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Are duck eggs ever brown?

Duck eggs can come in a variety of colors, from the typical white that we are used to seeing, to shades of blue, green, brown and even speckled or spotted eggs. So yes, duck eggs can certainly be brown at times. The specific color of a duck egg depends on the breed of duck it comes from.

Why Are Duck Eggs Different Colors?

The color of a duck egg is determined by the genetics of the duck that laid it. Certain breeds of ducks have been selectively bred over time to produce eggs with particular colors and markings. This is why some duck eggs are white, while others are shades of blue, green, brown or even spotted. The pigments that give duck eggs their colorful hues are deposited as the egg develops in the oviduct or shell gland of the duck.

Some common duck breeds and the egg color they typically lay include:

  • Pekin ducks – Creamy white
  • Cayuga ducks – Black or very dark brown
  • Welsh Harlequin ducks – Creamy light brown
  • Ancona ducks – Creamy light blue
  • Silver Appleyard ducks – White to light blue-green
  • Crested ducks – Solid blue or green
  • Swedish ducks – White to blue
  • Mallard ducks – Greenish-blue

As you can see, there are many breeds of duck that naturally produce eggs in shades of brown. The pigments biliverdin and protoporphyrin are what cause the brown, blue and green colorations.

Why Are Duck Eggs Brown?

More specifically, what makes some duck eggs turn out brown? Here are the main reasons:

  • Breeds like Cayuga and Welsh Harlequin ducks are genetically inclined to produce brown eggs. They have been selectively bred to pass down brown egg laying traits.
  • Brown egg color comes from higher levels of the pigment protoporphyrin in the duck’s oviduct as the egg shell develops.
  • Protoporphyrin produces brown or reddish-brown hues in eggshells.
  • The amount of protoporphyrin deposited during shell formation determines the depth of brown coloration.

In short, brown duck egg color is controlled by genetics, and comes from pigment glands in a brown egg laying duck’s oviduct that release protoporphyrin onto the developing egg. The more protoporphyrin coating the shell, the darker the brown color will be.

What Breeds of Ducks Lay Brown Eggs?

There are several breeds of domestic ducks that are known for producing brown eggs. The most common include:

  • Welsh Harlequin – This breed lays attractive reddish-brown eggs. Welsh Harlequins have great egg laying abilities and are a dual purpose bird raised for eggs and meat.
  • Cayuga – Cayuga ducks are a popular black feathered breed that originated in the United States. Their eggs are a very dark brown that appears blackish at times.
  • Rouen – The Rouen breed is the “giant” of domestic ducks. Rouen females lay large eggs that are light to dark brown in color.
  • Saxony – Saxony ducks are a German breed known for excellent egg production. Their eggs are creamy beige to light brown in color.
  • Swedish Blue – This beautiful blue colored duck lays eggs that range from chalk white to a light brownish-grey color.

There are other duck breeds like Buff Orpington, Crested, and Ancona that may occasionally produce brown eggs too, even if it’s not as common in those breeds.

Are Brown Duck Eggs Safe to Eat?

Brown duck eggs are just as safe to eat as white chicken eggs. The color of the shell has no effect on the interior quality or taste of the egg. What matters most is the health and diet of the duck producing the egg.

Some key facts about the safety of brown duck eggs:

  • The brown color comes from pigment only on the outer shell, not the interior.
  • Brown or colored duck eggs have all the same nutritional values as white eggs.
  • The color does not impact taste – flavor comes down to the duck’s diet.
  • Brown duck eggs have just as long of a shelf life as white eggs.
  • Proper cleaning and refrigeration makes brown duck eggs safe to eat raw or cooked.

In short – brown duck eggs are a very safe, viable, and nutritious alternative to chicken eggs. The color alone has no influence on food safety or quality.

Do Brown Duck Eggs Taste Different?

Do brown duck eggs taste different than white chicken eggs? The answer is they can, but the flavor difference has nothing to do with the color of the shell. What really determines duck egg taste is:

  • Duck breed
  • Duck diet
  • Freshness
  • How the eggs are prepared

In general, duck eggs tend to taste richer and fuller than chicken eggs, with larger yolks contributing more fat, creaminess, and flavor. The breed of duck and components of the bird’s diet influence the final nuances of flavor in their eggs.

A duck that forages on plants, seeds, and insects will likely produce more robust, “gamey” eggs than a duck fed commercial grain feed. Freshness also plays a key role – the fresher the egg, the better it will taste.

At the end of the day though, it’s not the brown shell that impacts the taste – but rather the duck the egg comes from.

Nutrition Comparison of Brown Duck Eggs vs Chicken Eggs

Brown duck eggs have nearly the same nutritional values as chicken eggs, though duck eggs tend to be a bit higher in certain vitamins and minerals. Here is a nutritional comparison of duck eggs vs chicken eggs:

Nutrient Duck Egg Chicken Egg
Calories 185 143
Fat 14.1g 9.5g
Protein 13g 12.6g
Vitamin A 723IU 487IU
Vitamin B12 3.2mcg 1.1mcg
Iron 3.7mg 1.2mg

As you can see, duck eggs are a bit higher in calories, fat, and certain vitamins and minerals compared to chicken eggs. But overall, they have a very similar nutritional profile.

Should You Refrigerate Brown Duck Eggs?

Proper refrigeration is important for maintaining the freshness and safety of all eggs, whether white chicken eggs or brown duck eggs. Here are some refrigeration tips for duck eggs:

  • Store duck eggs in the coldest part of the refrigerator, not the door.
  • Place duck eggs in a covered carton or container to minimize air flow and moisture loss.
  • Refrigerate duck eggs as soon as possible after collection.
  • Don’t wash duck eggs until ready to use, as this removes their protective cuticle.
  • Use raw duck eggs within 3-5 weeks of collection.

The main thing is to keep duck eggs chilled at or below 40°F as soon as possible after laying. Prompt refrigeration preserves freshness and prevents potential bacterial growth.

Can You Hatch Brown Duck Eggs?

Absolutely! Brown duck eggs can be hatched just the same as white duck or chicken eggs. The color of the shell has no bearing on whether or not an egg is fertile and capable of hatching a duckling.

Here are some key pointers for hatching brown duck eggs successfully:

  • Choose eggs from a healthy, productive breeding pair.
  • Incubate brown duck eggs for 28-35 days at 99.5°F and 55% humidity.
  • Turn eggs at least 3 times daily during incubation.
  • Candle the eggs periodically to check for viability.
  • Stop turning the eggs 2-3 days before hatching.
  • Increase humidity to 65% on hatch day.
  • Let the ducklings hatch naturally – don’t assist too early.

Following proper incubation procedures will give brown duck eggs an excellent chance at a successful hatch! The resulting ducklings will be the same species as the parents, regardless of egg color.

In Summary

To recap the key facts:

  • Yes, duck eggs can be brown or shades of brown depending on the breed.
  • Brown color in duck eggs comes from pigments deposited during shell development.
  • Popular brown egg laying duck breeds include Welsh Harlequin, Cayuga, Rouen, and others.
  • Brown duck eggs are just as safe, nutritious, and tasty as white eggs.
  • Refrigeration and proper handling keeps brown duck eggs safe to eat.
  • Brown duck eggs can be hatched the same as any other color duck egg.

So while white chicken eggs may be the most familiar, brown duck eggs are an excellent alternative. From nutrition to taste to incubating new ducklings, brown duck eggs are versatile and valuable both on the farm or at the dining table!