In recent years there has been something of a fashion fad for lavender color chickens. This has not been missed with the beautiful Ameraucana breed, which lays an abundance of beautiful blue eggs. Although these gorgeous birds are not called Lavender Ameraucana by the American Poultry Association, who prefer the term “self blue,” it is how most breeders and enthusiasts prefer to name them. Let’s discover more about this rare chicken.
Table of Contents
- Blue egg layer
- Lavender color feathers
- Cold and heat hardy
- Keep confined or free-range
- Pea comb
- Friendly temperament
Background and Breed History of Ameraucana Chickens
Ameraucanas are a chicken breed that was developed in the United States, but it originates from another chicken, the Araucana, which came from southern Chile during the 1930s.
The Chilean Mapuche Indians raised two separate chicken breeds, the “Collonca,” a blue egg-laying bird that had a single comb and was rumples, and the “Quetro” from the word “kerto,” and refers to the roosters’ stammering crow.
Quetros had flowing tails and a pea comb, but they laid brown eggs. When the Collonca and Quetro were crossed, they produced a bird that became known as the “Collonca de Arêtes,” which means Collonca with earrings. These birds had tufted ears and importantly, they laid blue eggs.
In 1556 the Spanish attacked the Mapuche Indians, and a poem called “La Araucana” by Alonso de Ercilla was written about their bravery. The word Araucana came from a place in Chile called the Gulf of Arauco. Ultimately, the name Araucana stuck, not only with the Indians but also with the chickens.
Great excitement was caused throughout the poultry world in 1921 when Spanish poultry expert, Professor Salvador Castello, wrote a paper he sent to the World Poultry Congress at the Hague.
Mistakenly Professor Castello believed that the fowl Dr. Bustos had told him about and shown him photos of were the native fowl of Chili. The truth was that they were chickens that Dr. Bustos had spent many years selectively breeding from the native Chilean fowl.
Unfortunately, much of the information given in that paper, which was incorrect, persisted in circulating about the breed even to this day.
On genetic investigation, it appears that the far ancestry of the Chilean fowl shows that the birds are probably of Asian descent, but how and when their ancestors arrived in Chili is unknown.
In the United States, Araucanas were first described by John Robinson when he wrote an article with photos of tufted, rumpless birds for The Reliable Poultry Journal in 1923.
A Chilean freighter became shipwrecked off the Scottish Western Isles, which was carrying some Araucana-type chickens. These birds established the Araucana breed in both Britain and Australia. What is important to note, is that these particular chickens were not rumpless and tufted, but were tailed, bearded, and muffed. However, tufted birds do pop up from time to time from a recessive gene. These Scottish Araucana were very similar to the standard Ameraucana recognized today.
Genetically the blue egg gene is dominant, and this proved profitable in America when blue egg fever hit. False claims that blue eggs were somehow healthier than other types meant that hatcheries tried to keep up with demand by crossing Araucanas with all sorts of other birds and passing them off as true Araucanas. Sadly this practice still continues today.
Dedicated breeders were strongly against this practice, and kept the bloodlines pure to prevent the Araucana from facing extinction. The breeders wanted to standardize the Araucana, but as is common, different ideas were had about what the bird should look like. Some were rumpless and tufted, while others had tails, beards, and muffs.
In 1975 the American Poultry Association held a convention in Pomona, California. Breeders of Araucana were asked to attend so standards for the breed could be decided. Four standards were proposed by the APA, but as none of the birds at the meet conformed to any of the standards proposed none couldn’t be agreed upon.
Finally, in 1976, the APA accepted a description for a tufted rumpless fowl, similar to that initially bred by Dr. Busto. This disqualified all other types of Araucana from the standard, including those which had tails, beards, and muffs.
The news was not received well by breeders of such birds, and much pressure was put on the APA to accept them, but without success.
Breeders of the bearded, muffed, tailed birds were left out in the cold, and could no longer show their chickens as Araucanas. This prompted a move to change their name to “American Araucana,” which ultimately led to the shortening of “Ameraucana”.
The first Ameraucana standard was proposed in 1979. There were enough wheaten bantam “Ameraucanas” in California for an American Bantam Association meet held on November 1979 at the Golden Gate Club in Pleasanton, CA to consider the proposal. In May 1980, the ABA unanimously voted to accept the “Ameraucana” bantam.
In 1984 the American Poultry Association’s board of directors unanimously voted to also accept the Ameraucana into its breed standard. They approved not only the bantam fowl, but also the large fowl.
Greater detail about the history of the Ameraucana breed can be found in a PDF on the Ameraucana breeders club website.
The large fowl lavender (called self blue) was created in 2005 by John W Blehm. Although blue Ameraucanas look pretty similar to the lavender (self blues), they don’t breed true. Lavender Ameraucanas do breed true, and lavender birds will only produce lavender chicks.
The Ameraucana is not a heritage breed and does not feature on the Livestock Conservancy Organisations list. Its exact numbers are unknown. It is certainly still a rare breed, however, as the blue eggs it lays maintain a reasonable level of interest, they keep the breed from becoming endangered. Their biggest threat is that many are crossbred with other chicken breeds, as the blue egg gene is dominant. These unpure birds still lay blue or green eggs and are commonly known as “Easter Eggers”.
Temperament and Behavior of the Lavender Ameraucana Chicken
There are mixed reviews about the temperament of the breed. While many people say that their chickens have very friendly personalities, others find them to be reserved.
As with any other chicken breed, much depends on how they are handled as chicks and throughout their early months. The more familiar they become to people and being touched, the more likely they will tolerate handling when they grow into adult birds.
In general, although they don’t usually seem to mind human interaction, they are not typically cuddly birds that enjoy being picked up, so this makes them less appealing to children.
Their main attraction seems to be more to do with their blue eggs, and they are a good chicken breed for a beginner, except if you want to breed from them with the hens raising chicks. This is because they are not usually a broody type of hen.
When compared to other chickens, Ameraucanas come somewhere in the middle of the pecking order, being neither shy nor aggressive. As with other breeds, Ameraucanas often spend most of their time with chickens of the same breed.
They are known for being quite independent and busy, making them good at free-ranging and foraging for their own food. Although they can be kept confined, they don’t tolerate it well and are not ideal for very small backyard or caged situations.
Lavender Ameraucana Breed Specifics and Traits
Large fowl Ameraucanas are considered to be dual-purpose birds, but the main interest is their unusual blue-shelled eggs.
According to the Ameraucana Breeders Club, the average weights for these birds are as follows:
- Rooster 6 ½ lbs.
- Hen 5 ½ lbs.
- Cockerel 5 ½ lbs.
- Pullet 4 ½ lbs.
- Rooster 30 oz.
- Hen 26 oz.
- Cockerel 26 oz.
- Pullet 24 oz.
Their life span is dependent on many factors, particularly how well they are cared for, and the feed they receive. On average, you can expect your Lavender Ameraucana to live for around six to eight years.
COLOURS – The following color varieties are accepted by the American Poultry Association.
- Blue Wheaten
- Brown Red
- Self Blue (Lavender)
- Blue Wheaten
- Brown Red
Currently, lavender Ameraucanas are called “Self Blue” by the APA and are as yet unrecognized by the ABA. There is strong opposition to this by many breeders who argue that the gene responsible for the color is the lavender gene (LAV) and many other chicken breeds use the term lavender.
The self blue (lavender) color was only accepted into the APA standard in 2020.
Lavender (self blue) Ameraucana Color Genetics
Lavender birds carry the lavender gene. Breeding a lavender bird to another lavender will almost always result in lavender chicks.
One problem with this is that over time the lavender gene can become diluted, which results in very pale birds. Another issue is the quality of lavender birds feathers which can appear quite tatty, especially in the tail.
Breeders wishing to improve quality and expand the gene pool of their lavender birds, can do so by using Black Ameraucanas.
The process starts by crossing blacks to lavenders and creating black chicks with the lavender gene. This is called a “split”. The splits are then crossed back with lavenders, which produces an average of 50% lavenders and 50% splits.
By mating two splits, you will usually get an average of 50% splits, 25% lavenders, and 25% pure blacks. Because it’s impossible to tell a split from a pure black by appearance, they need to be test mated. To do this, they are bred to lavenders. Any lavender chicks produced, show that the parent bird was indeed a split and not a black. If only black chicks are produced, then the parent is a black without lavender genes.
Ameraucana Breed Appearance
Ameraucanas must have a pea comb, tail, beard, and muff. They cannot have ear tufts.
A genetic link exists between the pea comb and blue eggs, as both are carried on the same chromosome.
Ameraucanas have the following breed standard.
Head: The head should be of medium size with a pea comb, curved beak, expressive reddish-bay eyes, small – almost absent wattles, and small red earlobes. The muff should be full and well-rounded, and the beard should be of medium length.
Neck: Should be well arched and of medium length with full hackles.
Back: Medium length with a moderate cushion in females and a medium length saddle in males.
Tail: Roosters should have a medium-length tail that is well spread and carried at a 45° angle above the horizontal. Hens should also have a tail of medium length that is well spread but carried at a 40° angle above the horizontal.
Wings: Large, prominent, and carried above the hock joint.
Breast: Full and rounded in hens and prominent in roosters.
Legs & toes: Legs must be a slate blue color, of medium length, and well set apart. There should be four toes on each foot.
Lavender Ameraucana chicks are born a silver-grey color and have adorable puffy cheeks!
The best climate for the Lavender Ameraucana is one with warm summers and cool winters. Although they are considered to be cold tolerant, they don’t withstand the extreme cold well. They also don’t do well in high heat or humidity.
One advantage of the breed, if you keep them free-range, is that their hawk-like appearance seems to discourage actual hawks from preying on them. They are very sharp-eyed chickens and are reasonably efficient at evading predators.
If you want to keep them contained, you will need high fences. Their relatively lightweight frame means they can fly short distances, and they are known to fly up into trees.
Health and Disease of the Lavender Ameraucana
The only common health issue of the Ameraucana breed is “Scissor Beak” this is when the upper and lower sections of the beak don’t meet evenly. The problem becomes worse as the bird matures.
Araucanas, the breed that Ameraucanas originated from, have tufted ears, and this is linked to a lethal gene that often causes chicks to die in their shells. This was one reason why tufted ears were not permitted into the Ameraucana breed standard.
Usual precautions must be taken to keep your birds healthy. They need regular treatment against lice, mites, and worms, to be fed good quality food of the appropriate type for their age and purpose, and have access to clean, fresh water.
Proper housing is another important factor. It should be robust and well ventilated giving good protection from heat in the summer and providing a warm retreat in the winter.
Blue Eggs of the Lavender Ameraucana Hen
You can expect to get 3 or 4 medium-sized pale blue eggs each week from a Lavender Ameraucana hen. This number will gradually decrease as she gets older.
The breed is not fast-maturing, and you may have to wait six or even seven months before one grown from a chick starts to lay.
Where to Buy Lavender Ameraucanas
By far, the best way of getting your own purebred Lavender Ameraucanas is to find a reputable breeder, either at a poultry show, exhibition, or from the Ameraucana Breeders Club.
You can also choose to buy chicks directly from a hatchery, but be aware that these may often not be pure Ameraucana.
Cackle Hatchery sells Lavender (self blue) Ameraucana day old chicks:
Chicks are shipped from mid-March to early August, and there is a limit of 14 chicks per order.
Prices are subject to change at any time and are per chick:
- Unsexed – 10 to 14 = $8.95, 1 to 9 = $9.40
- Female – 6 to 14 = $18.95, 1 to 5 = 19.95
- Male – 5 to 14 = $12.50, 1 to 4 = $12.95
These attractive blue egg-laying chickens are a great addition to any flock.
Be careful when purchasing birds, as many that are not purebred are passed off as being so.
Lavender Ameraucanas are called “self-blue” by the breeds associations.
In the UK and Australia, the Ameraucana and the Araucana are considered to be the same breed, however, in the United States, they are two very distinct breeds.
To discover more about a wide variety of chicken breeds, please take a closer look at our other articles.