The Feed and Yolk Experiment: Chicken feed and dark orange yolk color

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Bella54330, Oct 30, 2013.

  1. Bella54330

    Bella54330 Out Of The Brooder

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    I've had my chickens for about 6 months now. When my husband first heard that I wanted chickens in Chicago, he was more than a little confused, but after a trip to Europe, and having the fresh, rich, dark orange yolked eggs there, he changed his mind, and jumped onboard.

    When we first got our chickens, we fed them laying pellets and the yolks were a pale, store bought looking yellow. We read up and found that with free ranging, they would get the darker orange yolks, so we started allowing them to free range in the backyard for several hours a day and they still had pale yellow yolks.

    We heard that corn gives the yolks the dark yellow color and rich taste, so we started feeding them cracked corn along with their laying pellets, and the yolks did not change.

    We were told that the feed might be the reason for the pale yellow yolks, and we should try organic, so we gradually switched them over to organic, soy free layer pellets (at $30 a bag), free ranging throughout most of the day, and plenty of cracked corn. We still had pale yellow eggs.

    We read that the more green foods they get, the darker the yolk would be, so we started giving them lots of fresh greens, spinach, lettuce, grass clippings, anything that we could find that was green, fresh fruits and veggies, cracked corn, organic, non soy layer pellets (at $30 a bag), and free ranging most of the day and still the yolks were pale yellow.

    A few days ago we drove 45 minutes out of the city to a Tractor Supply store. They had Purina Layena feed for $15 bag. There were only 2 bags left, so I bought them on a whim. I started feeding it to my chickens 4 days ago. My yolks are a nice, dark orange.

    I've spent 6 months trying to figure this formula out, so for all of you newbies (like me!) who are trying to get that dark orange color to your yolks, just do the easy things and switch to the Purina Layena brand food and save yourself a world of headache and experiments.

    I also don't believe it has much to do with the breed. I have 1 Red Star, 1 Rhode Island Red, 1 Silver Laced Wyandotte, and 1 Gold Laced Wyandotte.

    I hope this helps and saves others the frustration that I went through. Bottom line is that in MY experience, NONE of the things that people said would make my chicken have dark orange yolks worked. I will still give my hens treats, and they will ALWAYS be able to free range in our backyard because I want them to be happy chickens, but I'll be happy to FINALLY have my dark yolked, rich, delicious eggs that we missed so dearly.
     
  2. TheGeekySheep

    TheGeekySheep Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The reason: Purina adds lots of xanthophyll, a yellow carotenoid pigment extraced from marigolds to the feed to make the yolks dark yellow. So it's not false that free ranging or feeding leafy greens and fresh veggies will produce dark yellow yolks, but they do need to eat the right *kind* of foods, namely, those rich in carotene. And even some kinds of carotene get completely absorbed and turned into Vitamin A by the hen and don't effect yolk color. It's a tricky business. :)
     
  3. Bella54330

    Bella54330 Out Of The Brooder

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    I saw that the Layena has "Marigold Extract" as one of the ingredients "For rich, deep yellow yolks".

    I wonder if the new eggs will have that rich flavor that we love so much? I've only been using Layena for the past 4 days, and have already seen a difference in the yolk color. I'm sure it will be even darker in the weeks to come.

    As for feeding them foods rich in carotene, could you suggest any? I think carrots have carotene, but my chickens won't eat carrots. They're VERY picky eater LOL... spoiled lil' buggers.
     
    NorthTexasWink likes this.
  4. TheGeekySheep

    TheGeekySheep Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Well a quick search turned up greens such as alfalfa, spinach, collards, kale, cabbage and dandelions (which is why I suspect free range birds' yolks are darker) and orange veggies like carrots, squash, sweet potatoes and pumpkin (festive!).

    Also remember that dark color by itself doesn't indicate how nutritious an egg is. You could feed a bird marigold extract all day long to get dark yolks with lots of Vitamin A but if there's not a balanced diet behind it you'll still get poor quality eggs. So just keep spoiling your chickies and don't discount some yellow yolks every once in a while. :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2013
  5. Bella54330

    Bella54330 Out Of The Brooder

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    Just as an update-

    It's been over a year now, and we've kept the girls on the Layena with Marigold extract diet. The yolks have continued to be about a 9 on the Roche color scale, but we're still striving for that beautiful darker red orange color. The girls have had all of the greens they could possibly want, and I am still not satisfied with the color, so I'm going to try something new and add Organic Calendula petals to their feed.

    I'll take some pictures and report back with my finding! As it is, here is a pic of my current egg vs a store bought egg.



    Here is a store bought egg[​IMG]




    Here is one of my eggs while feeding Purina Layena, fresh veggie scraps, and free ranging for most of the day.
    [​IMG]
     
  6. Chris09

    Chris09 Circle (M) Ranch

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    Since your experiment only has been over a short time and you have only been feeding Layena for a short time also I would say that you could be getting the dark yolks from any of the feeds/ grains/ treats that you have fed. I takes some time for the yolks to darken.

    If you want real dark eggs you can feed any thing that is rich in β-Carotene, Carotene is the hydrocarbon that gives some plants, fruits, vegetables etc. there rich red-orange color. Foods like carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes are rich in Carotene but also greens like alfalfa, spinach, kale, lettuce are also rich in Carotene.

    Xanthophyll will change yolk color some but is known more giving plants and egg yolks there yellow color.
    Of the Xanthophyll's look for Lutein, Zeaxanthin, and Cyptoxanthin.
     
    NorthTexasWink likes this.
  7. glib

    glib Chillin' With My Peeps

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    There are two issues 1) greens do vary in carotenoids. Chinese broccoli is much less than kale for example, 2) absorption of carotenoids depends on animal (I, for example, have a relatively low absorption) and it depends on fat in the diet. No fat no absorption. Cheap high quality sources, if you have them, are grape leaves and dandelion. Concur that color means nothing, and Purina's trick is just a marketing trick with no nutrient correlation to color. Finally, carotenoid content is correlated with soil fertility. A red yolk from chickens grazing fertile soil, that is something worth having. All nutrients will be high.
     
  8. RonP

    RonP Chillin' With My Peeps

    Give them a bushel of free soft non sellable red bell peppers...[​IMG]
     
    Fishybiz likes this.
  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Actually @Chris09 , if you read carefully, it's been a year.

    Glad this popped up tho as I have just started a similar experiment providing some alfalfa hay leaves in a dish each day....we shall see.
    Saved back some eggs for a 'before' control and will give it a week or so and check out the 'after'.
     
    NorthTexasWink likes this.
  10. Chris09

    Chris09 Circle (M) Ranch

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    Quote: I did read the op's post/s and they stated more than one time that they had chickens only 6 month.

    Quote: I've had my chickens for about 6 months now
    Quote: I've spent 6 months trying to figure this formula out, so for all of you newbies (like me!)

    It wasn't until the op's second post, 3 weeks ago that they updated us and stated that it has been a year.
    Also there was no talk of a "experiment" in post two so that should have told you that I was referring to her original post when I made mine...
     

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