One of the most interesting aspects of owning your own chickens is the beautiful array of colors that you can get. At the grocery store, you’ll be lucky to find brown eggs, much less eggs that are shades of green, blue, cream or chocolate colored. It’s a breath-taking experience to fill a carton with different colored eggs. Can you pick out which hen lays which eggs based on the color of the eggs? Do hens always lay the same color egg? Or does egg color change over time?
How do chickens lay different colored eggs?
The way that eggs are colored is almost as interesting as different colored eggs are to look at. All eggs start off as white within the hen’s body. The eggshell is composed primarily if calcium, which is a white substance. Hens that lay white eggs will build the outer layers of shell and lay their egg, resulting in a white colored egg.
Chickens that lay a colored egg will use a pigment to color the outer layers of the shell. This part of the egg-developing process comes last, which is why the outside of the eggshell is colored and not the inside of the egg shell. Remember, the shell itself is normally white so any color that is added on the outside of the eggs will stay on the outside, leaving the inside of the shell white.
Generally speaking, hens will lay the same color egg each time. So, a hen that lays blue eggs will always lay blue eggs. She won’t wake up one day and start laying brown eggs all of a sudden. Hens will lay eggs that are close enough in color each day that you can usually identify the hen that laid the egg (unless all of your hens lay the same color egg). If you have a mixed breed flock, you’ll be able to tell which hen laid which egg.
Now, there are some exceptions to this rule. Some hens will have slight variations in their egg coloring. This is especially true if your hen lays speckled eggs. The speckles can be caused by a number of reasons from a change in diet or stress, to excess calcium. If your hen lays speckled eggs, you’ll likely notice that the speckling changes from egg to egg. It’s also possible that a hen lays a speckled egg when she usually doesn’t. Speckling is most common in brown egg layers.
Another exception is seen very subtly throughout the season. Hens will lay the most from spring-fall. Over the winter, their bodies produce fewer (if any) eggs, which allows their body to replenish and recouperate. One of the things that is replenished is the pigment used to color eggs. If your hen is a seasonal layer and takes the winter off, you’ll notice that eggs laid in the spring are more richly pigmented than eggs laid in the fall. This is due to the fact that her body has more pigment available in the beginning of the laying season than in the end. This won’t cause drastic color changes, but subtle ones.
Looking for more colorful eggs?
Egg color is determined by the genetics of your hens. Certain breeds will lay different colored eggs. The best way to add different colors to your egg carton is to incorporate different breeds into your flock.
If you want blue eggs, we recommend the Prairie Bluebell Egger. These pale blue eggs look like a true Easter egg! Several breeds lay green eggs. If you want pastel green eggs, try adding Americana or a Starlight Green Egger. For a darker green egg, the Olive Egger will fit the bill.
Just as there are different shades of green eggs, there are different shades of brown eggs. For light brown eggs, you’ll find many breeds. Orpingtons, Welsummers, Brahma, Rhode Island Red, Wyandottes and many others will lay light brown eggs. For deep, chocolate colored eggs, you’ll want a breed like the Barnevelder or Maran.
Having an egg carton with a rainbow of egg colors is so satisfying. It sure beats a carton of plain white eggs that you can get from the grocery store!