All About Egg Shell Color In Chickens
Have you ever seen a photo of an egg basket that contained eggs of all shades of brown, green, blue, and white? If you’re like me, you may not have even known that eggs come in other colors besides brown and white before owning chickens. As my flock has grown, every possible egg color in my basket has become the mission. The array of colors still amaze me every day when I gather eggs.
So what causes chicken eggs to have different colors? Well, it’s the same thing that affects everything else that makes a chicken unique: genetics! The eggshell that the chick hatches from is not a tell-tale sign of expected egg color but rather the breed of the chick’s parents. A great example of this is Olive Eggers. To create a line of Olive Eggers, a blue egg layer breed is crossed with a dark brown egg layer breed, but the egg-home of this future Olive Egger will not be olive-colored at all! The egg color laid by this chick is determined by the genetics of their parents.
Pictured below: the first picture are Olive Egger hatching eggs and the second picture are Olive Egger eggs.
A general rule is that a hen’s earlobes give a clue as to what color egg she will lay. I say general rule, as it is not always the case. A great example of this is Silkies; they have blue earlobes but lay cream-colored eggs. But you can usually always count on a White Leghorn to have white earlobes, and a Rhode Island Red to have red earlobes. Red earlobes generally indicate a brown egg laying breed.
The egg color laid by a hen usually stays consistent throughout her entire laying cycle, except for brown egg layers. Brown eggs tend to get lighter as the hen gets older, due to the brown pigment. This graduation of coloring is especially apparent for dark-brown layers, such as Marans and Welsummers. Once a brown egg layer molts, you can usually expect a “restart” on her egg coloring.
The Brown eggs pictured are Black Copper Marans eggs.
A very common misconception is that egg color affects the nutrition value. A white egg holds no advantage over brown eggs, as the nutrition of an egg is solely dependent on the diet of the hen. Variations in diet can be observed by the yolk color. If you crack open a conventional grocery store egg, you will notice that the yolk is usually pale yellow. The hen was likely fed a strict diet of corn-based chicken feed. Cracking open an egg from a free-range backyard flock will exhibit bright orange coloring, evident of a diet rich in bugs and other tasty yard morsels. Within my own flock, there is a noticeable difference in yolk color depending on the season. Winter-time eggs are usually lighter colored, as my chickens aren’t so readily scratching frozen ground!
We would love to hear your thoughts on egg colors as it relates to your own flock, or feel free to share some egg-color misconceptions you may have heard!
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