I have a pet peeve. This is a very large and irritating pet peeve. This is a pet peeve that should be the ultimate pet peeve of anyone involved in the poultry industry. That pet peeve is the mislabeling of blue-egg laying chickens.
Every year I help put on our county’s 4-H poultry show at the fair, and every year I have to correct children who call their Easter Egg chickens “Araucanas.” I cannot impress to you how often this mistake is made, and I am pointing my finger at the commercial hatcheries for this abomination. When you flip through a chick catalog or pick out baby chicks at your local feed store in the spring time, you will see a drawing or photograph of a brightly colored chicken with a large tail, muffs and a beard. In the description of this chicken, the hatchery will tell you all about the beautiful green, pink, and blue eggs that these hens will lay for you. They will be labeled “Araucana/Ameraucana” and this is WRONG WRONG WRONG, and let me tell you why.
I will bet my bottom dollar that your blue/green egg laying hens are not Araucanas. Araucanas are quite rare, so rare that I have never actually seen one in front of me ever, but I do have photos to share. In this photo, notice one huge difference between this bird and the colorful egg layers sold at the feed store – she has no tail! Araucanas are rumpless, meaning exactly as it sounds. They’ve got no bottoms. Also notice the prominent feathers on the face, called “tufts.” These are different then “muffs” which are sported by Ameraucanas. Araucanas are the original domestic blue egg layer, and purebred Araucanas will lay bright blue eggs. They carry a lethal gene, making them difficult to breed and raise, but they are stunning birds!
Now, Ameraucanas are Araucanas that got their passport, hopped the border from South America, and became Americanized. They have tails and muffs. Here is a picture of a real Ameraucana.
This bird may look very similar to blue-egg laying hatchery birds, but they are different. Ameraucanas are bred to a very specific standard set by the American Poultry Association. Their conformation has to be just so and they have to be certain specific colors. Birds that are ordered from hatcheries or purchased from grain elevators should never be called anything but simply Easter Eggers. Easter Eggers lay pink, green, and blue eggs, whereas Ameraucanas and Araucanas lay only blue. It’s very similar to the difference between an AKC registered champion Labrador Retriever and a black, floppy eared mutt from the pound. They look similar, but they are not the same dog. The mutt might get called a Lab, but who knows? He could be half-coyote for all we know.
This is not only incredibly important for your own knowledge, but especially for those who are purchasing birds to show in 4-H. Some hatcheries are responsible enough to include in the descriptions “Not for 4-H use,” which I appreciate, but not all are that ethical. Please source your show birds from reputable breeders. They will cost more. They will cost a lot more. They will probably cost more than you thought you’d pay for a chicken, but it will be worth it in the end. Education is everything. I promise I educate every poor kiddo who comes through the check-in line at our fair. I’m that mean lady who makes the youth write out a new coop card and checks their spelling – it’s not Airicana, Americana, or Amairicaina – AMERAUCANA.
If you’re still not satisfied with rainbows in the nest box, cross your Easter Eggers with a Maran and you’ll get some super cool colored eggs. Experiment. Play with it. But do not false educate or I WILL FIND YOU.