Genetics of Egg Color in Chickens

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Zora Mosley

Chickens lay eggs in a variety of colors: white, brown, olive, green, blue, and many shades in between. The color of a chicken's egg depends on their genetic makeup. In this article, I will be exploring the genetics behind the egg color in chickens, specifically focusing on white, brown, and blue eggs. Three pigments are known to be responsible for the color of chicken eggshells: protoporphyrin, biliverdin, and biliverdin-zinc chelate. [1] White eggs tend to have very little protoporphyrin, but in brown eggs, the main pigment is protoporphyrin. Later, I will go through an in depth analysis of the genes that are read to create the pigment. Blue egg color is a bit more complex as the phenotype arose only 200-500 years ago in the South American Mapuche fowl. Recent research has shown that blue egg color in chickens is actually due to an ancient retrovirus that copied itself into the chicken's genome. Source: Source 2:

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Nosowitz, Dan. "Colored Eggs." "Find A Blue Chicken Egg? Congrats, Your Chicken Has A Virus." Popular Science, 13 Sept. 2013,, Accessed 7 Nov. 2019.

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Edited by [Author Name], student of Joan Slonczewski for BIOL 116 Information in Living Systems, 2019, Kenyon College.