Oliver eggs in one basket

Ok, ok, apologies for the bad pun!

But we finally did it – sold most of the laying flock so we can devote time and infrastructure to breeding our own olive-egger chickens.

The 2 left rows are the colors we're breeding for.
The 2 left rows are the colors we’re breeding for.

The mechanics and genetics of chicken eggs can be complicated. Generally-speaking, the shell wall is made in a solid color all the way through. When you crack an egg, you can see the white, light brown, green, or blue color inside and out. But some breeds of chicken add a finishing touch. As the egg is nearly through the ‘assembly’ line, a final coat of paint is deposited on the surface of the shell.

Welsummer and Marans hens can lay eggs as dark as the ones next to the blue eggs in the picture above. Some of the color is in the shell, and some on the surface. Depending on the individual hen and how each egg is formed, there can also be dark speckles over the base color. Ameraucana chickens (among a very few others) lay eggs with blue shells. When chickens from a blue base color laying breed are crossed with chickens from a ‘brown paint applying’ breed, the result is some shade of olive green egg.

Possible breeding and color combinations for olive eggs.
Possible breeding and color combinations for olive eggs.

Breeding for this egg color has become a hot topic in the backyard flock community, and this is one trend in which we are poised to participate. Easter-egger chickens are a mutt-breed that lay green, blue and/or pinkish-brown eggs. Not generally the best for making Olivers, but we had some, so crossed a few with Chewie, our Black Copper Marans (a dark brown laying breed) roo.

We also took the step of ‘importing’ some hatching eggs from an Oliver breeder online. The chicks that hatched from these eggs are what’s known as F-1s, crosses of Ameraucanas and Marans breeds. Another fine point of Oliver breeding is that a pea-comb  has a close genetic association with the gene for blue eggs. It gets more complicated from here, and we still have a lot to learn, but a first step is to select breeding stock with pea combs.

Enter Sasquatch.

Sasquatch1We don’t know if he’s a home-grown cross or ‘imported’, so we have to rely on test breedings to find out if he’s a long-term keeper. But he has a pea comb, good conformation, great coloring, and is nice to his ladies. If he is home grown, he is Chewie’s son, and that limits the hens we can use for test breedings. Luckily we have some mature, unrelated Welsummers and Cuckoo Marans that are laying pretty eggs, and we hope to get some in the incubator soon.

We ended up keeping 6 pullets from that October hatch, and we won’t know until they start laying which will end up part of our breeding program. The olive-egg-laying ladies will be crossed with Chewie, and their female offspring should lay even darker olive eggs.

We have 3 nearly-identical red-blue pullets.
We have 3 nearly-identical red-blue pullets.

Not only are we breeding for pretty eggs, but also for pretty chickens. Balanced conformation, unique colors, heavy facial feathering, and pea combs.

The blue-grey color in this pullet is genetically a dilute form of black. Otherwise these gals look a lot like Welsummers.
The blue-grey color in this pullet is genetically a dilute form of black. Otherwise these gals look a lot like Welsummers.

Of the 3 black chicks we hatched, one was a rooster, one (though beautifully conformed) has no facial feathering, and a straight comb, and will go into the non-breeding flock, and one has the combination of factors for test breeding.

BlackPulletWe also ended up with a lovely blue pullet, but again, not one with the right combination for the breeding flock. If she ends up laying an exceptional egg, we might change our minds, but in the meantime she’ll go with the B team. BluePulletWe really appreciate our patient customers. Seven Trees Farm has been selling eggs for many years, and a good many people have been with us from the beginning. But as any small business owner knows, sometimes you just need a break. We’re going to enjoy experimenting with our Olivers, and hopefully sell any of the results that pass muster, both eggs and poultry.

Stay tuned for updates, especially once we get to that nail-biting 21-day marathon of incubating our next batch.

Sasquatch still has some growing to do, especially in the tail-feather department.
Sasquatch still has some growing to do, especially in the tail-feather department.
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4 thoughts on “Oliver eggs in one basket”

  1. I love hearing about your experiments in breeding your chickens. I need to get busy and build our chicken house next month so we can be ready for some spring chicks.

    1. Hopefully all is rolling right along on your new place.
      Counting our chickens before they hatch, but we should have Oliver babies in a couple of months.
      It’s still hard to resist the bins of peepers at the feed store 🙂

      -J

  2. I am curious about the demeanor of the new hybrids, is anything that you have noticed different from the parents? The breeding for egg laying in production chicken also increased aggression at the same time, any side effects except coloring of eggs and feathers that you have noticed?

    1. The first hatch at any rate has been very friendly. Some of the hens are the prettiest I have ever seen. I don’t think there’s a picture on this post, but one of the barred/BCM crosses is just stunning. She has a straight comb so she won’t lay olive eggs, but she has a great conformation. Her feathers are jet black with a couple red around the back of her neck. She has really dark eyes and reminds me most of an Austrolorp, but a very cool, compact cute one. Really nice tail. I’ll try to send a pic. She seems pretty friendly as well. And the rooster Sasquatch is good to the hens, and a little protective. He’ll come over if we are catching them for some reason and act protective, but he doesn’t ever attack.

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