by Dennis Hawkins

The araucana breed has several distinct features that no other breed has. Photo of Black Araucana Chick The most prominent features are its rumplessness, ear whiskers, and its ability to lay blue shelled eggs. The birds also have a pea comb and virtually no wattles. The araucana breed is from South America near northern Chile and was first successfully bred in this country in the 1930's.

Rumplessness means that the birds, both male and female, do not possess a tail. It is not simply a bird with missing tail feathers, rather, the entire coccyx is missing. The rumplessness of the araucana is unique in that it is the standard trait of the breed rather than being a one of a kind birth defect.

Photo of Black Araucana Chick The ear whiskers that are present on the breed are tufts of feathers that grow from the ear lobe region on the side of the bird's head. These feather tufts will sometimes grow rearward and touch each other to form what looks like a complete ring around the bird's head. More commonly, the tufts simply grow straight out from the bird's head and resemble miniature feather dusters stuck in the birds ears.

The ear whisker trait should not be confused with beards found on other breeds. Ameraucanas, houdans, faverolles, polish, and crevecoeurs have beards. Although their beards may resemble small ear tufts, they are not. Araucanas do not have beards. The Ameraucana chicken also lays blue or green eggs and is derived from the araucana. However, unlike the ameraucana, the araucana has no extra feathering under its chin.

The blue egg laying characteristic is shared only by the ameraucana breed. The araucana is very difficult to breed, therefore, in the 1970's, breeders came up with the ameraucana. The ameraucana is an easy to breed derivative of the araucana and is also capable of laying blue eggs.

Because of genetic contamination, many araucana and ameraucana birds do not lay sky-blue colored eggs. Instead, the colors range from aqua-blue to green to brown. The pure blooded araucana's eggs will be solid blue and the shell color will permeate through the entire shell. This is unlike brown-shelled eggs where the coloring is just on the surface of the egg. By hatching only eggs that are sky-blue and have the blue color all the way through the shell, the poultry breeder can be more certain of hatching quality offspring. Brown or green eggs should not be hatched as birds who lay those eggs possess a high degree of genetic contamination.

Even so, the odds of getting a show quality bird is about 1 in 100 eggs set. Assuming you start with two show quality parents, it is genetically impossible to end up with more than half the offspring being true araucana. Actually, about one forth of the hatching chicks will be still-born (dead in the shell). They will completely form and can even be heard peeping from inside the shell, but they will die shortly before it is time to hatch. Another forth of the hatching eggs will not yield chicks with ear tufts. This leaves half of the chicks with ear tufts, but by the time you separate out the ones that have tails and the ones with poorly formed or unbalanced ear tufts, you will be lucky to have just one show quality bird remaining.

The araucana first gained popularity in this country primarily because of its blue egg laying characteristic. Unfortunately, most hatcheries that sell "araucana" chicks are actually selling a mixed breed that is often referred to as an "Easter Egg Chicken". Because the blue egg laying quality is the result of a dominant gene, other breeds that are mixed with the araucana will usually result in blue or green egg laying offspring. Currently, there are only a handful of hatcheries in this country that sell "pure" araucanas.

Above: Photo of "Ms. Wings" -
A Black Araucana Hen and her prominent ear tufts.
Note how her face is mostly black. Roosters have a mostly red face.

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Photos by Dennis Hawkins

Copyright 1995-2004 by Dennis Hawkins, All Rights Reserved.