Eggs of a different color

SUMMIT STATION - Bill Hopkins has raised a variety of animals, but the nine brown and black hens in an outdoor coop near the driveway to his home in the Blue Mountain Heights development along Route 183 are something different.
calendar icon 2 April 2007
clock icon 3 minute read

Although they are similar in appearance, three weeks ago the chickens began laying eggs ranging in color from light to dark brown and turquoise to olive green.

“I gave some to my mom. She thought I dyed them,” laughed Hopkins.

It turns out Hopkins’ new hens are well-known for this colorful egg production, a novelty that has resulted in their nickname, “the Easter egg chicken.”

Bud Wood, owner and president of Murray McMurray Hatchery, Webster City, Iowa, from which Hopkins ordered his chickens, says the colorful variety of the eggs, which can also include pink and faintly orange shades, is a genetic trait.

Calling itself the world’s largest rare breed hatchery, the company boasts to have sold its birds to everyone from the emperor of Japan to media maven Martha Stewart and offers an estimated 110 breeds.

“All birds have a gland in the oviduct that adds color on the shell,” Wood said.

For most domestic chickens in the United States and Europe, this color is generally any shade from light beige to a deep chocolate brown.

“Basically, chickens lay two kinds of eggs, white and blue,” said John W. Blehm, president of the Ameraucana Breeders Club, a nationwide group of exhibition fowl enthusiasts dedicated to a breed of blue-egg-producing chickens with roots in South America.

Most chickens in Europe and North America have origins in Southeast Asia and produce white eggs, which may be colored a variety of brown shades because of a modifying gene found in each chicken.

But the Ameraucana and another related breed, the Araucana, produce a blue-shelled egg that was unique to North America when introduced with chickens from Chili and other South American regions during the 1920s.

The two breeds that have emerged were recognized by the American Poultry Association in the 1970s and are today raised for exhibition and prized for their unique pastel blue eggs.


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