Increasing Calcium Intake

Cathy : This is a thankyou to Bernice, who responded to my question about ISA Browns and their dietary requirements. I was very interested to read this reply and had not considered the idea that the diet of my hens during their growing period before entering their laying period might have affected their ongoing health, but it makes sense that it would, especially given that the hens rely on the calcium already laid down in their medullary bones to support egg-laying in maturity. I acquired these hens as point-of-lay pullets and assumed that they had been fed to meet all their dietary requirements, and perhaps this was true as far as the grower was able to ascertain.

Looking at the condition of both my young hens once they had gone through an extended laying period, I was convinced that they had very low bone density as well as low body weight, and I have been looking at ways to add loading to calcium intake and uptake, even to the extent of treating the soil in their enclosure so that the vegetation growing within will have maximum possible calcium value.

As an ageing female human who is taking both calcium and Vit D supplements to counteract medically diagnosed low bone density, I have been advised that these supplements can only halt the advance towards osteoporosis and not restore bone density already lost. So my thinking is that I can’t restore lost bone density to my hens either, only do my best to keep them in as good a condition as possible through all means available to me, from the start of their time under my care. Meanwhile, the vet suggested changing to another breed of hen altogether, and a gradual changeover to Australorps (which might also cope with the extreme summer heat here) is looking likely. With thanks and kind regards, Cathy O’Driscoll



  1. Linda Compton April 10, 2017 at 3:21 am

    How do we get chickens to eat the oyster shell? We have 4 buff Orpingtons and 1 Rhode island red who two yrs old. Up until this winter they layed really well. This winter which was a real cold one the chickens stopped laying and we are still only getting 1 a day or every other day. I need some help as what to do.

  2. Gina April 10, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    Oyster shell is usually given in a separate bowl to their normal feed so they can help themselves if they want to. There should already be calcium in their layers feed so sometimes it can help to reduce treats (if they are getting any) so the majority of their intake then comes from the layers feed.

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