SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

January 25, 2015

Eggshells good 4 birds

Wild Things

Eggshells beneficial to birds

 by Cindy Decker

If you open my oven right now, an eggshell might tumble out.

OK, in truth, if you open my oven pretty much anytime, an eggshell might tumble out.
The oven is a repository for a pie pan brimming with the shells from uncounted breakfasts and “brinners” (breakfast for dinner).   The shells are for the birds.

When we cook, my husband and I stash the shells in the oven until we get a generous pile — enough to justify turning on the oven to sterilize them.  We bake the shells at 250 degrees for 20 minutes, then grind them into small bits that we add to bird food.

  • The shells aid birds in several ways: The grit helps with digestion , and the extra calcium supports good health.

“Birds ‘chew’ their food in the muscular part of their stomach, the gizzard,” explains FeederWatch, a project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
“To aid in the grinding, birds swallow small, hard materials such as sand, small pebbles, ground eggshells and ground oyster shells.”

In addition, the shells supply calcium, necessary for the health of individual birds but also the strength of their eggs.

  • Although my husband and I mix the ground shells with birdseed and into peanut butter cakes, some experts say the birds appreciate the shells by themselves.

“You can crumble them into bite-sized bits and spread them on a patch of bare ground, a rock, a platform feeder or your deck railing,” wrote Evan Dorsky on the Bird Watcher’s Digest website. “You may find they’re so popular, you’ll need to go to your favorite diner to beg for more!”

Because neighborhood cats think our feeders are prime hunting ground, we try not to lure birds to the soil.

However you decide to deliver the shells, be sure to sterilize them so that you don’t spread salmonella to wild birds.

Rinse the shells before setting them aside to be baked, and they won’t smell while they await baking.

Cindy Decker, At Home editor, writes about native gardening.

cdecker@dispatch.com

(Really good stuff to know. . .especially if you enjoy giving help where it is needed)

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