Getting blue eggs from chickens is an unusual but interesting goal for backyard chicken keepers. While most chickens lay the typical brown or white eggs, certain breeds are capable of producing beautiful blue or green eggs. The blue or green coloration comes from a genetic mutation that causes the chicken to produce a protein called oocyanin that tints the egg shell.
With some strategic breeding and selection of bluish egg layers, it’s possible to have a flock filled with chickens that regularly lay eggs in shades of blue, green, or olive. Here’s what you need to know about getting blue eggs from chickens.
Choose Breeds that Lay Blue Eggs
The first step is selecting chicken breeds that have the blue egg gene. Here are some of the most common blue egg layers:
|Blue or green
|Blue or green
|Blue, green, pink, or olive
Ameraucanas, Araucanas, and Cream Legbars are pure breeds that will consistently lay blue eggs. Easter Eggers are a hybrid cross between a blue egg layer and a brown egg layer, so not all Easter Eggers will lay blue eggs, but many will.
Buy from Reputable Breeders
Once you’ve settled on one or more blue egg breeds, the next step is sourcing the chickens from reputable breeders. Backyard chicken keepers usually buy young chicks (pullets) to raise up, rather than full grown hens. Here are some tips for finding good breeders:
– Look for breeders who specialize in your chosen breeds and have many years of experience breeding them. They are more likely to have high quality, purebred chickens.
– Ask if the parent stock has had their egg color genetically tested. Genetic testing will ensure the chicks you buy have the blue egg gene.
– Inquire about health testing. Reputable breeders will test their breeding flock for common poultry diseases and only sell healthy chicks.
– Avoid buying from large commercial hatcheries if possible. Their focus is on high volumes and profitable egg production, not necessarily breeding for egg color.
– Check for membership in organizations like the Ameraucana Breeders Club or Araucana Club of America, which hold breeders to high standards.
Choose Chicks Carefully
Once you’ve found a quality breeder, take care in selecting the specific chicks to purchase. Look for the following:
– Feather coloring. Each breed has slightly different feather patterns that indicate purebred lineage. Avoid any chicks that seem oddly colored.
– Appearance. Choose chicks that are active, with shiny feathers and bright eyes. Avoid weak, lethargic chicks.
– Comb and wattles. Pick chicks with nicely formed, bright red combs and wattles. Pale combs can mean illness.
Only buy chicks that appear healthy and vigorous. It’s normal for shipped chicks to be a bit tired and fluffed up after transport. Once settled into a brooder, they should perk up quickly.
Brood Chicks Carefully
Raising day-old chicks requires dedicated care and an ideal brooder setup:
– Temperature of 95°F for the first week, lowered by 5° each week until feathers develop and chicks no longer need supplemental heat.
– Wire or absorbent pine shavings as litter, replaced weekly to keep clean.
– Chick feed with minimum 20% protein and medicated for coccidiosis protection. Provide starter feed for the first 6-8 weeks then transition to grower feed.
– Clean water always available in chick founts, refreshed multiple times daily.
– Avoid drafts but ensure good ventilation. Ammonia from droppings can harm chicks.
– Ideal stocking density of 1 square foot per chick for the first few weeks. Give them room to move about.
– Observe chicks frequently for any signs of illness and remove any deceased chicks immediately.
With attentive care in the first 8 weeks, you’ll set your chicks up for healthy growth and future egg laying.
Transition Pullets to Adult Housing
By 8-12 weeks, pullets will have most of their feathers and are ready to transition out of the brooder into more permanent housing:
– Move pullets to a large coop and run where they will live as adults. Allow at least 4 square feet per bird inside the coop and 8-10 square feet per bird in the outdoor run.
– Ensure housing has proper ventilation, roosts, nest boxes and easy access to food and water. Active breeds like Ameraucanas appreciate roosts and houses with different levels.
– Allow access to the outdoor run during the day. Close them in safely at night. Introduce access to pasture or free range gradually.
– Switch feed to a 16% protein grower ration until week 18-20. This supports continued growth.
– Pullets can be introduced to mature hens at this stage but avoid any aggressive males.
– Natural light stimulates the reproductive system. Provide a minimum of 14 hours of light daily, supplementing with artificial light if needed.
Manage Lighting for Egg Production
Maintaining proper lighting is crucial for starting and sustaining egg production:
– Increase day length to 16-17 hours when pullets reach 18-22 weeks of age. This stimulates egg production.
– Continue providing at least 14-15 hours of total light per day once laying begins. Use timers on lights.
– Allow access to natural daylight whenever possible. Artificial light alone can reduce egg production over time.
– Avoid dramatic fluctuations in light duration. Consistency is key.
– Decreasing light below 14 hours will often stop egg production or induce a molt.
– Increasing light in the fall can extend the laying season but hens need a rest period to rejuvenate, so stop extending at some point.
Managing supplemental lighting using the above guidelines will help your hens start laying on schedule and continue as long as naturally possible before their winter pause.
Feed a Quality Layer Ration
The right nutrition is essential for strong egg production. Follow these best practices:
– Feed a complete layer feed with 16-18% protein from start of lay onwards. This provides necessary protein for egg production.
– Ensure feed has minimum levels of calcium (3.5-4%+) and phosphorus. These minerals are vital components of eggshells.
– Free choice oyster shell or grit provides supplemental calcium and aids digestion.
– Increase feed quantity as hens mature. Mature hens consume 110-130 grams per bird daily.
– Keep feed fresh. Discard any feed that is old, moldy, or wet.
– Avoid drastic feed changes. Introduce new feeds gradually over 2 weeks.
Feed makes up over half the cost of raising chickens but is money well spent. Quality feed means quality eggs.
Collect Eggs Frequently
Frequent egg collection encourages hens to lay more. Aim to gather eggs 2-3 times per day.
– Provide at least 1 nest box per 4-5 hens. Hens prefer dark, secluded spots to lay.
– Discourage broody hens from sitting in nests. Gently remove and isolate broody hens to break the behavior.
– Close nests off at night. Hens like to choose their own nest site each day and can damage developing eggs in the dark.
– Store eggs in a cool place. Refrigerate only clean eggs you plan to eat.
– Wash eggs just prior to use. Washing removes the protective cuticle so refrigeration is needed.
– Consume or preserve eggs within 2-4 weeks for peak freshness. Mark cartons with the date if giving eggs away.
With attentive egg gathering, you’ll harvest eggs at their freshest.
As your hens mature, some will inevitably turn out to be poor layers. These hens should be culled to maintain flock productivity. Watch for:
– Hens not laying by 6-7 months of age. Healthy hens begin laying around 18-24 weeks.
– Yellow beaks and shanks. Layers show bright orange yolks due to carotenoids in their feed. Non-layers lose this coloration.
– Poor body condition. Non-layers often become overweight.
– Lack of pigmentation. Bleached out combs and wattles signal low hormone levels.
– Eggs laid infrequently or irregularly. After the first few months, each hen should lay consistently if she’s a good layer.
Cull underperformers and focus your feed and care on the best layers for an abundance of blue eggs!
Breed Selectively for Egg Color
If you want to develop your own strain of blue egg layers, select your best hens each year as breeders. Things to select for:
– Deeply colored eggshells. Choose hens laying the darkest blue or green eggs.
– Early onset of lay. Pullets that start laying before 6 months will stay productive longer.
– Persistency. Look for hens still laying strongly at 18-24 months.
– Health and vigor. Only save active, alert hens with good feathering.
– Egg quality. Select hens with strong shells and good egg weight.
– Body confirmation. Save hens with the breed standard shape and structure.
By breeding each generation from your best hens, you can develop a productive flock of blue egg layers well-adapted to your environment.
Raising chickens for beautiful blue or green eggs takes some extra effort – sourcing the right breeds, providing attentive care, and managing their environment for optimal health and egg production. But the rewards are well worth it. With diligent selection and breeding, you can develop a self-sustaining flock that supplies your family with colorful, nutritious eggs for years to come. So don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when it comes to egg colors. With the right approach, you can fill your egg basket with these uniquely hued treasures.