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Repurpose Your Eggshells

Posted by Signe Langford, Tue, Apr 17, 2018

Eggstreme Eggshell Makeover

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 repurpose 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!

In the Garden

  • Crunch up or grind eggshells into a powder or fine crumbs; sprinkle it throughout the vegetable 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 by 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 is a calcium-loving tomato plant. The calcium the plant draws 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 bird feeders. Just like hens, mama 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

For human consumption, I highly recommend a thorough washing—first in cold water so as not to cook on the residual egg, and then with very hot water. I like to peel out the inner membrane, too. Invert the shells on a drying rack and dry them in the oven at its lowest temperature for 20 minutes or so, or overnight using only the heat from the pilot light. Once the shells are clean as a whistle, grind them into a superfine powder using a food processor, blender, or mortar and pestle. Add them to foods for a calcium boost, which is especially good for postmenopausal gals for whom a loss of bone density 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 those 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). It works best on cooked eggs, whether soft- or hard-boiled.
  • I use 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, you can use anything as long as it’s spoon-up-able and so rich that just a little bite will do.
  • There is an old cowboy trick for brewing less bitter coffee: Add a clean, 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—and 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, 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 in the pointed end of the egg, shake out the contents (make breakfast!), wash well and dry. Fill the shell with melted chocolate, set aside for a few hours to cool and 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 that 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 far 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, as well as for keeping their muscles toned and their 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 as in humans, if the body needs calcium and is not getting it from the diet, it will plunder the mineral from the bones. This 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 bake them in the oven at 300° Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes. I then crush them in a food processor, stopping when I have a mix of bigger shards and fine powder. I add this to their feed and dump it into their favorite dust bath spot. I figure they’ll pick it up, eat it, and get it all 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!

A Few More...

Of course we all know the joy of decorating eggs for Easter, whether we are dipping them in food dye or diving into 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; decoupaging them; dipping them in a toxic slurry of nail polish (not recommended); marbleizing them; and making centerpieces, wreaths, Christmas tree ornaments, and mobiles out of them. The most skilled among us (not me!) are using fine tools to carve intricate patterns onto them (again, not me!). But that’s with the whole, unbroken shell. Is there anything we can make with busted-up eggshells? Yes, there is.

  • Ground eggshells act as 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!
  • 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, whether they’re 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 (a 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 mosaics look 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 available all over the internet.
  • Nicely topped or cut eggshells make adorable little vases for your springtime table. Just add a bunch of short-stemmed flowers, stuff moss in all around to hold them in place, add water and set the whole thing in pretty little egg cups. Feel free to switch this up with soil and tiny succulent plants, such as baby jade or aloe. 

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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