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What Affects A Chickens Eggshell Color?


While the white egg is by far the most commonly sold color of egg, it is not uncommon to see shells of different shades and varieties. Brown will be easily recognized but did you know that there are also blue or green eggs or shells that have a rosy color to them? They are not only pretty but the eggshell color and hue can tell us a depth of information regarding the health and happiness of our feathered friends. 

An eggshell’s tone and color can be affected by breed, age, health and stress levels of the chicken. 

There are several factors that play into why an eggshell comes out a certain shade of white, brown or blue. Sometimes it has to do with the breed of the chicken and other times it is illness or lack of balanced nutrition. This article will dive into the reasons why chickens produce such a vast array of egg colors. 

Why Are Chicken Eggs Different Colors? 

There are four large factors that play into the color of an eggshell:

  • Age.
  • Diet.
  • Stressors.
  • Genetics.

For instance, a young hen may lay a darker and smaller egg, while a more mature hen will have a lighter colored and larger egg. 

While the breed of the chicken may play a significant role, there is also the need for pigmentation to change the color of the shell. Pigmentation is applied while the egg passes through the oviduct.

Pigmentation 

Did you know that all eggs are actually white at first, no matter the breed, and the pigment change will set in shortly after being laid? Even if you’re holding a brown egg, just know that it was originally white before the pigment set in. 

There are two forms of pigment that play a role in the color of eggshells:

  • Protoporphyrin: reddish-brown tones 
  • Biliverdin: blue and green tones 

Eggshells consist of a material called Calcium Carbonate, which is white in color. This is what the pigment sticks to give the shell its unique color; whether that be brown, green or blue. 

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How Does Stress Affect A Chicken’s Eggshell? 

You can categorize most things as stress, whether it be environmental, nutritional or physical, it can all have an effect on the color and density of a chicken’s eggshell. When a hen does not have all the nutrients necessary to produce a healthy egg, the body will start to pull from other areas, such as the bones. 

Nutritional Stress 

When a chicken is deficient in zinc, calcium or manganese, it is possible you will see a change in the appearance of the eggshell. 

Adding supplements one by one is the safest way to attempt to correct the issue. Calcium tends to be the number one reason that your chicken’s eggshell doesn’t seem right, so starting there is a safe bet. 

Physical Stress

Physical stress can be either a health issue or a change in routine and bullying among the flock. The age of the hen also plays a strong role in the physical health of the chicken. 

If you are giving any medications that are new and you notice a change in the condition of the eggshell, this could be an explanation. Deworming medications for intestinal parasites have been known to cause issues with eggshell formation. 

Environmental Stress 

The presence of predators and the weather will have a lot to do with the overall quality of your chicken’s eggs. If it is too hot and they are not receiving an adequate amount of clean drinking water then the egg numbers and strength in shell can plummet. 

What Does A Soft Or Pale Eggshell Mean? 

More often than not, a soft or nonexistent eggshell indicates that the chicken is lacking in calcium and other nutrients. But most importantly, calcium. In rare cases, it can mean that the hen has an immature shell gland, either from disease or infection. 

Supplementing with calcium can help, but if no improvement is seen, then you may consider contacting your veterinarian. 

A pale eggshell or one that is easy to see through usually means that there is poor ventilation in the chicken coop, leading to a higher humidity, which leaves the eggs moist for a longer period of time. Eggshells need to dry out quickly in order to harden at the appropriate time. 

Why Are Most Eggs White? 

The white eggshell is seen in most stores because the more popular and quicker egg producers, such as the Leghorn, are those that typically lay only white eggs.

Because these chickens are so efficient at laying eggs at a rapid pace, it only makes sense that these are found in larger quantities. 

How Can I Determine What Color Eggs My Chicken Will Lay?

A fun trick among farmers is the check the color of the chicken’s earlobes. While, yes, the breed will be a big indicator in telling you what color eggs to expect but did you know that just looking at your chicken’s earlobes will also tell you if Miss Betty will be a brown or white egg layer?

A hen with red earlobes will produce brown eggs. White earlobes mean, you guessed it, WHITE eggs. And a chicken with iridescent white earlobes will lay green or blue eggs. 

You can cross-breed chickens in order to make a hen that will give you unique colored eggs. Like mixing a blue egg layer with a brown will most likely result in a chicken that lays green eggs!

Why Are Some Eggs Brown?

An egg becomes brown during the third phase of the egg-laying process which is when the hens body applies a brown pigment, protoporphyrin, to the shell. It takes time for the pigment to pass through the eggshell, which is again why all eggs are initially white after first being laid. 

The brown egg is another favorite among shoppers at the grocery store and is the second most commonly bought color of egg. However, there is really no difference between the taste and nutritional value of a brown and white egg. It’s really all about personal preference. 

Orange Or Red-Colored Eggs

The color intensity of a brown egg can be affected by age, stressors and breed, resulting in the shell having a different tone and depth of color. 

There are some breeds of chickens, such as Rhode Island Reds, which lay lighter-colored brown eggs that almost have a pink or rosy hue to them, and others, French Marans, will lay eggs that are darker, like chocolate. 

Which Breeds Of Chicken Lay Blue And Green Eggs?

These breeds of chicken will deposit the pigment biliverdin early in the egg-making process in order for them to have their rare and beautiful color. While there are several breeds of chicken that can lay blue or green eggs, there are far fewer that produce this uncommon color than with the white or brown egg layers. 

Green And Blue Egg-Layers 

The breeds that can produce a blue-colored eggshell are Araucanas, Ameraucanas, Legbars and Easter Eggers. 

Favaucana, Olive Eggers and Easter Eggers are the breeds that can produce eggs with a green hue. 

Easter Egger

Surely, you noticed that the Easter Egger was in both the green and blue egg layer category. That is because this breed is actually considered a “mutt” among the chicken community. They are not purebred and have been known to produce eggs ranging from a rosy color to blue or green. 

Will The Color and Condition Of The Eggshell Affect Its Nutritional Value? 

The color and density of the eggshell with not have an impact on the nutritional value of the egg. The calories, protein and cholesterol will all be the same from one egg to the other no matter how the shell looks. 

However, the size of the egg will have an effect. For instance, a jumbo egg will have more cholesterol and protein than smaller eggs. 

Does Eggshell Color Affect The Taste? 

Taste is thankfully unaffected by the color of the eggshell. The yolk color will also stay the same no matter what the eggshell looks like. However, adding things like red peppers or corn to the chicken’s diet could lead to the yolks changing color. 

Eggshells – More Than Just White 

Raising chickens in order to eat and share their eggs with family and friends is a wonderful resource. Plus, your pantry and fridge are full of a beautiful array of different colored, earthy eggshells. 

No matter the color of the eggshell, it is full of a rich and healthy protein that encourages strength and vitality. Chickens certainly offer a lot more than just their clucking and entertainment as they will always surprise you with a different-looking egg every time. 

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Allison Salonko

I'm a Veterinary Technician with 10+ years of experience in the field. I am using my passion for writing in between working with animals and spending time with my family.

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