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Table of Contents
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Join Nicole and Steve Neumann from Neumann Farms as they answer the great debate on Ameraucana vs Easter Egger chickens.
What You’ll Learn
- What is an Ameraucana chicken?
- What is an Easter Egger?
- What is the difference between Ameraucanas and Easter Eggers?
Our guest today is Steve Neumann of Neumann Farms. An Ameraucana expert and board member for the Ameraucana Alliance, Steve is not only dedicated to educating others about Ameraucanas but also interested in poultry genetics. He helps us understand the difference between Ameraucana, Araucana and Easter Eggers in a language we can understand.
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Announcer: Welcome to the Backyard Bounty Podcast, from heritageacresmarket.com. Where we talk about all things backyard poultry; beekeeping, gardening, sustainable living, and more. And now, here's your host Nicole.
Nicole: Good morning everybody. Thank you for joining us for another episode of Backyard Bounty. Today I'm joined by Steve Neumann with Neumann Farms, who's here to help settle the great debate, that what is the difference between Easter Eggers and Ameraucanas and Araucanas, and what all of this means to chicken people. So, Steve, thank you so much for joining me today.
Steve: Hi. Happy to be here, happy to set the record straight, give you a little bit of information. First a little bit about me, I am on the board of directors of Ameraucana Alliance, the American breed club. And that breed club is headed up by some of the original founders and creators of the breed, Mike Gilbert, John Blehm and others. And so I spend time speaking to them, and I'm in close contact with them about the history and the origin of the breed, and some of the historical struggles over the years that they've had in terms of recognition and getting accurate information out. And I feel like I have a pretty good handle on it now. So, I'm ready to answer your question.
Nicole: Great. I would say you're definitely the authority in this, just from following you. And when I got into chickens as an adult, I had chickens when I was a kid, but the very first chickens that I ever had were actually the ones that I purchased from you. So, I've kind of been following your farm and stuff for a while, and I see the information that you put out there, and the events that you speak at, and the resources that you use. And there's a ton of misinformation out there, and you are definitely a great wealth of information on this topic. So, I'm excited to get the information out there. It's very confusing, and I know that you'll help unconfuse it for us.
Steve: Right, okay. So, you want me to start with the difference between Ameraucanas and Easter Eggers?
Nicole: Yeah, that'd be great.
Steve: So, in order to understand the difference between Ameraucanas and Easter Eggers, first you need to take a step back, and you need to examine the concept of what is the breed. Now, this is perhaps the origin of most of the misunderstandings that happen surrounding this argument, is that people have a vastly different concept of what a breed is, based on their level of experience. A master breeder of chickens does not think of a breed, as a person who goes and buys chicks at Tractor Supply and has no experience breeding. So, to an amateur or a layman person, their concept of breed is that it is almost like a species, like a thing unto itself, that it exists with all of its attributes contained, and that it is a thing unto itself that does not need maintenance or improvement, and that it just exists as a thing, as a species. And that is their concept of the breed.
Steve: And so, when you hear new chicken keepers talk about breeds, they talk about Rhode Island Reds, or this. Well, Rhode Island Reds are bred by hundreds or even thousands of people, and have vastly different genetics based on individual lines. The different lines of birds are almost uniquely different from each other, to where they're almost like separate breeds. Each line has different genetics, and so a breed is not something that is the uniform as they think.
Steve: Now, a master breeder understands this, because master breeders are constantly examining and breeding to the standards. So, they understand the diversity of faults, and the uniqueness of birds between lines and what happens when you cross two different lines of breed, that you can get completely unpredictable results, because the genetics are so different from one line to another. So, that's the way that they perceive it.
Steve: This concept is also further muddied, because example, in horses or in dogs, you have this concept of purity. You have papers, you have pedigrees, you have registries, you have things where they trace the lineage of individual bloodlines. And you can trace back the heritage, and that's the way that they perceive of what a breed is. Something that is kept separate, and something that is kept pure.
Steve: Whereas with chickens, it is completely different. In chickens what happens is, the governing authority in North America that decides, is the American Poultry Association and American Bantam Association. And what happens is, breed clubs, or groups of poultry financiers, lobby to have a breed approved, they write a standard for the breed, carefully listing out all the attributes of the breed. They may commission an artist to draw a picture of the ideal or perfect specimen of that breed, that outlines exactly what it's supposed to look like, and then it is admitted to the American Standard of Perfection, or to the American Bantam version. And so, what you have is, you have a standard that is based on physical appearance. Not on bloodlines, not on heritage. And so, with chickens, a breed is defined... it's kind of like a pumpkin pie recipe.
Steve: Try to think of it this way, you can make pumpkin pie with a sugar pumpkin, you can also make pumpkin pie with a butternut squash. If you look at a can of pumpkin pie filling, and you look at the ingredients, it says butternut squash, it's not even pumpkin. And you can use a hubbard squash, and you can use... somebody might use more ginger or some less whatever, but it's all pumpkin pie. It's not an apple pie, it's definitively a pumpkin pie.
Steve: So, what the standard is, is it establishes guidelines it has to be this, this, and this. But within that, you are free to use the ingredients that you want to create that particular breed. And so, you have now of course with Ameraucanas you have eight approved varieties. There are different colors and they have different genetics. Of course those different varieties were created using different breeds with those colors to create them. So, all of the varieties have slightly different genetics, based on the breeds that they initially used to bring those colors over to the breed.
Steve: So, the difference between my line of Silvers, I have Silver Ameraucanas and I have Blue Ameraucanas, and while there's some similarities, the behavior is different. My Silvers are a little bit more flighty, my Blues are more calm. And the faults in different lines are different, based on the birds that were used. You'll struggle with different problems in the different lines of birds, and different variety. And again, this can vary from line to line. And so, there's a lot of significant differences in chickens. There's a tremendous amount of diversity. It is all the same species, but what you're seeing when you see a breed is it's a very loose flection of phenotypes or physical appearance that make that breed up.
Steve: And the standard in general is composed of like say 20 or 30 things, points of clarification, that make that breed, that breed. And so, you can go down on the list of those particular points, and a breed that doesn't have one of those things, that doesn't exclude it from being the breed. So, say for example that the standard for Ameraucanas, they're supposed to have red bay eyes, their eyes are supposed to be red. Well, many people have Ameraucanas that have orange eyes. It's not to standard, it's not perfect, it's something that's not quite right, but that doesn't exclude them from being Ameraucanas. They're still Ameraucanas they just have that one particular fault.
Steve: So, now you want to talk about, at what point does an Ameraucana become an Easter Egger? You have to judge these things based on the standard, and based on whether or not they breed true 50% of the time or more. And that was the guideline established by the breed founders. What people need to understand is that Ameraucanas were bred up out of Easter Eggers. In the 1970s, the first Ameraucana was created by Mike Gilbert, and it was a Wheaten bantam Ameraucana. And that's as of the standard exists today. But he used Easter Eggers to create that particular Ameraucana. He bred them up, he crossed Easter Eggers to other show birds, other breeds. So he created Ameraucanas from Easter Eggers.
Steve: And so, Easter Eggers have existed in the United States since the 1920s, since the first birds were imported from Chile. And so, they've been in the United States for a long time. But in the 1970s, there was some effort to standardize these birds. And so, the founders of the breed established this 50% rule, to ensure that the birds are true breeding, so that people would be able to clarify and differentiate them from Easter Eggers, from which they were derived. And so, that's why the 50% true breeding rule is there.
Steve: So now you want to get back to the, at what point does an Ameraucana become an Easter Egger? Okay, so let's say that you have a bird, it has the wrong color eyes. That doesn't make it an Easter Egger. What about if it has, let's say, the blue color is brown, it's mousy, and that's not to standard, the blue is supposed to have good quality lacing. But it's a color fault, that alone does not make the bird not an Ameraucana. It's a fault. It's just you're getting gradually to more greater problems.
Steve: Now, when you get to some of the disqualifications that are spelled out in the standard. For example, the standard disqualifies any birds that had yellow skin. So, if you have a bird that has green legs or yellow legs, then you can tell for sure that that bird is not an Ameraucana, it's an Easter Egger, because that is a clear fault outlined as a disqualification in the Standard of Perfection. And another one is clean faced Ameraucanas, it's a dominant gene, the bearded muffs, and so you could get some clean faced birds sometimes if you're dealing with breeding single muffed birds. Those are disqualifications. And you could still technically use them in your breeding program to produce Ameraucanas that are to standard, if they're true breeding for everything else. But those birds themselves are not standard Ameraucanas, they're just all birds, they're Easter Eggers.
Steve: And so, any bird that does not meet the breed standard, and breed true 50% of the time or more, is an Easter Egger. And so, what you get is you have a lot of hatcheries that sell birds that they call Ameraucanas. I went to Tractor Supply yesterday, there was a little bin said, "Ameraucanas." I looked in there, there was no Ameraucanas in there. They're sourced from a hatchery, these are birds of mixed descent, they're bred for blue laying or green laying eggs, imperfect, sometimes you get some brown egg duds. And these birds, many of them have beards and muffs and pea combs, and they have tails, and superficially they look like Ameraucanas, but if you actually look at the standard and compare, to a trained eye, people can easily see the difference.
Steve: Often the hatchery Easter Eggers are different in shape. They have been bred to production birds for increased egg laying, and that is not... The standard Ameraucanas have large full chests, they're not egg production birds, they're a true dual purpose breed. The birds should have a nice thick carcass and have good width. And a lot of the hatchery Easter Eggers, they're very thin birds, and they're bred specifically for their egg laying capability. And a lot of them have heritage mixed from other production strains of common hatchery varieties.
Nicole: So, kind of simply put, Easter Eggers are sort of the reject Ameraucanas?
Steve: Well, Easter Eggers existed before Ameraucanas. And that's something that people need to understand too, that they were the original blue egg laying bird that was in the United States for decades. There was no standard blue egg laying breed in the United States for decades. So, they precede both breeds, so I wouldn't necessarily call Easter Egger rejects.
Steve: Now however, you can have two different types of... by the definition that they don't meet the standard for any kind of true breeding or any standard variety. You could take a Buff Orpington, and cross it to an Ameraucana, and you could make an Easter Egger. Or you could also take two Ameraucana, you could take a Wheaten colored Ameraucana, and you could take a Wheaten Ameraucana and a brown/red Ameraucana, and cross them, and because the colors are mixed and they don't breed true 50% of the time or more, those birds are also Easter Eggers.
Steve: I could also take and breed my Blue Ameraucanas, and I could get a Blue Ameraucana that has significant silver leakage because of some genetic problem. And because he does not meet the standard for a color variety, he would also be regarded as an Easter Egger. So, there's different kinds... some are crosses, some are non-standard Ameraucanas that are not true breeding colors, and then others are I guess you would call them rejects, or culls from Ameraucana breeding programs that don't meet the breed standard.
Nicole: Being a amateur when it comes to the chicken breeds, I always assumed that it was like dogs or horses that you mentioned, where Ameraucanas have always been Ameraucanas, and they're just Ameraucanas. Not that they were a mix of... everybody can get to this breed of bird with a different recipe, I think that's really interesting. And obviously I have a very poor understanding of genetics, with the ability to be able to make a bird with using different birds in the background. So I think that's really interesting.
Steve: We have people that have won big poultry shows, who have out crossed the lines to Australorp. So there are Ameraucanas that were crossed to Australorp within the last five years. You have other master breeders who are winning at big shows with birds that have been out crossed through Blue Andalusians to bring in superior lacing. And again, all of these pursuits, all of these crossings, have been intentional efforts to achieve the standard. The standard is the goal. Whatever you do to get there doesn't matter, as long as you successfully arrive. And so breeding effort is not determined by what you have, it's determined by where you're going with it. And if you are breeding to the standard, and the standard is dictating your actions, then anything's fair game, as long as you're making progress to include in those traits.
Nicole: I know that it's on your Facebook page, you have occasionally posted birds that you had available that had leakage. Can you tell me kind of what that means?
Steve: Leakage is just basically color that bleeds through on a solid color bird. So for example, say you have birds that are black or blue, and they're built on the extended black or birchen mochas, the black or blue is supposed to extend across the bird evenly, however sometimes just through insufficient melanisers or potential other genes that are present, these birds will get some silver or gold color that shines through. And sometimes chromosomal red will also leak through on the wings on males, and sometimes even females if they're silver based. And so, you'll get foreign color that comes through, that shines through, that is considered undesirable standard.
Nicole: Okay, that makes sense. So, what are some of the other common misconceptions that you've found between these breeds?
Steve: Another common myth with Ameraucanas, and this is really common on some popular blogs that come up in the early 2000s that were published by, I would call them pop culture chicken expert icons. These people published articles on the difference between Ameraucana, Easter Egger, and Araucana. Again, when you're trying to explain the difference between those things, if you don't understand breed standards, and how those breed standards guide what is and is not a breed, then you're dealing with misinformation from a conceptual misunderstanding that's easy to create.
Steve: So, one of the myths out there is, Ameraucanas only lay blue eggs. Well now, again, the standard for Ameraucanas composed as 20 to 30 points of distinction in the standard, depending on the variety, and egg color is only one of them. So, Ameraucanas are supposed to lay blue eggs. But genetically a green egg is still the same gene that creates a green egg, it's just a little bit of extraneous brown pigment that shifts the color of the egg toward green. So, yes, blue eggs is the desirable goal, but many strains of Ameraucanas, many varieties and lines of birds, have birds that lay more greenish than blue.
Steve: Now, can Ameraucana lay a brown egg? No. That's not correct. Are they supposed to lay white eggs? No. They're supposed to be blue. And blue is also a matter of subjectivity. The pigment that goes into creating a blue egg is bill averting. And if you look at the Latin root for the word bird egg, it's green. So, this bile, this substance that turns the eggshell blue throughout, this is not a coating that permeates the entire eggshell. This pigment is actually a greenish blue to start with. It's not blue, blue. It's green. And so, there is an interaction with this color and the actual structure of the shell, and some of the brown pigments that shifts this color more toward the blue egg.
Steve: And so, selecting for that is extremely complex. And when breeders are looking at a breed standard, they're looking at all the points of distinction. And egg color is not something that is judged on in the poultry show, I mean unless it's an egg show. But the actual birds themselves, when they're being judged, are judged on their physical appearance. And so, egg color is often one of the least considerations in a line of birds with serious breeders. As long as the eggs are green or blue, they're going to continue moving forward with more important points. And then once they get all of the issues with type and shape down, and then the feather color, and then everything is dialed in, then they would work on finding the egg color, and selecting birds that lay bluer eggs.
Nicole: And feeding off the egg color topic, I see you comment regularly on the Olive Eggers. I know that this is kind of a different topic than what we're talking about. But as far as the egg colors, a lot of the charts that are online on how to achieve an Olive Egger, those are usually not correct?
Steve: Right. There's a lot of disinformation spread, based on if people have created charts trying to be helpful, or either trying to promote their farms, or doing whatever. People have created visual charts, and people find these things circulated online and think they're true, and then they breed and then they're disappointed. The egg color inheritance is not like mixing paint. It doesn't work that way. It's a series of dominant and recessive genes. There's only one gene that controls blue eggs, and it is dominant. But the genes that control brown eggs, there's a whole bunch of them. It's a very complex. There's some recessive, there is pigment inhibitors, there are some that are sex linked. It's very extremely complex process. It is not at all like mixing paint.
Steve: And so, the people who have very basic understanding of this, they try to make charts to be helpful to show people what to do. And then these people follow these charts and they end up getting brown eggs. Or selling off them. And people, especially if they're selling birds, have a responsibility to know what they're producing, and so that the customers know what they're going to get. That the buying back process, they're going to be getting a 50% chance of brown eggs. Not, you're going to get all the eggs.
Steve: And people also mix up the terminology between F1 and a backcross 1. And just again, it's a lack of understanding about what is exactly happening to color. I created an Olive Egger group, and I created a breeding chart to try to clarify some of that, and left that in place so that people can find that online, and have a better shot of not disappointing each other, and then also producing fewer culls. I think in our hobby, the goal of everybody should try to produce as few useless birds as possible, and save those lives of ones that don't need to be unnecessarily culled because they're the wrong thing, they're not what people are trying to produce.
Nicole: Yeah, I absolutely agree. I know that that is a common issue, especially when you're breeding. "Oh, this one's not exactly what I wanted." And then it's very wasteful.
Nicole: So, what about the difference... we talked about the difference between Easter Eggers and Ameraucanas. But what about the difference between Ameraucanas and Araucanas?
Steve: With Araucanas there is a common misconception, and this is fairly complex like other things. This breed has so much mythology surrounding it, and it's hard to get the accurate information. We have people publishing things based on periphery knowledge of something. They know a little bit, but they don't know the whole story. And their misinterpretation and confusion about the event creates disinformation that then gets published and carries on as a myth, and it becomes something that ends up on the FAQ for the breed clubs trying to straighten this out.
Steve: So, back in the 1920s, there are multiple sources in Poultry World world, that say Araucanas came to the United States in the 1920s. That is not accurate. Araucanas, as the breed exists today, the breed that was approved in 1976 by the American Poultry Association, that breed did not exist in the 1920s. It did not exist.
Steve: And so, the birds that first came that laid blue eggs, that had the blue egg gene, they originally came from Chile. They were imported into the United States in the 1920s. They were mongrels. The people in Chile that had chickens, fowl, like many places, like many developing countries, they had no concept of a chicken was a chick. And they didn't have any effort to control the breeding, or the phenotype, the way they looked. They killed the sick ones, and let the healthy ones breed willy nilly. And that was their breeding program. And so some of the birds had blue egg genes, some of them didn't. They had all at that point been crossed to other breeds.
Steve: When the first guy who get them in the United States opened up the crate and saw them, immediately recognized that there was Dominique blood in one, and there was Rhode Island Red blood in another. These birds were a mess. They were absolute mutts from the start. They were Easter Eggers, not Araucanas that came to the United States.
Steve: And so, efforts to standardize these birds and create standard phenotypes, standard looks, out of those original birds progressed over decades. And so, back in the day, back in the 1970s, all the birds that laid, all the chickens that laid blue eggs or green eggs, were called Araucanas, all of them. With tails, beards, muffs, rumpless, tufted, didn't matter what they looked like, they laid a blue egg, it was an Araucana. That was the concept of the breed. The breed concept was attached at that time to the egg color.
Steve: And so, at that time, there were multiple groups of people that were breeding different looking Araucanas. Some had groups that were rumpless, that didn't have a tail and it had tufts. And then other groups were breeding tailed versions with beards and muffs. And so, in the 1970s, Mike Gilbert created the first Ameraucana, and joined up Don Cable, and they formed the Ameraucana Bantam Club. And they started creating different varieties of bantams varieties, different colors. And that involved out crossing the different breeds to make these things with Jerry Segler. And then they had some success getting their birds recognized with the American Bantam Association. And so the American Bantam Association, in the 1970s, they recognized both rumpless and tufted Araucanas, and they also recognized the tailed and bearded muffed Araucanas in the 1970s.
Steve: Well, the big change came in 1976 when the American Poultry Association unilaterally decided, and without a qualifying meet, they decided Araucanas, "We're going to admit them into the American Poultry Association standard, but only the rumpless and tufted birds are going to be admitted under that breed name." And so, all of a sudden, these people had been breeding the Ameraucanas, the birds that would become Ameraucanas, the Araucanas with tails and beards and muffs, all of a sudden their breeding name was taken by something that wasn't theirs.
Steve: And so, in 1979 they took a vote to choose a new name for their breed, and they voted nine to five. The two choices were Ameraucana and American Araucan. And so, they chose Ameraucana. So, that is where the name originated, it was voted on in 1979, and they decided that. And they moved forward differentiating themselves as a separate breed from the Araucanas.
Steve: The birds were always different birds. They were derived and standardized from Easter Eggers, different Easter Eggers. But many histories mistakenly claimed that Ameraucanas were derived directly from the tufted and rumpless birds, which is ridiculous because both of those genes are dominant. You couldn't use a standard Araucana to create an Ameraucana. You can't create a tail out of no tail, you know what I mean? So, yes, those birds were never used in the creation of the Ameraucanas. Ameraucanas were derived from Easter Eggers, from mongrels, and bred up to show stock.
Steve: The same thing is, for the Araucanas, that breed was created, it did not exist at any time imported from Chile. It was created in the 1970s. So, both birds, both breeds, were intentionally created through the efforts of breeders and breed clubs in the 1970s.
Nicole: That's very complicated history. I can see how there could be so much confusion out there.
Steve: The blue egg laying chickens is Araucanas, right? Well then, the American Poultry Association admitted the rumpless and tufted breed as Araucanas in '76. And all of a sudden their birds that they were selling, really didn't look like Araucanas, because the majority of the hatchery birds were not rumpless and tufted. Rumpless and tufted birds were pretty darn rare, even during the breed development. The ones with tails and beards and muffs were far more common.
Steve: And so, the hatcheries were calling these things Araucanas. And then when Ameraucana breed was admitted and created, they were the tailed and bearded muffed, "Oh, our Easter Eggers look closer to these, let's call them that." So, that's why you have all the hatcheries calling their Easter Eggers, Ameraucanas. And they have not let up. Even here in 2019, I go to Tractor Supply and there's a bin of Easter Eggers, and they spell Ameraucana, even with the correct spelling, sometimes you see it spelt lime A-M-E-R-I-C-A, they spell it wrong, and that's their way to avoid responsibilities by using a different variant in spelling. But they just don't care. They don't care, they use the same spelling, and they sell their Easter Eggers as Ameraucanas. And some of them have disclaimers, "These are not standard color birds." But they're not bred to standard at all in terms of type or anything. So, they're Easter Eggers.
Nicole: So, the best way, if somebody wanted to get birds that actually met the standard, I assume the best way to get them would be through a specialized breeder, and not so much the large scale hatcheries?
Steve: Correct. And the thing is, I'm a member of the Ameraucana Alliance. And joining breed club has a lot of benefits. It's only, I mean it's $10 a year, or $25 for three years to join the Ameraucana Alliance. You get a handbook sent to you that has a detailed history of the breed, as written from Mike Gilbert in the first person, so there's no misunderstandings. And you can read that, and it's very interesting. Lots of history. You can see the difficulties that the breed went through in the early years to seek recognition.
Steve: I recently got into a dispute, and Wikipedia had released something about "Why are you putting this stuff about the breed clubs in history?" Well, the history of the breed is the history of the clubs. Without the clubs the breed wouldn't exist. Those clubs are responsible for creating the breed. A breed is never created by one person, it is always a collaborative effort. It takes a lot of people interested in something and passionate and agreeing to the same thing to create that same thing, and then go through the difficult qualifying process that is established by the American Poultry Association, to get that breed qualified is a big challenge.
Steve: And so, creating a breed... sometimes I see some amateurs on chicken forums, "I'm going to create a new breed." No you're not, because creating a new breed is a huge endeavor. And you have to not only create something that you like, you have to create something that appeals to a large group of people, who are all willing to join membership of the American Poultry Association, and then travel all across the United States a qualifying meet, and show birds that all adhere to a standard that you agreed upon. It's a huge... and you have to do it twice. It's a huge process. Yeah, the breed clubs are responsible.
Steve: And so if you are serious about the breed, then hitch your wagon to a breed club, and learn. The wonderful thing about the Ameraucana Alliance Club that I'm in, is that I can message Mike Gilbert, I can talk to him on Facebook. I mean, he's still accessible to pick his brain. Same thing with John Blehm. And they're very helpful to new breeders. And the people who created this breed, and who bred it for 40 years, they're still alive, and they're still helping, and still sharing information. And so, it's a wonderful opportunity for people to get information directly from the horse's mouth. Not to get information from various blogs where people had chickens two or three years and are writing in an authoritative way, where they don't actually know what they're talking about. And they get a lot of the facts wrong, or their conceptual understanding of how breeds work is off.
Nicole: So, expanding upon that, I know that you're currently developing the Columbian Ameraucana, correct?
Steve: Yeah. It's just a project. And the thing about Ameraucanas is they have to be true breeding, and there are other true breeding colors, there's many actually. And I've chosen to create some Colombian... I love Colombian colored birds, I always have, it's my favorite color. And I love Ameraucanas, it's my favorite breed, and I'd love to have them both combined in one thing. And so I set out to create the color, and it's a long tedious process, with a lot of culling. Most of the birds are not correct. And even if you get the correct color you get the wrong type, and throwbacks from the parent stock that you used for that process. And so, it's messy.
Steve: And a lot of people who create project varieties, quality's really poor comparatively, and you can see the difference. Very few people have nice project varieties that are a standard in type and look great. The effort to create a standard variety, once you set out to do it, very few people are successful. And it's not really rocket science, it's just more a matter of being patient, having a lot of time, and you having a basic understanding of genetics. But mostly it comes down to persistence and raising out a ton of birds and culling all the ones that aren't correct.
Steve: And you have to do that anyway when you're breeding, and you're breeding a project variety. 95% of what you're creating is not suitable to advance what you're doing, and so it's a real tricky process. And it gives you a whole new appreciation for the breed founders who created the original eight standard varieties. The extraordinary effort that went into creating them, and making all the genes line up correct, it's a lot of work. And so I totally respect and admire the original founders and what they did for the breed. And I think anybody who's a serious chicken breeder, it's great for them to have a project. To just understand how truly amazing the individual varieties are, and why it's great to keep them separated, and to keep them pure, to not reinvent the wheel and to preserve all that hard work from the generations before that people have done on those varieties.
Nicole: Have you found any surprises or anything that you didn't expect when you started this breeding project?
Steve: Yeah. I got some surprises. I got some clean faced birds, and it's supposed to be a dominant gene, so there is obviously some variables especially in beards and muffs. And that first generation crossI got some clean faced birds which was really weird. And I didn't understand it.
Steve: So, there's a lot of things like that. There's some genes that have variable expression where the genes are there, but the actual outward manifestation of them is not. And so it looks like they don't have those genes, even though they might. I know there may be inhibitors. There's a lot of things that are not understood in terms of genetics and you start crossing birds. If you know a little, you'll find plenty more that you don't know. There's always surprises with chicken.
Nicole: Oh, yeah. So, is there any other common misconceptions or facts that have gotten muddied, that you feel need clarified when it comes to the Easter Eggers, Ameraucana, Araucana?
Steve: I think that's a pretty good summary. I think that, like I said, this breed has probably more mythology surrounding it, more erroneous thinking, more published inaccuracies than any other breed. And I think that it was just during that period of time, the blue egg craze, you know when the Ameraucana was approved, blue eggs were still a big novelty in the United States back in the '80s. And so, when that breed came out, the Araucanas and the Ameraucanas, there was a big craze for the blue egg, and there still is to some degree.
Steve: The egg color, you get a lot of people that come looking for Ameraucanas. "I want Ameraucanas with the real blue, blue, blue, blue eggs." And I'm like, "Oh, most of those really blue, blue blue eggs, those are Photoshopped, and they only exist on the internet in jazzed up photos that have been saturated for color." Almost all the blues, the real actual blues, are pastel colors, and many of them shift towards the green, turquoise phase. You get some sky blue, but they're very pale.
Steve: They're beautiful, but a lot of the eggs that you see pictures of online are not realistic. And people definitely are motivated to saturate pictures to sell their birds, or promote their farm or whatever. So, you get a lot of people that are altering photos, and giving unrealistic representations of what's out there. And if you really want a good representation of what's out there for egg colors, go to one of the APA's Egg Shows which they've been holding. They've started up the Egg Shows again, and they're real popular. And the real colorful eggs, the Ameraucana eggs included, are often heavily represented, and you can see the best of what people have to offer for egg color.
Nicole: So, if the listeners want to find more information about you and your breeding projects, where can people find you online?
Steve: For me, you can follow or like Neumann Farms on Facebook. You can look at my birds and my thoughts there. And then if you want more further information about the Ameraucanas, I recommend going to Ameraucana.org, that's the Ameraucana Alliance webpage, there's more good information there, including archives, local archives, that are open to the public. You can read all of the publications, newsletters and handbooks from the past. And you have a bunch of good information there directly from the breed founders.
Steve: And, like I said, if you join the club there, and join the club you can support the effort of breeding Ameraucanas, and get a nice handbook with a color chart printed on the back cover. And like I said, that's only $10 a year for an emailed newsletter, or $25 for three years. So, it's a little investment to support our breed, and to get yourself access to some good information. You then get a login on the web forum so you can go onto the web forum and get some of the information that's been published there over the years, in regards to breeding and exhibiting. Once you have a login, you can ask questions yourself more directly, and you can get information from the experts, the real experts, the people who created the breed.
Nicole: Wonderful. That definitely sounds like a valuable resource, and a very affordable one as well. Well, Steve, thank you so much, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us today, and kind of dispel some of those myths. And I know I have a much better understanding of the differences between these breeds. And hopefully the listeners do as well. So, I appreciate your time.
Steve: Thank you very much for having me on. Pleasure.
Nicole: And thank you for listening to Backyard Bounty, and we'll see you again next week.
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