Re-Purpose Your Eggshells

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Eggstreme Eggshell Make-Over

Okay, I get it, you’re here on this page, you’re a Manna Pro Hearty Homesteader. You’re crafty and resourceful; you already reduce, reuse, and recycle, and 99.9% of you already re-purpose your eggshells. Still, on the off chance that you don’t know all the fun things you can do with eggshells, I’ve put together a list. With any luck you might find your new favorite eggshell re-do right here!

DIY-Gardening-eggshell-plants

In the Garden

  • Crunch up or grind eggshells into a powder or fine crumb; sprinkle it all through the veg patch, especially around those tender lettuces, herbs, and hostas. To our skin the powder feels like nothing, but to slugs, snails, and a whole host of creepy crawlers, it feels like sliding over razor blades! They will avoid the area, but if they do venture over it, it’s a death of a thousand cuts for them! For this to work, leave the eggshell crumbs on the surface of the soil.
  • Those same ground up eggshells can be worked into the soil as a fertilizer for your flowers or veggies. But since shells can take many months to break down and become plant food, grind them as finely as you can and dig them in at least a few inches around the plants.
  • Save up carefully opened eggshells to make into tiny seedling pots. Just give them a quick rinse, then drain upside down; add potting soil and a couple of seeds in each. Water, and set in the sun; before you know it, you’ll have happy little seedlings ready to be set – shell and all – right out into the garden. No need to transplant from shell to soil; just tap the bottom to create a few fine cracks, and the plants’ probing roots will do the rest. You can start anything this way, but one of my favorites are calcium-loving tomatoes. The calcium they draw from the shell as it decomposes helps prevent blossom end rot in the fruit.
  • If you have more eggshells than you know what to do with, add some – ground up – to the birdfeeders. Just like hens, mamma birds in spring appreciate a calcium boost!
  • Is Kitty pooping among your posies? Try scattering some coarsely crushed eggshell over the preferred area; some cats hate the feeling under their tender tootsies.

 In the Kitchen

HappyHens_D&M_LemonMeringues_photo by Donna Griffith

For human consumption, I highly recommend a thorough washing, first in cold water – so as not to cook on the residual egg – then with very hot water. I like to peel out the inner membrane too. Invert the shells on a drying rack and dry in the oven at its lowest temperature for 20 minutes or so, or overnight, with just the heat from the pilot light. Once shells are clean as a whistle, grind them into a super-fine powder – use the food processor, blender, or mortar and pestle – and add to foods for a calcium boost, especially for post-menopausal gals, for who bone density loss can be an issue. Smoothies work best, in fact, I had an uncle who used to make healthy milkshakes in the blender with one raw egg – shell and all! – it was pretty tasty too. Milk, a drop of vanilla, egg, blend!
  • You might want to invest in one of these nifty gadgets that slice the pointy top end off of eggshells with guillotine-like precision. I have one of these babies from swissmar.com and it works well – most of the time – and it works best on cooked eggs, soft or hard boiled. 

Swissmar Egg Cracker

  • I used this tool to create gorgeous little eggshell egg cups – um, Mother’s Day brunch, anyone? – that I fill with my light citrus curd. But don’t stop there; fill these delicate little cups with buttery scrambled eggs; gently-baked sweet or savory custard; sweet or savory jelly or aspic; mousse or fruit fool. Really, anything spoonupable and so rich that just a little bite will do.
  • This is an old cowboy trick for brewing less bitter coffee: add a clean and lightly crushed eggshell to the grounds when you pour-over, percolate, drip, or even French press your coffee. Coffee is an acidic food, and eggshells are alkaline; the alkalinity of the shells cuts the acidity – hence the bitterness – of the coffee. Dump both the spent shells and coffee grounds onto your garden or into the compost.
  • For this kitchen job, eggshells don’t need to be pristine; crushed eggshells make an abrasive scrub for pots and pans and even the kitchen sink! Just add a drop of dish soap, elbow grease, and a roughly crushed eggshell to the offending cookpot and scrub with a rag.
  • Clean, blown-out whole eggshells can be used to make chocolate Easter eggs at home without investing in fancy confectioners molds. Make a hole about the size of a marble at the pointed end of the egg, shake out the contents – make breakfast! – then wash well and dry. Fill with melted chocolate, set aside for a few hours to cool then peel off the shell.
  • For cute little egg-shaped cakes, follow the same technique as for chocolate eggs in shells but switch out the melted chocolate for cake batter. You’ll need to oil the inside of the eggshells first, then pipe in the batter and bake; there will be a bit of volcanic overflow to clean up, but what a way to surprise a kid at breakfast!

In the Coop

I give my ladies both crushed oyster shell I buy from the supply store and eggshells from my kitchen. Every now and then, they get a whole egg, smashed on a rock, and they go nuts! I know, I know, some folks say that turns a nice, normal hen into a savage egg-eater, but in the 15 years I’ve had hens, that’s not been the case. Somehow, they just seem to know the difference between a treat I give them, and those precious things they leave nestled in the shavings. They love eating eggshell, way more than nibbling on oyster grit, and I believe the calcium from eggshells is more bioavailable for them. Hens need lots of calcium for forming good strong eggshells of their own; for keeping muscles toned and bones strong. Some folks swear by giving their dogs whole eggs – shell and all – every now and then, too.

Calcium deficiency is one of the leading causes of egg binding in hens; if the oviduct muscles aren’t strong enough, they can’t massage the egg down toward the vent. Likewise, if the eggshell isn’t hard enough, it doesn’t get moved along as smoothly by the hen. Also, just like humans, if the body needs calcium and it’s not getting it from the diet, it will plunder it from the bones, and that can lead to breaks, especially in the pelvic bones of a laying hen. Ouch!

  • I like to gather enough shells to cover a cookie sheet, then I bake them in the oven at 300F for about 30 minutes. I then crush them in a food processor, stopping when I have a mix of bigger shards and fine powder. This I add to their feed and dump into their favorite dust bath spot. I figure, they’ll pick it up and eat it and get it all up into their feathers and onto their skin, where it will act like mite powder or Diatomaceous Earth (DE). I also sprinkle this around the coop and run; anything to help with mite, lice, and other critter control!
  • For a summertime treat, sprinkle some powdered eggshells onto the cut side of a watermelon and watch the ladies lose it!

watermeloncalcium

A Few More…

Of course we all know the joy of decorating eggs for Easter, whether good old dipping in food dye to the amazing and gorgeous traditional folk art of pysanky (Ukrainian egg decorating). Folks are also wrapping eggs in old silk ties and scarves and boiling them to transfer the dye and pattern; they’re decoupaging them; dipping them in a toxic slurry of nail polish (not recommended); marbleizing them; making centerpieces, wreaths, Christmas tree ornaments, and mobiles out of them. The most skilled among us (not me!) are using fine tools to make intricate carvings into them - again, not me! But, that’s with the whole, unbroken shell. Is there anything we can make with busted up eggshell? Yes there is.

  • Ground eggshells are a natural microbeads. We know all those facial cleansers with plastic microbeads are wreaking havoc on the wildlife in waterways, lakes, and oceans; some states and entire countries have even banned the sale of products containing them. You can make your own facial cleanser with olive or coconut oil and finely ground eggshells. A drop or two of some lovely peppermint oil and honey will make your home spa day complete!

candles

  • Melt some beeswax, add a length of wick, and make some adorable, all-natural candles with cleaned out eggshells. When it’s all burned down, just chuck it in the compost.
  • Mosaic art can be made with larger and smaller bits of broken shell, dyed, natural, or painted over. They’ll need to be cleaned and the membrane will need to be peeled out, and allowed to air dry. The bits of shell can be glued to anything from construction paper – great rainy day craft for kids – to wood or even glass; just make sure to use the correct adhesive for the surface. Start with a drawing or do something abstract. But don’t stop there! Eggshell mosaic is great on dollar or thrift store picture frames, jars and vases, decorative plates, keepsake boxes, you name it. Eggshell mosaic jewelry is also a thing. The same technique can be applied to small pieces of wood, glass, ceramic tile, or metal to be fashioned into pendants, bangles and cuffs or earrings. All the tools and such can be found at the dollar or craft store, and detailed, step by step instructions are all over the internet.
  • Nicely topped or cut eggshells make adorable little vases for the springtime table. Just add a bunch of short-stemmed flowers, then stuff moss in all around to hold them in place; add water and set the whole thing in pretty little egg cups. Switch this up with soil and tiny succulent plants, such as baby jades or aloes.

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Signe Langford

Signe Langford

Signe Langford is the author of Happy Hens & Fresh Eggs; Keeping Chickens in the Kitchen Garden with 100 Recipes. She is a chef, Toronto food writer and backyard chicken fanatic.

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