Thursday, February 25, 2016

Olive Egger Chickens

I wanted to post some information on olive egger chickens and the Isbar x Marans cross in particular because there is not a lot of information out there about this cross.

Olive Eggers and Easter Eggers are considered colored egg laying mutts of the chicken world. They are made up by crossing various chicken breeds and lay a variety of colored eggs, typically blues and greens but have seen pinks and grays on occasion. I have 2 easter eggers and 3 olive egger layers.


How to create an olive egger: 

Black Copper Marans, Easter
Egger and Olive Egger Eggs
You will need to breed a blue or green egg layer with a dark brown egg layer to get an F1 (First Generation) olive egger. The most popular breeds to use are the Marans or Welsummer for the dark brown and a Cream Legbar or Easter Egger for the blue/green egg.

Dark brown layers: 
Common: Marans, Welsummer, Barnevelders
Rare: Empordanesas, Penedesenca
Blue/green layers: 
Common: Cream Legbar, Easter Eggers
Rare: pure Ameraucanas, pure Araucanas, Isbars

If you breed an F1 olive egger with an F1 olive egger, you get an F2 but that F2 could lay any colored egg from blue, green, pink, olive,etc.



If you breed an F1 olive egger with a dark brown layer or blue layer that is called backcrossing.
  • Backcrossing an F1 to a dark brown layer can be done to darken the olive egg color but you have a 50/50 chance of getting a brown layer
  • Backcrossing an F1 to a blue layer can be done to get a lighter shade of green but again you have a 50/50 chance of getting blue or some other color depending on the breed of the blue layer.
Here's a handy chart that explains olive breeding, sourced from the Olive Eggers Facebook group:

The Easter Egger vs Ameraucana vs Araucana Debate: 

You will frequently see Ameraucana or Araucanas for sale and the majority of the time they are mislabeled and are actually Easter Eggers. Pure Ameraucana and pure Araucanas are rare and carry two blue egg genes. One good indication you are buying a pure breed is the price. If the price is much higher than other breeds sold they may actually be pure breeds. You can get more info about the differences between these 3 on Fresh Eggs Daily.

You are not guaranteed an olive egg unless you cross a pure dark brown laying breed with a pure blue/green laying breed that carries 2 blue egg genes (homozygous) like a Cream Legbar, pure Ameraucana or pure Araucana. Since many of the blue/green layers are created from a mix of breeds, there's not a guarantee you'll get olive and it is possible to end up with a brown egg. I found this to be the case with Isbars. I thought it was a two green egg gene laying breed but after further research discovered they were created by crossing Rhode Island Reds (brown layer), New Hampshires (brown layer), and Cream Legbars (blue layer). The breed should have the brown egg gene bred out but many people are finding brown layers in their flocks of Isbars. The Cream Legbar is homozygous for the blue egg gene which is why it's a popular choice for olive egger breeding.

My Olive Eggers:

I had my broody buff orpington hatch out 5 olive egger eggs that I got from a friend at the end of the summer that were an Isbar roos crossed with Marans hens. Two of them turned out to be boys and three were girls. All the olive eggers seem to have a body shape closer to the marans but the coloring and eyes of the Isbar. One of the two blue hens has a bit of black leakage on her back. They started laying eggs between the ages of 24-25 weeks. Unfortunately, one of them is laying light brown eggs which got me doing more research because I didn't think that was possible. I found many others reporting brown eggs from their Isbars and it is due to their Rhode Island Red and New Hampshire brown egg genes being expressed and not bred out properly.

If you use an Isbar for your olive egger crosses, you aren't guaranteed an olive egg. The chances of getting brown eggs also increases if you cross two olive eggers together or cross an olive egger with a dark egg layer. This is frequently done to try and darken the olive egg color.

I will say the Isbars are a beautiful breed and come in blue, black and splash. I ended up with 2 blue and one black for my layers but the black one is the one laying brown eggs so I guess she isn't truly an olive egger. The blue olive eggers eggs are a nice dark olive/tan shade. I may try crossing my black olive egger roo with my easter eggers to see if I can get the egg color a little more green.

I do not sell olive egger chicks or hatching eggs as I do not have any pure blue laying breeds. My only roo is an olive egger so his offspring could end up laying brown eggs.
Blue Olive Egger Roo
(Blue Isbar Roo x Black Copper Marans Hen)
I decided to give this guy away to a new home.
Two roos wasn't working out very well.

Black Olive Egger Roo
(Black Isbar Roo x Black Copper Marans Hen)
Blue Olive Egger Hen
(Blue Isbar Roo x Black Copper Marans Hen)
Black Olive Egger Hen
(Black Isbar Roo x Black Copper Marans Hen)
Unfortunately she did not get a blue egg gene from her
Black Isbar dad so doesn't technically qualify as an olive egger

Monday, February 08, 2016

Seed Swaps - Free Seeds

I've become addicted to seed swaps over the course of a year. There are so many different ways you can get seeds besides buying packets online or at your local big box stores. I can't even count the number of seed swaps I've participated in the last year. I'm sure it's over 20. I should really slow down because there's no way I'll be able to plant everything I have. Those of you that are new to gardening and don't think you have much to share, it really only takes one packet of seeds to start. Some people will even freely give out seeds, asking nothing in return. I want to share with you all the various ways I've swapped or been given seeds.

Local Seed Swaps

If you're in a relatively large city there may be seed swaps that happen right in front of your nose. We attended our first Snoqualmie Valley Seed Exchange this year. This particular exchange was free and open to the public.  You could join whether you had seeds to trade or not. There were many tables set up with seeds organized by type. They received seed donations from nearly a dozen seed companies for the event including: Ed Hume Seeds, Pinetree Garden Seeds, High Mowing Seeds, Johnny's Seeds, Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, Baker Creek Seeds, Bountiful Gardens, Adaptive Seeds, Territorial Seeds, Wild Garden Seed and the Organic Seed Alliance. In addition to all of these seeds, people were encouraged to add their saved seeds or extra packets of seeds to the tables as well but it was not required. I donated some of my bean and mustard seeds and picked out several varieties of tomatoes, greens, radishes and herbs. This is an annual event here that I'm sure we will go to again in the future.
6th Annual Snoqualmie Valley Seed Exchange

Another local group we participate in is called the Green Elephant Plant Swap group. They meet a four times a year and exchange everything from seeds, hardwood cuttings and plants. We've gone to several of those events and always bring home something exciting.

Hardwood Cutting Exchange Seed Swap

Seed Swap Websites and Forums

Earthineer is my favorite seed swap site. You can search for exactly what you're looking for as well as post what you have for trade. You can then contact the person that has what you want and offer up a trade. I've done a few trades through this site by searching for some particular seed I was looking for. They also have an annual "pay it forward" event in February where you can list seeds or receive seeds for nothing in return and the recipient of the seeds is encouraged to plant and save seeds from whatever they get and pass them on to others next year.

There are a few other sites which I have not yet tried like HeirloomSeedSwap and GardenWeb Forum.


There are several seed swapping Facebook groups but I have only participated in Share the Seed USA group. Other groups include Great American Seed Swap, The Free Seed Exchange, Great American Seed Swap/Trade (different than previous group), Seed Traders for Future Generations, Seed Swap and The Trading Post.


I have several gardeners I follow on Instagram and occasionally someone will post some interesting fruit or vegetable or a photo of their seed catalogs or seeds they just got in the mail and I'll ask if they would be interested in doing a seed swap and 9 times out of 10 they will say yes.

A photo posted by Paula Thomas (@gapey) on


I also follow several gardeners on youtube and there are a few that do seed giveaways every year or several times a year. One of those channels that does several seed giveaways by you simply mailing a self addressed envelope to them is Love Your Land. She posts lots of gardening how to videos and has done several seed giveaways on her channel.

Group Swaps

Big Family Homestead is a youtuber that hosts a group seed swap with groups of 20 people. I've participated in a couple of group seed swaps like this and the way those work is you send in 20 (or however many participants there are) packets of seeds to the seed swap host, as does all the other participants and then he re-distributes all those packets to everyone so you will get back 20 different packets of seeds and you don't know what you're gonna get till it comes in the mail. Those are always fun to do. I've also participated in a group swap via Instagram that fdclinton hosted which had 14 participants. Below was my submission to that swap.

A photo posted by Paula Thomas (@gapey) on

Last year's seeds from the Big Family Homestead swap:
A photo posted by Paula Thomas (@gapey) on
If you know of other sites or ways to swap seeds, feel free to leave your links and suggestions in the comments.