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 Hatchery, Chickens for Backyards and My Pet Chicken with wonderful results, but for more rare breeds, you likely will have to search out a small breeder. The Livestock Conservancy Breeder Directory is a good place to start.
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
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.)
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