Tag Archive | blue eggs

New Ameraucana Eggs

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Wanted to share the eggs this year’s pullets are laying.  Three or four young hens have started producing eggs nearly daily and I think the colors are very nice.  My goal is to produce a medium blue egg.  The one in the above photo at upper left center is getting close to the color I’d like.

The Ameraucana chicken, like it’s cousin the Araucana, lays an egg with a blue tinted shell.  There are three egg shell color genes in chickens:  white, brown or blue.  Shell color is one or a mix of those shades. All the eggs in the above photo have blue in them.  The green color is a result of dilution by brown.  The depth of color is a function of dilution by white.

When a hen first begins to lay, she produces the deepest shell color.  As she continues to lay the color fades.  The true egg color of a hen is found in the pullet shells or the shells of eggs made immediately after a hen finishes her molt.  While the bird molts, or sheds and regrows much of her feathers, she will not lay.

egg3As a sometime dues paying member of the Ameraucana Breeder’s Club, I procured a copy of their Egg Color Reference Chart.  Around the edge of the chart are all the known possible colors of egg shells that Ameraucanas produce.  To determine the shade, the card is held up to the egg until a close match is found.  To me, some of the colors are so similar that it is difficult to differentiate between them when comparing to an egg.  The best I can tell, my blue egg is similar to B2.  This would mean something to another Ameraucana breeder.  The shade in the center of the card surrounding the rooster is the ideal blue that all breeders hope to attain.egg2

There are eleven pullets from this year’s breeding program, so I am waiting for most of them to begin laying.  It will be exciting to see what the rest can do!  I have been selectively breeding for the best egg color for many years and I feel my efforts are beginning to show success.

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Setting Hatching Eggs

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Today I set 42 Ameraucana chicken hatching eggs to incubate.  If all goes well, in 21 days they will hatch. About half the eggs are from my chickens and half are from two out-of-state breeders.  I purchased the eggs on eBay and had them shipped.  I add new blood to my flock this way.

Shipping hatching eggs is hard on them.  The interior of the egg can be damaged.  Temperatures that are too high or low can kill the embryos.  Sometimes mail is x-rayed and that kills the chicken germ. Yet, I have had luck hatching shipped eggs so my fingers are crossed!

The incubator has a fan to move air and keep the temperature at a steady 99.9 F.  Water is added to reservoirs under the eggs to maintain the proper humidity.  The yellow rack holding the eggs is an automatic turner.  Eggs must be turned every day as they develop so the embryo doesn’t stick to the egg and become malformed.  As long as we don’t have a long power outage, the incubator does a good job for me.  I’ve hatched many chicks with this set-up.egg1

Making Blown Eggs

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It’s snowing again today, a Nor’easter with 10″-12″ accumulation predicted.  Looks like the weather is trying to live up to the forecast, too.  The snowfall has been steady all day.  A perfect day to process all the pullet eggs I’ve been collecting to make blown eggs.  The work is time consuming so it’s best done when there’s nowhere to go and nothing to do but watch snow fall.

With a healthy flock of young Ameraucana hens just starting to lay, I’m getting a lot of small but very nicely colored eggs.  Ameraucana chickens carry a gene that turns their egg shells blue.  The first eggs a hen lays are always the deepest colored.  My girls lay an assortment of shades, mostly medium pastel turquoises, ranging from green to nearly blue.  I have been breeding these birds for many generations to produce the best, darkest blue color I can.  We’re getting there.

It is a shame to waste the lovely shells, so I save the very best colored eggs that have no laying irregularities like ridges or odd shape.  When I get a bunch, I drill a tiny hole in one end and carefully remove the contents of the egg.  The process I use is one I developed myself through much trial and error.  I prefer not to write about it here, a trade secret.  Suffice to say that it takes a long time to clear out the innards and put the eggs through several rinses to get the insides perfectly clean.  Then I dry the eggs and offer them for sale in my online stores.  The blown eggs sell very quickly and I usually earn about $1 per egg for my efforts.  They are most popular around Easter.  Some people use them to create pysanky, lovely painted decorative eggs.

Nothing from the eggs goes to waste.  I save all the innards and have a big bowl of pre-mixed eggs ready to go into baking or to make a batch of scrambled eggs.  This latest set of blown eggs started as 18 but one shell burst under the pressure of having the insides blown out.  Sometimes an egg will have a weak place that is not visible but shows up when cleaned. Here is a shot of some of the ladies on a nice spring day, when all the snow is forgotten.hens2

More About Ameraucana Chickens

hens1Every day the hens line up and each waits her turn to lay an egg in the nest boxes of the hen house.  Some hens are co-layers and will sit two in a box together.  Birds often like to use the same nest others use, so there will be five or six eggs in one nest and nothing in another.  Nature makes the hen secretive about her egg-laying.  She will switch between nests over time, satisfying an innate need to hide her eggs.  That is why there are five boxes, to provide plenty of choice.

Ameraucana hens start laying when they are between five and seven months old.  At Phoenix Farm the hens are hatched in the spring, and they start laying some time in October to December.  The eggs begin tiny, size extra small and also are at their very darkest blue color.  As the hens grow, the eggs become larger and the longer they lay, the lighter the shell color becomes.

A laying hen ovulates almost every day and forms an egg in the special ducts inside her body.  The shell of the egg is still slightly pliable as it passes from the hen.  The egg quickly dries and the shell gets hard.  Hens lay nearly daily until their first autumn.  When the length of day shortens, the birds go into their first molt, or shedding of many of their feathers.  No eggs are laid during this time.  Then, after two to four months of rest laying recommences as long as the hens receive at least twelve hours of light each day.  In winter in Maine we have to provide supplemental light for two hours every morning.hens2

A hen ready to lay an egg is a determined animal.  She will not be kept from her nest.  Chickens are creatures of habit, once they are accustomed to laying in a certain area, they always return unless they are violently frightened.  We chicken growers take advantage of the birds’ instincts by training them to lay in the nest boxes of the hen house.  Otherwise, free-range chickens would hide nests all over the place and we’d never get an egg.

The chickens stay locked in the house and hen yard until mid-day because most hens are morning layers.  Then, in early afternoon they are allowed to run free to scratch for seeds and bugs and get the sunshine, green grass and exercise that makes them so healthy and their eggs so very tasty.  You have not had an egg until you’ve tried a free-range egg from a truly free chicken.  Our birds have the run of our entire 75 acres, although they tend to stay within a couple hundred yards of the hen house.  This photo, courtesy of my daughter, shows the difference in yolk color between our free-range eggs on the left and regular store eggs on the right.hens3

In the evening chicken habit kicks in again.  The birds always return to their roost unless some disaster has happened to scare them away (such as a midnight raccoon raid.)  As the light dies, a parade of chickens returns to the house and each bird flies up to its own chosen spot on the roost.  There must be great comfort in routine because these birds are calm and content.

It is the chicken grower’s responsibility to keep the birds safe while confined with strong wire, solid houses and locks to repel the many predators of plump, tasty hens.  The wire fenced yard is lined with logs along the bottom stopping any animal from digging under and covered with net to keep out the hawks and owls.   The underside of the coop is reinforced with wire mesh to prevent any animal from chewing its way in.  The chickens are most susceptible to predation while free-ranging.  I’m sure if you could ask any chicken, you would hear they prefer to take their chances for the opportunity to roam free.flock1

Ameraucana Chickens

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At our place, Phoenix Farm, I raise purebred Ameraucana full sized chickens.  I keep four colors at this time, blue wheaten, brown red, silver and buff.  These birds are known for their unusual blue colored eggshells.  I have been breeding the birds for nearly twenty years and have achieved a pretty medium blue-green egg shell with some more greenish and some more blue.

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The chickens are so much fun to watch free-ranging around the yard.  They have very distinct personalities.  Because Ameraucanas do not set very well, I have to hatch the birds with incubators.  Every spring I have at least 3 hatches or about 45-60 babies running around.  The chicks think I’m their mother and sometimes follow me around.  I talk to them in chicken language.  They are very friendly and colorful birds.

They help to pay for their grain by giving us lots of delicious eggs, some for us and some for sale.  I also blow out the insides of the best colored eggs and sell the shells.  I sell chicks and adult birds and also feathers that I collect during the year as they are naturally shed.  I used to slaughter some of the roosters and sell their hackles but prefer not to.  It makes me happier to sell them to good homes with hens, even if I have to keep some roosters over the winter for spring sale.  They are mostly very calm roosters so they live together well in the barn.

Once in awhile we get a predator like a fox or hawk.  I use netting to protect the birds in their pens but when they free-range, they are on their own.  I think if you asked them, they prefer to take their chances being free than cooped up all day.  They love to eat bugs and scratch for tidbits.  On a hot summer day you can find ten or twelve of them sunbathing and dusting themselves in the middle of the barnyard.  It’s a wonderful life for a chicken at Phoenix Farm.  You can tell by the delicious healthy quality of their eggs that my chickens are in excellent condition and very happy.