Olive Eggers — chickens that produce eggs with olive colored shells — are developed by mating a pure breed that lays eggs with blue shells with a pure breed that lays eggs with brown shells. Blue shells are blue throughout; brown shells have pigment only on the outside. The olive colored shell occurs when a blue egg has an outer layer of brown pigment. The exact shade of olive is determined by how dark blue the shell is and how dark brown the overlying brown pigment is. Here are answers to six common questions about how to breed Olive Egger chickens.
Which chicken breeds are used to make Olive Eggers?
Olive Eggers are a cross between a breed that lays eggs with true blue shells and a breed that lays eggs with really dark brown shells. The blue egg layers might be Ameraucana, Araucana or Cream Legbar. The brown egg layers might be Barnevelder, Empordanesa, Marans, Penedesenca or Welsumer. The darker the shell color of the brown egg layer, the richer the shell color of the Olive Egger’s eggs. Using a breed that lays lighter brown eggs results an F1 generation that lays eggs with shells that are a lighter, more khaki-like shade.
What is an F1 Olive Egger?
F1 is an abbreviation for filial one. The word filial derives from the Latin word filialis, meaning “of a son or daughter.” F1 therefore refers to first offspring — the first generation resulting from crossing two different breeds for a specific purpose, in this case to achieve eggs with olive colored shells. The first generation resulting from crossbreeding also tends to grow and lay better than either parent breed, thanks to a phenomenon known as hybrid vigor.
What is an F2 Olive Egger?
F2 refers to filial two, or the second generation resulting from cross breeding. Some chicken keepers breed F2 Olive Eggers to achieve eggs with shells that are a darker shade of olive than those produced by the first generation. Others breed F2 Olive Eggers with the goal of producing chickens that lay eggs with a wider variety of green, brown, and blue shells.
Can you breed two Olive Eggers to produce more Olive Eggers?
Not if your goal is to obtain chickens that lay eggs with olive colored shells. Being hybrids, Olive Eggers are genetically unstable. If you breed an olive egger rooster to an olive egger hen, the resulting offspring will not necessarily lay eggs with olive green shells. Instead, the chickens will lay eggs with a variety of shell colors, some of which may be olive.
Can Easter Eggers be used to create Olive Eggers?
Not if your goal is to obtain hens that lay eggs with olive green shells. Easter Eggers produce eggs with several different shell colors, some of which may be white or brown. Even those that lay eggs with blue shells may not pass along the blue-shell gene to their offspring. Using Easter Eggers in the cross does not guarantee the creation of Olive Eggers.
How do you breed for Olive Egger chickens?
You can breed a brown-egg rooster to blue-egg hens, or a blue-egg rooster to brown-egg hens. Either cross will result in hens that lay olive green eggs. If your plan is to breed the Olive Egger hens back to the rooster to achieve F2 hens that lay darker olive eggs, you’ll want the rooster to be of a brown-egg breed. In the F2 generation (original rooster bred to Olive Egger hens) about half the hens will lay darker olive eggs and half will lay brown eggs. If your Olive Eggers are a result of crossing a blue-egg rooster with brown-egg hens, and you breed the rooster back to the F1 Olive Egger hens, your F2 generation hens will lay eggs with paler green shells than those laid by the F1 hens.
Producing Olive Egger chickens provides an excellent introduction to the genetic complexities of chicken egg shell colors. Breeding Olive Eggers that lay eggs with a specific shade of olive green can be challenging, fun and fascinating.
And that’s today’s news from the Cackle Coop.
Gail Damerow, author, The Chicken Encyclopedia