Chickens come in many colors, and chicken eggshells can range widely in color.
The usual store-bought eggs are white or brown, but different breeds can produce eggs in shades from white and cream to blues, pinks, greens, and tans.
Hens can also lay eggs with solid colored, spotted, or speckled shells. The color of the shell is determined by the breed of the chicken.
Sometimes, though, the eggs being laid by a particular chicken may grow paler over time, as if they are reverting to plain white. Thus, many ask – why are my brown eggs turning white?
While eggshell color is determined by the color and breed of the hen, not every hen lays eggs that are the same shade of brown throughout her laying life, and brown eggs may even become lighter and whiter throughout the season.
There are many reasons why, but the most common is the aging of the chicken. Read on to learn more.
Can Brown Eggs Turn White?
Any individual egg will remain the same color as when it was laid (even after it’s been cleaned). The color change being discussed occurs gradually when the eggs of a particular chicken seem to get lighter in color over time.
Generally, white hens will lay white eggs, and brown hens will lay brown eggs. If in doubt, take a look at the ear color of the chicken.
A hen with a white ear will usually lay white eggs, while one with a red ear will usually lay brown eggs.
However, a brown hen may not lay eggs that are consistently brown in color throughout her life or throughout a season. Her pigments may get lighter over time, leading to pale brown and even white eggs.
Eggs grow layer by layer as they move through the chicken’s body.
In most breeds, the color of the egg comes from the last shell layer added to the egg before it’s laid. The final layer is a protein coating that protects the egg’s contents from bacteria and viruses, and it’s full of pigment, which completely coats the outside of the egg.
This can be seen when a brown egg is cracked; while it’s brown on the outside, the shell’s inside is white. That’s because the brown color is only a coating on the outermost surface of the egg.
One exception is seen in the eggs of the Ameraucana breed, which lays eggs with a light blue shell all the way through.
The intensity of shell color may vary among chickens of the same breed, depending on individual genetics.
For example, in a flock of Rhode Island Reds, the hens will lay brown eggs, but each hen may tend to a different shade of brown.
As a result, her eggs may be lighter or darker, spotted or solid color or speckled, in a way unique to that hen.
Also, if the hen has mated with a rooster, the male genes may influence the shell color of the fertile eggs laid due to that mating.
Why Do Brown Eggs Turn White?
There are several reasons why a hen or breed of chicken that usually lays brown eggs may start to lay eggs that are lighter, paler, or whiter over time.
Here are a few of the factors that contribute to pale eggs:
Eggs Are White By Default
As mentioned above, all chicken eggs are formed of calcium and minerals that are white in color.
In addition, some breeds have natural pigments in their bodies that deposit an outer layer of color as the egg moves through the oviduct.
But the natural state of chicken eggs is white, so many different factors can cause eggs to revert to this color.
The Hen Is Aging
Over time, a brown hen’s body produces less of the natural pigments that make eggs brown.
In the same way that a person may develop gray hair or the hair around a dog’s nose may turn white over time, an aging brown hen is likely to also have feathers that get paler and turn white as she ages.
Because she has less pigment in her body, she deposits less pigment on her eggs.
The Hen Has Been Stressed
Stress can cause a brown hen to lay eggs that are paler in color or even white. Stress causes a hen to retain the egg longer inside her body.
During that delay, another layer of calcium may be deposited over the exterior of the eggshell, making it paler than usual.
Likewise, hens who are nervous, fearful, or recently upset may lay eggs lighter colored than usual for a day or two after their scare.
It’s the End of the Season
It is usual for a brown hen to lay slightly darker color eggs at the beginning of the season when she has a lot of pigment in her body and for the eggs to get slightly paler toward the end of the laying season.
This is usually a mild incremental difference and not especially noticeable on a day-to-day basis.
The Hen Has Been Exposed to Illness
A few poultry diseases affect egg color and may cause a brown hen to lay white eggs.
In addition, chickens are subject to viral illnesses such as Newcastle disease and infectious bronchitis, which can cause the color of the egg shells to be less intense.
Chicken feed can affect eggshell color in various ways. Commercial chicken feed often has additives and compounds that can make a chicken’s brown eggs turn white.
Substances such as sulfonamides or nicarbazin are added to some chicken feeds to control parasites, and one side effect can be paler eggs laid by the chickens that eat the feed.
Does Diet Affect Egg Color?
Of course, what a chicken eats will affect her eggs. Diet affects the color of the egg yolk, the durability of the shell, and the amount of nutrition in the egg.
However, the main dietary influence on shell color comes from commercial feed, which may contain sulfonamides, or drugs such as nicarbazin, to control parasites.
These substances can cause egg shells to be paler than before the hens were given the commercial feed. Aside from these specific substances, the diet has little influence on eggshell color.
Is it Bad if My Brown Eggs are Turning White?
It’s not necessarily a problem when hens lay lighter-colored eggs than they usually do. There’s no reduction in the nutrition or flavor of an egg that has a paler shell than usual.
As we’ve seen, several natural conditions can account for it
First, paler eggs are a completely normal occurrence. If the chickens appear otherwise healthy and happy, then the paler eggs are just a manifestation of the endless variety they are capable of.
The biggest problem with brown eggs turning white is the price when sold commercially.
Brown eggs are more expensive than white eggs, so it’s best to keep brown hens healthy for as long as possible to continue producing the more valuable brown eggs.
Although a chicken’s egg color is determined by its species, there is also tremendous variation from hen to hen and even from egg to egg.
For example, it is natural for brown eggs to get lighter over time, mostly related to the hen’s age and health.
If a hen’s eggs change color suddenly, consider their overall nutrition and health.
Otherwise, if your brown hen’s eggs begin to gradually lighten and turn white, it’s not a cause for concern. It’s a normal part of the aging process.