How to hack a chicken egg to get orange yolks!

Did you know that you can 'hack' your chickens to get orange egg yolks and a richer colored meat? It's true. Today I want to talk about how it's done, and if it's truly a hack or maybe more of a shortcut? I'll also let you know what you need to add to your hens feed to get orange colored egg yolks.

Farm fresh eggs are well known for their dark colored yolks and thicker whites, but also for their higher nutritional value than commercially produced eggs. So is it cheating to feed them something special just to get darker yolks? Only you can make that decision for yourself....I'm just here to tell you how it's done!

farm fresh eggs, orange yolks

Those of us that raise chickens will tell you the eggs are healthier when hens free range and/or have access to grass and bugs. That's because plants and bugs have a higher nutritional value then commercial chicken feed. The yolks of the eggs from free range hens also have a richer color. Sometimes these free range egg yolks are dark yellow and other times they're actually orange! According to Hobby Farms free range eggs have: 
  • less cholesterol 
  • less saturated fat 
  • increased vitamins A, E and D 
  • more omega-3 fatty acids 
  • more beta carotene

What do orange egg yolks mean?

Have you seen that video of the woman in her kitchen cracking 3 eggs from 3 different sources and explaining why she thinks one egg is better than the rest? It's been floating around social media for awhile now and I must have been tagged in it a dozen times.

Her main arguing point is that the 'healthier' egg is the one with the orange yolk. Without knowing the diet of the hens though, I can't agree with her point. While orange yolks usually indicate better nutrition, it's not always the case.


Farmers have added marigolds to chicken feed for about 60 years now. Marigolds contain a chemical called carotenoids which gives the petals a bright orange color. When a chicken eats the marigold petals the yolks of their eggs become orange colored too.

Is this corruption among egg producers? If so it's widespread:

According to the LA Times, Perdue has admitted to mixing marigolds into their chickens feed to give the dressed bird a more golden color.

Quote: For unknown reasons, consumers--particularly in the Northeast--have prized that golden hue since some anonymous chicken man started lacing his birds' feed with marigolds more than 60 years ago.

marigolds added to chicken feed

Interesting, right?

Of course when something has been used for so long there will inevitably be a product marketed for it. Nutrena has a line of layer feeds that have marigold petals included in the feed and it says right on the label that they are included for darker yolks!

So yes, the humble marigold can indeed be used to hack a chicken and turn the egg yolks darker and the dressed bird more yellow. The question is though...should you? I don't. At least I don't mean to. I do toss my chickens marigolds along with their buckets of weeds and produce from the garden but it's not something I do with intent. It's more like me wandering through the garden going: weeds, weeds, this tomato is cracking, more weeds, they'll eat this, they like these, more weeds....and that's how they get treats!

Orange egg yolks

However, for a little experiment I decided to add marigold petals to my chickens feed and see what happens. First, I set aside eggs from a few of my hens. Then, I added marigolds to their feed mix for about 10 days. Then I collected a fresh egg and took this picture. (white egg from Aldi for comparison, note that the white appears yellowish. This often happens with age. I bought them last week but the packing date is 202, so they're about a month old)

healthy farm eggs

As you can see, there is a difference in the second and third egg in this picture. It's not an extreme difference, but since it's only been a few days, the eggs yolks will get darker in time. So this experiment will continue, but for now the moral of this story is you can't always judge an egg by looking at it. The only difference in my hens diets over 10 days was flowers.

What to feed hens for orange yolks?

If you want to try an experiment of your own here are other things you can feed to get darker colored yolks: alfalfa, cabbage, collards, dandelions, kale, spinach and orange veggies like carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and apricots. This feels a little less like cheating to me, because all the items on this list are high in vitamins and nutrients anyway.

Do you feed your hens anything specific to get darker yolks?

Want to know more about farm fresh chicken eggs? Click here for my other posts on everything you ever wanted to know about eggs!


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I am not a veterinarian or other animal care professional nor do I claim to be. I am simply passing on information that has worked for me and my flock. This information is for entertainment purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any medical condition. Please see a vet if your chicken is ill. Click for my full disclaimer.

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  1. My question to you is this, Once you finish your experiment, can you tell me which one tasted better? The regular Feed chicken eggs, or the Marigold Chicken eggs? Does the Chicken egg thats been fed Marigolds have a richer flavor,texture than regular fed chickens. I don't even bother with store bought chickens, I much rather perfer free range chickens that are happy and healthy that have a variety of food in their diet. I first tasted free range chicken eggs 8yrs ago and immediately tasted that huge difference. Then I was intriduced to Duck eggs. They grew up on the farm and already had little ducklings of their own. So I was introduced to these Duck eggs and also noticed a difference in flavor and texture. I was floored. I was hooked from then on perferring farm fresh eggs, perferring free range eggs.
    So once your experiment is through please let me know how the taste test went. As you said you can't always go by just looks alone.

  2. My Mom fed her chickens chillies and the yolk's turn to almost a dark orange color. The eggs was filled with flavour. The chickens seemed to love the chillies too.

  3. This is so interesting! I would love to know if there was any difference in flavor.

    1. The tow from my chickens tasted the same to me. They both tasted much better then the store bought egg though....but I expected that!


  4. The eggs did not tastes like chillies at all.

  5. I just saw this over at Our Simple Homestead blog hop. What a great and informative post. In all my years of raising chickens I did not realize some producers added things to the feed to deepen the yolk color. Not surprising but still so annoying. I bothers me that the consumer is continually thought of as brainless and we can be fooled by colors so easily.
    It just goes back to what I have been saying all along. If you want to make sure you are eating the best...raise it yourself!!
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks, I'm glad you liked it! What kills me about it is that since orange yolks are thought to be an indication of better health in the hens, instead of improving the health of their hens they fake the egg yolk color! Why not just fix the nutrition of their feed? It's ridiculous!

      I totally to just grow it yourself!
      Thanks for stopping by!


  6. I think the fact that they are richer in vitamins from their foraging diet is super important. i always laugh at the containers that say vegetarian fed since the are not vegetarians. Thanks for sharing on the Homestead Blog Hop. Can't wait to see what you have for us this Wednesday!

  7. How I add marigold in feed any
    quantity ?

    1. I just added a small handful of marigolds to the chicken feeder each time I filled it and that was enough to develop the rich orange yolks you see in the picture above.


  8. Replies
    1. When I was doing the orange yolk experiment, I added a small handful of dried marigold petals to the chicken feed each time I filled the feeder. Experiment with the quantity and see what works best for your flock.