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I have been raising my own quails for both eggs and meat for over 20 years, and during that time I have grown a real affection for these tiny little birds.
Whilst quails are not as productive as chickens and they lack the charm and character of ducks, quails certainly have a personality that means I would not want to be without them on my homestead.
I spend much of my time these days giving chicken, duck, and quail-keeping talks at clubs and shows around the country, and one question that is raised frequently is ‘Do quails need crushed oyster shells?’
In this article, I will discuss why we might give quails crushed oyster shells, as well as how much we should give them and how often.
Whilst it is not strictly necessary to give quails crushed oyster shells, laying up to 300 eggs per year does take its toll on a quail hen’s body, and by adding oyster shells to her diet we can prolong her life and help her lay good quality eggs with strong shells.
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Do Quails Need Crushed Oyster Shells?
Whether or not quails need crushed oyster shells added to their diets is a matter of some debate.
On the one hand, you have quail keepers who point out that quails are perfectly capable of laying up to 300 eggs per year and they rarely lay soft-shelled eggs like a duck or chicken might.
On the flip side of the argument, some people quite rightly point out that laying all those eggs takes a toll on a quail hen’s body, and the constant demand for calcium to make the eggs shells does deplete the amount of calcium in her body, ultimately reducing her lifespan.
In my experience, adding crushed oyster shells to a quails diet is a wise thing to do.
Considering all the costs in buying, and raising a small group of quails, from a coop to bedding and food, the cost is considerable. Adding a few dollars more for the occasional bag of crushed oyster shells is not a major expense.
I tend to use a lot of the Manna Pro Crushed Oyster Shell and a 5lb bag only costs around $6 (you can check the current price on Amazon.com here)
Adding crushed oyster shells to a quail’s diet will increase the amount of calcium available to the quail, which in turn will mean there is always sufficient calcium in the quail’s system for strong, healthy bones as well as strong shelled eggs.
How Much Crushed Oyster Shell do Quails Need?
I am not aware of any studies that pinpoint exactly how much crushed oyster shell should be added to a quails diet. In fact, I don’t think it is even something I have given too much thought to over the years.
What I tend to do is throw a handful of crushed oyster shells into my quail’s enclosures every couple of months.
Quails spend a lot of time pecking at the ground looking for tasty morsels to eat, and as they do they tend to pick up a lot of small pieces of grit. They will also pick up pieces of crushed oyster shells.
If your quails are kept in runs or cages, then you can either add a small amount of crushed oyster shell to the quail’s feed, or you could provide the crushed shells in a small separate bowl so the quail can help themselves as and when they feel they need a little extra calcium.
Any of these techniques will work and it will probably depend on your particular setup as to which method works best for you.
Alternatives to using crushed oyster shells?
If you do not wish to give your quails crushed oyster shells, or you simply do not have access to them where you live, then there are a couple of alternatives.
Feeding crushed eggs shells back to your quails is one of the cheapest methods of getting calcium back into your quail’s system.
To do this, simply wash and dry any of the shells you have saved from either your quails or chickens.
Once the egg shells are totally dry, they can be ground into a fine powder, either by using a pestle and mortar, or an electric spice grinder like this one.
This fine powder can then be mixed in with the quail’s food. As the quails eat, they will naturally end up consuming the ground eggs shells, which will dissolve in their stomachs, making some of the calcium available to them again.
Feeding your quails lots of fresh vegetables can also help raise the levels of calcium in their bodies.
Fresh vegetables such as;
Adding any of these fresh foods to your quail’s diet will do them nothing but good.
In my humble opinion, adding calcium to a quails diet in the form of crushed oyster shells is a good idea.
Producing all of those eggs takes its toll on a quail’s small body, and by providing the quails with the additional calcium, you help increase their life span and help ensure your hens lay you 200 to 300 fresh eggs each year.
If you found this article interesting, why not check out another one I wrote recently titled ‘Do quail smell?’.
- Calcium and Strong Bones pcrm.org