Short-term, my needs are different. I am attracted to the look of particular birds, and, childish as it may be, ahem, I want something pretty. I also want to see a variety of birds, and perhaps even a variety of eggs. I do not want to have to kill any birds, so any roosters I end up with need to be of popular breeds that I think I can find homes for. Scandalous as it is, I also plan to raise Easter Eggers.
Modern mutts of the poultry world, these birds are much maligned by poultry purists who are, quite rightly, trying to preserve and maintain heritage breeds of chickens. These have such variability that they do not breed true. Colors, patterns, and even body shape are unpredictable. These birds lay blue, green, pink, or brown eggs and are feathered in an even more widely varied array of colors and patterns. Perhaps originally derived from an exceedingly handsome breed of South American fowl, the quechua, Easter Eggers are also related to Araucana chickens and are commonly misnomered “Ameraucanas” by hatcheries.
Why would I be interested in these birds? How can I, an heirloom/heritage purist, justify introducing such birds into my coop? Firstly, these birds have genetic value in their own right as direct descendants of the quechua, which some are actually working to restore or at least revitalize into the “North American Quechua.” If I have the room, I may try my hand at this one distant day. Secondly, their colored eggs are “in fashion” at the moment. I am hoping that this will make extra roosters easier to offload while I am in my awkward beginner stages. Those Easter Eggers with pea combs are likely to carry the gene for blue eggs, which is a dominant trait. Therefore, my pea-combed cockerels (the term for young roosters) will hopefully be able to find a home with those trying to breed for colored eggs.
Thirdly, Easter Eggers are so varied that they are not considered an actual breed. Thus, any experimental breeding on my part will not be as damaging to the “breed” as it would be for those breeds with American Poultry Association (APA) Standard[s] of Perfection (SOP). Experimental breeding with a chicken that has so much variability will be more immediately instructive to a beginner; as a novice, I want to work with the obvious, the overt, the crude, if you will, much like a child must play with large wooden blocks before building empires with a Lego set. Unrefined, I am not equipped to deal with the subtleties of creating an improved heritage line. So, I am going to train on Easter Eggers.
While doing so, I will move towards my vision of a modern quechua, what some on the Backyard Chickens Forum have called “wild partridge,” or perhaps more technically golden duckwing, in color. If I ever have the room to have both my sweet, stand-by Speckled Sussexes and also breed another line of birds, this would be the ideal towards which I would strive. They would be so beautiful, I wouldn’t care what color of egg they laid! (Although a light sage green would be awful nice…)
“So passeth, in the passing of a day, Of mortal life the leaf, the bud, the flower, No more doth flourish after first decay, That erst was sought to deck both bed and bower, Of manya lady, and many a paramour: Gather therefore the rose, whilst yet is prime, For soon comes age, that will her pride deflower: Gather the rose of love, whilst yet is time, Whilst loving thou mayst love’ d be with equal crime.” – Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queen