The present study explored the mechanism of Zn-methionine (Zn-Met) influencing eggshell quality of laying hens and investigated whether the mechanism was related to Ca deposition. Hyline grey layers (n 384, 38 weeks old) were divided into four groups: 0 mg Zn/kg, 40, 80 mg Zn/kg as Zn-Met, and 80 mg Zn/kg as zinc sulphate (ZnSO4). Eggshell quality, Zn contents, Zn-containing enzyme activities and expressions of shell matrix proteins in eggshell gland (ESG) were analysed. Zn-Met treatment at 80 mg/kg increased (P < 0·05) egg weight and eggshell strength throughout the experiments. The 80 mg/kg Zn-Met group (P < 0·05) had decreased mammillary knob width and larger relative atomic weight percentage of Ca, stronger signal intensity of Ca in linear distribution and the Ca was more evenly distributed in the transversal surface of eggshell. Zn contents (P < 0·001) in yolk and serum, Ca, albumin (Alb) levels in ESG as well as carbonic anhydrase (CA) activity in serum (P < 0·05) and mRNA levels of CA and Ca-binding protein-d28k (CaBP-D28k) (P < 0·001) in the 80 mg/kg Zn-Met group were the highest among all treatments. In conclusion, shell strength as one of eggshell qualities was mostly related to mammillary cone width in ultrastructure caused by the pattern of Ca deposition in eggshell formation. Also, the increase in Zn-Met-induced Ca deposition may be due to the increased Zn contents in serum and tissues, which were attributable to the increased CA concentrations in serum, Ca, Alb levels and up-regulated CA and CaBP-D28k mRNA levels in ESG.