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The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

What are “Easter Egg” Chickens?

What are “Easter Egg” Chickens?

If you’ve been thinking about raising a few chickens for eggs, consider the araucana. Although there are a lot of great egg-layers out there, such as Rhode Island Reds and Leghorns, few chickens are as delightful, especially if you have children, as the so-called “Easter egg chicken” or “green-egger.”

Araucanas are a breed of chicken originally developed in Chile. They have ear tufts and no tail, because they are rumpless and actually lack the vertebrae that support a tail. More interestingly, though, they lay light bluish or greenish eggs, often resembling dyed Easter eggs. Remarkably, these eggs are blue even on the inside of the shell. The name araucana is often incorrectly used in this country to describe any chicken that lays green or blue eggs, many of which are actually mixed breeds.

Housing araucanas, or any chickens, requires about ten square feet of floor space per bird. You can get away with less than that if your birds will be provided with an outdoor run or pen.

My birds occupy a corner of my garage that I have enclosed with chicken wire. I’ve put in a false floor made of pallets to keep them up off the cement, and provided them with a couple of roosts, made from tree branches about two inches in diameter, where they spend their nights. They also have a door to the outside where I’ve built a pen to keep them in. A four-foot fence is more than enough for these birds, since they are not great flyers. It’s always a good idea to let them out on their own, being careful, of course, to keep them away from the garden, where they can admittedly wreak havoc.

You may want to supply your birds with a few nesting boxes. Wooden crates will do (about one for every four birds), attached two or three feet above the floor. Don’t be dismayed if some of your birds choose to lay their eggs elsewhere. You will also need to cover the floor with some kind of “litter.” Many people use wood shavings, which are commercially available and fairly inexpensive. Dried leaves, hay, or grass clippings work just as well, and have the added benefit of being usable in your mulch pile after the fact. The nitrogen-rich bird droppings will make a welcome addition to your soil.

Water must be readily available for your hens and you should take care to change it at least once daily, more often in the wintertime if freezing becomes a problem. Commercial feed for chickens comes in pellet form, or as a powdery mash. Though mash is slightly cheaper, pellets are more practical; because the chickens can pick them up more easily, pellets produce less waste. Hens will also appreciate a little cracked corn once in a while. Like all birds, chickens need a little grit in their diets so they can break down foods in their gizzards. You can buy commercial grit, but if your chickens have regular outside time in their pen, they should be able to get all they need from the ground.

So bring a little color into your life. Your kids will love you for it; and you’ll be rewarded with nutritious eggs and nitrogen-rich fertilizer for your garden.

1 comment

1 Kim { 07.08.12 at 10:51 pm }

Just brouight a new chick into our fold the other day and she’s fairing quite well. The kids love her and she comes a running when they are bringing veggie bits to the girls.Her personality is already shining through,calm ,gentle and enjoying human company. Were so looking forward to her coloured eggs.

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