Occasionally, those new to poultry keeping—and those living near fledgling flock owners—are surprised to discover that some chickens can lay an egg in colors other than white and beige. That’s right! Dark brown eggs are not simply dirty, and green eggs aren’t rotting.
An entire array of eggshell colors exist in the nest box that rarely make it to the market. It’s an eye-popping epiphany for people accustomed to supermarket eggs. Instead of snowy white and sandy tan, eggs can be sky blue, pastel pink, olive green, pale yellow, even chocolate brown!
We can credit the hard-working chickens laying our daily dozens for all these different egg colors. As each egg travels through the oviduct, layers of pigment are deposited on it, changing the shell from white to blue, brown and beyond.
The actual color of an eggshell depends on the breed of the hen laying the egg. There may be slight variation within a breed. Our Orpington chickens lay eggs that vary in colors, from a pale tan to a rosy beige. Our Ameraucana hens, however, lay similar shades of sky blue.
A hen is not a Pez dispenser. She cannot lay a green egg one day and a pink one the next. The pigment produced by her shell gland remains the same throughout her life.
What you see is what you get. The depth of shell color, though, can be influenced by a hen’s age and environmental stressors. A bountiful palette of eggs can be yours, but you’ll have to plan for it.
To ensure your egg collection basket’s contents contain a range of colors, consider raising the following chickens.
In the United States, blue eggs are laid by three main breeds of chicken: the Araucana, the Ameraucana, and the Cream Legbar.
The Araucana and Ameraucana trace their origins—or at least an ancestor—to a blue-egg-laying South American bird. Both breeds are highly prized for their sky-blue eggs as well as their unusual physical characteristics.
Unfortunately, the Araucana has acute issues with reproduction. And the Ameraucana is not widely bred. As a result, finding true Araucanas and true Ameraucanas to add to your flock may be a bit tricky.
Contact these breeds’ national clubs and ask for referrals for private breeders in your area. Beware that many hatcheries and farm-supply stores mislabel hybrid chicks as “Ameraucana” and “Araucana.” This leads many backyard flock owners to believe they are actually raising these rare birds when they’re in fact rearing the Easter Egger crossbreed.
Cream Legbars have begun to gain popularity due to their lovely baby-blue eggs. A number of national hatcheries now offer Cream Legbar chicks for sale to flock owners. A fun fact about the Cream Legbar: the chicks autosex so you can tell the cockerels (lighter with a yellow head spot) from the pullets (darker with a dark back stripe).
Thanks to Dr. Seuss’ iconic book, many chicken owners are eager for green eggs from their very own hens. The easiest way to accomplish this is to add an Easter Egger to your flock.
An Easter Egger is a hybrid chicken, one with an Ameraucana or Araucana ancestor that was crossed at some point with a brown egg layer. These crossbreeds produce blue eggs overlain with brown pigment. This results in shells in shades of green.
Easter Eggers are readily available for purchase through hatcheries and at farm-supply stores. But be aware that they may be mislabeled “Ameraucana” or “Araucana” (if the chick is priced at only a couple of dollars, it’s an Easter Egger).
An Easter Egger hen may have Araucana in her background. But she most definitely is not one, as she will readily prove by the abundant number of chicks she will hatch if given the chance.
Here’s an interesting fact about Eggers. The darker the egg produced by the brown-egg layer, the more olive the resulting eggs from the hybrid offspring. Years ago, we bred our Copper Marans hens to our Araucana rooster to produce “Olive Egger” crossbreeds.
Green eggs are also produced by the Isbar, a Swedish breed not yet widely available in America. First imported into the U.S. in 2011 by Greenfire Farms, the Isbar (pronounced ICE-bar) is a single-combed, winter-hardy bird that lays stunning moss-green eggs.
If you’ve got your heart set on Isbars, you can find them through private breeders. The price, however, may be somewhat steep (about $30 per chick).
Pink & Yellow
While no chicken breed actually lays a pink egg, some brown egg layers amongst the Orpingtons, Speckled Sussex and Cochins produce rosy-brown eggs that can almost pass for pink.
And then there’s the Easter Egger (again). The name of this hybrid says it all. It can produce many eggshell shades, although green is the most common. Depending on when the blue egg gene was introduced in the Easter Egger’s lineage, the pigments produced by the hen may be light enough to make her eggshells pastel pink or pale yellow.
Our Easter Egger hen, Agatha, laid pale pink eggs. But her mother, Keynoter, produced pale green ones.
Silkie hens also produce tinted eggs, not quite white but not quite a pure pastel. My friend Dan’s Silkies lay eggs that have a light pink tint to them. Our Silkies’ eggs are almost uniformly creamy yellow.
From terra cotta to rich chocolate, dark-brown eggs are perhaps the most visually striking of all the egg colors produced by chickens. Their deep coloration makes them pop against such backgrounds as nest pads and egg cartons. And, when arranged with eggs of other colors, they immediately draw attention.
Breeds that lay these farm-fresh versions of eye candy include:
- The Penedesenca, a rare, Spanish heat-hardy bird that lays dark red-brown eggs
- The Welsummer, a cold-hardy breed known as the Kellogg’s Corn Flakes chicken and whose hens lay russet-brown eggs with speckle
- The Marans, a French breed whose layers produce a range of dark-brown eggs.
That range, in fact, helps determine the value of a Marans hen. The most coveted Marans hens lay eggs that rate between a 7 and a 9 on the Marans egg-color scale.
Welsummers, Marans and Penedesencas can be found through most major hatcheries. You may wish to check with their national clubs to locate breeders in your area.