Many people are surprised to learn that chickens don't just lay white and brown eggs. There are breeds that lay blue eggs, green eggs, dark brown eggs, pink eggs, cream eggs, and off-white eggs. In this article I will discuss why eggs are different colors, breeds for a rainbow egg basket, and why the color of the egg shell doesn't affect nutrition.
What Color Eggs Can Chickens Lay?
Depending on the breed, a chicken can lay an egg that is dark brown, light brown, pink, olive, blue, green, white, cream, and any shade in between. Each chicken will lay only one egg color. A hen that lays a white egg one day won't lay a blue egg the next day. Marans hens lay the darkest brown eggs when they begin laying. As they continue production, the eggs gradually become lighter as the hen runs out of pigment. Genetically speaking, there are only two egg colors, blue and white. The blue egg gene is dominant to the white egg gene. Brown eggs are the result of 23 separate genes that interact to create different shades of brown. Brown eggs start as white eggs. Shortly before being laid, the brown pigment is applied to the egg. The amount of pigment applied affects the final brown color of the egg. That's why when you crack open a brown egg it's white on the inside. Blue eggs are blue on the inside of the shell because the pigment is applied as the eggshell is being developed. Green and olive eggs are just blue eggs with brown pigment applied before laying.
Where Do Colored Eggs Come From?
In 1914, Dr. Salvador Castello visited Chile, South America and was presented with a unique chicken breed that laid blue eggs by Dr. Bustos. The chickens were Araucanas. They were derived from Mapuche Fowl-named after the indigenous Mapuche people. The Mapuche Fowl eventually led to three different breeds. Of those three breeds, the Araucana was the one that made its way to North America in the 1940's. The Aruacana is a medium sized bird that is rumpless, has tufts, and lay blue eggs. Ameraucanas are medium-large sized birds that have beards and muffs, tails, and lay blue eggs. Araucanas can only be purchased from a breeder and are not sold by hatcheries. True Ameraucanas are identified by their slate legs, blue eggs, and specific color patterns. Any chicken that lays blue or green eggs today gets that gene from the original Araucana of South America. Marans chickens were named for the port town Marans in France where they originated in the 13th century. They were bred for extremely dark brown eggs ranging from deep chocolate to almost red-brown in color. The dark brown color is a defining characteristic of the breed. There are some hybrid breeds available today that lay dark brown eggs.
Are Different Colored Eggs Healthier?
Some people mistakenly believe that certain colored eggs are healthier. This is not true, the shell color of an egg does not affect the nutritional value of the egg in any way. Different parts of the world prefer different colored eggs. In the United States white and brown eggs are preferred by consumers. In Japan, consumers prefer pink shelled eggs. In the United Kingdom, consumers prefer brown eggs almost exclusively. In Israel, consumers prefer white eggs. However, the diet of the chicken can influence the color of the egg yolk. Chickens that eat lots of leafy greens or have marigold petals added to their feed will have darker yolks. Carotenoids are fat soluble pigments that are mainly yellow, orange, or red. Carotene is a carotenoid that gives many plants and fruits/vegetables their yellow, orange, or red coloring. Are eggs with darker yolks healthier than ones with paler yolks? No they are not. Egg yolk color has no nutritional affect on the egg. It is recommended to avoid feeding your chickens fish, seafood, onion, and garlic as they will affect the taste of the eggs laid by the chickens.
Breeds For A Rainbow Egg Basket
No egg basket is complete unless you have eggs in every shade. A rainbow egg basket has eggs that are white, brown, blue, green, and cream. For brilliant white eggs, Leghorns, Anconas, Dorkings, and other Mediterranean breeds should be chosen. For cream or off-white eggs Polish and Faverolles are a good choice. For light brown eggs choose Dominques, Brahmas, Orpingtons, Sussex, Wyandottes, etc. Araucanas, Ameraucanas, and Cream Legbars all lay blue eggs. For dark brown chocolate eggs Marans, Welsummers, and Penedesenecas are a good choice. When you cross a blue egg laying breed with a brown egg laying breed the resulting eggs are green. Easter Eggers, a catch all term for mixed breed chickens with the blue egg gene, usually lay blue or green eggs, but they can lay brown eggs. Whiting True Blue, Whiting True Green, Lakeshore Eggers, Prairie Bluebells, among others are different lines of Easter Eggers. Very often Easter Eggers are mislabeled as Americanas or a similar spelling. These are not guaranteed to lay blue eggs as they are mixes. Check out the Farm Directory to find your favorite breeds. Grab your egg basket and go check your nest boxes for those beautiful eggs!