Chickens / Incubation

Day 3: Holding Steady

   There’s not much to report during the first 18 days of incubation.  Today, Tuesday, is “Day 3,” which is to say that it is the fourth day – incubation days are figured like centuries.  The first century is – what? The double-digits?  Not until the second century can we say the 100s; not until you are one year old do we say you are one.  Similarly, hour 0:00 to 24:00 is the first day, but not until 24:01 have the eggs been incubated for 1 day.  Thus, the second day is called Day 1.

   (But most of my chickens from the first batch hatched on Day 20 instead of Day 21.  Go figure.  We’ll see if it happens again this time.)

   Anyhow, the mostly-covered trough has remained filled with water, and as you can see from the picture of my little log below, humidity has been pretty steady at 30-35%.  Temperature as measured within my water wiggler was running a little low for a day or two and now, with warmer weather and house temperatures reaching 75 degrees, running a little higher.  Ideally, it would remain 99.5 degrees, varying no more than .5 degrees in either direction.  So far, so good, but clearly it will soon be too hot indoors to incubate.  Incubation season is coming to a close.

   So, while I have a moment, I’ll briefly explain the breed of chicken that is currently in the incubator.  Although the possibility of such a thing may be beyond the layperson’s imagination, Ameraucanas are part of a very controversial and hotly debated triangle of chicken “breeds”: Ameraucanas, Araucanas, and Easter Eggers.

   The Ameraucana Breeders Club has a comprehensive history on their website, clarifying the entire debate, but I will summarize here.  Ameraucanas are a new breed of chicken, formally recognized by the American Poultry Association in the 1970s.  These birds have pea combs, beards and muffs, slate colored legs, red ear lobes, and lay blue eggs.  (Edited 5/15/11 to add: I just found this great article explaining the differences between Ameraucanas, Araucanas, and Easter Eggers in the Backyard Poultry archives.)

  A related bird, the Araucana chicken is bred from a combination of Pre-Colombian chickens found in South America which seem to have an Asiatic origin.  The Araucana has large tufts of feathers which cover and protect their ears from wind-blown dust.  They are also rumples, meaning that they have no tail.  Finally, because the blue egg gene is dominant, these birds lay a blue egg, which when popularized, became a point of fascination for American consumers.  Hatcheries sold them as “Easter Eggers” because of their egg color, the dominance of which led them to cross breed the Araucana with other chickens creating colored-egg laying chicken mutts.  Araucanas were preserved and standardized, but related strains were also seen as having value and were standardized as Ameraucanas, having the traits listed above but not sharing the tufts or rumplessness of the Araucana. 

   The Ameraucana Breeders Club history leaves the story of the Easter Egger as simply a mutt of the Araucana chicken, but others provide a history that goes beyond this explanation.  As I mentioned in Poultry Paramours, the Easter Egger has a history worth preserving and is directly related to the South American quechua.  There is a fabulous discussion of this on this thread on the Backyards Chicken Forum.  This information is summarized from the posts on the thread written by BYC member Resolution.  When the Portuguese arrived in South America, their chicken, the Old Amarela, was mixed with the Quecha Indians’ chickens, only slightly domesticated and mostly feral.  The Quecha lived in the high, remote mountains of western South America.  These mixed chickens were selected for traits preferable to Europeans, which tended to reduce their ability to fend for themselves and increased their egg production and table weight.  These birds were also mixed with other chickens.  Finally, at near the same time as the Araucanas, the Quecha was introduced to the American public.

“These greatly improved stocks of the well-established Argentinian Quechua were first introduced to the United States at the World Fair in I think the 1930’s Chicago and or New York. Meanwhile, Gallus inarius  the progenitor of the “Araucana” was introduced to Europe and the United States as well. In the 1960’s or 70’s even further refined Quechua arrived in the United States and were given the name of Easter Eggers.” – Resolution, Backyard Chickens Forum, thread title “QUECHUA /Tojuda/ Ameraucana/ Easter Eggers{ In vino veritas,” Post #1, 9/24/2010

   Why is this issue controversial?  Hatcheries and feed stores sell Easter Eggers as “Ameraucanas/Araucanas” or “Americanas/Ameraucanas.”  This, of course, is inaccurate, and it causes many problems as breeders who have invested great time and energy into their flocks of purebred Ameraucanas or Araucanas must spend a great deal of time explaining why Easter Eggers, which are mixed and not a true breed, are not the same as the flocks they are improving.  And, looking at what I have written so far, you can see that it does not make for an easy, one-line explanation. 

   Ameraucanas, being a recognized APA breed, come in a limited number of recognized colors.  I currently have Wheaten/Blue Wheaten and Silver Ameraucanas in the incubator, and I can’t wait to meet these cutie chicks in a few short weeks!

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   Speaking of cutie chicks, my first brood is getting bigger and eating and defecating more every day. J  They are perching on a stick, trying to fly out of the brooder, and causing general chaos.  They are truly fun to have around, but it does make using the bathroom a little too interesting!

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