Often confused with the Americauna, and the not-so-noble Easter Egger, the Araucana is very different from both of them as I pointed out in my last post. In summary, I will be writing on the North American Araucana Standard, meaning that it lays blue eggs, is rumpless (missing the last vertebrae in it’s back, causing it to have no tail feathers, as at left), has ear-tufts, and no beard or muffs.
The picture at left is an excellent example of a Black Araucana of the North American Standard; it only has ear tufts, no rump, or tail, and the absence of muffs or a beard.
For each characteristic that is present in us, there are 2 genes—one from our father, and one from our mother. Some genes are dominant, that is, they appear in the phenotype (visible characteristics); some are recessive, only visible when there is no dominant gene present.
It is possible to have two dominant genes (homozygous dominant), one dominant, and one recessive gene (heterozygous), or two recessive genes (homozygous recessive).
In Araucana chickens the tufted gene is dominant, and the non-tufted gene is recessive. The thing about the tufted gene is that if there are two tufted genes (homozygous dominant) in the chick embryo, it dies in the shell. So in order to have a tufted Araucana, it must be heterozygous.
Therefore, when breeding 2 tufted parents that are heterozygous (Tt), each parent has one tufted gene (which is dominant, denoted as T) and one non-tufted gene (recessive, and denoted as t).
The odds are: you will have one chick that is “TT” (tufted, but dead in the shell), two that are “Tt” (tufted), and one that is “tt” (non-tufted).
This is because for each parent, they pass on the tufted gene on half the time, and the non-tufted gene half the time, see for a good visual of why this occurs.
The fact that 1/4 of the chicks die in their shell has caused hatcheries to search for a better alternative to breeding Araucanas; this has resulted in a lot of mixed birds sold as Araucanas, but that do not exhibit the same characteristics.
Even if successful in breeding a heterozygous bird, you will probably still have variance in the direction of the tufts, and size differences between one tuft and the other.
In addition to having issues with the tufted gene, the Araucana may experience problems with the rumpless gene.
- Male: Obviously distinguished from other male chickens with it’s absence of a tail, and sickles (long tail feathers), it is not so easily distinguishable from females of the same breed. Both sexes have similar characteristics, a trait inherited from one of their ancestors, the Collonca breed. One of the most easily discernable things is the feather pattern, where the hens have a very unidirectional feather alignment, the males have a very different pattern. Look at the black, and white drawing in the middle of , where the hen is on the right, and the rooster on the left. Also, male feathers can tend to be a bit brighter, and longer than females. The roosters, esepecially after maturity will show more aggressive behavior as all roosters do. This is not to say that there are not exceptions, but as a rule of thumb, the more aggressive chickens are usually roosters.
- Female: Distinguishable from males by the traits listed above, otherwise female Araucanas are very similar, in traits such as feather color, which is black, with a beetle green sheen, as well as the tail, or lack or in this instance. The lack of a tail has, in fact, led to various beleifs of the ability to escape predators more easily, and creating better cocks for fighting. Regardless, in current times, they are often popularized, for being a bit quirky.
- Face: Red
- Comb: Red Pea Comb
- Earlobes: Red
- Skin color: Yellow
- Beak color: Black
- Eyes: Brown
- Legs: Slate to black
- Rooster– 5
- Hen– 4
- Cockerel– 4
- Pullet– 3 1/2
- Purpose: Ornamental (Tufts)/Egg-Laying (Blue), but also rather easily edible.
- Origin: Southern part of South America
- Common: Rare in true form.
- Egg color: Blue turqoise in true form.
- Egg size: Medium
- Eggs a week/year: 3-4 eggs a week, about 180-200 a year.
- Broody: Yes
- Confinement: Good, well adapted to a coop or free-range.
- Compatibility: Generally great. Every once in a while you may run across a rather intolerable chicken, more so than other breeds.
- Hardy: Cold hardy.
- Bantam: Yes
- Personality: Usually quite calm, and tame if properly handled at a young age. They are generally quite, and not overly flighty.
- Available from: I would suggest to NOT buy eggs from a hatchery, but rather from a local seller. If you cannot do this, try to deal with individual sellers, and get photos of the parents.
- Sky Blue Egg
Though definitely a little bit more work than most breeds, the Araucana is definitely worth it, it is completely unique from nearly every other breed in so many ways, yet relatable enough to be handled and kept with other chickens.
As a piece of parting advice: do not expect to get a large quantity of show-quality Araucana chickens, if any at all. There are very few out there, and those that have them will not be eager to part with them.
Any purchase of these birds, if possible, will come at a high price.