Araucana chickens are special in many senses: They have no tail, have tassels of feathers on their head and lay turquoise-coloured eggs. Find out here everything important about this unusual South American chicken breed, which experts have classed as a torture breed.
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Typical characteristics of an Araucana chicken are tassels of feathers at the side of the head and the lack of tail. This is considered a problematic breed characteristic.
Appearance of the Araucana: Chickens without a tail
Probably the most eye-catching feature of the Araucana chicken is its lack of a tail. Pedigree Araucana chickens neither have tail feathers nor caudal vertebrae. They also have no uropygial gland.
As a result, it is very difficult to tell roosters and hens apart upon first glance. It's most likely that we will recognise males by their somewhat more upright posture.
This breed's striking headdress is another typical characteristic. Araucana chickens have tassels of feathers in the same position as their ears, also known as bobbles or tufts. Some chickens also have feathery muffs as well as these bobbles, whilst others merely have muffs.
They have what is known as a pea comb on their crown. This refers to a low comb consisting of three rows like a string of pearls. The middle row is the highest.
A hen weighs between 1.6 and 2kg and a rooster between 2 and 2.5kg, therefore Araucanas are one of the smaller chicken breeds.
The Dwarf Araucana is even smaller. With the mini version, a rooster weighs around 0.85kg and a hen around 0.75kg.
Blue and turquoise eggs
As if the lack of a tail and feather bobbles on the head weren't unusual enough, Araucana chickens go one better: Females lay turquoise or green eggs . In the US and Britain, there are even variants bred that lay pink or red eggs – known as Easter Eggers.
The green eggs from Araucana chickens are said to be particularly low in cholesterine, therefore are considered very healthy. However, there is still no scientific evidence for this assumption.
The eggs from the dwarf form are smaller but also green.
Chickens with good egg production
Araucana hens lay up to 180 eggs per year which makes them very productive.
Friendly and intelligent chickens
These unusual chickens are considered curious and clever. If they discover a hole in the fence, these dainty animals can easily slip out through it.
They can be tamed easily and are friendly and trusting. However, the Araucana roosters have a powerful voice and their loud crowing can soon lead to problems with the neighbours.
Straightforward housing requirements
Robust and modest, Araucanas are relatively straightforward in terms of housing. Groups with four to five hens per rooster are ideal.
They can be kept both in a coop and in an outdoor enclosure, but these lively animals feel much happier outside.
Since they can fly very well, you should secure the run with a high fence. You should also install a protective net so that these dainty chickens don't fall victim to birds of prey.
What to pay attention to
You should take into account the following indications so that your Araucana flock is at ease:
- A run with a surface area of at least 10m2 per chicken
- Varied surroundings with grass, sand banks and bushes to hide in
- Fence at least 2m in height
- Protective net above the outdoor enclosure to protect from birds of prey
Araucana chickens need little supplementary feeding
Provided they have a varied run, Araucana chickens don't need much supplementary feeding. Like other chickens, they enjoy a bit of fruit or lettuce. It's of course also important to always provide them with fresh water.
Important: Pay attention to dry food so that no food remains in the feather tassels on the head and possibly gets stuck there.
Classed as a torture breed
Araucana chickens are considered undemanding and robust. Nevertheless, pedigree Araucana chickens have such serious health problems that the breed is classed as a torture breed in many European countries.
The feathery bobbles on the ears are usually linked to development abnormalities of the auditory canals. They are often so short that the eardrum is on the outside of the head. Scientific investigations have revealed that chick mortality increases dramatically when both parents have tassels of feathers.
Furthermore, the lack of a tail is problematic in several ways. According to the export report: “The lack of tail feathers and caudal spinal sections leads to copulation difficulties with tailless dogs, since important balance stabilisers for the act of mating are missing.”
Many chicks also die because they are not sufficiently weather-resistant due to their lack of uropygial gland. The uropygial gland is normally found in the tail root. It forms an oily secretion which greases the plumage and therewith protects it from damp, amongst other things.
Studies have also showed that rooster chicks without a tail often have problems defecating. Faeces can get stuck in the down of the anal feathers and harden, which can lead to complete closure of the cloaca orifice in the worst case.
“Torture breeding refers to breeding animals and tolerating or encouraging characteristics associated with pain, suffering, damage or behavioural disorders for animals.”
Purchasing Araucana chickens
Since tailless Araucana chickens with tassels of feathers are classed as a torture breed, experts advocate a breeding ban for this breed. Nevertheless, Araucanas are still bred with characteristics of torture breeding and offered for sale.
If you are concerned for the wellbeing of your pets, you should avoid buying such chickens. Instead, look for Araucana chickens with a tail and no tassels of feathers, because these are hybrids in which other breeds have been crossed.
Origin of the breed
Araucana chickens originate from South America, more precisely Chile and Argentina. This is where the Mapuche people live, who have kept semi-wild tailless chickens for several centuries.
The natives were previously called Araucana – likewise their tailless chickens. Other name varieties are Araucans or Araucanians.
This chicken breed was first documented in Chile in 1890.
As early as the 19th century, the first Araucana chickens reached North America from South America, then Europe too at the turn of the century. In 1921, they were shown at the World Poultry Congress in The Hague.
However, it took quite a while for these South American chickens gained a foothold in Europe.
Did you know? It was long believed that the first chickens were introduced to the Americas by Spanish and Portuguese conquerors.
However, more recent DNA analyses of chicken fossils in Chile revealed that chickens lived there at least 100 years before the conquest. Experts presume that Polynesian seafarers brought the animals to the Americas. Hence, the early ancestors of Araucana chickens very likely originate from Polynesia.
|Name||Araucana (Araucans, Araucanian)|
|Rooster weight||2 to 2.5 kilograms|
|Hen weight||1.6 to 2 kilograms|
|Egg production||Around 180 eggs per year|
|Minimum weight of hatching eggs||50 grams|
|Egg colour||Turquoise, green|
|Housing||closed coop, ideally outdoor enclosure|
|Food||Foragers with supplementary feeding|
|Suitable for:||First-time owners, families|