Thursday, January 9, 2014

Araucana Chickens

An Unusual Bird

Look at an Araucana and the first thing you notice is that birds in this breed are missing their tail feathers, a characteristic that is referred to as “rumpless.” The other surprise is that while the breed has no tail feathers, it does have small ones growing from a flap of skin near the chicken’s ears. Officially, called “tufts,” and unofficially called “muffs,” these ear feathers are unique to the breed.

Look Mom, No Rump!


The Araucana is also unusual because it lays light blue or light green colored eggs.  Only two other breeds lay colored eggs, the Araucana’s cousin, the Ameraucana and the Easter Egger.

A Green Araucana Egg Compared to White & Brown Ones. Photo by Gmoose1

An Interesting Past

The recent origins of the breed are from South America in what is now Chile. However, chickens are not indigenous to the New World. Rather, the Araucana’s ancestry appears to be the same as all other chicken breeds that derive from Southeast Asia.

Until fairly recently, most people believed that chickens were brought to the Americas by Europeans during the age of the Conquistadors. However, tests done by a Chilean research team suggest that Polynesians, not Europeans, probably brought chickens to the new world. The research compared DNA from chicken bones found at various archeological sites in Chile and Polynesia dating from the 14th century and found that there was a match between the two.

Chickens Were Brought to the New World Kon-Tiki Style By Polynesians

The Araucana we know today was first developed by the Araucanian Indians of Chile from whom the breed gets its name. They crossed a rumpless chicken breed that laid blue eggs called the “Collanca” with another brown egg laying breed with tufts called the “Quetro.” The resulting generations produced birds with inconsistent physical attributes – tufts/no tufts, rumps/rumples, some had beards and others didn’t etc. 

Araucana Sporting Some Impressive Tufts

The world became more aware of these unusual birds in the 1920’s and 1930’s and their blue eggs and unusual physical characteristics created worldwide excitement. Some birds were brought the U.S. where various hatcheries began to sell them as a novelty.  These birds were sometimes cross-bred with other chicken breeds and the resulting offspring were all marketed as “Araucanas.”

Naturally, this created confusion because there was no standard of perfection for an Araucana at the time.  After much wrangling between various breeders, the American Poultry Association (APA) finally published a standard for in 1976 and established Araucanas as a tufted and rumpless breed. 

Breeders that were selling birds that had beards (did not meet the new APA standard) found themselves in a difficult position.  Having invested significant energy and resources into perfecting birds that met their interpretation of what an Araucana should be, they could now no longer sell stock as such. In much the same way that wine makers sell “sparkling wine” because they can’t call it “Champagne,” these breeders began selling the bearded version of the bird as “American Araucanas.” Eventually, a standard for these birds was created as well – we now call that breed the Ameraucana.


Posting sponsored by ChickenWaterer.com, makers of the BriteTap poultry nipple waterer. The BriteTap chicken waterer shields water from dirt and poop. The water stays clean and there are no messy pans for you to wash out. 


Sources: Radiocarbon and DNA evidence for a pre-Columbian introduction of Polynesian chickens to Chile, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 104, no. 25.  A History of the Ameraucana Breed & The Ameraucana Breeders Club. Compiled by Richard A. Orr, Eastern District Director. 1998

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