Backyard Chickens, Breeds, Fresh Eggs

The Backyard Chicken Egg Rainbow: Selecting breeds for their distinctive egg colors

From the moment that we began selling our eggs locally, the importance of displaying beautiful colors in each of our egg cartons was second only to the health of our hens. As a new farm, and as farmers who learned by trial and error, we were extraordinarily busy. We used daylight hours for working outside on the farm, and when it turned dark, we turned to indoor tasks such as customer service, marketing, research & development, web design, and egg washing. We frequently washed eggs into the hours that should no longer be considered night, but can’t yet be called morning. After hand washing and packaging our eggs, we frequently reconfigured egg cartons to evenly distribute the most beautiful eggs and maximize the beauty of every carton so that when our customers opened their cartons to cook, the eggs would unfailingly make them smile. We were one of the first farms in our area to place such an importance on the beauty of each dozen eggs we sold. We were lauded by our customers and the farm amassed a very loyal following.

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When food makes us happy, we place a higher value on how it’s made and where it comes from. We’ll spend the extra time and money to find it and purchase it from a small farmer who valued it enough to grow it well. We will take the time to prepare it for a nice meal, and we will savor that meal, or share it with family and friends. Placing value on food such as this nourishes our bodies, our homes, our relationships, and our communities.

This is one reason why backyard chicken keepers are obsessed with the colors of the eggs all their hens lay. A colorful box of eggs can make a gorgeous host gift, teachers gift, trade, and more. From dark chocolate brown eggs to creamy tinted eggs and all the shades of blue and green in between, here are a list of the breeds that lay all the egg colors you’re looking for.

Araucanas – The South American tufted and rumpless Araucana lays gorgeous sky-blue eggs.

Ameraucanas – The bearded Ameraucana, bred forth from the Araucana in America, also lays a stunning blue egg, but the breed has been relieved of it’s deadly tufted gene, and the rumplessness that causes fertility issues.

Barnevelders – Though the shades vary tremendously based on the quality of the bird, the Dutch Barnevelders are known for laying a darker brown egg.

Cream Legbar – Instead of laying just one color of eggs, this British breed may lay either a light pastel blue or green egg.

Easter Eggers – These are Ameraucanas that are not show-quality, or true-bred; but they lay a larger size and higher number of eggs that have a magnificent range of colors from blue to green.

Isbar – This Sweedish chicken’s eggs vary from light mossy green to dark olive green.

Marans – Though the French Marans chickens are highly sought after for the rich dark chocolate brown of the Black Copper Marans eggs, this breed is quite difficult to obtain. Other Marans may lay beautiful dark brown eggs, though not quite as dark, depending on the quality of the breeding and the Marans variety.

Olive Eggers – A cross between any green or blue egg layer and a dark brown egg layer gives you a hybrid that lays a beautiful olive green egg.

Penedesenca – The flighty Spanish Penedesenca also layes a gorgeous dark brown egg, though is a much harder bird to keep for backyard chicken keepers.

Welsummers – Another Dutch chicken prized for large dark brown, and often speckled, eggs.

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Baby Chicks, Backyard Chickens, Breeds

Araucana Chickens: The Original Blue Egg Layer

I do so like
green eggs and ham!
Thank you!
Thank you,
Sam-I-am”         –Green Eggs and Ham, by Dr. Seuss

 

While many children read this classic story and think of green eggs as nothing more than another figment of Dr. Seuss’s incredible imagination, green eggs do in fact exist. And “Sam-I-am” does not lie – they are delicious. The green eggs at Dare2Dream Farms come from its Easter Egg chickens, which lay an olive-green egg. This beautiful, unique trait of Easter Eggers comes from its ancestor: the Araucana.

 

Green Eggs - Dare 2 Dream Farms

Green Eggs – Dare 2 Dream Farms

Araucanas are tufted (large feather tufts sprouting next to their ears), rumpless (without a tail), and lay blue eggs. Their history is a complicated and not quite-so-clear one. In Chile, the Araucana Indians had two native chicken breeds: Collonca chickens were small, rumpless, had a single small comb, and laid blue eggs; Quetro chickens had ear tufts, tails, a pea comb, and laid pinkish-brown eggs.  Dr. Rueben Bustos, a Chilean chicken expert, developed a breed that was a combination of these two Chilean chickens. He led Professor Salvador Castello from Spain to believe that it was a native breed, and Castello excited the poultry world when he presented this ‘native Chilean pure breed of chicken’ at the First World’s Poultry Congress in 1921. He discovered three years later that these Araucana chickens were not a pure breed, but by then word had spread and it was too late to set the record straight.

 

Many varieties of these blue-egg-laying chickens were bred in the U.S., but because no standard was yet set for a chicken to be passed as an Araucana, all of these muddled blue-egg-laying breeds became labeled as Araucana. It became falsely believed that Araucanas’ blue eggs were extraordinarily nutritious, so farmers were breeding Araucanas with every type of chicken and passing them off as Araucanas. As a result, the breed standard became very unclear.

 

In 1976 the APA set the Araucana standard to be tufted and rumpless (disqualifying all previously-labeled Araucanas that were bearded, muffed, and tailed, which went on to become labeled as American Araucanas, or Ameraucanas).

 

Splash Araucana Cockerel - Illia Chavez

Splash Araucana Cockerel – Illia Chavez

The gene that requires Araucanas to be tufted, while a necessary trait according to the standard, is a fatal one when two copies of it are passed to a chicken. If two copies of the tufted gene are inherited, a chick will almost always die in the shell. If only one copy is passed to a chicken, the chicken will not be fatally affected, but will have tufts and can pass on the gene. So when breeding two tufted Araucanas with the genes Tt (T showing the dominant tufted gene and t representing the recessive non-tufted gene), probabilities of their offspring show 25% non-tufted (tt), 50% tufted (Tt) which may qualify as Araucanas, and 25% dead in the shell (TT). If a tufted and a non-tufted Araucana are bred, the probabilities of their offspring are 50% non-tufted (tt), and 50% tufted (Tt)Either way, most likely less than half of the offspring may be labeled as Araucana according to standard.

 

The Araucana is a calm, friendly chicken. In its true form according to standard, it is very rare to find, and very expensive to acquire. It serves a dual purpose of being a good layer of blue eggs, and providing a good amount of meat. The Araucana’s relative is most commonly seen in the form of an Easter Egger, which is loosely defined as any chicken possessing the blue-egg-laying gene. These chickens lay blue, green, or pink eggs. For really green eggs, Olive Eggers can be bred using any chicken carrying the blue egg gene, and any dark brown egg laying chicken such as Marans, Barnevelders, or Welsummers.

 

Marans, Easter Egger, and Olive Egger Eggs - Dare 2 Dream Farms

Marans, Easter Egger, and Olive Egger Eggs – Dare 2 Dream Farms

 

 

 

Are you reading this, and getting hungry? Nothing fills the stomach better than some green eggs and ham. And now you know where those green eggs come from!

 

Written by: Rachel Frenkel

Edited by: Megan Raff

 

Resources:  

“Easter Egger Club of America.” EasterEggers.Com. Easter Egger Club of America, n.d. Web. 19 June 2013.

Orr, Richard A. “A History of the Ameraucana Breed and the Ameraucana Breeders Club.” Ameraucana History. Ameracauna Breeders Club, 1998. Web. 19 June 2013.

Somes Jr., R.G., Pabilonia, M.S. (1981). “Ear tuftedness: a lethal condition in the Araucana fowl”. The Journal of Heredity 72 (2): 121–4. PMID 7276512

Breeds

Barred Plymouth Rocks

We got an awesome email today from one of our customers of a picture with her Barred Plymouth Rock sitting on her shoulder. We told her the Barred Rocks were friendly, and this little one really lived up to her description! She said: “Who needs a parrot when you have a Barred Rock?”

Barred Rocks are part of the Plymouth Rock breed – Barred is the color variety aptly named from the black and white bars running through each feather. They are excellent egg layers, excellent foragers, and clearly they make excellent friends! They are by far our favorite of all chickens. Some say they’re noisy, but they really are just very interactive and like to talk to anyone who will listen. They certainly have a lot to talk about as they’re insatiably curious and love to explore their surroundings and help with gardening chores.

 

These girls lay a big, beautiful brown egg almost daily and will even lay through a good portion of winter during their prime and you can expect around 240 of them each year. Crossing a Barred Rock hen with a Rhode Island Red or New Hampshire Red rooster will produce a Black Sexlink which is bred specifically for laying and dons a similar curious and interactive personality.

 

Visit our website for more information on Barred Rocks, and the Plymouth Rock Breed.

Breeds

Egyptian Fayoumis

Egyptian Fayoumis originated in Egypt, along the Nile River, and have existed for thousands of years. Although they have existed in America for over 70 years, the American Poultry Association has yet to officially recognize the breed, so it does not have a standard of perfection. 

 

Egyptian Fayoumi hen foraging for pumpkins at the beginning of winter.

 

Traits: Fayoumis are a small bird that comes in only one color variation. The heads and long necks are purely silver, while the rest of their compact body is barred in silver and black all the way through the tail. They have a single comb, large black eyes, dark beaks, and slate blue skin. This breed has lots of energy, so it loves to forage and it is very good at it. Some have offered that Egyptian Fayoumis could exist without human care and in the wild. Because of their small body, and light feathering, this breed is very adaptable to hot weather.

 

Egyptian Fayoumi Chicks

 

Personality: Flighty. Fayoumis are high energy, and self-sufficient contributing to their independent nature. Although you wouldn’t consider them to be a “friendly” breed, they are not aggressive towards humans or other chickens, and the roosters are generally very calm. They tend to be very loud and vocal much more frequently than other breeds. 

Eggs: Egyptian Fayoumis are quick to mature. Hens will begin to lay much earlier than standard breeds, sometimes around four and a half months. They are good layers of small, off-white eggs. They are not prone to broodiness, so you’ll see consistent production from your Fayoumi girls.