Perhaps you’re familiar with the term ‘Easter Egger’, if you have backyard birds. Or maybe not, if you don’t. No, they don’t lay Easter eggs, in case you’re wondering. However their eggs do resemble those we color for our kids. Which is how they got their name, after all. So, just what are Easter Egger chickens?
Well, in the U.S., really an Easter Egger chicken has come to be recognized as any chicken that has the colorful egg gene, oocyan. Although, traditionally an Easter Egger chicken was, and is, considered a hybrid. Meaning, it’s the result of crossing one breed of chicken with a blue egg-laying breed, like Ameraucana or Araucana chickens. Also, they don’t have a set standard like other breeds. Therefore, Easter Eggers are not recognized as a breed by the American Poultry Association.
History of Easter Egger Chickens
Even though there are ~8 blue egg producing chickens around, there are only 2 chicken breeds that are currently accepted in the APA. And one of those is the Araucana. However the ear tuft gene can be lethal, causing few eggs to hatch. Additionally, those that hatch may die within a week. So, Ameraucanas were bred in response to the lethal tuft gene of Araucanas, by breeding Araucanas with other breeds of chickens. Sound a bit like Easter Eggers? It does to me too. Except the only thing that qualifies as a breed is whether the bird fits the standard. And there isn’t one for EEs.
Though there is a standard for Araucana and Ameraucana chickens. Usually the standard is based on color (of the bird), egg color, bird size, legs (whether they’re clean or feathery), the type of comb they have, and in the case of Araucanas, if they have ear tufts and are rumpless. And for the Ameraucana, if they have beards. However, if you have a chicken that matches one of these standards, someone might still claim you have an EE, simply because you got it from a hatchery, rather than a breeder.
So What are Easter Egger Chickens?
Now that we’ve covered what they are not, a breed, we’ll go over what they are. Since they are backyard birds resulting from a cross with a blue egg-laying breed, the hens can lay an assortment of colors. Green, olive, and blue are the most common egg colors that they lay. Although they can also lay pink, brown, and cream eggs. These birds have also been named ‘Rainbow Layers’, and no wonder! Although the hen won’t change what color egg she will lay from day to day. Which means, if she lays a blue egg, she will only ever lay a blue egg. But if you have a number of these birds, you will most likely have a number of different colored eggs.
Easter Eggers are also docile, which means they’re very laid back. Additionally, the hens are typically good layers, laying ~200-280 eggs per year. And when the hens are fully mature, the eggs will end up being large. Or extra large in some cases. Moreover Easter Eggers are dual purpose, indicating that the birds are also good for meat. Although they tend to run small. Hens might weigh ~4 lbs, while roosters tend to weigh ~5 lbs.
Also, since they have Araucana or Ameraucana in their backgrounds, they can take on some of their traits. Like ear tufts, beards, being rumpless, etc. And they come in a variety of colors. Plus, Easter Eggers don’t spend a whole lot of time being broody. Which is great, because they’ll be laying eggs instead.
EEs are great for first time backyard bird keepers due to their happy disposition. And they’re a good choice for families with children because of this fact. Also, they aren’t prone to health issues. But they could get run-of-the-mill mites in their beards or tufts, if they have them. And Araucana chickens have a genetic deformity that causes their beaks to grow crooked. Additionally, the condition, scissor beak, can worsen over time, making it difficult for a bird to eat or drink on its own. Although many birds can also live long, healthy lives with the right kind of care. EEs could get this condition as well, though not as frequently.
Typically Easter Eggers do quite well in most environments. And they can cope with heat as long as they have shade and plenty of water. Furthermore, they usually do well in the winter too. And because of their comb size, they don’t ordinarily suffer from frostbite. Also, they do well foraging for themselves, which is a great way to supplement their diet. But they also put up with confinement in the coop well. Although they prefer to free range.
Easter Eggers are a great all around dual purpose bird, even though they aren’t considered a breed. They’re easy to raise and are good with families. And they’re popular simply because they come in a variety of colors as well as their eggs. They’re sociable, curious, and tolerant. And they lay a lot of eggs. So they are productive and fun, making them a great complement to any flock.