What can your character do with their egg shells? How many eggs do chickens lay? What do toothpaste and chicken mites have to do with egg shells? Find out on this episode! 

Welcome to Writing Rural with Alley, the fiction writer’s weekly inspiration station for rural life and lifestyles, from historical to post-apocalyptic, helping you bring your rural stories to life! I’m Alley, and this is episode #64, The Many Uses of Eggs. Stick around to the end to find out all the ways things could possibly go wrong. Now, let’s get into this.

Chickens are one of the most well-known farm animals. A quick google search says people can’t agree when they were first domesticated. With estimates as little as 3,000 years ago, and as high as 10,000 years ago. The one thing they do agree about is that they believe they were first domesticated in Asia. 

These feathery little alarm clocks taste great, but before we eat them they are useful for making eggs. On the lowest end, a chicken can lay 104 eggs per year. A hybrid egg layer can lay as many as 300 eggs per year. However, the average chicken will lay between 180 to 260 eggs per year, which is still a lot of eggs. Even 5 hens laying as little as 180 eggs per year adds up to 900 eggs. That’s over two eggs per day. That’s a lot of eggs, and a bunch of egg shells. Today, we will cover some of the many ways they can be used. 

I bet you can guess what is first on the list! If you guessed throwing them at the neighbor’s car, you guessed wrong, and were likely a misbehaving kid. (Tisk) If you guessed to eat them, you would be right. Eggs are one of the most widely used foods. Everything from scrambled eggs (a favorite among most kids), to baking cakes or cookies, omelets, casseroles, mayonnaise, and I have even seen ice creams with eggs as an ingredient. 

Remember, the eggs on a farm do not go through the same process as store-bought eggs. Historically, and even in other countries today, people do not wash their eggs, and in doing so, they do not need to refrigerate them. I’ll leave links in the show note to learn more. Also, there is a greater chance for bloody eggs. There is also the risk of rotten eggs. 

Let me chuck in a quick disclaimer that eggs are in the top eight major food allergies in the United States. If you write anything after 2004, it is the law here to add a warning that any product made with any of the top eight food allergies have to be clearly labeled on the product.

Moving on from that, eggs have been used as part of dog food for as long as anyone can remember. Owners that give their dogs raw diets will add this. There is a debate about letting the dog see the or eat the egg uncook if there is any chance that they will come in contact with an egg that they do not want eaten. I have seen this go both ways. I have seen dogs be given raw eggs, and then they eat the chicken’s eggs in the yard, and I have seen them given eggs daily and never touch eggs without the owner giving it to them. Take that however you will. 

If there are more eggs than your character can eat right now, they can be saved for your character and their dog. They could be pickled, or waterglass’d. I see dehydrated egg powder being sold to doomsday prepers, but I have never used it, so I can’t tell you what my thoughts on them are. 

Next on the list is that, historically, eggs have been used to barter and trade for. Maybe your character wants honey or cloth to make clothing. Eggs are a perfect thing to use to barter and trade with. Just remember if they use them to rip other people off, other people will take notice, and many will do the same back to them, but at a time where it will greatly hurt the other person, like when they are ill, or about to have a new baby. It’s just human nature to desire to get even. However, this could be a great chance for them to fight the instinct and instead forgive. Whatever your story calls for. 

Eggs can also be sold outright. This has happened historically, but also happens today too. Keep in mind there are many states that have laws about eggs being sold by individuals. I don’t know what any of them are, so remember if you want your modern story to be realistic to check out the modern laws. 

Another way to make money off of them is to hatch the eggs and sell the baby chickens. We did this when I was a child and had a great time doing it. Some people sell them the day after they hatch to make sure they are dry. Others, like my dad did, sell them at about 21 days old. They are starting to feather out and are ready to join the flock at that time. Now, if you are thinking about chickens in the wild, remember they have a mother to take care of them, and these did not. 

The other part of the egg is the shell. Whither your character eats or bakes with the eggs, they will have a shell left over. Not to worry, the shell doesn’t have to go to waste. 

First, the shells can be used in the compost. They add calcium into the fertilizer that will later be used in the garden. Both vegetable gardens and flower gardens can use this. I’ve been told to add fertilizer to this list, that it is the same as compost, but for those that count them separately, egg shells can be used for both. 

Now the next thing you need to know is how to make egg shell powder, also called egg shell flour. Take the empty egg shells and place them on a baking sheet, and bake them in the oven until they are bone dry. Some say to bake at 225 degree, and other say 300 degrees. Frankly, they will all work, but being bone dry is the important part. This takes the minimum of 25 minutes, but could be longer. Once they are cool, your character will take a mortar and pestle to grind them into a fine powder. In modern times, a blender could be used. 

An important note, that all water, including condensation, must be kept away from this powder. If it is not, the powder will turn clumpy. Other signs are that the powder smells like rotten eggs, or there is mold growth. If any of these happen, they need to throw it away. 

The first thing that can be done with this is to feed it to the chickens. Ok, that sounds mean, but hear me out. The shells are made of calcium, and the chickens need to have calcium in their diet. Using the shell is a great way to get the chickens to get what they need to make more eggs. 

Next is that egg shell powder can be used as a pest control. Many people, myself included, use diatomaceous earth as a way to kill garden pests and chicken mites. This is done simply by spreading the dust in the chicken pen and on the plants. When soft bodied bugs climb over these, it cuts them up, and they die, or dry out, depending on who you ask. Either way, it works, and egg shell powder can be used as a substitute. Personally, I do not feel it works as well, but if I didn’t have the diatomaceous earth, I would not hesitate to use the egg powder. 

On the same note, egg shell powder is a gentle abrasive the same way baking soda is. That is why it makes a great replacement for baking soda in some recipes. The ones I can think of are home make face exfoliants, and home make tooth paste. If they call for baking soda, they could be replaced with egg shell powder. 

Another thing it has been used for is a calcium supplement for people. Dry eggshells are made of 95% calcium carbonate. That is the type of calcium in supplements. Some people put these in capsules to swallow like a pill. Others mix it with water or other kind of drink. Some mix it in with foods. I even know some people who swallow it dry. 

On the same note, can you guess what else we take that is made of calcium carbonate? That’s right, antacids. Meaning egg shell powder could be a replacement for Tums after the Apocalypse. 

Some people who feed their dogs a raw diet will use egg shell powder as a replacement for bone meal powder. I know there is a technical reason for why, but with conflicting ideas on why, which is best, I really don’t know why. Only that they both agree the other can be used if their favorite is not available. 

Last on my list, but feel free to leave me a comment if you know of more, is making chalk. You remember those old chalk boards, and banging erasers together. What? You don’t? Ok, maybe I watched a few too many episodes of Little House on The Prarie. Either way, egg shell powder can be used to make chalk. A simple recipe is to mix 3 parts egg shell powder, 2 parts hot water, and one part flour, mix fully, shape, and let dry. 

Fun fact: Eggs have been used to wash hair throughout history and are still used by many DIYers today. 

What could possibly go wrong? 

Before we get to the best part, if you enjoy this podcast, I hope you’ll take a minute to follow, rate, and review on your favorite podcasting platform. And if you are listening on YouTube, subscribe, hit the like button, and drop me a comment; I love to hear from you! Don’t forget to share with a friend. As always, you can find episode show notes and helpful links to learn more on my website, alleyhart.com. Now for everyone’s favorite part! 

Likely to go wrong: Your character takes baby chickens out to the hen house before they have enough adult feathers. Without the feathers to keep them warm, in the night they die. 

Likely to go wrong: Your character’s chicken gets so old, it stops laying eggs. 

Likely to go wrong: Your character didn’t know they were allergic to eggs. When they eat some, they quickly swell up, and struggle to breathe. This could be deadly. 

Possible to go wrong: Your character makes egg shell chalk for their child to play with. When they come back to play with it a few days later, they find mold growing on the chalk. 

Possible to go wrong: Your character cracks open an egg to make scrambled eggs only to find the egg had gone bad. Their whole home fills with the smell of rotten egg. 

Possible to go wrong: Your character feeds eggs to their dog every day with the shell included. The dog starts to see the eggs as yummy and sneaks into the chicken pen to get more goodies. 

Unlikely to go wrong: Your character trades honey to get eggs. However, when they get home, they learn all the eggs are rotten and they have been tricked. 

Unlikely to go wrong: Your character tries to eat a spoonful of eggshell powder dry. They struggle to swallow it like this. 

Unlikely to go wrong: Your character makes egg shell powder. As they are crushing the egg shells they accidentally inhale some of the powder. This irritates their lungs. They have a hard time coughing it all out. Some settles and your character soon spirals into a lung infection. 

Improbable but still technically in the realm of possibilities: Your character really hates their neighbor and eggs their car with rotten eggs. On top of the smell, the eggs ruin the car’s paint. 

Improbable but still technically in the realm of possibilities: Your character’s child has an ant farm. They see their parents adding egg shells to the compost to make the soil better. They decide to add egg shell powder to their ant farm to make the soil better. They unknowingly kill all the ants in their ant farm before they realize what is causing the deaths. 

Thanks for listening! Until next time, happy wordsmithing.

Helpful Links to learn more:

Refrigerate eggs; yes or no?


How to tell if eggs are good or bad:


Bonemeal or egg shell powder for dogs to eat: