Araucana chickens are unusual chickens from South America. They are currently raised all over the world in small flocks. Breeders have used them to develop other breeds and hybrids that produce the coveted blue eggs that trace back to the Araucana chickens. Because of the low hatch rate, attributable to lethal genes carried by these birds, chicks and hatching eggs are rarely sold by hatcheries. People interested in adding Araucana chickens to their flock must look to reputable breeders. If they simply want to add blue eggs to their collection, they may have better success looking for Ameraucana chicks, which lack the lethal genes for tufting and rumplessness.
Araucana Breed History
The Araucana chicken originated in South America, around the Araucania region of Chile. A Spanish bird expert named Salvador Castelló visited the region in 1914, and believed the unique bird was a new species. They were, in fact, simply a strange breed of the domestic chicken, Gallus gallus domesticus. But this breed had several characteristics that set it apart from other known breeds around the world, not the least of which included its amazing blue eggs.
Araucana chickens have no rump. Not only do they lack tail feathers, they also lack the last two vertebrae found in other chickens. This rumpless trait gives the breed an odd shape, not unlike a feathery cashew. They also have a pea comb, which is very short and lumpy. Few breeds have this type of comb. Between the lack of tail feathers and the tiny combs and wattles, differentiating Araucana hens and roosters can prove quite difficult until the birds reach full maturity. At that point, roosters should have longer and more pointed hackle feathers than the hens, and they may be a bit larger overall.
Araucana chickens come in several colors. In the UK, the accepted colors include Black, Black-Red, Blue, Blue-Red, Crele, Cuckoo, Golden Duckwing, Lavender, Pile, Silver Duckwing, Spangled, and White. In the United States, the American Poultry Association accepts Black, White, Black Breasted Red, Golden Duckwing and Silver Ducking. Both large size and bantam size birds are recognized, with the large size averaging more than five pounds, while the bantam birds weigh significantly less.
The Araucana chicken can have tufts on both sides of their face, just on one side, or no tufts at all. These tufts may be full or sparse. The gene that causes the tufting on Araucana chickens is an autosomal dominant lethal gene. Many of the chickens that receive two copies of the gene for tufts will die before they hatch. Some will die within a few days after hatching, while very rarely, chickens with two copies of the tufting gene will make it to maturity.
Araucana Chicken Eggs
The Araucana chicken always produces blue eggs. This breed has the oocyan gene responsible for producing this unusually colored egg. Other producers of blue eggs inherited the gene from Araucana chickens.
Araucana hens tend to lay about 3 eggs per week. They may slow down or stop laying in cold months. They also tend to go broody, which may decrease their overall egg production.
The Ameraucana and Cream Legbar breeds, both descended from Araucana chickens, also produce blue or greenish blue eggs thanks to the oocyan gene they inherited. Easter Eggers, hybrids and not a recognized breed, sometimes produce blue or greenish blue eggs, but also may produce pink, brown, green, or white eggs.
Araucana chickens are among the smaller of the full-size breeds. Roosters typically weigh under 7 pounds, and hens weigh less than 6 pounds. They put on weight slowly, and don’t produce a lot of meat per bird. Their meat quality is said to be average, though they may make good soup.
Large hatcheries typically do not offer Araucana chickens for sale, due to their relatively low hatch rate. This breed must usually be purchased from specialty breeders. Buyers should take care to buy only from reputable and trusted breeders. Unscrupulous sellers have sometimes passed off Ameraucana chickens or Easter Eggers, a hybrid that does not breed true, as Araucanas. Remember that true Araucana chickens only lay blue or greenish blue eggs. Also, they should have the other defining characteristics of the breed as described above.
As of this writing, few available Araucana hatching eggs or chicks can be found for sale. Those that appear to be available from reputable sellers online range from about $3 to $10 per egg up to around $50 per live chick.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © MATTHIASRABBIONE/iStock via Getty Images
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