Vet Blog

What’s the Story Behind Colorful Chicken Eggs?

October 21, 2021

There are so many different chicken breeds it only makes sense that their eggs would be equally unique.

Many chicken aficionados conduct extensive research when it comes to bringing home the right hens for their brood, and this is especially true if a particular color egg is fancied. Colorful chicken eggs are in high demand, but what causes their many distinctive hues?

Available Pastel Shades

Amazingly, colorful chicken eggs come in shades of blue, green, brown, cream, and even pink. Many folks believe that colorful chicken eggs (brown especially) are healthier to eat, but the nutritional value of eggs is directly influenced by the living conditions and lifestyles of the hens.

Backyard chicken eggs are so popular because hens have more opportunities to forage and diversify their daily diets.

The Nitty and the Gritty

Egg color is determined by genetics. Because the breed is the foremost predictor of egg appearance, brood owners have the ability to choose what they prefer.

Chicken breeders say that a quick look at a chicken's ear lobes (yep, you read that right) can indicate what color eggs they'll lay. For example, if the ear lobe is white, chances are their eggs will be, too. Hens with red earlobes typically lay brown eggs. There are definitely exceptions to this rule, increasing the importance of working with the right breeder.

Wait! There's More

Eggs are all white in the earliest stages of development as they form inside a hen's shell gland. As the eggs move through the oviduct (a process that takes about a day), pigments are deposited directly onto the shell's exterior. Before hens lay their eggs, the pigment of certain breeds permeates the shell's exterior and lines the inside of the shell, too.

For example, Ameraucana chickens lay blue-colored eggs because they produce a pigment called oocyanin. This pigment colors both the inside and outside of the shell. Other breeds that lay brown or tan-colored eggs produce a pigment that doesn't go through the shell's exterior, so the insides of their eggs will be white.

Colorful Chicken Eggs

Interestingly, brown eggs vary from light tan to walnut hue because of numerous different genes. A green egg can be the result of a combination of a brown egg-laying chicken and a blue egg-laying chicken. Olive-colored eggs are produced by a breed famously called Olive Eggers. What's more, brown-colored egg layers produce lighter-colored eggs as they age.

Enjoy the Experience

At Bayshore Animal Hospital & Avian Practice, we value what it takes to keep backyard chickens safe, healthy, and content. For more information, check out our guide to backyard chickens, learn about their appearance and behavior, and call our staff at (727) 381-3900 with further questions about avian health.