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Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Rainbow of Egg Colors


When we first decided to try raising chickens, the breeds we chose were based solely on what the feed store had. We said 'we'll take two of whatever you have' and ended up coming home with two Buff Orpingtons, two Silver Laced Wyandottes and two Rhode Island Reds.  

Cute chicks, beautiful chickens, wonderful layers...and they all laid brown eggs.  Which was fine with me. 


Growing up the granddaughter of chicken farmers, I was always told, 'Brown eggs are local eggs and local eggs are fresh'.  And fresh eggs were certainly my goal. So life was good.

Until one day when the kid in the feed store showed me a blue chicken egg another customer had brought in.  Hold on one second ?  Chickens lay blue eggs ?  I knew some laid white, but blue?  I had no idea.


It turns out that all eggshells actually start out white. No matter what the breed or what color the egg ultimately ends up being, all eggshells are white when they start their journey down the oviduct. 


This journey takes about 26 hours, the shell taking roughly 20 hours to be completed. In the last 4-6 hours of the laying process brown eggs 'turn' brown.

A hen spending too much time in the sunlight can actually have a bleaching effect on the color egg that a hen lays, as can not having access to cool water. So shade and cold water is important to maintain eggshell color as well as overall chicken health. Other things like the presence of mites or disease can also result in paler than normal eggshells. As an egg travels through the dye process, it rotates. If it rotates too slowly, the egg will be speckled.
~photo courtesy doniqua hoffman~



If the egg rotates too fast, the egg will have streaks of color.


Although all eggs start out with white shells, the blue or brown dye (or both)  applied to the shells of some breeds results in eggs that come in almost all the hues of the rainbow.



So of course I got online and started researching chicken breeds and egg colors, and then and there began a quest to assemble a flock that lays every color egg imaginable.  Now, two years later, we have a flock of 21 hens, 11 different breeds, that lay pale green, mint, white, cream, tan, pink, brown, speckled and chocolate brown eggs.  


This past March we added Olive Eggers and Light Sussex, who lay olive green and pink eggs, respectively.  And with that, I believe my mission will be accomplished to have a flock that lays every possible egg color. 


Of course I had to look further than our local feed store. I have ordered chicks from the large hatcheries, including Meyer HatcheryChickens for Backyards (use FRESH for 10% off your order) and  My Pet Chicken but this last order of more rare breeds is coming from a small reputable breeder Chicken Scratch Poultry

Here is a guide that might help if you are looking to add some color to your nesting boxes:
(in bold are the breeds that we currently raise)

BROWN EGG LAYERS
Rhode Island Red          Plymouth Rock        Dominique     Cochin         Golden Comet          Brahma                  Delaware          Buckeye          Jersey Giant          Chantecler         New Hampshire Red          Java 

Brown eggs result from porphyrins (basically dye/pigment) being deposited on the eggshell during the final stage of the laying process. The porphyrins are derived from hemoglobins in the chickens' blood and are breed specific. If you happen to be there as an egg is being laid, it will be wet and you can actually scrape some of the brown color off with your finger.

Different breeds have different amounts or shades of the pigment which accounts for Buff Orpingtons laying pale brown eggs, while Marans lay dark chocolate brown eggs. While the egg color is determined by breed and genetics within the breed, there are a few things you can do to ensure the darkest egg color. 

LIGHT TAN LAYERS
Buff Orpington          Wyandotte

WHITE EGG LAYERS
Leghorn          Campine         Andalusian
Sicilian Buttercup          Hamburg          Polish
Minorca          Belgian D'uccle          Sabelpoot   
Catalana          Orloff          Lakenvelder   
Sebright         Silkie          Spanish White Face

CREAM EGG LAYERS
Faverolle          Dorking         Easter Egger (some)


PINK EGG LAYERS
Australorps (some)          Easter Eggers (some)          Langshan          Plymouth Rock          Asil          Barred Rock          Light Sussex

Pink eggs are thought to be the result of the natural 'bloom' being applied over a light tan-colored egg.

CHOCOLATE BROWN LAYERS
Black Copper Marans   Blue Copper Marans      Barnvelder       Penedesenca


SPECKLED EGG LAYERS
Cuckoo Marans          Welsummer


GREEN EGG LAYERS
Easter Eggers (some)          Olive Eggers

Green eggs are the result of a blue egg layer being crossed with a brown egg layer. Green eggs are blue on the inside, since the blue is deposited on the white shell first and seeps through, then brown dye is deposited on top of the blue later in the process, resulting in a greenish color. Varying amounts and shades of brown result in the various shades of green eggs.

BLUE EGG LAYERS
Araucana          Cream Legbar          Ameraucana
Only three breeds of chickens lay blue eggs, Cream Legbars, Araucanas and Ameraucanas. The blue color is created by oocyanin, which is produced in the bile and applied early in the laying process.


The blue color goes right through the shell, unlike the brown. So blue eggs are blue inside and out, while brown eggs are brown on the outside and white on the inside.


SURPRISE EGG LAYERS
If you want a bit of a surprise, then add a few Easter Eggers to your flock. They are so named because they can lay a variety of shades of green (mint, pale, bright, olive), pinkish or cream eggs.  A particular chicken will only lay one color egg her entire life, but each EE could lay a different color egg for you.  Truly a mystery until she lays her first egg.

~ Here are some side-by-side comparisons of the colors of some of our eggs ~
  



So when you are choosing your next breeds of chickens, why not add a little color to your egg basket?




 



(Of course when choosing breeds,  you should make your final decisions based on temperament, hardiness and other breed characteristics, not purely based on egg color.)

Visit Chicken Scratch Poultry to find some of the breeds listed here.

Find us on Facebook !

18 comments:

  1. I would like to add a few Black Copper Marans and some true Americaunas to my flock for more color variety. It's a goal! I currently have Wyandottes and 3 EE's. Great info Lisa!

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  2. I'm with you Michele. I love my EEs but I want truly blue eggs, so Araucanas are on their way. And I did buy some BCMs from a local breeder, but their eggs aren't nearly as dark as I would have hoped so I have ordered some from another breeder. I'm excited. I used Chicken Scratch Poultry. I haven't gotten the chicks yet but so far I'm impressed with their selection, recommendations from friends and customer service. The link to their website is on the left hand side if you want to check them out.

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  3. We are just getting started in chickens-and egg color was a big part of the decision! Wish I'd know about Chicken Scratch Poultry sooner...I just love the olive color! Next spring I'm going to get some-don't want to overwhelm myself the first year! (I got some EE's and BCM's and 2 Buckeyes to start!) Can't wait! (I love your blog too!)

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    1. There is always 'next spring' ! That's the nice thing about chickens - there are so many different breeds. You will get some gorgeous eggs from the three breeds you have chosen. Be sure and post pictures on our facebook page. Thanks for following the blog. It's been alot of fun so far.

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  4. We have two Leghorns and an Ameraucana and I was really surprised with our Ameraucana's egg color. It is so hard to describe! Sort of a gray-green but not a color you could just say... Blue or green or anything. Odd colored! She's a really good layer though and has a neat personality. : ) I would like to add one more chicken to our coop, hopefully for a different color of eggs. I hear Buff Orps are nice to keep... Maybe one of those.
    Dawn @ The Momma Knows.com

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  5. Last spring we bought our second bath of egg layers. We got some more Ameraucana and finally got some blue layers with this around. We won't be buying any layers this year, a few of our hens like to go broody in spring and we will fire up the incubator to get some mutt chickens to increase our number of layers.

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    1. Kacee, I have never hatched any chicks - although I will be next month (SO excited !) - but I would bet you will get some nice egg colors interbreeding the Ameraucanas with some of your others.

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  6. Great Article!! I love it! I have a barred rock, a buff orpington, a rhode island red, and a red star. The red star has been laying for about a month. She is a great layer, and lays one large, brown egg a day! The barred rock just started yesterday. Her egg was a little misshapen, it was small, pale, and quite pointy. Is this just the result of a first egg or will all of her eggs look like this?

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    1. First eggs can be small, oddly shaped, soft-shelled, double yolked or look otherwise odd. Just new layers working out the kinks.

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  7. Please could you tell me the breed of chickens that laid the large, very pink eggs in the top photo on this site? (2nd and 4th eggs, from the left). I want a flock that lays THOSE!

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  8. Wow! This was the perfect post, just what I was looking for. We are adding some Marans this spring to help round out our colorful egg layer collection. I sure do appreciate the thoroughness of your information and the wonderful photos. The one comparing inside and outside shell colors added an interesting sidelight. Thank you from New Mexico!

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  9. I love all of the beautiful colors. So far I have light and mid color brown.

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  10. Thank you so much for this! Now I have my flock in mind... Do you have any reptuable breeders in mind?

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    1. I have only used Chicken Scratch Poultry. www.chickenscratchpoultry.com. They have beautiful breeds. Start there and if there are certain other breeds you have your heart set on, ask Angie from CSP if she can recommend someone maybe?

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  11. I recently discovered Chicken Scratch Poultry in my quest for the Lavendar Orpingtons my wife had her heart set on getting. We have a few Buff Orpingtons and Golden Comets (along with around 400 Americaunas for our egg business) but she really wanted "purple chickens" :o). A search of the internet led me to CSP and and order for a dozen Lavendar Orpington fertile eggs followed. We've been more than happy with them! Great, quick and "as promised" service and awesome friendly folks to deal with. Our new additions are hatching as I type this! I'm glad to see the CSP folks getting good press and I'd like to add my recommendation to the list.

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    1. Thank you ! We agree and just love CSP. Many of my flock, as well as Suzanne's come from them. Thanks for that recommendation.

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  12. Hi. Just want to say that there is another breed that have green eggs.The breed is called Isbar and are found in Sweden.

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Thank you for your kind comments and joining along with Fresh Eggs Daily as we live our wonderful, natural country farm life.

Lisa of Fresh Eggs Daily
www.facebook.com/FreshEggsDaily