Updated: Mar 1, 2021
Debbie Roland, Master Gardener
As Master Gardeners we learn and then share information with the public on all areas of horticulture. Several years ago we realized that there was a movement across America about learning how things were done by the pioneers before there were the modern conveniences we have today. That year we built a series of successful classes for the public called Backyard Basics which included classes on beekeeping and raising chickens, among others. Texas A&M AgriLife supports Master Gardens through education and other resources and they have a Poultry Department.
When you keep chickens, you get quite a few questions. The most common is “Do you have to have a rooster to get eggs?” The answer is no. Most hens lay an unfertilized egg about every 18 to 26 hours.
Another question we are asked is whether brown eggs are healthier than white ones. The answer to that question is also no. The content of the egg depends on what the chicken is fed and how it is cared for.
Historically most eggs sold in supermarkets were laid by Leghorns and they were white. Leghorns were bred to lay a lot of eggs and to eat less food, therefore the commercial egg industry loved them. Some breeds lay blue, green and pink eggs. All chicken eggs start out white and are made of calcium carbonate. These chickens lack any pigment genes so all of their eggs are white.
The brown egg layers have brown pigment genes and the hen “applies” a brown “dye” in the last 4 to 6 hours of the laying process. This dye doesn’t penetrate the shell so the inside is always white.
Ameraucanas, Araucanas and Cream Legbars lay blue eggs. That color is created by a “dye” applied early in the laying process and it does penetrate the shell making the inside and outside blue.
Easter Eggers and Olive Eggers lay green eggs as a result of cross breeding a blue egg laying breed and a brown one. These eggs are green on the outside and blue on the inside.
The egg white and the yolk of chickens who are fed a healthy diet and allowed to free range (run around and eat plants, bugs and worms) will be the same as the store bought egg you are used to except that the yolk will usually be a much darker yellow, almost orange.
When deciding what type of chicken you want to keep your decision should be based on our extreme temperatures, temperament and other characteristics not just on egg color. There is valuable information available at https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu. Just search Poultry Department.
If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information.