To get healthy and delicious eggs with bright vibrant yellow or deep orange yolks, it's essential to feed your chickens a balanced and nutritious diet.
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Bright golden yolks have been traditionally associated with good health, and despite cultural and regional differences on the preferred shade of orange to yellow.
It is quite normal for the colour of egg yolks to vary and change during the laying season.
Commercially, egg yolk colour is measured on the Roche scale.
What colour should an egg yolk be?
Egg yolks can be any colour from bright yellow to a deep orange. The colour of the yolk reflects the diet, age and living conditions of the chicken.
Whether the yolk is orange or yellow does not make it any more or less healthy, what matters is the colour is deep and rich and not opaque, pale or washed out.
Egg yolk colours vary across the world and seasons as some places allow pigment to be added to the feed.
Below: The full range of egg yolk colours from bright yellow to deep orange.
The yellow pigment is the presence of xanthophylls derived from carotenoids. Chickens that eat plants with a higher levels of coloured compound found in chlorophyll produce egg yolks with a more profound orange tone. These eggs are not more nutritious than eggs with a light yellow yolk.
Egg yolks should not be white or very pale, that might indicate a health problem with your chicken.
Bright red, Gray, green or brown are other yolk colours that indicate your chicken has eaten something it should not have.
Green yolks can be caused by ethylene glycol, red yolks by dyes and some plants and Gray and brown can mean the chickens has eaten a mycotoxin.
What affects the colour of egg yolks?
Egg yolk colour is determined by the diet, breed and living conditions of the chicken that laid it.
If a chicken's diet is rich in pigments called carotenoids and xanthophylls, the egg yolks will be bright yellow or orange. If the diet is lacking in these pigments, the egg yolks will be paler in colour.
These are the factors which affect the colour of egg yolks:
- The diet. Hens need a balance diet first and foremost,
- Being able to free range,
- Fresh greens like grass, pasture, alfalfa, spring greens and kale are the biggest contributor to the colour of egg yolks,
- How long the hen has been laying. Her yolks will fade over the season,
- The health of the chicken,
- The genetic make up of the bird,
- The age of the hen,
- The breed, heritage types that lay fewer eggs have brighter yolks,
- The flock stress levels,
- How long the eggs have been stored,
- The temperature eggs are stored at, lower is better.
Free range hens find insects, seeds and flowers which can all help the yolk colour.
Below: Chickens eating a bright yellow squash.
Yolk colour, provided it is on the spectrum between yellow and orange has no relationship to egg quality, flavour, nutritive worth, cooking attributes or shell thickness.
Below: A white egg yolk.
Adding too much rice, barley or soybean meal to chicken feed has been shown in studies to inhibit yolk colour, sometimes to almost white.
How to improve or change the colour of your egg yolks:
Changing egg yolk colour naturally is easy and can be done by adding certain natural ingredients to your chicken's diet.
Below: Foods and supplements like these can help egg yolk colour.
It is more difficult to change the colour of the yolks in hybrid layers like the Cinnamon Queen because they lay so many eggs they are paler. The high levels of calcium in the laying diet required by hybrid layers has been shown to cause a reduction in egg yolk colour. Increasing the level of calcium in the feed of laying hens from 3.0 to 4.0% reduced egg yolk colour by one unit on the Roche colour scale.
Below: Talking you through some of the easily available and cheap foods and supplements that can help with yolk colour.
Table of the foods that change yolk colour:
These are the natural foods and additives you can use to make your yolks bright orange or yellow, whatever you personal preference is.
|Food or additives||Dosage / how much to use||Resulting yolk colour|
Pasture, grass, alfalfa and leafy greens.
|Deep yellow / orange.|
Ground marigold petals are sometimes added to chicken feed but you can also use dandelions.
1 grams dried petals per day.
|Maize or sweetcorn.||Up to 5% of the diet.||Bright yellow.|
|Red grains like Dari.||Up to 5% of the diet.||Deep Orange.|
|Paprika||3 to 5 grams per bird per week.||Orange.|
Carrots, pumpkins, tomatoes, sweet potato and peppers are all a source of colour compounds.
|Turmeric.||3 to 5 grams per bird per week.||Bright yellow.|
|Wheat, barley, oats||Up to 5% of the diet.||Pale yellow.|
Seaweed has an incredible amount of minerals and vitamins as is the best supplement you can have.
3 to 5 grams per bird per week.
Dried brewers yeast is around 16% protein and 1% B vitamins and minerals. B vitamins are all brightly coloured.
3 to 5 grams per bird per week.
Blue berries, elderberries and all brightly coloured fruits.
A few each day.
Also an excellent source of Omega 3.
3 to 5 grams per bird per day.
Sunflower, safflower or canola seed.
3 to 5 grams per bird per day.
Little and often is much better than large doses occasionally.
Below: A video of how to mix chicken scratch to improve egg yolk colour.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What Is the Ideal Egg Yolk Colour? The ideal egg yolk colour is subjective, and it depends on personal preference. However, most people prefer yolks that are deep and golden.
How long does it take to change the colour of the yolks? It takes at least 14 days for you to see the effect of any dietary changes in the colour of the yolks. This is because the hens have quite a few yolks forming at the same time and it takes time for dietary changes to take effect.
Does storage time affect yolk colour? The longer eggs are stored, the more likely they are to lose their colour. Therefore, it is recommended to use fresh eggs to achieve the best colour. However, if you need to store your eggs, it is best to consume them within two weeks.
Can you improve egg yolk colour after they have been laid? Unfortunately, once an egg has been laid, its yolk colour cannot be changed. However, by following the tips mentioned above, you can ensure that future eggs have a rich and vibrant colour.