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Why Are Chicken Eggs Different Colors?

After having obtained a degree in biochemistry, Leah works for a small biotechnology company and enjoys writing about science.

Hens may lay eggs in many different colors, depending on their breed.

Hens may lay eggs in many different colors, depending on their breed.

Two Types of Pigment in Chicken Eggs

There are two primary types of pigment that cause coloration to occur in chicken eggs.

Porphyrin

The most common pigment is brown and is called porphyrin. This pigment is laid on top of the eggshell just prior to its release from the oviduct, or the chicken's reproductive tract. When you crack a brown egg open, the inside of the shell will be white—the default color of most eggshells.

Oocyanin

Blue eggs are rarer to find and almost never seen in grocery stores. This is caused by a pigment produced by the bile duct called oocyanin. This pigment is applied so early in the eggshell development process that the color permeates the entire shell - the inside of a blue egg will be blue.

The quantity of each pigment will vary by breed, with some breeds laying browner or bluer eggs than other breeds. Some breeds have been developed to produce both pigments, resulting in green eggs (blue + brown pigments)!

Barred Rocks lay brown eggs.

Barred Rocks lay brown eggs.

Best Breeds for Brown Egg Production

Many backyard chicken breeds will lay brown eggs. A very quick way to tell whether a chicken will lay brown or white eggs is in the earlobes: most white-egg laying breeds will have white earlobes, and most brown-egg laying breeds will have red earlobes!

  • Australorps win the prize for best production - the record is producing 365 eggs in a year, so that particular hen never went a day without generating an egg! Their eggs are light to medium brown, and the breed is an excellent choice for a backyard flock.
  • Buff Orpingtons are large, cold-hardy birds that produce light brown eggs. They are excellent at producing eggs, even through the winter months. They are a larger bird and are very gentle: another great layer for a backyard flock.
  • Plymouth Barred Rocks are beautifully striped hens that produce plentiful medium-brown eggs. The birds are medium in size, cold hardy, and get along well with other chickens in the flock. Dominques are similar in appearance and production to Barred Rocks but have a small pea-shaped comb that is better in very cold environments.
  • Jersey Giants are, as their name suggests, extremely large black hens. They lay a medium brown egg and are very friendly. These hens are an excellent choice for a backyard flock, though make sure the coop is large enough to handle a flock of giant hens!
  • Brahmas are another very large breed that lays plentiful brown eggs. These white birds have black feathers on their necks and tails, and have feathered feet and legs. Like the Jersey Giant, they are big birds and will need enough space in a coop.
Australorps are among the best producers of large quantities of brown eggs.

Australorps are among the best producers of large quantities of brown eggs.

Best Breeds for Brown Egg Color

  • Black Copper Marans lay the darkest brown eggs of any breed. These eggs will vary in color over the course of a laying season, but start out with a very dark chocolate brown pigmentation. These eggs are prized by many backyard chicken owners and the French breed gets high marks in my book for producing the most unusual brown eggs.
  • Salmon Faverolle is the breed that lays an egg with pinkish tones—the amount of pigment produced is light and will create a peach or pink-toned egg. For adding color variants to a flock, this breed is a fantastic choice.

Brown Egg Layer Comparison

Breed comparisons for egg production and hen size among brown egg layers.

BreedEgg Quantity (Per Year)Hen Size

Australorp

250

6.5-8 lbs (2.9-3.6 kg)

Buff Orpington

200-280

8 lbs (3.6 kg)

Barred Rock

200

7.5 lbs (3.4 kg)

Jersey Giant

150

10 lbs (4.5 kg)

Brahma

150

8-10 lbs (3.6-4.5 kg)

Black Copper Maran

150-200

6.5 lbs (2.9 kg)

Salmon Faverolle

240

6.5 lbs (2.9 kg)

Maran eggs are the darkest brown of any eggs. As more eggs are produced by the hen, the color fades within the season.

Maran eggs are the darkest brown of any eggs. As more eggs are produced by the hen, the color fades within the season.

The Best Breeds for Blue Eggs

Blue eggs are produced by a number of breeds, though some breeds have health issues and may be difficult to find.

  • Araucanas are originally from South America and have tufted ears. Unfortunately, the rumpless/tufted gene causes many chicks to perish before they can exit their shells, so the breed is generally cross-bred to create the "Easter Egger" chicken. These birds are generally not available from hatcheries due to breeding difficulties, but they are guaranteed to lay blue eggs. If this breed is desired, find a local breeder to obtain chicks.
  • Easter Egger chickens are the most common blue-egg laying breed. These hens are widely available, but beware: some Easter Eggers will produce brown, pink, or even white eggs. To guarantee blue eggs, Ameraucanas or Crested Legbars are a surer bet.
  • Ameraucanas were derived from Auracanas, but are easier to breed and do not have the problems associated with the tufted/rumpless gene. Unlike Easter Eggers, Ameraucanas are guaranteed to lay blue eggs.
  • Crested Cream Legbars are a British breed and lay reliable sky-blue eggs. These birds are recommended, as they are auto-sexing (females can be determined at hatching) and do not have the tufted/rumpless gene that causes death to so many Araucanas. These chickens were created by breeding Auracanas with Legbars, and produce a good quantity of eggs each year.
Easter Egger hens are not guaranteed to lay blue eggs. Look into Ameraucana or Crested Legbar breeds to ensure the color you want!

Easter Egger hens are not guaranteed to lay blue eggs. Look into Ameraucana or Crested Legbar breeds to ensure the color you want!

Blue Egg Layer Comparison

Four blue egg laying breeds with egg production and hen size comparisons. Please note that Easter Egger hens may produce variable egg color and are not guaranteed to produce blue eggs.

BreedEgg Quantity (Per Year)Hen Size

Easter Egger

280

6-7 lbs (2.7-3.2 kg)

Araucana

250

4.9-6 lbs (2.2-2.7 kg)

Ameraucana

250

5.5 lbs (2.5 kg)

Crested Legbar

230

4.5-6 lbs (2.0-2.7 kg)

White Egg Layers

  • Leghorns are the most common breed of chicken that lays white eggs and are the breed used for commercial egg production. The eggs typically produced for the grocery store are from White Leghorns.
  • Polish chickens have a crest of feathers on their heads and are quite fun to have as part of a flock. They lay white eggs and are extremely amiable birds. They like to be part of a flock, but should not be kept with aggressive birds.
  • Lakenvelders are striking black and white hens that lay a nice quantity of white eggs throughout the year. This Dutch breed is a dual-purpose chicken and can be used for meat production as well as egg production.
  • Appenzeller Spitzhauben chickens are silver spangled and need to be fenced in, because they like to roost in trees. They take well to being in a coop, but are a little flightier than the other breeds listed here. Despite their independent personalities, they are quite friendly and are a great addition to any flock.
  • Silver Spangled Hamburgs are another great choice for white eggs. This small breed produces a nice quantity of eggs and will coexist well with the rest of the backyard flock. The black and white birds appear to be polka-dotted in coloration.
This German Leghorn displays white earlobes, which match the color of eggs it will lay.

This German Leghorn displays white earlobes, which match the color of eggs it will lay.

White Egg Layer Comparison

Egg production and hen size comparisons for five white egg laying breeds.

BreedEgg Quantity (Per Year)Hen Size

Leghorns

280

5.5 lbs (2.5 kg)

Polish

200

4.5 lbs (2.0 kg)

Lakenvelders

150

4.5 lbs (2.0 kg)

Appenzeller Spitzhauben

150

3.5 lbs (1.6 kg)

Hamburgs

150

3.5 lbs (1.6 kg)

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Leah Lefler

Comments

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on March 11, 2021:

We currently have brown egg layers in our flock, as we selected our hens for production purposes. I really want to get some blue and green egg layers in our next batch of chicks, Devika! The variety of colors is fun to have.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 10, 2021:

I did notice the different colors of eggs and didn't give it much thought until I read your hub.Interesting analysis here.

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on March 08, 2021:

The earlobe color/egg color correlation is so interesting to me, too, Peggy! It is a generalization, but most hens with white earlobes lay white eggs, and those with red earlobes lay brown eggs. The earlobe connection does not apply to blue or green egg layers, though!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 08, 2021:

I have never raised chickens and found this interesting to read. I would never have known that looking at the earlobes of some of these chickens could predict the color of eggs they lay.

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