by Tammy Gallagher
Who Doesn’t Love A Fluffy Purple Chicken That Lays Blue Eggs?
That’s my favorite question to ask when talking about my frizzled Lavender Ameraucanas. I think they are just splendid!!! And they have quickly become a close second to my favorite Silkies because of their wonderful temperament and incredibly curious personality.
Of course, not all Ameraucanas will be purple (self-blue) in color, and not all will be fluffy (frizzled,) because they need a gene that makes their feathers curl for that- but neither of these things will change their fabulous disposition.
What Is An Ameraucana Chicken and Where Did It Come From?
First and foremost, when talking about these lovely birds, we need to make sure that everyone understands the difference between an Ameraucana, an Araucana, and an Americana.
There are various stories about how the Ameraucana originated. Some will argue that they were bred directly from Araucanas, while others insist that the Ameraucana has no ties at all to the Araucana we know today, and that they both originated hundreds of years ago in Chile from mixed breed blue egg layers, similar to what we call an Easter Egger.
Regardless of historical origination, the bird with the unique ear tufts and lack of a tail was the one recognized here in the USA as an Araucana by the American Poultry Association (APA) in 1976.
U.S. breeders who were focused on developing a standard for the blue egg laying bird with muffs, beards, and tails were successful in getting the Ameraucana recognized by the APA in 1984!
Although the Ameraucana sort of shares its name with the Araucana, the only things they really have in common are the fact that they both carry genes for blue eggs and both have the same type of comb.
The Araucana is a ‘rumpless’ bird. This is because they are literally missing their last 2 vertebrae, so they do not grow a tail. They also have amazing curled feathers that extend from the ear area, called tufts. These two traits, rumpless and tufted, may or may not be present in all Araucana birds due to heredity and selective breeding, but they should never be present in an Ameraucana.
In contrast, an Ameraucana always has a tail as well as a beard and fluffy face muffs, which you should never see on the smooth face of an Araucana.
Accepted large fowl Araucana varieties are black, black breasted red, white, and both gold and silver duckwing. Black, black breasted red, blue, buff, silver, and white are the recognized varieties for bantams. The recognized Ameraucana varieties are black, blue, blue wheaten, brown red, buff, silver, wheaten, white, and self-blue (lavender) for bantam and large fowl birds, except for self-blue which is large fowl only.
Ameracana, Americana, and Americauna are all different spellings for what is also known as an Easter Egger, which is a mixed breed bird that typically lays a blue egg. Even though these birds have actually been around the longest, today they may be bred from Ameraucanas and/or Araucanas and the spellings understandably confuse those who purchase them.
Easter Eggers may be tufted, rumpless, tailed, smooth faced, or have beards or muffs. They may have just about any comb shape there is, and come in all sorts of colors and patterns. They are basically a mixed breed chicken that has the possibility of laying a blue egg. But green, brown, tan, white and various tints of these colors are possible as well, depending on what the genetic mix of your particular chicken is.
Why Does One Keep Ameraucana Chickens?
The Ameraucana chicken is a delightful addition to your backyard flock. While you could certainly process them as a smaller meat bird, most are drawn to them for their sweet disposition and their beautiful blue eggs.
They lay approximately 200-250 eggs per year that are in the medium-large to large range. The ideal color of the egg is a lovely medium pastel blue, but you may see anything from a very light pastel blue to a blue-green tone, and the color will be the same all the way through the shell. This is different than a blue egg with a brown overlay that appears greenish on the outside, from the blend of the two colors.
Ameraucanas are not known to be a particularly broody breed, however they tend to be attentive mothers when they do decide to hatch.
Are Blue Eggs Better For Me?
Contrary to some old information still floating around out there, blue eggs do not contain any sort of magical health boosting benefits. The egg color is simply created by complete permeation of the pigment oocyanin into the egg shell as it is being created by the hen. The egg contents and it’s nutritional value are the same as any other chicken egg.
I find my Ameraucanas to be super curious and sweet natured birds, even as chicks. They are always the first to greet me in the layer yard and my big ole’ fluffy rooster insists on being picked up, by basically standing on my shoes! Although it doesn’t last long, and he is anxiously wanting to get back down again, it really is one of the highlights of my day.
In general, they are a pretty high energy bird, so they will thrive with a home where they can run around chasing bugs and entertaining themselves during the day. I would not call them easily spooked or flighty in general, but they will definitely take off over a fence if they feel threatened, so keep that in mind. They are not a particularly ‘bossy’ or ‘wimpy’ bird, but problems may occur in close quarters, as with just about any breed. If given plenty of space to spread out, they tend to get along with other birds of similar size quite nicely.
As with all poultry, the cleaner their living quarters are, and the more space each bird has, the healthier and more robust they will be. I recommend housing all poultry in a secure ‘hen house’ or barn at night to protect them from predators.
Hens are typically happy and content to share a nest box for laying, even when provided with multiple options. The girls are so easy-going that I sometimes find two in the same box at the same time!
They enjoy ample roosting space and will usually just fly up to the roosting bars, but many owners will provide a ramp to accommodate all in their coop.
The Ameraucana is a hardy bird that does well in most climates. But do keep in mind that even for hardy breeds, extreme cold and extreme heat are going to be an exception for just about any bird without some sort of accommodations. I live in central Texas where it can easily get into 110+ heat indexes, so I am sure to provide LOTS of shady spaces that allow for good wind movement, sufficient air movement through the coops and runs, and ample water sources that beards/wattles can be dipped into.
In contrast, for very cold climates, efforts should be made to provide water sources that do not allow beard/wattle dipping. Wind breaks should be provided along enclosure walls that receive chilling wind and blowing precipitate.
Always remember that it is very important to leave plenty of ventilation in the enclosure to prevent moisture build up, which may contribute to respiratory disease and frostbite. Chickens with large combs and wattles are obviously much more susceptible to damaging frostbite than Ameraucanas, but it can be a concern for any chicken enduring freezing temps and/or windchills.
For further info about chickens in winter weather, check out this blogpost.
As mentioned before, these active birds very much enjoy the ability to roam around during the day catching insects and various other small prey they come across, but addition of a well-balanced chicken feed will keep them in tip top condition.
Please note that chicken feed is not the same thing as scratch. A poultry specific pellet or crumble will provide needed protein, vitamins, and minerals to boost your flock’s health and nutrition. Scratch is basically just a treat.
If your birds are not free ranging and do not have access to soil/sandy ground, you may also want to include some free choice grit and I personally always leave out a free choice calcium supplement, such as oyster shells, for any of my egg layers.
Fresh clean water should be available at all times.
Where to Purchase?
This is where doing your homework comes into play! Remember the opening descriptions above? You will need to ask questions and CAREFULLY read bird descriptions to be sure you are getting Ameraucana- not Ameracana, Americauna, etc- do not assume they made a typo; anyone putting an effort into breeding quality birds should know the proper spelling! This can be a very frustrating and disappointing mistake for someone wanting an Ameraucana, when they actually end up with an Easter Egger.
If you are looking for birds who have possible show potential, definitely stick with breeders that breed toward APA’s Standard of Perfection, and hopefully someone who is actively showing. That being said, those who actively show are typically a little less likely to shake loose of very many birds, but they can usually point you in the direction of a quality breeder who will. Expect to pay the highest price for birds obtained from a breeder that has award winning stock- you get what you pay for! These individuals have put much money, effort, and time into their birds. I would not expect to find their chicks for less than $10+ each.
If you are ordering chicks or eggs from an individual on-line who is simply breeding for hobby and/or profit, be sure to read about their breeding program and look at the photos of their parent stock that are listed on their website. Look for all those things listed above in the parents, that will help give you visual clues to the parent birds’ lineage. Ask them if they breed for SOP, how they have their breeding pens set up, and what other breeds they raise. It’s always helpful in determining where to get your birds from, when you find a breeder that is anxious to tell you all about their program! These chicks will likely be in the $6+ price range.
Lastly, purchasing Ameraucana chicks from farm supply stores or a large commercial hatchery can be hit or miss on what you actually get. Although there are smaller scale hatcheries who closely monitor what they are breeding to keep consistent and desirable traits, you should remember that most of the larger hatcheries are focused on production and high-volume sales.
This certainly does not guarantee that you are going to get an inferior quality bird, but it is food for thought! Just be sure to do some research, especially making note of the hatchery’s description and smaller print ‘foot-notes’ about the birds you will be receiving. Large scale commercial hatchery and farm store chicks will likely be in the $3+ range.
As always and with any breed, please be careful of anyone selling ‘show quality’ eggs or chicks. Breed standards are written for adult birds, and no one can tell you that an egg or a chick is going to meet those criteria when it is all grown up. If they come from ‘show winning’ birds and are obtained from the actual person that won those ribbons, they certainly have a better chance of growing into show quality specimens than those from someone who is willy-nilly breeding birds in their backyard with no idea of what the SOP is, but no one can predict a winner from an egg or a chick.
Struggling to find funny chicken names? Check out >> 500+ Funny Chicken Names.
Do you want to add one or more solid black chickens to your flock? Check out >> 15+ Black Chicken Breeds: Beauties for Your Backyard Flock
Or would you like to raise beautiful and unique chickens? Check out >> The Incredible Silkie Chicken: Ultimate Care Guide (& More!)
Tammy Gallagher has owned and raised chickens for over a decade, but breeding with intention has become her passion during the past few years. Her current focus is the continued improvement of her Silkies and Rainbow Layers. She is inspired by the sheer joy of visitors to her farm who see these alluring birds and beautifully colored eggs for the first time. Learn more at Shady Paddock Farm.