.
She dries the shells, rinses and soaks them overnight in a mixture of vinegar, water and food coloring. She then crushes them to bits, adds glitter and creates her art. Your nails can match your personality, mood or apparel. Take a walk on the wild side with her cheetah nails using eggshells.
18. Use Them to Create Sidewalk Chalk
Artists often start early, so help their creativity along with a little sidewalk chalk made from eggshells. It’s simple.
Wash about 10 eggshells thoroughly, taking care to remove the membrane. Bake to sterilize, or lay them out to thoroughly dry. Crush dry shells into a fine powder. (Let the kids do this by hand with a mortar and pestle, and it will keep them busy for a good long while.)
Blend in a couple of teaspoons of flour. Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of hot water to mix up a stiff paste. Mix in food coloring and stir thoroughly, adding more drops to reach desired tone. Turn out your blob of wet chalk onto a thick paper towel. Roll up the towel, shaping your chalk into a cylinder as you work. Set the tube of chalk somewhere safe to dry for several days.
Once the tube of chalk is completely dry, make some sidewalk art with the children.
Now that you know all these uses for eggshells, you can utilize them to clean house, help your pets, soothe your skin, decorate and create. That’s something to shell-ebrate!