In today’s article we are going to take a look at chicken egg colors.
What color eggs can they lay and how did the shell get to be that color?
Everyone knows there are three common chicken egg colors (white, brown and blue). However, there are also another 4 unique colors that chicken eggs can be.
In this article we explain all the different color eggs chickens can lay, and which breed is best for which egg color.
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All The Colors Of Chicken Eggs
We all know about white colored eggs.
What you might not know is that white eggs are known as the wild type, or o – this means the egg coloring is natural and non-mutated.
Jungle fowl (which all modern chicken breeds are ancestors of) lay white eggs which is why white eggs are known as the wild type.
The white color is both inside and outside of the shell.
Interestingly lots of the breeds that lay white eggs are of Mediterranean origin (such as Leghorns, Anconas, Andalusians, Buttercups and Catalana). There are non-Mediterranean breeds that lay white eggs too including the Appenzeller Spitzhauben, Breda, Crèvecoeur and Cubalaya.
The Leghorn is an egg laying powerhouse!
Tinted (or off white) color eggs are laid by Dorkings, Fayoumi, La Fleche, Faverolles and Lakenvelders.
The second most common color egg is the humble brown egg. The brown coloration is actually synthesized in the shell gland (uterus) of the hen – exactly how and where is still unknown.
Brown dye (known as protoporphyrin IX) is deposited in the shell layers of the egg over a nearly twenty hour period in the shell gland.
Interestingly though the brown does not color the inside of the shell (it remains white).
You will notice the heaviest application of the color is in the outer layers of shell. This is because then hen has a certain amount of dye available and when it starts to run low, the coloration becomes paler (much like your photocopier running out of ink).
The darkest colored eggs will be laid earlier in the season and the color will gradually fade out later in the season.
Hens that lay dark brown eggs include the Welsummer, Barnevelder and Black Copper Marans.
Those that lay a lighter brown color are: Rhode Island Reds, Basque, Orloffs, Jersey Giants and Orpingtons.
Perhaps the most vibrant colored chicken egg is the blue egg.
Blue eggs are laid by chickens that have a dominant blue gene for their shell color.
This was caused by a retrovirus which altered the DNA sequencing in the hen.
The blue color is created by a substance called oocyanin which is created in the hen’s liver. This blue coloration extends from the inside of the egg to the outside making it blue throughout.
Hens that lay blue eggs include:
- Dongxiang and Lushi.
- Cream Legbar.
- Easter Egger.
So far we have touched on the three simplest colors of eggs.
Now we move on to the rainbow colors…
There was a time when green eggs were thought of as rotten, but now they are designer!
The shades of green can vary from a light mint to a deep moss color depending on the
individual hen. Breeds that lay green eggs are: Isbar, Favaucana and Easter Eggers (they are perfect for small backyards).
To create the olive color, protoporphyrin is laid over the blue shell – the color can be light or drab.
Olive Eggers are the only known hens to lay olive colored eggs.
The pink egg is something of an opinion of the beholder – to one person an egg may be pink, to another it may only appear as a slight tint.
Some hens do lay eggs with a pinkish tinge, but usually this is not consistent. The pink is caused by an extra thick layer of bloom deposited on the shell. Hens that can lay pink eggs include: the Java, Orpingtons, Faverolles and Barred Rocks.
Plum and Purple
This color is caused by the bloom on the egg.
It is pretty rare and the only chicken breed known to lay this color (on a reasonably consistent basis) is the Croad Langshan.
Even then it is only certain strains that lay these eggs.
The color of the chicken’s earlobe is often (but not always) a good indicator of whether she lays brown or white eggs. White earlobes indicate white eggs and red earlobes indicate brown eggs.
Chicken Egg Color Table
|Egg Color||Best Breed|
|White||Most Mediterranean breeds lay white eggs, but the most prolific of them all is White Leghorn. The white variety may be a bit flighty for small homesteads, but her sister bird (the Brown Leghorn) is easier to manage, a lot calmer to deal with and lays almost as many eggs.|
|Blue||The Cream Legbar is the best layer of blue eggs. She is a cross between the Leghorn, Cambar, Barred Rock and Araucana. She also happens to be an auto-sexing bird, which means you can sex the chicks at birth.|
|Chocolate Brown||Many people like the really dark (chocolate) eggs of the Black Copper Maran. Although those deep colored eggs are beautiful to look at, they do come at a price. Buying good quality stock is expensive.|
|Brown||Depending on the shade of brown you want, you have a huge selection of breeds. If you are looking for a mid-brown egg then the Rhode Island Red is perfect.|
|Green||The Isbar is your best chance to get green colored eggs. The depth of green coloration will depend on the quality and genetics of the bird. While some do lay a deep moss green others can lay anywhere from a light to khaki colored egg.|
|Plum||Croad Langshans are the only breed known to lay plum colored eggs on a relatively consistent basis (the quality of the color will depend upon the parentage).|
|Pink||Pink eggs can be a matter of perception as we already mentioned. To some folks the egg may appear to be a light tint to others it will appear as a light pink. Orpingtons are your best bet for consistently pink colored eggs.|
Common Problems With Colored Chicken Eggs
There are a few factors that can have a big influence on the quality and consistency of the egg color.
Certain diseases such as the infectious bronchitis virus or egg drop syndrome can have detrimental effects on not only the color of the egg but also the laying mechanism too. Birds infected may lay shell-less eggs, soft shells, wrinkled or misshapen eggs. The egg coloration is also affected.
If these birds do not succumb to the disease itself they will eventually reduce egg output by up to 70%.
As the hen ages her laying becomes more infrequent.
You will also see a definite deterioration in egg coloration (especially if she has laid dark eggs previously).
Chickens get stressed quite easily.
A change in their routine (no matter how small) is enough to send some hens into a tizzy.
They may stop eating for a short period so the egg coloration will suffer.
Occasionally the forming egg spends too little time in the uterus and a normally brown egg can appear white.
This is a huge area to cover and can include obvious things such as housing conditions to more subtle things like a sudden change in diet.
Some probiotics can intensify the color of the eggshells.
Also certain trace elements can cause changes in the intensity of the color – vanadium is one such element. Hens housed in cramped or unsanitary conditions will appear stressed and egg color will suffer for this.
FAQs About Colored Eggs
Can you create your own egg colors?
Shell coloration is genetically controlled so it is technically possible to create your own colors.
However if you are expecting to create a new color such as hot pink, it is not going to happen.
In order to get the most vibrant hues you will have to breed the best of your flock (good genetic stock and good husbandry is the key).
Can a chicken change their egg color?
If a bird lays a brown egg it will always be brown – although the depth of color may darken or lighten depending on the season or other external factors.
This has been a very brief tour of egg coloration and the genetics behind it.
There are several published studies on egg shell colors for those who wish to delve deeper into the genetic pool.
It is worth re-stating that you will get what you pay for. The best colorations come from the best birds, so spend your money wisely.
We hope this has inspired you to try a variety of different layers in your flock.
There is nothing quite so pretty as a multi-colored carton of freshly laid eggs.
Let us know your egg questions in the comments section below…