chickenI LOVE the cover of my second novel with its bowl of multi-hued eggs. There’s a hen-house in the story and the characters often gather the eggs. That was usually my job growing up and while it’s certainly easy enough I nonetheless whined about it more than once.
Now I’m blessed to be able to get fresh eggs at work. We have a farmyard that offers a sort of therapy for the kids and along with goats, alpacas, a miniature donkey, sheep, and a pig there are chickens. Happy, wandering chickens eating bugs and grass and whatever else appeals to them.
The eggs are a lovely mix of brown and white with an occasional blue one in the nesting boxes. I’d always wondered about the color of eggshells, but not enough to look it up until I read last week that the color of a chicken’s earlobe determines the color of the shell.
Um, ear lobes?!?
I’ve been around chickens all my life. I did NOT know they had ear lobes. This was worth looking up. Turns out the earlobe is just the fleshy spot beneath the ear opening on the side of a chicken’s head (see chicken above with white ear lobes).
And the color of the lobe does NOT determine the color of the shell. I’ll confess I’m a little disappointed by this, but the color matching is mostly coincidental. There are chickens with dark lobes that lay white eggs and vice versa.
Color is actually determined by genetics. Brown egg-layers produce a pigment called protoporphyrin from hemoglobin or blood. Those pretty blue eggs contain oocyanin which is a byproduct from the production of bile. Blue egg laying chickens are typically from South America where the blue pigment is thought to help protect eggs from the sun.
If you want to learn more, check out Community Chickens–there’s a great post all about it.