In some modern supermarkets, fresh foods tend to be a bit predictable. Produce may be limited to a small number of common hybrid varieties, with many beloved heirloom fruits and veggies absent. The same is often true of eggs and the available egg colors. While you can probably find brown eggs, it’s usually the standard white eggs that prevail on the shelves.
In both instances, the reason is the same: Grocery shelves are usually stocked with a particular variety that is favored by the masses and easy to mass produce. For chicken eggs, this often means that the White Leghorns supply the majority.
But on your hobby farm, options don’t need to be so limited.
When you’re simply looking to keep your family and friends stocked with farm-fresh eggs, the commercial-level egg production qualities of the leghorn may not be as important as other breed factors. This frees you up to focus on other qualities such as climate hardiness, meat production in dual-purpose breeds and, if you want, egg colors.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with white eggs. And while you might not want to choose a chicken breed solely for a specific egg color, there’s also nothing wrong with adding a bit of joy and atheistic charm to your farmhouse kitchen with a rainbow of shell colors.
But to get certain egg colors, you need the certain chicken breeds. So here are 11 that will deliver eggs in colors other than white.
Rhode Island Red
If you like brown eggs, and you like a lot of eggs, you can’t skip over the Rhode Island Red. With some hens producing well into the range of 200 to 300 eggs per year, you can count this attractive and very friendly chicken to keep you well supplied.
Keep in mind that there are two subvarieties of this breed. First, there’s the more commercially viable industry variety. There’s also the hobby farm-friendly heritage variety, which functions nicely as a dual-purpose bird for meat.
Another prolific egg producer with brown eggs is the Plymouth Rock. It’s such a good layer that it was one of America’s biggest egg producers prior to the general industrial move toward the leghorn.
It’s an easy bird to have around the farm and lays about 200 eggs per year. Also, what’s not to like about those amazing black-and-white feathers?
Technically, the eggs of Ameraucana chickens are considered blue, but it’s a delightful sea blue with a dose of pastel green mixed in. This breed was developed in the United States from the South American Araucana chicken (which also lays blue eggs).
Araucanas possess interesting ear tufts. However, the genetics for this trait sometimes results in a lethal allele (an alternative form of a gene that arises by mutation) that can greatly reduce hatch rates, so the Ameraucana was developed to keep the blue eggs but eliminate the lethal allele. Ameraucanas even have blue legs! They’re docile birds but not very common, so you might have to do some searching to find a breeder.
The Marans, named after the town of Marans, France, is notable for laying dark brown eggs. There are plenty of subvarieties in the Marans chicken breed, but the Black Copper Marans produces really dark brown eggs. The coloring is very striking.
This can be a lot of fun, especially if you have other chicken breeds in your coop and can create an assortment of color shades in your egg basket. Marans are cold hardy and an excellent choice for regions with chilly winters.
Brown with Speckles
Turkey eggs have brown speckles, but you can also get a similar effect from Welsummer chickens. It’s a fun way to enjoy an additional pattern on your eggshells.
Plus, there’s plenty to love about Welsummer chickens in general: hardiness, docility and excellent meat qualities in addition to the cool eggs.
Blue, Green, Yellow & More
You wanted unique shell colors, and this is your chance! Depending on the specific hen, an Easter Egger chicken can provide you with light blues, fun greens, browns, yellows and occasionally even pink eggs, although the colors are very pastel.
Just be aware ahead of time that Easter Eggers are a “designer” chicken, or more simply, a mixed-breed, in the same vein as a Goldendoodle or Yorkipoo in the dog world. This means that you might see a wider variety of breed traits from chicken to chicken.
You also wouldn’t be able to show them at fairs or poultry breed events.
If you’re looking for green eggs specifically, you can usually do it with your own breeding experiments. You just have to cross a blue-layer like an Ameraucana with a brown-layer such as a Marans.
As with the Easter Eggers, the downside here is that you’re moving into unknown territory when it comes to the rest of the offspring’s traits. You don’t know exactly what you’re going to get, and any resulting chicks won’t breed true.
But it’s nevertheless a method for obtaining green eggs. (Now you just need some ham, right?).
Developed in England during the late 1800s as a solid dual-purpose breed, the Orpington is a fast-maturing chicken that’s a great layer or can be used as a meat bird. The attractive Buff coloring results in a striking bird with a wonderful golden color.
Egg colors can range from light to dark brown.
This is a Spanish-bred chicken with a high heat tolerance, so it might be a good choice for homesteaders in southern regions. They also lay eggs with a unique reddish tint mixed with a very dark brown base.
If you’d like to try a large chicken, check out the brown-egg-laying Brahma, which tops out at a healthy 10 to 12 pounds! They’re good layers even in the winter, so you can invest in them to help extend your laying season even when other hens have stopped.
Developed just over 100 years ago and derived at least in part by the blue-egg-laying Araucana, Cream Legbars also produce eggs with that lovely blue color that is so unique.
Cream Legbars are also pretty useful for poultry producers as male and female chicks are easily distinguished after hatching. They’re excellent foragers and good in a free-range situation.
And there you have it: 11 beautiful chicken breeds that can add a dash of color to your morning egg collecting routine. Have fun!
It somehow seems logical that if different colored eggs look different from each other, they might also taste different. But it just so happens that this idea doesn’t pan out. While a hen’s age, environment and diet can conceivably affect the nutritional value or even subtly affect the taste of an egg, the color of the shell itself really doesn’t have an impact on the taste.
More Birds, More Choices
If you’re a true fan of colored eggs, explore other poultry species as well. You’ll find more colors, fun patterns, textures and sizes. Look for boutique eggs at a local farmers market, or consider raising these birds yourself. At any rate, there’s plenty to like about:
Small, charming and absolutely speckled with brown spots from small to large, quail eggs are a fun choice. They’re sometimes considered a delicacy.
For cooking purposes, a single duck egg equals about two chicken eggs, and they’re simply loaded with nutrients and deep creamy flavor. Plus they come in several colors including white, brown, black and some pleasant pale shades of blues and greens.
Always a light color, with wonderful brown speckling, turkey eggs are just as edible as these others and are pretty large, too!
Surprisingly large, with a unique texture and a rich, deep bluish-green color, emu eggs are sure to amaze! Emus are also hilariously entertaining to watch.
Wondering just what causes a white egg, a brown egg or other colors? The quickest answer is: simple genetics. For purebred birds, this is entirely predictable and consistent. For the Easter Eggers, things are a bit of surprise, but the egg color is still based on the genes the individual bird inherited.
In addition to breed genetics, you can sometimes get a clue to what color eggs a hen will produce by examining her earlobes—red earlobes for brown eggs, white earlobes for white.
Finally, a couple of pigments are produced by the hen to actually “paint” the eggs while they’re in the formation process. The oocyanin pigment creates blue and green eggs and permeates the eggshell, making eggs blue/green inside and out.
Protoporphyrin is a brown pigment applied late in the egg-formation process and simply coats the shell without affecting the yolk or egg white.
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2023 issue of Chickens magazine.