Natural method for dying chicken eggs while still in the chicken

So, we have been feeding our chickens beets for the past week hoping that chickens weren’t able to process the purple color (betanin) like humans or dogs aren’t. However, the chickens love the beets but seem to fully break down the pigment. We were hoping to get some purple eggs for the fun of it, but that got me curious, does anyone know a way of dying the inside or shell of eggs using something fed to the chickens (obviously non-toxic, please). I can find anectodal evidence of chickens eating lots of insects like grasshoppers having green tinged yolks, but the dyed baby chick controversy seems to dilute out any hope of a more productive internet search. So with April Fools’ Day just around the corner, any good natural egg dyes?

I’m glad you meant ‘dyeing’ instead of ‘dying’, because I was trying to figure out what anyone would want with stillborn chicken eggs…

How do chickens make brown eggs? Is it a specific breed that does it? If so, the colour may not be changeable.

Yes. Among the main laying-hen breeds, some always lay white eggs, others always light brown.

There are less-common layers that lay other colors. Araucana, Ameraucana, and Cuckoo Maran hens lay olive green, pastel blue, and chocolate brown eggs, respectively.

Yeah, I’ve never heard of external factors like diet effecting the egg shell colour. The pigment, be it brown, green or blue, is determined by genetic factors, and is laid (heh) down on the passage of the egg through the oviduct.

If it’s time for new chickens, maybe you could get some fancy breeds ready to lay for NEXT Easter. Ameraucanas are sometimes called Easter Eggers.

Commercial chicken eggs are stillborn in a sense - they are unfertilized, so the embryo never developed. Even fertilized eggs are the same way; refrigeration kills the embryo (which is not really any different, unless you make balut).

The pigments in eggshells are derived from the chicken’s body (from hemoglobin, I think), not from its diet, and can only be indirectly influenced by what it eats. What pigment is laid down in the shell gland can only be controlled by getting a different breed of chicken, or waiting for a mutation.

Once I saw green pigs who were green due to what they were eating. Can the same be true of chickens? If not, why not?

I’ve always heard it claimed that the color of the yolk can be affected by the diet of the bird (but not the shell). I have no idea if it’s true.

Oh, that’s certainly true. Free-range hens and birds that get a lot of good grain, instead of just commercial feed, will have much darker and richer-orange yolks.

Try duck eggs for more. Plus they taste great.

Marigold is known for making the yolks very yellow. this is why many chicken feeds add marigold extract. Otherwise, foods high in beta-carotene will make the yolks yellow. I’ve never heard of any additive that will do anything except make yolks deeper yellow.

When I have excess eggs I will scramble hem and feed them back to the chikens. Babies are their favorite treat. But, to keep hem from getting the idea of eating their own eggs, I dye their eggs heavily. Then for te next day they poop that color dye. So, the chickens aren’t processing that dye, bu i isn’t going into teir eggs in any way.

The principle is right but not in all cases.
Where the grain is wheat/oats/barley or rice, rather than corn the “good grain” diet will produce very pale yolked eggs.

Canthaxanthin is a carotenoid that gives crustaceans their red colour. It’s commercial form is produced through bacterial biosynthes. Usually included in layer feeds with marigold extract (lutein) to produce orange yolks. If fed without the yellow base in the diet can produce yolks that show a distinctly pink/red hue.

You could try lots of turmeric. You might get an all-yellow egg. Tasty too.

Ah. When I had hens the grain I gave was either a mix including corn, or straight cracked corn. And they foraged for themselves.

The color can vary some from egg to egg, even laid by the same chicken. My mom’s hens usually lay brown eggs, but occasionally one will be almost white.

I wish I had some test chickens in order to experiment upon- I’m tempted to just try fluorescein to see if I could detect a little fluorescence. The way chickens eat and process I’m surprised that more food dyes don’t make it out into their systems.

Yes this is what is added to commercial chicken feed. It is the same thing that is added to salmon feed to make the flesh pink.

Pink/ red? I had no idea. Yuck.
Same thing with cow/calf meat, right? I think I saw something that w/o post-processing with some gas or other, meat ready for eating would be purple. I’d be happy to know whether this a True Fact or I’m making this up…

No, that’s incorrect.

Some processed meats e.g. some salami have food colours such as amaranth in their recipe.

When fresh meat is sliced, it absorbs oxygen from the atmosphere. Within one hour this process is complete and the surface of the meat is usually bright red; at this stage it is known as the “bloom colour”. However as time progresses, the surface of sliced meat will change from red to brown due to oxidation of the pigment oxymyoglobin to metmyoglobin. As meat becomes brown in colour, it is unattractive to consumers. Vacuum packed cut meat under optimal conditions has a shelf life of up to 12 weeks.

The gas (which is simply carbon dioxide CO2) is to prolong shelf-life up to 16 weeks. The purple colour often seen on cryopacked meat is usually due to the blood which oxidises faster than the muscle proteins.

The gas I have heard to preserve the red color is carbon monoxide. The carbon monoxide binds to the hemoglobin to prevent oxidation. This is the same reason people with CO poisoning typically turn red.