I love real Ameraucanas, I admit. I’m probably biased, since some of my favorite birds were Ameraucanas. They don’t lay as well as my Easter Eggers, and their eggs aren’t as large or as vivid in color. Some have not been especially friendly. I can’t help it, though, I just adore Ameraucanas. Two of my first hens were Wheaten Ameraucanas, and it was they who made me realize that chickens were way, WAY cooler than I had ever imagined.
Lily and Galatea… ah. They were beautiful.
They were sort of Chicken Ambassadors, even as baby chicks. From the beginning, they would jump up on my hand when I had it in the brooder; loved to fall asleep on me. I, like a smitten fool, would leave my hand in there for ages as my arm grew more and more tired from the awkward position, but I just couldn’t bear to disturb them sleeping there. Having a little bird who is happy to voluntarily jump into your hand and who feels safe enough to sleep there seemed magical.
I kept thinking of Dickon from The Secret Garden. I felt like a bird charmer. I sang to them, like the maudlin sap I am. They peeped right back.
As soon as they were old enough, they’d flutter over the sides of the brooder and try to perch on my shoulders or my head. They just loved people, and won many people over to loving chickens right back. Galatea would work her way back into my hair, and then I’d feel her little head sort of snuggling against me and I would melt a little. As older birds, they seemed to pose for the camera like supermodels.
Who would have thought? My husband was sort of flabbergasted by their affection. They loved him, too, and he’d hardly spent any time with them. Still, they jumped up on his shoulders and perched there with that proud, sort of bird-of-prey look they have. I doubt he had any The Secret Garden imagery in his head; maybe he imagined himself as a medieval falconer: with jesses hanging down, his gauntlet on… his bird was ready to spring into the hunt as soon as he gave the word. I can see him now, the breeze ruffling his hair as he stands at the edge of the forest. (Then again, it’s more likely that this imagery of him is from my head, not his. I do get caught up, lucky girl that I am.)
They loved belly rubs. I had no idea birds would like to be petted!
Honestly, when I first got chickens, I wasn’t especially expecting them to be friendly–not actually, really friendly. I mean, I got “docile” breeds with the idea that I’d then be able to walk through the yard without having chickens screeching in terror trying to get away. That was one of my aims: no terrified, screaming chickens, please. I wanted something like the friendly, cheery little Easter Eggers I remembered meeting years ago. But when it came down to it, I really didn’t expect to have this thunderous stampede of chicken enthusiasm targeting me as soon as they hear the front door squeak . It’s enough to rattle your teeth, sometimes.
It’s a pet peeve. Spoiled birds: they’re hoping for treats! I have to practically wade through them sometimes, as if through a creek, with chickens up to my knees. “Sorry girls,” I call. “No treats right now!” What little beggars.
I need to get the front door fixed; that’s what I need to do. It’s old; it squeaks, and the chickens know it. It’s a siren song, as far as they’re concerned But we live on an old farm, so everything is out of square and we can’t quite manage to get the squeak stopped for any significant period of time. Instead, I open the door to step out–SQUEEEAAAHHH–and what the chickens hear is this: “SUNFLOWER SEEDS, COME AND GET IT!”
But I digress.
What I’m really getting to is another one of my pet peeves: the confusion hatcheries have between Ameraucanas, Easter Eggers and Araucanas. I get why normal chicken keepers might be confused–that’s because they take the word of the hatcheries. But solve this mystery for me: what’s the deal with hatcheries, actual major hatcheries, confusing Easter Eggers, Ameraucanas and Araucanas? My Pet Chicken advertises Easter Eggers as Easter Eggers, and Ameraucanas and Ameraucanas. It’s not that hard. An Easter Egger is a mixed breed; Ameraucanas and Araucanas are purebreds, bred to a particular standard. But Easter Eggers can be beautiful, too!
It’s the same with cats or dogs, and people “get it” for those pets. Dig: If I were selling some random yellow mutt as a purebred Golden Retriever, it would be dishonest. It would be dishonest even if I said “this retriever is not for show,” and it would be dishonest even if I intentionally misspelled retriever. “I never claimed it was a Golden ‘Retriever’ really. Didn’t you notice how I tweaked the spelling? I’m selling Retrivers, not Retrievers!”
I just think that bird wouldn’t fly. Or in this analogy, maybe I should say “that dog won’t hunt.” If I tried selling fake “retrivers,” fists of dog lovers all across the country would be raised to the sky in outrage at the sheer audacity of me, and justifiably so! Well, where are your fists, chicken lovers? So far as we can tell, My Pet Chicken is the only major hatchery that sells Easter Eggers correctly.
In fact, the first flock I met in person–the flock that convinced me that I HAD to have chickens some day–was a flock of bantam Easter Eggers. They were so cute, so varied. They were all colors. They were cheery and energetic. They didn’t look like any chickens I had ever seen pictures of. After my farm visit was done, I went home with two dozen of the most gorgeous tiny, green and blue eggs. I felt like it was a crime to eat them; they were like songbird eggs. I couldn’t believe chickens, real chickens, had actually produced those beautiful gems. They were otherworldly. Ameraucana eggs are beautiful, too! However… they’re more uniform. They’re blue, and as I said, usually a little less vivid (although that can vary, of course). But it’s only the Easter Eggers that can give you those beautiful shades of green, teal, sage, turquoise and so on.
So, I love Easter Eggers. I love that each hen has her own shade of egg shell. I love their little combs and elegant silhouette. I love their friendliness and cheery personality in general. I love that each bird looks different.
Seriously LOVE it. Some of mine (above) have crests and feathered legs. Two are beardless. All are unique in some way.
The misinformation that proliferates at hatcheries and on the Internet keeps people confused about the differences between the three–very smart people, sometimes. In fact, I’ve even seen the same misinformation in books and magazines, where the authors or editors must have simply taken some hatchery at its word, or perhaps they simply read it on a website somewhere and took it for truth. The folks at the Ameraucana Breeders’ Club and the Araucana Club of America must be at their wits’ end.
The thing that really gets me about it is this: why the deception? There’s nothing wrong with Easter Eggers–they’re great! I love mutts, whether dogs or cats or chickens. I love the purebred Ameraucanas, too, but it’s just because I had two very special hens; not because having a purebred bird is somehow inherently better. (Cross bred birds tend to be extra healthy.) Plus, many people prefer to get, say, a dozen Easter Eggers for a family flock (rather than the purebreds), because EEs are all different and can be more easily told apart and named by their children (or themselves).
So, what do you think: Is it fair for other hatcheries to mislabel their birds as they do? Do you think they know better and do it purposefully, or are they just uninformed about chicken breeding? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.