Whether you’re a seasoned chicken keeper or just starting out, here is everything you need to know about brown eggs and the chickens that lay them!
Brown eggs are put on a pedestal, the pricier eggs signal healthy birds raised in the best conditions (spoiler alert, not really). But is there really any difference between brown and white eggs?
Let’s address the clickbait that got you here, the truth is the color of the eggshell doesn’t matter. It’s determined by genetics and pretty much stays the same throughout the life of the chicken.
All the blather about brown eggs being better or from healthier chickens is nonsense. In reality, brown eggs are white eggs with some chicken spray paint on them (that’s why you can rub the brown pigment off an egg).
There is no denying that brown eggs are prettier and they’re also laid by some pretty awesome chickens.
At this point, the majority of the eggs I get are in the brown family, everywhere from the pale tan from my Brahmas and Wyandotes to the delightfully speckled Welsummer eggs and the deep chocolate brown French Marans eggs.
Why are Eggs Brown?
Brown eggs are actually white eggs with a brown pigment added (inside the chicken), the more pigment the darker the egg turns.
The amount of ‘overspray’ the chicken adds can fluctuate throughout its life so if you have hens that lay brown eggs you aren’t always going to have eggs that are the same color, this is especially true with the dark brown layers.
If you break open a brown egg you can see that the innermost base layer is actually white. You can even remove the brown pigment from an egg by rubbing the shell with a damp kitchen towel or sandpaper if you’re in a rush.
The inside layer of blue and green eggs is blue; the green eggs have an additional layer of brown pigment over them that changes the color.
What Chickens Lay Brown Eggs?
Lots of chickens lay brown eggs, in fact, the majority of popular backyard chicken breeds lay brown eggs!
One thing that drives me absolutely crazy about the internet is the repetition cycle that turns semi-true information into incorrect taken-as-gospel “facts”. If you were to google which chickens lay brown eggs many of the top results are going to tell you “usually white chickens lay white eggs and brown chickens lay brown eggs”.
Let me tell you, that “usually” is doing a lot of heavy lifting in that sentence.
Egg color has nothing to do with feather color.
I have a sneaking suspicion that the “fact” this statement was originally based is something along the lines of White Leghorns are a popular white chicken that lays white eggs and Rhode Island Reds are a popular reddish brown chicken that lays brown eggs.
Just because I can figure out where they were coming from doesn’t make the statement correct. The existence of the Brown Leghorns (that lay white eggs) and Rhode Island Whites (that lay brown eggs) is all I need to disprove it.
Why are Brown Eggs More Expensive?
Capitalism, they’re more expensive because people will pay more.
Since we’ve been debunking chicken “facts”, let’s go over ‘brown eggs are more expensive because they take more feed to produce’. I know where they’re coming from with this but it’s also not true.
It’s an apples-and-oranges situation.
Commercial laying hens (the ones whose eggs end up in stores) are all hybrids bred for quick and heavy production. You can also get hybrid layers and raise them in your very own backyard.
There are several different types of hybrid layers (based on different crosses). Some lay white eggs and some lay brown eggs.
Once again, for the people in the back, it’s dependent on the breed and genetics of the chicken. Not food, husbandry, or access to green grass and fresh air.
Learn more about Hybrid Layers & Sexlink Chickens
The hybrid laying breeds will lay earlier and more often, making them a better choice from a financial perspective (even if you need to replace the entire flock every 1-2 years).
However, if you’re looking for a heritage breed with a longer life and predictable offspring, you’re looking at a longer wait for eggs and less frequent laying.
And the majority (not all) of non-hybrid chickens (aka heritage breeds) raised in backyard flocks lay brown eggs.
While the number of eggs might even out over the entire life of the bird you’re also going to be feeding and caring for the chickens longer so it is more expensive.
Just remember, this has nothing to do with the eggshell color and once again the original statement is false.
Chickens That Light Brown Eggs
If you’re looking to raise your own chickens and you head to Tractor Supply for chicks you’re pretty much guaranteed to get light brown eggs.
I’ve been to a few different TSCs over the years and they all have the same basic setup, a few tubs filled with chicks that seem to rotate between breeds over the course of “Chick Days”.
Learn All About the Chicken Breeds Sold at Tractor Supply
Out of the 6 breeds they commonly carry, 5 of them lay brown eggs. The exception is the White Leghorns, a white chicken that lays white eggs…
Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons, Black Austolorps, Silver Laced Wyandottes, and Barred Rocks all lay light brown eggs.
I’m not including the hybrids since they seem to change from year to year but just know you can also get hybrids that lay brown eggs like the Red Sexlink.
They also have a tub of assorted bantams, not the direction I’d recommend if you’re looking for eggs unless you’ve got a thing for tiny food.
Read more about Bantam Chickens
If you’re buying chicks online you’re going to have a lot more options and you could even pick up some of my favorite birds like Brahmas and Cochins.
Here is an incomplete list of brown egg-laying chickens along with approximate egg counts. I’m just going to list the breed, most of them come in different color variations but that would make this list way too long for an attention span curated by TikTok.
In some cases the rarer colorations lay fewer eggs, they’ve been bred more for appearance than production.
- Australorp (200-280)
- Bielefelder (230)
- Brahmas (180-240)
- Buckeye (180-260)
- Chantecler (150-200)
- Cochin (110-160)
- Delaware (200-280)
- Dominique (180-260)
- Faverolle (180-240)
- Jersey Giants (180-260)
- New Hampshire (200-280)
- Orpingtons (200-280)
- Rhode Island (200-280)
- Rocks (200-280)
- Sussex (180-240)
- Turken (180-240)
- Wyandotte (180-260)
Chickens That Dark Brown Eggs
When you have a mixed flock of hens every day is an easter egg hunt where you collect fun colors and different sizes. My favorite eggs are olive green and speckled but I can’t deny that my heart skips a beat every time I collect a dark brown egg.
If you’re looking for a stunning dark brown egg you can’t go wrong with a flock of French Marans hens. I have Cuckoo Marans and Black, Black Copper, Wheaten, and Cuckoo French Marans.
If you’re looking for dark eggs you want the French varieties. Their eggs literally look like chocolate.
Non-French Cuckoo Marans have bare legs and they’re a little bit bigger. They also lay lighter eggs, not pale by any means but closer to a Welsummer egg than a Cadbury egg.
A few years ago I had a Wheaten French Marans almost lose her head, I’m still not sure what happened but I found her in the morning with a swollen and bloody face.
She survived and I chronicled her healing process (with gross pictures), you should check that out if you aren’t eating breakfast.
Read more about Chicken Wound Recovery
Another dark brown egg layer is the Welsummer, I probably should have explained that before I referenced them above but well, here we are.
Welsummers roosters are gorgeous (literally the Kellogg Rooster) and the pretty hens lay lovely dark brown speckled eggs. The six-pound hens lay 200-280 medium-large eggs per year.
I’ve had quite a few Weslummers and they are freaking tough birds. Flamingo, my death-defying rooster was a Welsummer.
The hens are also pretty, they have lovely yellow neck feathers that make them easy to spot in a crowd and they’re known for laying speckled dark brown eggs.
Learn more about Welsummers & their lovely speckled eggs
One more bird for dark egg lovers is the Barnevelder. This is the only one I haven’t raised so I can’t tell you any fun anecdotes about scalping or car accidents.
What I can tell you is that they’re absolutely beautiful, the hens weigh about 6 pounds and produce 150-200 large eggs per year.
They’re also rare in the US and fairly expensive for an animal that lives semi-feral in my backyard.
The eggshell color is more similar to a Welsummer or Cuckoo Maran than the French Marans but still darker than your standard brown egg.
How Can You Tell What Color Eggs a Chicken Lays?
Hold on to your butts kids! Other than stalking your flock and taking notes, which is always a fun time for family, the best way to know what color eggs a chicken will lay is by looking at their ear lobes.
Yes, their ear lobes.
Chickens that lay white eggs will have white earlobes, and chickens that lay brown eggs will have red earlobes.
Finding this lady was like a very muddy game of Where’s Waldo, it turns out I have exactly 2 chickens that lay white eggs. My Polish hen was out in a field and this lady is far too active to willingly participate in photo shoots.
Unfortunately, chickens that lay blue eggs don’t have blue earlobes (that would be fun though!) but usually, they have some cheek pouf-age that gives away those blue egg genetics.
The same is true for green and olive eggers, they are crosses between a blue egg breed and a brown egg breed. My favorite speckled olive eggs come from a barnyard mix between a Welsummer (dark brown speckled eggs) and an Easter Egger (blue eggs).
Read more about Easter Egger Chickens
Looking for more information? Check out my Chickens page or start here: