Pets & Animals | 25 April 2016How to Raise Chickens: Why are Eggs Different Colors? Share article facebook twitter google pinterest As author Christine Heinrichs puts it: “Gathering eggs can feel like found money.” Having truly fresh eggs from chickens of your personal acquaintance is one of the reasons people raise their own chickens today. Like so many other home-raised products, the flavor can’t be compared to store-bought: the nutritional value reflects the hens’ feeding, which is something you can influence if you raise your own. But what makes eggs white or brown? And what’s the deal with hens laying many eggs or just a few during different seasons? Christine Heinrichs shines a light on our feathered friends in her book, How to Raise Chickens: Everything You Need to Know, Updated & Revised. EGGS Hens lay eggs whether a rooster is around or not. Without a rooster, the eggs will not be fertile. Egg-laying varies by breed, by season, and by individual. Laying is related to day length, extended in commercial operations where the chickens are inside all the time and exposed only to artificial light. Most breeds take time off in the winter, although some, such as the Canadian Chantecler, the Rhode Island Red, and the thickly feathered Wyandotte, are particularly reliable about laying during the shorter days of cold months. Hens lay fewer eggs as they age, with production declining gradually after three years of age. Eggs vary from pure chalky white to dark chocolate brown, with Araucanas and their descendants laying blue and khaki-green eggs. Leghorns are the preferred commercial egg breed, but many traditional breeds are considered dual-purpose breeds: good egg layers that are also good table birds. Leghorns are considered too scrawny to be good eating. One Black Australorp is reported to have laid a record 364 eggs in one year, but most good layers take a day or two off each week. Hens lay less during their annual molt, usually in late summer. Breeds that maintain the instinct to become broody will stop laying during that three-week period. Broodiness has been selectively bred out of many breeds and strains to avoid this eggless period. Hens are sociable and willing to work with others. Having different breeds poses no barrier to flocking your birds together, although sizes may make a difference. With enough space, chickens rarely become aggressive toward each other. Photo credit: Christine Heinrichs / How to Raise Chickens: Everything You Need to Know Free-range hens that forage for part of their food, eating grass, seeds, and bugs, have been determined to lay more nutritious eggs than hens from commercial farms. Mother Earth News worked with Skaggs Nutrition Laboratory at Utah State University and Food Products Laboratory in Portland, Oregon, to test the eggs of free-range birds. The eggs contained up to four to six times as much Vitamin D; three times as much vitamin E; up to seven times as much beta-carotene, a form of vitamin A; and twice as much omega-3 fatty acid. They had half the cholesterol and a quarter of the saturated fat of commercially raised eggs. Those 2007 results have since been confirmed by other research. Silver Lacing is the black stripe around the edge of the silvery-white feathers. Silver-Laced Wyandottes like this hen were one of the breeds recognized for exhibition in the late nineteenth century. Photo credit: Christine Heinrichs / How to Raise Chickens: Everything You Need to Know EGG COLOR Egg color is often correlated with earlobe color. The rule of thumb is that red earlobes equal brown eggs and white earlobes equal white eggs. But there many exceptions. Among commercial egg-layers—dominated by Leghorns laying white eggs and Rhode Island Reds laying brown eggs—the correlation holds true. However, Penedescencas have white earlobes and lay especially dark brown eggs. Araucanas and Ameraucanas lay blue eggs but have red earlobes. Dorkings, Hollands, and Lamonas have red earlobes and lay white eggs. Because the traits are not linked genetically, they can and have been sorted separately in selective breeding through the years. Fresh eggs from local hens have a natural appeal that grocery store eggs can’t compete with. Studies indicate that eggs from hens that forage for part of their diet are more nutritious than commercial eggs. Photo credit: Christine Heinrichs / How to Raise Chickens: Everything You Need to Know Buy from an Online Retailer US: UK: How to Raise Chickens: Everything You Need to Know, Updated & Revised Whether you want to raise 5 chickens or 50, whether you have a 40-foot city lot or a 40-acre farm, the expert advice in this hands-on guidebook makes it easy for you to get started raising a healthy flock. Whichever comes first for you, the chicken or the egg, this book will show you what to do next with longtime chicken breeder Christine Heinrichs explaining all the helpful DOs and important DON’Ts. This brightly illustrated, full-color guide will prove an indispensable resource for anyone interested in raising their very own flocks. Easy-to-follow advice helps you to: Choose breeds and obtain stock House and feed chickens Manage your flock and keep it healthy Select and cull for breeding programs Incubate eggs and care for chicks Raise chickens in the country, suburbs, or city. The book provides information on breed types, obtaining stock, housing, feeding, flock management, breeding programs, incubation and care of chicks, selection and culling, showing, health care, and the legal aspects of raising chickens. Reviewed and approved by Dr. Clint Rusk (Purdue University Associate Professor in the Youth Development and Agriculture Education Department), this book will give you the tools you need to succeed in a challenging but rewarding business. Christine Heinrichs is the author of How to Raise Chickens and How to Raise Poultry (both Voyageur Press, 2013) and has won many awards over the course of her 30-year writing career. She holds a degree in journalism from the University of Oregon and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, the Society of Environmental Journalists, the Northern California Science Writers Association, and Ten Spurs, the honorary society of the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference. She is also a member of the American Poultry Association, where she serves on the Heritage Breeds Committee, the American Bantam Association, and the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. She lives with her husband, chickens, and cat in Cambria, California. Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.