The Araucana is a challenging breed that combines several unusual traits of tufts (peduncles), rumplessness (no tail) and blue eggs.
Tufts are dissimilar to the muffs and beards in other breeds, like the Ameraucana, but instead appear as upturned feathers, somewhat similar to curls, that protrude near the ear on the birds and are technically called “peduncles”. Peduncles have many variations, but whatever the tuft type, they are best when tilting backwards like handlebars and match.
Unfortunately, double tuftedness is a lethal trait and when expressed the chicks die in shell or commonly abbreviated as “DIS” . While a typical good hatch rate is about about 80 percent no matter the breed, in Araucanas this may be lower. As Araucana flocks are always a mixture of tufted and clean-faced birds, if only genetically, the eggs may not all be fully tufted despite the parents looks. This is because the tufted gene has incomplete dominance and a range of phenotypes (appearances) becomes possible. Phenotype is how the genes express (show) themselves visually i.e. the physical appearance; while genotype is all the various genetic possibilities that can occur. Since tuftedness is only partially dominant, a mixture of tuft-types, including clean-faced and double tuftedness, is then possible in the hatch, when purchasing eggs.
The Araucana’s second unique trait is Rumplessness (Rp) which is characteristic of both the Persian Rumpless fowl as well as the Rumpless Game bantam, though the latter is no longer bred. . Unlike tufts this is not optional at least for showing purposes; though it s no effect on laying ability. Rumplessness appears as though they are missing a tail, which is accurate as the birds do not have the last two vertebrae in its back so neither do they have an uropygium (oil gland). It is important here to emphasize that the Araucana rumplessness is not of the recessive type that expressing itself as a “roach” back. With an uropygium, Araucanas cannot protect their feathers from either a simple bath or inclement weather. This trait though is not lethal, but an autosomal (not sex linked so either parent can have the genotype) dominant. Here the phenotype (the genotype express) will appear as half of the hatchlings will be tailed, and oddly at that, and the other half will have some degree rumplessness and there may be one or two that are truly rumpless. This first set will not be show worthy but since the rumpless genes now have been expressed (i.e. exist) successive breedings will eventually eliminate the undesired “tail” genes.
Still the lack of movable tails creates difficulty for fertilization as the rooster uses the weight of the tail to make contact with the hen’s cloaca (hens neither have a clitoris nor vagina ; roosters do not have a penis). To improve this situation, some breeders trim or pull out the feathers around the vent to aid in physical contact or mate a rumpless bird to a tailed bird in an effort to enhance fertility or finally use artificial insemination. Experience has proved that plucking and trimming do not work, though some breeders do it nonetheless. If a mating does not result in fertile eggs, typically, that has more to do with the fertility of the Araucanas involved than the amount of feather cropping.
Finally, the third and the most notable trait of the Araucana is the laying of blue or turquoise-colored eggs. The blue color comes from another autosomal dominant gene, also thankfully, not lethal. This mutation for blue coloration may have happened elsewhere in the world of poultry, but there is no documentation to support that.
How the blue egg happens, is that there is an autosomal dominant gene that controls egg shell color. When it happens is integral to the blue egg. When the liver bile pigment is deposited simultaneously with the calcium carbonate (which is white) then the whole egg is blue i.e. the inside of the eggshell is as blue as the outside. In contrast, when the liver bile deposits its by the shell gland instead, the outside of the egg shell is brown. When the two color cross, the egg surface will be either a khaki olive (olive-eggers) , a dull green or even pink.
As a last note, it is relatively common to find Araucanas which do not lay pure blue eggs and have brown shell genes. If this happens, use the birds for breeding which have the bluest of eggs, so that the mixed-colored eggs are slowly weeded out of your program.
Hopefully this is has helped you in choosing the Araucana for your breeding program.