I love chickens. They are a beautiful bird that not only provides us with endless amounts of eggs and easy to cook, delicious meat, but they are a joy to own. Just to stop what you are doing and watch them peck the ground, dust in the sand and interact with one another is not only relaxing, it is entertaining. And that is exactly why I asked for chickens for my Mother’s Day gift this year.
We have raised chickens, hatched eggs, sold the eggs, done our own meat birds and just plain enjoyed them at different times in our lives. But about 6 years ago a weasel invaded the coop and killed our last 33 chickens within three nights. It was not a pretty sight. It looked as if a ‘chicken vampire’ had evilly drifted through leaving dead chickens with holes in their necks in its wake. We had set traps for the callous weasel, but never caught it. My husband announced, no more chickens until we have the time. After leaving my ‘off-farm job’ just over a year ago to pursue our farm business, I felt this was now the perfect time! And that is how my request for Mother’s Day chicks came about.
I was delighted to receive 18 + (1 extra day old chicks); 6 Barred Plymouth Rock, 6 Columbian and 7 Red X Sex Link. They would begin laying in mid-October. Almost immediately I had market customers asking me when the eggs would be ready. Not only wanting to provide for my customers, but also longing for some good homegrown eggs myself, I went on a chicken hunt. I was not only on a hunt for more egg layers, but different egg layers. While running my farm market I have discovered that people like things that you just can’t buy at the local Wal-Mart. They want things that are local, real and perhaps a little unusual. That is where the Ameraucana Chicken comes onto the scene.
There are only 3 breeds of chickens that lay coloured eggs other than the typical white and various shades of browns. I say ‘breeds’ loosely, as only two are actually recognized breeds; the Ameraucana and the Araucana. The third, known as the Easter Egger Chicken, is not a recognized breed, but rather a cross between any other chicken and either an Ameraucana or an Araucana. True Ameraucana & Araucana chickens are in fact not that common. Many people believe they may have one of these breeds, but it is more likely that most people have the Easter Egger. Araucana’s originally come from Chile and were introduced to North America around 1921 and were standardized and accepted into American Poultry Association (APA) in 1976. They do not do well in cold climates and are quite rare. Araucana’s are rumples (no or little tail feathers) and have ear tufts; feathers protruding from the ear area. They lay blue eggs only. The Ameraucana is not very common either. It is America’s most newly recognized APA breed. There has been much discrepancy over the years regarding origins, standards and such for these two breeds. APA created a standard and recognized the Ameraucana breed in the 1984. The characteristics to meet the APA Standard for a true Ameraucana are as follows;
Must be a blue egg layer. The shade of blue can vary, but it must be blue.
Must have ‘pea’ combs; A small, plump red comb towards the front of head.
Must be bearded and muffed. They appear to have a beard of feathers.
Cannot have ear tufts.
Must have slate blue legs. Although the black variety sometimes have black legs.
Males must have red ear lobes.
There are 8 accepted feather colours; Black, Blue, Blue Wheaten, Brown Red, Buff, Silver, Wheaten, White.
Cock weight; 6 ½ lbs. Hen weight; 5 ½ lbs.
Other characteristics include; curved beaks, large expressive eyes, absent or small wattles, full hackle, a well spread tail carried at an angle and 4 toes. These characteristics apply to both male and female. The breed also comes in a recognized Bantam variety. I found ameraucana.org to be an excellent reference for this information.
If your bird does not meet these specifications, then it is more than likely an Easter Egger. There are no recognized breeders in North America that I am aware of for Araucana chickens and few recognized breeders for the Ameraucana breed.
I basically only knew that these chickens lay coloured eggs when I began my search. The first place I looked was on Kijiji, the Canadian equivalent to Craigslist.org. In retrospect this was probably the most unlikely spot to find Ameraucana chickens, but the Chicken Gods must have been smiling on me because that is exactly where I found some advertised and only a few hours’ drive away. We purchased all 25, four week old pure Ameraucana’s and 10, ten week old Easter Eggers. Then my research began in earnest. I have found that a few of the ‘pure bred’ Ameraucana’s that we purchased are not fitting the standard. One is rumples and two have yellow shanks, but other than that they seem to be fitting the bill. All 35 happily moved into our large pioneer built chicken coop with the other 19 and I have since purchased 9 more brown egg layers that were already laying. I seem to have gone a little chicken crazy!
We are now eating our delicious brown eggs, selling the extras and soon will be blessed with many blue and other coloured eggs. Easter Eggers can lay blue, green, pink and brown eggs. The nutritional value is equal in all the eggs. Just the beautiful colours make them unique and of course all the beautiful chickens!