What Causes different colored eggs
The color of the egg is inherent to the breed that lays it. Brown egg layers only lay brown eggs and white egg layers only lay white eggs. The browns and whites can be of varying shades, reliant on the nature of that breed and the pigment intensity deposited on the eggs. All eggs are white, prior to laying. It takes approximately 26 hours for an egg to form and follow the path through the oviduct and out through the vent. Colored eggs have an added pigment, that forms during the final 20 hours. That pigment for blue egg layers is called oocyanin, which permeates the egg shell, so those eggs will be blue outside the shell as well as the interior of the shell. Brown egg layers have a pigment called protoporphyrin that is only deposited on the outside of the shell. In fact if you take a fingernail and scratch the egg, you will see a white shell beneath it. Often when you collect those eggs you will see scratch marks on them, revealing the white shell beneath. The olive egg is the result of a mix of pigment from the oocyanin and the protoporphyrin that produces an egg of olive color. If you had a paint pallet, you could mix blue and brown together and produce an olive shade. You can change the intensity by adding varying amounts of white.
Is there any difference in flavor, or health benefits
No, countless studies have been conducted and though many individuals claim there is a difference, studies have proven there is no difference, so it's a matter of preference, nothing that is scientifically founded.
What are common breeds that lay colored eggs
Probably to top the list is the most familiar.
The Ameraucana. A true Ameraucana will have puffy cheeks, a beard, a tail, a pea comb and slate to green color legs. And they will lay large blue eggs. True Ameraucans do not lay any color egg but blue. Most often you will need to purchase those through breeders, even though farm stores and hatcheries advertise Ameraucanas, they are most often Easter Eggers. The Ameracauna is available in a variety of colors and patterns, but only certain colors are accepted by the American Poultry Association standards. The Ameraucana is a good dual purpose breed. The Araucana also lays a blue egg, but it is tailless and typically has tufts that extent outward from the ear. There are very specific standards for both breeds.
The cream legbar is a growing ever-popular breed for those seeking colored egg layers. They were developed along with other barred chickens to be Auto-sexing, early in the 20th century. The boys and girls can be determined at hatch. The Cream Legbar lays a large to extra large blue egg.
The Legbar lays a large to extra large egg and rivals the White leghorn in annual egg production. Their temperament is more calm than the leghorn and their body structure is a little heavier than the leghorn. The legbar is considered to be a good dual purpose breed and suitable in confinement.
There are other barred breeds that are endangered breeds, such as Brussbar, Critical, Legbar Critical, Cream Legbar Endangered, Rhodebar Critical, Welbar Vulnerable, Wybar Critical. Another barred breed that is endangered is the Isbar, they lay a green egg.
The Easter Eggers may have some traits of the Ameraucana, however they will lay any color egg, from blue, to green to pink or beige and off-white. These chickens are available in many different colors and patterns. But there is no standard since they are not considered a breed, but a mix of breeds, even if they are pure Ameraucana, but do not carry all the required traits of an Ameracauna according to set standards. The Easter Eggers may also have traits of the Araucana, but not have all the traits to qualify as an Araucana under the standards that are set by the APA.
Marans are known for their dark chocolate colored eggs. The French Black Copper Marans lay the darkest of all the Marans eggs. For those that exhibit the Marans, the depth of color is important ranging on a scale from 1-10, 1 being the lightest and 10 the darkest. For the backyard enthusiast, it's not as critical what range that chocolate is, just that it's darker than a brown egg layer. Though the Marans are available in a variety of colors, the Black Copper and the Blue Copper tend to be the most popular. These birds are considered the best chicken meat of all chickens in France. And of course those dark brown eggs were made notable by the 007 movies; it seems the character would only order and eat Marans eggs.
Penedesenca and Wellsummer also lay dark eggs. The Penedesenca lays an almost maroon color egg, a very dark reddish brown egg, while the Wellsummer lays a dark brown egg with darker speckles on the shell. The Croad Langshan though very difficult to find breeders in this country lays an almost purple color egg.
The Sussex, though considered a brown egg layer, lays a large beige egg that is tinted pink. That pink can be subtle or fairly distinct.
Last but not least, this is a cross-breed that is becoming very popular because of the Olive Green Eggs that set it apart from the Easter Egger or Isbar green eggs.
The Olive Egger is a French Black Copper Marans rooster X Ameraucana Hen. The offspring will lay large olive colored eggs. A brown egg layer crossed with a blue egg layer will produce olive colored eggs, but not with the intense olive found in the original breeding. Those offspring may take on traits of either or both parents. The chicks may have feathered legs, beards, muffs and pea combs or they may be clean legged, with the straight pointed Marans comb, no beards but may have muffs. So when these offspring hatch they can all appear completely different. Some may be black while others take on the coloring of the chosen Ameraucana. Or the chicks may be any color and any pattern. Some may have copper in their feathering, while others will show no copper. This is a fun breed because you never know what the chicks will look like as they develop, and the bonus when they lay will be the olive green eggs.
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