The Araucana is a soft feather light breed that produces good numbers of wonderful, blue-shelled eggs, has a relaxed character, striking looks and there is an impressive range of plumage colours. Laying potential is 250+ eggs pa.
The Araucana is a chicken breed that combines the unusual traits of tufts, blue eggs and sometimes rumplessness. Tufts are unique to Araucanas, and each is composed of a group of feathers that grow from a protruding flap of skin located near the ear, called a peduncle. There is wide variability in the size and shape of tufts. American Araucanas are rumpless, which means that they do not have a tail, any remnant of a tail, or even an oil gland.
The Araucana's eggs are not more nutritious than eggs of other colours, but the birds are reliable layers of medium-sized eggs. The Araucana, if hand-raised specifically, is extremely well-tempered, calm and trusting.
When the Araucana was first introduced to breeders worldwide, in the mid-20th century, it was realised that the genetics that produced tufts also caused chick mortality. Two copies of the gene causes nearly 100% mortality shortly before hatching. One copy causes about 20% mortality. The tufted gene is dominant however. Because no living araucana possesses two copies of the tufted gene, breeding any two tufted birds leads to half of the resulting brood being tufted with one copy of the gene, a quarter being clean faced with no copy of the gene, and a quarter of the brood dead in the shell having received two copies of the gene.
In the decades to follow, most breeders took one of two tactics - either to preserve the old style of bird, or to breed out the tufts while increasing productivity. In 1976, the first standards for the breed were accepted by the APA, conforming to the traditional style. This was followed, in 1984, by a second standard for the "improved" variety.
The gene for blue eggs is dominant, so the term "Easter Egger" is used to describe birds of mixed breeding that produce such eggs. Unfortunately, these mixed breeds are often incorrectly labeled as Araucanas or Ameraucanas, and marketed to poultry hobbyists who are not aware of the difference. The differences are as follows:
- Araucana - Tufts (lethal allele), rumpless, blue eggs, green legs and yellow skin (with exceptions).
- Ameraucana - Beards and muffs (NO lethal gene), with tail feathers, blue eggs, blue legs and white skin.
- British, Irish, New Zealand, South African & Australian Araucana - Beards, muffs and crest, with tail feathers, blue eggs, slate legs and grey/white skin.
- Easter Egger - Variable traits