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What Exactly is an Easter Egger?

For 15 years, I’ve been raising wonderful hens that I call my Ameraucanas. But they are NOT Ameraucanas. They have a lot of characteristics of actual Ameraucanas but calling them Ameraucanas is truly a misnomer.

So what is an Ameraucana? And what do I have in my poultry-yard laying gorgeous greenish-blue tinted eggs?

What I have is a mixed breed chicken that are usually referred to as Easter Eggers or Rainbow Layers. Some less-than-honest people may call them Americanas or Americaunas, as a trick of some sort…

It is easy to be confused, though – as the mixed breed Easter Eggers do retain many characteristics of the Ameraucana breed. The green colored egg shell is a rather dominant gene, and when you mix a green egg laying chicken with any other breed, you tend to get pullets who will also lay green tinted eggs. Eventually, the green egg gene gets too diluted, and you start to get other colors in the eggs like pink or other shades of brown.

“Easter Eggers” have other common traits that go hand-in-hand with the green eggs. They usually have muffs (fuzzy feathers on either side of their beaks) and/or beards. They also usually have greenish gray feet and legs and pea-shaped combs. They tend to be intelligent birds, good at avoiding predators, able to get along with other birds, and friendly with people. They often are good mothers and can go broody and successfully hatch and raise their own chicks. Because of the mixed genes in their backgrounds, they come in all sorts of colors and patterns.

I bought my first group of Easter Eggers from a hatchery and since then I have been allowing a couple to go broody and hatch out new chicks each spring. I also allow some cross breeding between the Easter Eggers and my other heritage breeds to add some new genetics. The Easter Eggers tend to be robust and healthy birds. I really love these chickens. They have great personalities, they are easy to raise, and the colored eggs look fabulous in my egg cartons. My farm customers love the green eggs.

Ameraucanas are a hard-to-find breed of chicken that shares many characteristics with Easter Eggers. The Ameraucana Breed was developed in the U.S. in the 1970’s, and Ameraucanas were admitted into the APA standard in 1984. True, pure-bred Ameraucanas lay green-blue tinted eggs, that should be bluer than the usual green coloring laid by most Easter Eggers. They also have the beard and muff facial furnishings, pea-shaped combs, and slate blue or green legs and feet. Pure-bred Ameraucanas come in specific colors that breed true, like most heritage breeds. The APA recognizes Black, Blue, Blue Wheaten, Brown Red, Buff, Silver, Wheaten, and White.

At Purely Poultry, we sell Blue Pure Bred Ameraucanas, but we sell out quickly each spring. We are working on being able to offer other colors in seasons to come…

 

Araucanas

Ameraucanas have a history that originated with another breed that also tends to get confused here – the Araucana.

True Araucanas are even harder to find than pure-bred Ameraucanas. One of the reasons why Araucanas are so rare and why the Ameraucana was developed is a lethal gene that accompanies the gene for the ear tufts that are one of the main characteristics of the breed.

The ear tufts are feathers rather than fluff and come from the area near the ear. Araucanas also are rumpless, meaning that instead of a perky tail, they have a rounded posterior. Araucanas, like Ameraucanas, come in specific colors that breed true – the APA recognizes 5 colors – Silver Duckwing, Golden Duckwing, Black, White, and Black Breasted Red. The Araucana was recognized by the APA in 1976, and they were first imported into the U.S. in the 1930’s from South America.

Araucana eggs tend to be bluer than Ameraucana eggs in general.
Olive Eggers

I have to mention Olive Eggers here. An Olive Egger is another mixed breed that, like the Easter Egger, originated from Ameraucanas or Araucanas. To get an Olive Egger, you need to mix a green egg laying Easter Egger with a dark brown egg laying chicken, like a Marans or a Welsummer. An Olive Egger is really a type of Easter Egger.

One thing to note about egg colors – there are breeds of chickens that lay white eggs, breeds that lay brown eggs, and breeds that lay green-tinted eggs. With white eggs and green eggs, the shell itself is white or green. So the inside of the shell is the same color as the outside. With brown egg layers, the shell color is actually white but with a brown coating of pigment over the outside of the egg. So by crossing a green egg laying chicken with a dark brown layer, you get a green egg shell with a brown coating over the outside. It looks olive or dark brownish green on the outside. The inside of the shell will be light green. Olive Eggs really look cool in egg cartons!
Cream Legbars

As a last note here, there is another breed option if you are looking for blue eggs – the Cream Legbar. This breed is still rare in the U.S. but is gaining popularity fast as the hens lay truly sky-blue colored eggs. Besides the amazingly blue eggs, Cream Legbars are also auto-sexing, which means that female and male chicks can be distinguished by color when they hatch. These cool chickens originated in Great Britain in the 1930s, not surprisingly using Araucanas in their development.



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