Black Araucana

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 here 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.

Appearance:
    • 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 this page, 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
  • Weight:
    • 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. Here are some possible sources for finding local sellers.
    • Araucana Club of America (http://araucana.net/)
      • Become a member, and with it comes a list of breeders of the Araucana breed. Alternatively, try to contact one of these personages about Araucana sellers in your area. Click here for their contact information. 
    • Sky Blue Egg
      • Some of this breeder's original sources: here.
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. Further information is available at

Photo courtesy of: Richard Collard at "Araucana the Main Roost"
Information courtesy of:
http://members.shaw.ca/araucana/
http://www.skyblueegg.com/
http://www.backyardchickens.com/breeds/araucana/441
http://www.animalcorner.co.uk/farm/chickens/chicken_breedab.html
http://www.ehow.com/how_6224448_tell-araucana-chicken-rooster_.html
http://chsweb.lr.k12.nj.us/mstanley/outlines/cgen/image162.gif

Easter Eggers, Ameraucanas, and Araucanas --- Clarification

Just for those who do not know already, the fact is that there is a lot of confusion on the nets, about what exactly the difference is between these three breeds. So, may I offer the following explanation:

Easter Eggers--- a general grouping of chickens that possess the "blue egg" gene. This means that any chicken that is not strictly an ameraucana, an araucana, or some other variety that may lay colored eggs, but does, is an easter egger. Colored eggs may refer to anything from blue, to teal, to olive green, to pink.

Araucana--- First, a little bit of history. The Araucana was created by cross-breeding two local breeds in Chile, South America, creating a chicken breed that in itself has various characteristics. What they created was a breed, that laid blue eggs, could be rump-less (missing last vertebra) or not, and could have ear tufts, or not.  In addition the tufted gene, loved by many, and popularized for it's quirky appearance, results in about a quarter of chicks, dying in the egg, a quarter, being without tufts, and half being tufted. This created a lot of discrepancy of what an araucana was exactly, not much of a problem when in a small, isolated environment, but when popularized in modern-day society, created various individual standards of what an araucana is. This resulted in a lot of Easter Eggers, but today they have narrowed it down to down to 2 standards: The North American, and pretty much everyone else.
     North American- a chicken breed that lays blue eggs, is rumpless (missing last vertebra), and tail-less, has tufts, and typically yellow skin.
     Everyone else- a chicken breed that lays blue eggs, with a rump, a tail, but with beards, muffs, a crest and no ear tufts, along with slate/blue legs and a off-white skin.

Ameraucana- A breed that lays blue eggs, and is a specific grouping of some chickens that would otherwise be labeled easter eggers, that has a standard. They lay blue eggs, have beards and muffs, tail feathers, slate/blue legs, and white skin. One may easily recognize the similarity between Ameraucanas and the non-North American Araucanas, simply the crest is the difference. In reality, other than this small trait, the Ameraucanas are simply the European standard of an Araucana, in America, under a different name.

The biggest piece of advice that I can give is that if you truly want a purebred Ameraucana, or Araucana, do not go to the hatcheries, rather go to a local seller, or breeder, and examine them, if possible with a third party's guidance. If you just want a bird that lays colored eggs, then you should be fine ordering from a hatchery, but as always, purchase local, if possible.

Ancona

This breed of chicken can be traced back to the Italian port of Ancona, from which it was originally shipped abroad. Originally found in a variety of colors, ranging from white to brown to black, these chickens have been standardized into a single breed. Nowadays they sport mottled black plumage, with occasional white-tipped feathers that are found throughout the bird. They have a beetle-green or purple sheen to their feathers, which is most noticeable in hte sunlight. Occasionally, a hint of copper/brown may be found in the hackle (neck) as a result of their previous appearance, which occasionally pop up in their genetics. They are a relatively hardy breed, and they may lay further into winter with out supplemented light.

  • Appearance:
    • Male: Ancona roosters sport a large, red, single comb, as well as long, curving and elegant sickles (long tail feathers), that give it a very regal appearance. In addition, it has very large white earlobes, that are somewhat almond-shaped, that can be very striking. As far as breeding is concerned, keep an eye out of copper hackles, and less white splashing in the feathers is usually a good sign. As far as for eating, however, these birds are quite unsuitable, as they take a long time, and are difficult to fatten.
    • Female: The hens of the Ancona breed have a combination of characteristics that is quite typical in similar breeds such as the white leghorn. They have superior food-to-egg-laying ratios, as we often see in many of the lighter, egg-laying breeds. They lay a lot of eggs in comparison to various other breeds, which is often attributed to their possible inter-breeding with leghorns, which were nearby geographically. Visually, they have a comb that usually is drooped over to one side, so if you see this in your hen, don't worry.
    • Face: Red
    • Comb: Red single or rose comb
    • Earlobes: White
    • Skin color: Yellow
    • Beak color: Yellow with some horn or black in the center of the upper mandible.
    • Eyes: Red-Orange
    • Legs: Yellow
  • Weight: 
    • Rooster-6
    • Hen-4.5
    • Cockerel-5
    • Pullet-4
  • Purpose: Egg-Laying
  • Origin: Ancona, Italy
  • Common: Rare
  • Egg color: White to Cream.
  • Egg size: Large
  • Eggs a week/year: 3-4 eggs a week and about 160-180 a year.  
  • Broody: No
  • Confinement: Not Good
  • Compatibility: Good, especially for a smaller breed, which can be feisty at times.
  • Hardy:Yes, they were in fact, raised in Italy, which, contrary to typical belief, can be very cold in the winters, in addition to the heat of the summers.
  • Bantam: Yes
  • Personality: Very quick and alert, these chickens are active, and make excellent use of their surroundings in a free-range setting. They can be flighty, however, so make sure that you discourage escape.
  • Available from: 



Photo courtesy of: Copyright © Funny Farm Industries™, PickinChickenApp.com. All Rights Reserved.

Golden-laced Bearded Polishes

Also called the Poland, these fowl are known for their wacky "hairdos." Though attractive, however, often these feathers on their head will inhibit their eyesight, so a little bit of trimming may be necessary around their eyes (Be careful if you do!). Otherwise they may occasionally run into things. They can show aggressive behavior towards others of their kind, but this can be remedied with space and entertainment. They are wonderfully ornamental, for obvious reasons, and sport a knob on their head from which their crest protrudes. As chicks they will appear to have a large bump on their head, which distinguishes them at this age from other breeds.

  • Appearance:
    • Male: As the name implies, these birds have black lacing around their golden-bay feathers. The lacing is thicker the closer to the head, and on the head can be very thick as shown in the picture. Males of the polish breed typically have a more umbrella shaped crest on their head, and may be prone to attempting to pluck feathers from other males' crests, but this can be remedied with space and a little bit of entertainment. Make sure that you have very consistent black-laced golden-bay feathers, without the occasional completely white feather. The hackles, however, are tipped with black instead of laced. Just a heads up.
    • Female: In contrast to the males, females have a more puff-ball shaped crest, and also sport the black-laced, golden bay feathers in both their crest and body. Also, in general with the crested breeds, polish included, the fowl will have large nostrils, so do not be surprised.
    • Face: Red
    • Comb: Red V-comb
    • Earlobes: White
    • Skin color: White
    • Beak color: Light horn
    • Eyes: Dark Brown
    • Legs: Dark Blue/Slate
  • Weight: Rooster-6 Hen-4.5 Cockerel-5 Pullet-4
  • Purpose: Dual-purpose
  • Origin: Earliest accounts trace the Ploish chickens back to Asia, but the earliest recorded presence is in Holland, in approximately the 1600s. It is thought that a similar bird existed in even Roman times.
  • Common: Relatively
  • Egg color: White
  • Egg size: Medium to Small
  • Eggs a week/year: A little more than 2 eggs a week/about 120 a year.
  • Broody: No
  • Confinement: Great, can actually be somewhat beneficial to be in confinement in a stable environment, otherwise they may be very easily startled, and jumpy.
  • Compatibility: Not good. They do better when they have ample space, but otherwise they may peck at other chickens.
  • Hardy: Not very. Especially in the winter months water from drinking may freeze in their crests, so they may take some maintenance, and maybe a blow dryer in winter months once in a while. Their feathers are not very well suited for cold weather either.
  • Bantam: Yes*
  • Personality: They are very friendly birds, and have a calm disposition. They can be jumpy however due to their limited vision, but this can be remedied by either trimming the feathers around the eyes, or tying up their crests. They are quite active, and fun to watch run around. Loud noises may scare them more so than other breeds, but otherwise they are quite normal.
  • Available from:*
A good conversation starter, and companion, these chickens are definitely worth it. They are absolutely exquisete to look at, and are a deviation from the day to day, average chicken. Definitely a good buy.

Photo courtesy of: mypetchicken.com
Information courtesy of: http://www.purelypoultry.com/polish-chickens-p-307.html
http://www.crestedbreeds.com/crested_breeds_polish.html
http://www.keepingchickens.com/polish-chickens/
http://sinbad99029.tripod.com/id13.html