Story and photos
It’s chick season! Many of you I’m sure, are visiting farm stores, firing up the incubators and placing orders with breeders and hatcheries for baby chicks. This year as you select the different breeds to add to your homestead, consider selecting a variety that will give you a colorful egg basket.
As you’ve all heard me say a million times before in past posts, the Buff Orpington is my favorite chicken. They’re large, hearty, gentle birds. They practically GLOW in the sunshine and they lay a lot of large peachy-brown eggs. If I could only raise one chicken breed, it would be Buffs. But my basket of eggs would be kind of boring considering the colors available to chicken keepers.
Adding Colors to the Flock
For years I have been dreaming of collecting this perfect “in my mind” combination of chicken breeds. It’s perfect because it checks off all the egg colors that a chicken can lay.
Thanks to the chicken movement, and the response to the demand of homesteaders wanting a variety of chicken breeds, it’s getting easier to collect chickens that will lay a variety of egg colors.
In general, chickens lay 7 colors of egg:
Within these colors is a variety of shades, tones and depths of pigment. For example, “brown” is a loose term for many shades of tan, peach, golden brown, and reddish brown.
Green is also a broad color name. Some chickens lay mint eggs, others a sage green. The intensity of pigment can also vary.
Gathering a chicken breed that checks off each of these colors can be a bit challenging, but I like to look at it as an adventure. It’s like a treasure hunt tracking down hatching eggs, local breeders and farm stores that have the breed I’m looking for. I’ve also met some really nice people and fellow chicken keepers along the way.
Here is a guide to choosing a colorful collection of egg layers for your backyard coop:
The easiest breed to find that lays white eggs is the Leghorn. You should easily be able to find this breed at farm stores and hatcheries. Other chickens that lay white eggs are Anconas, Campines, Minorcas and Lakenvelders.
Most chicken breeds lay brown eggs. You should have a very easy time finding a variety of brown layers. Some common breeds are Rhode Island Reds, Orpingtons and Wyandottes.
French Black Copper Marans lay the darkest of all eggs. Their eggs are a chocolate brown and sometimes get into a deep burgundy color. However, they can be hard to locate. Check chicken forums, and join chicken clubs to find breeders. You might have to buy an incubator and hatch some chicks yourself as we did this spring.
If you can’t find French Black Coppers, I’ve noticed that Kuckoo Marans are gaining popularity with the hatcheries. Like the FBC, all Marans lay a dark egg. Kuckoo’s won’t lay quite as dark of an egg as FBC’s, but it will definitely stand out among your other brown layers.
Green egg layers used to be challenging to find, however many feed stores are now carrying Easter Egg chickens. They might be named Ameraucana/Araucana on the bin label, but chances are if you’re buying from a hatchery or feed store, the chicks are a mixed breed with Ameraucana/Araucana genes. Easter Eggers will also lay blue or pinkish-peach eggs.
Blue egg layers are even harder to find. As I said above, occasionally you will get a blue layer from and Easter Egger hen, but to get a tried and true blue layer breed, you will most likely have to contact a breeder. True Araucanas and Ameraucanas lay blue eggs, as do quality Cream Legbars.
Olive Eggers used to be a make-your-own chicken breed that took two seasons to create, but ltely I’ve been seeing chicks for sale from breeders. An olive egger is a mixed breed between a brown laying chicken and a green laying chicken. The resulting offspring lay an olive toned egg. The darker the brown layer, the deeper the olive egg will be. For example, I’ve found that the deepest olive color comes from mating a French Black Copper Maran to a green laying Easter Egger.
Last year we found Welsummer chicks at our local farm store. They lay a nice darker brown egg with even darker speckles. The added texture gives even more character to a varied egg basket.