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Rainbow Dozen – Plan for Colorful Eggs from Your Flock

Half the fun of having your own chickens is getting a rainbow of egg colors. I’ve had my own hens for so long I was genuinely confused when I opened an egg carton at my moms and all the eggs were the same color, size and shape.

white ceramic egg holder filled with 12 fresh farm eggs in blue, green, tan, cream, white & dark brown

I was also confused about why she was buying eggs at the store when I have 5+ dozen beautiful & delicious fresh eggs stacked up on my counter but that’s unrelated.

You get a lot of things from a backyard flock of chickens but consistency is not one of them. At least not if you have a giant mix of breeds like me.

Egg shell color is determined by genetics and is fairly straight forward, until you get into the odd balls like the blue egg laying Easter Eggers and Olive Eggers. Those two are actually hybrids and as a result they are a little off the wall.

Egg Shell Colors

First things first, did you know there are only two egg shell colors? Yup, blue or white. I can hear you telling me I’m wrong, and I’m not but I’ll explain why.

inside broken egg shell colors

If you crack open an egg of any color and look inside you’ll see what color the shell is. A brown or white egg will be white inside, a blue or green or olive egg will be blue inside.

The brown pigment is added after the egg shell is formed, that’s why if you scrub a brown egg you can lighten the color. An olive egg is a blue egg with a brown over spray.

Egg shell color is determined by genetics, a chicken that lays white eggs will always lay white eggs. With brown egg layers you might notice some variation in the amount of brown pigment but they’ll always lay brown eggs.

If you have a mixed flock like mine there is a trick to see what color eggs a chicken will lay. All you have to do is look at the ear lobes, a white egg layer with have white ear lobes and a brown egg layer will have red ear lobes.

White Egg Layers

White eggs are the most boring to me, so I like my white egg laying chickens to be extra special. I have a large flock and I have a few birds in the white egg category. 

One of my favorites are my Appenzellar Spitzhaubens. They’re not known to be prolific layers but they do a decent job averaging 3/week. 

They’re very active and beautiful birds. Appenzellar Spitzhaubens are hysterically adventurous, and won’t do well in confinement. If you’re looking to add a new variety of white egg layer to your free range flock they’re a great choice. 

Another classic breed in the Leghorn. The white leghorn is probably one of the most iconic chickens thanks to the cartoon Foghorn Leghorn. 

I have a few brown leghorns from my Cackle Surprise box and they are A+ layers, unless you get in to the hybrids they’re some of the most prolific layers out there.

They are active birds and enjoy their space. They have a large floppy comb, I wouldn’t pick them for my flock based on that alone because of the winters we get and the frostbite but if you live someone warmer I highly recommend them. 

Brown Egg Layers

Brown eggs are so much more interesting than white eggs. For one, there is not a single brown. They range in color from dark ivory to deep chocolately brown and everything in between. 

Another reason is the pretty speckles. I’m a sucker for a speckled egg I must admit. 

Remember earlier when I told you there are only white or blue egg shells? A brown egg is a white shell with a brown pigment sprayed over it. 

You get different shades of brown based on the amount of pigment added to the egg. 

blue laced red wyandotte hen with three chicks on a green lawn with other poultry in the background

Many popular backyard breeds lay light brown eggs. One of my favorites is the very hardy Wyandotte. They have a pretty cool history too, if you’re interested in learning more about them check out my post on Cold Hardy Chicken Breeds

Wyandottes are a dual purpose breed and they come in beautiful array of colors and patterns. I’m partial to the Blue Laced Red but they’re all winners.

Favorite Chicken Breed - Chicken Scratch NY - Brahma

My all time favorite chicken also falls into the light brown egg category. Brahmas are everything I look for in a chicken.

They’re giant, fluffy, calm and hardy as hell. I still have two of my original Brahma hens from my original flock, they’re 8 years old and going strong.

Like the Wyandottes they’re a dual purpose breed meaning they’re useful for both eggs and meat. They lay light brown eggs, about 3 per week.

Unlike some of my birds they seem pretty happy to hang out around the barn, I never see them in the mulberry trees or across the street.

I did once spend a magical afternoon watching a Brahma ballet performance with the hens leaping though the air to eat grapes straight off the vine. It’s always nice to have a chicken that can entertain itself.

Dark Brown Egg Layers

Dark brown eggs are far more rare than you might think. The darkest eggs come from Marans and Barnevelders.

Both of those breeds are pretty expensive as far as chickens go. You can expect to pay $10+ per female chick if you order online.

The one exception to the high price Marans price tag is the Cuckoo Maran, they have a barred feather pattern similar to Dominiques and Barred Rocks. 

Welsummer hen and splash Cochin hen

Another cheaper option for dark brown eggs is the Welsummer. I have quite a few, like the brown Leghorns and the Appenzeller Spitzhaubens. The brown hen in the picture above is a Welsummer, the fancy lady next to her is a splash Cochin.

I was first introduced to them through my surprise box, then I ordered a few more because chicken math. 

Welsummers lay dark brown eggs with a tendency towards speckled and uneven pigmentation. I sell most of my extra eggs to my boss and she swears they are the hardest to peel. I do all my hard boiled eggs in the Instant Pot now and I don’t notice and differences.

Fun fact, the original Kellogg’s rooster was a Welsummer! As far as personality, I don’t have a lot to say about them.

They aren’t particularly flighty or affectionate. They are a very middle of the road chicken that happens to lay beautiful speckled dark brown eggs. 

Blue & Pale Green Egg Layers

The easiest blue egg layers to get your hands on are Easter Eggers, but they aren’t the only ones. Araucanas, Americaunas and Cream Leg Bars also lay blue eggs.

Easter Egger hens with a dominique photobombing

The photobomber in the shot above is my stalker Dominique hen in the very front and three of my Easter Egger hens. Alfie in the background is just a bonus. 

Their eggs range in color from pale, almost white sky blue to a a pretty robins egg blue, a light greenish olive and even a slightly pink color. I have a whole post about Easter Eggers that goes into the differences between EEs and Ameraucanas so check that out if you’re interested in the full story.

The readers digest version is that EE’s are beautiful, hardy, cheap & easy to find and they lay blue & pale green eggs. There is a wide variation in shell color among the Easter Eggers so if you have room for a few you should pick some up. 

Olive Egg Layers

Out of all of these the olive eggers are going to be the hardest to track down. They aren’t a specific breed, olive eggers are a cross between a blue egg layer and a brown egg layer.

I had one barnyard mutt that laid the prettiest mossy green eggs with dark olive speckles. Sadly she was snatched one day and I’ve been missing her and her eggs ever since.

There isn’t any proof to back this up but I believe she was an EE crossed with a Welsummer. She had a blue egg shell with a brown over spray that turned the blue green.

Tiny Egg Layers

Maybe this category is a bit of a cheat, tiny eggs aren’t a color but they can add some pizazz to your egg basket. I can say that nothing on this earth makes my kids happier than a tiny egg.

You can cross your fingers and hope for a fairy egg (or a rooster egg or fart egg, whatever you call them) or you can take things into your own hands and get some tiny egg layers. 

Bantam chickens (or Banties) are 20-25% of the size of a regular chicken. There is a lot of variety available too, from the round puff ball bantam Cochins to the tiny Serama.

I have a few bantams in with my full sized flock and they’re thriving. The situation might be different if you aren’t free ranging so keep that in mind if you’re thinking about adding a few little chickens.

bantam Easter egger hen

There are two groups of bantams, one group is all the varieties that are the smaller version of a full size breed, the other is the true bantams or tiny chickens with no full sizes counterpart. I have one variety of true bantams, Silkies, and I also have a few Bantam Easter Eggers.

I get little white eggs from the silkies, if I can find them, they’re really good at hiding eggs! And I get small blue eggs from my bantam EEs.

The photo above is a full sized EE and her bantam counterpart. That sassy little bird is 7 or 8 years old, honestly time has been running together lately, but my point is she is very much full grown. 

What color eggs do you get from you flock? When you’re getting new chickens do you keep one breed or mix to up to make things more interesting? I would love to hear from you!

Don’t forget to PIN this to your chicken board for later

Check out my Chicken page for more info or start here:

large light Brahma rooster against a black background with text overlay Homestead Bloggers Share Their Favorite Chicken Breeds

old fashioned etched drawing of a silver laced wyandotte rooster with text over lay 3 Heritage Chickens Bred for Harsh Winters

 

Gloria Buster

Tuesday 11th of February 2020

Looking to add to my chickens and the main thing is of course egg color, haha. I have 4 RIR, 3EE, 2 Silkies. One of the Silkies is my only rooster. I really am looking for colorful egg layers but temperament and heat tolerant is really a #1 requirement as I live in North Central Texas and it gets hot with high humidity more times than not. What would you recommend?

Donald Gibbs

Thursday 9th of May 2019

Great Article, Thanks for the chicken breeds article it was most informative. Sincerely, Donald Gibbs