Have you ever pondered all the possibilities of chicken egg colors? Many people assume that the only two eggshell colors out there are white and brown, but they are mistaken. Chicken egg colors are heavily influenced by blue and brown pigments, and many breeds have the potential to create some gorgeously colored eggs. Let’s take a look at how different egg colors are possible then learn which breeds are best known for each one.
That plain white color you see is a lack of pigment. Chicken eggshells are made primarily out of calcium carbonate, which is naturally white. Since white eggshells are preferred in many countries, more and more chickens have been bred to produce pure white eggshells. Plus, from the farmer’s point of view, a white egg makes it easier to spot imperfections and cracks.
Dutch researchers also found that there is a correlation between antibodies and the whiteness of an eggshell. The researchers determined this by looking at the color present in the first three eggs laid by several hens. It was found that chickens with the highest amount of antibodies — which were Leghorns in the test — also had the whitest eggs.
An ongoing investigation looking at the relationship of immunity and eggshell color is currently taking place.
Eggs that have brown shells are also high in the pigment called “protoporphyrin,” which is derived from hemoglobin. The result is a reddish-brown color that can range from light to dark. Much of the protoporphyrin is stored beneath the cuticle of the shell, also known as the bloom. Because of this, when you clean a brown egg, some of the pigment may rub off.
Interestingly, dark brown eggs are more likely to occur at the beginning of an egg-laying cycle. During the course of the cycle, the hen will lay progressively whiter eggs. Brown eggshells also get lighter as the hen ages and starts laying larger eggs. Since more pigment has to be spread over the egg, it makes sense.
Many viral diseases can infect brown egg-layers, causing them to lay paler shades. It is believed that internal parasites and viruses interfere with the absorption of necessary nutrients, thereby making the eggshells paler. Similarly, stressed hens may produce lighter colored eggs.
In short, if your prolific brown egg-laying hens start giving you paler eggs, something is wrong and needs to be fixed.
Similar to brown eggs in their creation is the delightful cream or pink-colored egg. Faverolles, Buff Orpingtons, Mottled Javas, Silkies, Sussexs, and Australorps are all well-known breeds that produce lightly tinted eggs. Easter Eggers are also famous for their ability to lay a pink egg (though some can lay blue and green eggs, as well).
The main difference between pink, cream, and brown eggs is the thickness of the bloom. When the cuticle of the egg is thicker, you will see less of the pigment and more of the natural white color.
Stunning blue eggs are always a delightful surprise in the egg basket. But where does the blue pigment come from? Turns out, it is from biliverdin, a pigment that results from bile. Where brown pigment colors the surface of the egg, blue pigment mixes more easily with the calcium carbonate, so the bluish tint is throughout the entire shell.
Blue eggs are a dominant trait. It is believed that blue shells became dominant when a harmless endogenous avian retrovirus found its way into the DNA of chickens.
Biliverdin is also responsible for greenish tints, but only when a blue-egg breed is crossed with a brown egg-laying breed. Green is the result of the brown pigment overlaying the blue shell.
Here are some ways you get different green eggshells:
- Blue egg + Blue egg = Blue
- Blue egg + White egg = Pale Blue
- Blue egg + Light Brown egg = Green
- Blue egg + Dark Brown egg = Olive
This is why an Olive Egger (a mix between Marans and Ameraucana chicken breeds) will lay a dark green olive egg, while the Favaucana (half Ameraucana, half Faverolle) will lay sage green eggs. Meanwhile, the Isbar breed lays a variety of green-colored eggs, ranging from moss green to mint.
The Earlobe and Eggshell Theory
While talking about chicken egg colors, the earlobe theory can’t be glossed over. The color of a chicken and their eggs is based purely on genetics. This is why breeders tend to be picky when selecting which chickens they want to use for solidifying a breed’s standard. They don’t want their chickens who lay brown eggs all the time to suddenly start laying blue ones in a few generations.
Some breeders will use the color of a hen’s earlobes to determine what the eggshell color will be. It is not completely accurate, but there is some sense to it. Many hens that have white earlobes lay white-shelled eggs. Meanwhile, hens with red earlobes tend to lay brown eggs.
Now, there are some exceptions to the theory. If you are familiar with Redcap, Crevecoeur, and Dorking breeds, you may know that they lay white eggs despite having red earlobes. Ameraucanas and Araucanas both have red earlobes yet lay blue eggs. The Penedesenca and Empordanesca produce extremely dark brown eggs, but their earlobes are white.
We also cannot ignore the bluish earlobes of Silkies and Sebrights and the purple earlobes of Sumatras, either.
That said, if you are looking for a general method of figuring out which common breed is going to lay which color egg without doing a lot of research, the earlobe theory may help. If not, the nifty chart below will certainly help.
Chicken Egg Color Chart By Breed
|Eggshell Color By Breed||White Eggs||Pinkish/Cream Eggs||Blue Eggs||Green Eggs||Brown Eggs (Light or Dark)|
|Rhode Island Red||✓|
Final Thoughts on Colored Eggs
Now that you have seen the chicken egg color chart, you should know which breeds to add to your flock to jazz up the nesting boxes. Chicken breeds that lay brilliantly colored eggs are always a welcome part of the flock. While colored eggs taste no different from regular eggs, the novelty is hard to beat!
Valerie has been content writing since 2016 for websites and companies all around the world. A traveler, dancer, martial artist, Valerie loves gathering experiences and wisdom. Her travels have taken her to over 20 countries, and she hopes to see more of the world soon.