Who would have thought, back when I was a little girl tending the chickens with my grandma, that some day backyard chickens would be the trendiest thing? Back then, there was nothing cool at all about keeping chickens. It’s just something country folk did, and something I really didn’t enjoy because chicken houses, even small ones, are stinky and gross.
But today, people across the country, even in urban settings, are raising backyard chickens as a way to eat healthier and preserve heritage breeds. These heritage chickens lay a wonderful variety of eggs, from vibrant greens and blues to rich browns and soft beiges and pinks. Some even have speckles.
Now, when it comes to Easter, why would you want to cover up the beautiful colors of these eggs with artificial dyes? I know I wouldn’t. That’s why I decided to look for some techniques this year to decorate Easter eggs in ways that show off the gorgeous, natural colors of the eggs we bring home from my friend’s assorted hens.
Oil pastels are mistake proof
We used the art supplies we had handy to decorate our eggs, and oil pastels were among our favorites. Oil pastels are a lot like crayons. You just draw the design you like right on the eggs. The colors can be strong and vibrant or, blended gently with a paper towel, much more subtle. Best of all, you can actually wipe off all the color and start over if your design isn’t going quite right.
We made tiger stripes in browns and black on an orangey-brown egg. We added random swirls of blues and greens to a blue-green egg, giving it a look that reminded my six year old of the sea. And we added feathery flourishes and curving lines of red, mauve and pink to a beige egg to enhance its pinkish tone. Oil pastels make decorating eggs easy and fun, and can enhance the natural colors of the eggs beautifully.
Watercolor pencils blend beautifully
We also used watercolor pencils to decorate our eggs. We colored in the whole egg, using lines of bright colors. Then, using a barely dampened paintbrush or a moistened fingertip, we blended the pencil marks into soft, translucent tones which gently enhanced the natural colors of our eggs.
The hues we obtained with this method were much like you would get if you only left an egg in dye for a short time, but without the smell of vinegar. And even better, we were able to blend a variety of different shades easily on the same egg.
Natural dyes with herb relief
One technique we are planning to try closer to Easter is a little more complicated. It involves dying eggs using natural dyes and pieces of herbs or other plants to create a relief pattern which allows the natural color of the egg shell to show through.
I’ve seen this technique used on several websites, but this one by Cynthia Weber, an interior decorator, explained the technique most clearly to me. What looks incredibly tricky is actually quite simple, following her instructions.
To make these pretty eggs, you just slip your raw, yes raw, eggs into the ends of nylon hose, cut down to a few inches in length. Add a couple of leaves or sprigs of a favorite herb and cinch the hose up tightly around the egg. Secure with a rubber band, and then immerse the whole thing in a pot of natural dye of your choice. Bring to a boil, and boil the eggs for 20 minutes.
When you remove the eggs, the portion that was pressed against the leaves or herbs will still be the natural color, while the rest of the egg will be dyed. Of course, this technique could be done using stickers or shapes cut out of tape instead of herbs, but I like the all-natural effect using plants for both dye and relief has on the eggs. I look forward to trying this one at home.
More by Tavia:
Six Unique Easter Baskets
A Late Easter Is a Great Time to Grill
Backyard Chicken Enthusiasts Repurpose Banned Drop Side Cribs