Looking for a way to wow your egg customers? Consider adding a couple of pink, blue, green, or dark chocolate colored eggs to your dozen, and sit back and wait for the comments! Beautiful colors, (although of course, tasting exactly the same as any other egg) have a way of drawing ohhhhs, ahhhhs, and possibly more customers to your client list. So, yes, increased demand for colored eggs would be the ‘why’. Before we go into who lays them, let’s talk about how they come to be.
How Do Chickens Lay Colored Eggs?
It takes 26 hours for a hen to produce an egg. Twenty of those hours are required to form the shell. Because shells are primarily calcium, in the beginning of egg formation, ALL eggshells start out as white.
As the shell is forming inside the hen, pigments called porphyrins are secreted from cells within the hen’s uterus to add color to the shell. Blue egg layers add pigment early in the shell formation process, which is why these shells are blue all the way through. For an ‘olive egger”, a combination of blue and brown pigments produces an outer green shell color, but a blue inside shell color. Brown egg pigment is added later in the egg formation process, hence the outer brown and inner white eggshell. Lastly, hens that lay white eggs do not produce any pigments during shell formation.
Therefore; because different pigments are added to a hen’s eggs at different times:
- White eggs will be white all the way through
- Brown eggshells will be white on the inside
- Blue eggshells are blue all the way through
- Green eggshells will be blue on the inside and green on the outside
You can’t judge a book by its cover….And you can’t judge an egg by its color
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say they prefer brown eggs because they taste better. I don’t argue, but I could. You see, aside from the fact that their shells are different colors, all eggs are virtually the same. Differences in taste and yolk color and slight differences in nutrition are more a function of a hen’s diet and how it was raised, not the color of the shell.
This said, colored eggs are definitely pleasing to the eye, a work of art often brought to you by your local backyard flock. A dozen multi-colored eggs will sell faster than a dozen white ones, in the vast amount of cases.
What Chicken Breeds Lay Colored Eggs?
Now, the ‘who’. If you’re looking to get some variation in your egg carton, here are a few breeds you might consider looking into:
Chickens That Lay Blue Eggs
My experience with varied colored eggs tells me that blue eggs are usually the biggest crowd pleaser. The most common breeds to lay blues would be the Araucana, Ameraucana, and Cream Legbar and to some extent, the Easter-Eggers.. which are actually not so much a single breed as a description of hybrid. Here’s a bit of information about each, in case you’re looking to add this color to your egg carton palette.
The Araucana is native to South America, as it was first documented in Chile in 1914 by a Chilean
As far as temperament goes, this breed is friendly, non-aggressive and does well around animals and even children. Araucana are cold hardy, and are very good foragers, which may naturally reduce feed costs. They lay between 200-250 medium size bluish or blue green eggs per year, but buying chicks may prove somewhat difficult due to a genetic defect that is known to cause spontaneous deaths of a certain percentage of the Araucana chicks before hatching.
A derivative of the Araucana, American scientists bred the Ameraucana to preserve the distinctive light blue colored eggs of Araucana, yet eliminate a gene common to that breed that could sometimes cause chicks to die inside the egg.
It is noted that these chickens are curious, friendly, and easy to control. They enjoy calm and quiet environments because they get frightened easily, and other than that would make a great backyard breed. Their beautiful light blue colored eggs are medium to large in size, and number approximately 150 per year.
Another breed famous for its unusually (sky) blue colored eggs is the Creme Legbar. These chickens are a British chicken breed almost a hundred years old, but it is still relatively rare in the United States. It’s only been in the country for a few years, so backyard chicken owners are still discovering all of the perks that this breed offers. Cream Legbars are friendly, easily handled, good layers, and very good foragers. Another unusual and valuable trait, chickens of this breed are vigilant and wary of predators. Creme Legbars are more able to take care of themselves in a free-range setting than many other backyard breeds.
Nestled in-between blue egg layers and green egg layers is a good place to mention Easter Eggers.
Easter Eggers are not a true breed, but a variety of chicken that does not conform to any one breed standard that lays eggs that vary from blue to green to olive to aqua and sometimes even pinkish. The genetics involved in determining exactly which color an Easter Egger will lay is a little complex, but suffice to say these chickens possess the gene that allows them to produce blue colored eggs, and depending upon the egg pigment variation of the breed their mom was crossed with, the resulting egg color your hen produces will be a result of this. If you ask me, half the fun of owning an Easter-Egger is not knowing what color egg your hen is going to lay!
Easter Eggers vary widely in color and conformation and are typically exceptionally friendly and hardy. Since they are usually quite friendly to children and humans in general, they are a great choice for a family flock.
Chickens That Lay Green Eggs
Although what follows in this category may seem to be a Dr. Seuss favorite, the green eggs we are referring to are really more of an olive color. And, as noted before, the green refers of course to the egg SHELL, not the yolk or white. Who lays these interesting olive-colored eggs? The appropriately named Olive Eggers, of course!
An Olive Egger is another mixed breed that, like the Easter Egger, originated from Ameraucanas or Araucanas. To get an Olive Egger, you need to mix a green egg laying Easter Egger with a dark brown egg laying chicken, like a Marans or a Welsummer. An Olive Egger is really a type of Easter Egger, then, according to our above description of Easter Egger.
These hens are good layers of about 180-200 colorful and large-sized eggs per year.
Because of the genetic diversity in Olive Eggers, there tend to be a lot of individualized personalities. But in general, Olive Eggers are generally very docile and friendly chickens, that tend to do well with other chickens. If Welsummers are in the mix, your Olive Eggers will likely be especially intelligent chickens. Olive Eggers do have a high chance of being fairly broody chickens, good if you’re raising chicks yourself…not so good if you’re counting on a steady stream of eggs. Olive Egger roosters are calm and docile, but also make good flock protectors.
Olive Eggers are healthy and vigorous birds that aren’t especially susceptible to many health issues. This is somewhat typical of hybrid animals of any species.
Chickens That Lay Pink Eggs:
If you happen to check out a chat website for backyard chicken keepers, you might search “pink eggs” and come up with many posts by people declaring their hens are laying pink eggs. A quick read-through and you will also see at least 25 different claims by 25 different breeds/varieties of chickens for pink egg-laying. Ultimately, though, it comes down to individual variation within breeds. Commonly, breeds such as Light Sussex, Barred Rock, Mottled Javas, Australorp, Buff Orpington, Silkie, and Faverolle that lay crème colored eggs might also have a genetic variation that tints them pink. This also occurs with the Easter Egger chicken, as mentioned before. There is no one breed you can pick to assure a pink egg layer, but olive eggers, blue egg layers, or dark brown egg laying breeds bred with a creamy colored egg layer may produce a chicken that lays something along the lines of pink.
Chickens That Lay Brown or Chocolate Eggs:
This sounds really great, doesn’t it?! A chicken that lays chocolate eggs is obviously not what it sounds like, but if you think about it eggs that are a rich dark brown color on the outside are probably going to be very popular with folks that prefer brown eggs vs. white ones in their cartons. Three breeds that tend to lay dark brown (chocolate colored) eggs are Welsummer, Marans, and Pendescena.
The Welsummer was developed in the early 20th century. It originates from a small village in the eastern Netherlands called Welsum. Not only does the Welsummer lay beautiful dark brown colored eggs, but these beauties are wonderfully large in size and may number up to 180 per year. Like its eggs, the Welsummer is a large sized bird – which means it needs more space and loves to roam around, therefore it will require a large run or open area to free range comfortably. While Welsummers are not overly docile, they are both friendly and intelligent. They are also quite active, and one of the best free range foraging breeds available.
Chicken keepers that are interested in breeds and breeding that results in various colors of eggs quite oftentimes have Marans in their midst. Marans are a French breed that was first imported into the United Kingdom in the 1930s, and the US shortly after. They are a hardy breed, not many known health issues, and is used for both meat and eggs…a range of tan to very dark brown/chocolate colored eggs. Breeding a Marans with an Ameraucana will produce an ‘Olive Egger’, breeding a Marans with an Olive Egger can produce dark olive or possibly dark green-blue egg. Marans are very active birds that make great free-range foragers. They are also quite intelligent, friendly and calm chickens. Even the roosters are calm and not known to show aggression towards other roosters.
The Penedesenca Breed was originated form the Catalonia region of Spain in the first half of the 20th century. This breed of chicken was developed from local barnyard chickens which were known for producing particularly dark eggs. It’s a rare breed and has only been around since the mid 20th century in the United States. If you are looking for the darkest of dark eggs, this chicken is the #1. But if you’re looking for this chicken, you might have to look quite a while, and be very dedicated. In addition to its rarity of breed, the Penedesenca is hard to manage as a backyard chicken, due to the fact that they are extremely active and extremely anxious birds. They aren’t calm and also hate confinement, so space will be needed.
All in all, breeds that lay colored eggs in my opinion are worth looking into. Except for the few mentioned, most colored egg layers are no more difficult to keep than standard breeds, and yield variety in the egg carton that no grocery store will match!