Blue Egg Hen Chile
In the Chilean region of Araucanìa, characterized by the high number of indigenous Mapuche peoples, farmers’ market stalls are laden with kaleidoscopic displays of eggs colored cobalt blue, pale green and everything in between. Temuco is particularly famous for its blue eggs. While most farm-raised chickens lay the occasional blue egg, Temuco chickens always lay blue or green eggs, a genetic trait that turns the bird’s white eggs blue and its brown eggs green. In Chile, this particular chicken breed is called the Araucana, the name that conquering Spaniards gave to the Mapuche people, as well as to the region’s chickens. It is not clear whether the Araucana chicken is an indigenous breed or if it is a descendant of the chickens first brought from Spain by the conquistadores.
The Araucana has been the subject of much interest and research in Chile; it is apparently unique in its ability to exclusively produce blue eggs. Many of the breeds now present in the Americas that regularly produce a percentage of blue eggs may well be descended from crosses with the Araucana.
Today, the Araucana has been crossed with so many different breeds that it is no longer possible to describe it as a ‘pure’ breed with predictable physical characteristics. Historical documents divide Chilean native chicken breeds into two main categories: the colloncas, with a short rear end and no feathers around the ears, and quetros, with a normal profile and a fully feathered head. More likely than not, the chickens with short rear ends are of Asian origin and were brought to Chile by Dutch traders from Bali. Physically speaking, the Araucana appears to be part of the colloncas type, but the blue-egg characteristic is nonexistent in Balinesian chickens and appears to have been a mutation in the imported chickens upon their arrival and selection in southern Chile. To fully understand the Araucana, long and complicated research is necessary. Even then, as with many animal breeds that are poorly documented and frequently crossed, the Araucana will always have a mysterious past. Although the laying chickens all have different physical appearances, they are clearly from the wide gene pool of the Araucana, and none can survive in industrial chicken farms. These chickens must be kept outside in order to produce eggs. In Chile, where agriculture is rapidly intensifying, the blue eggs are a uniquely valuable ‘self-identifying’ product: the eggshells are a sign of free-range quality that cannot be counterfeited.
On February 27, 2010 a devastating earthquake measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale, the sixth most powerful ever recorded, struck south-central Chile. In the areas affected by the earthquake, at least 200,000 houses were destroyed or damaged, schools, hospitals, factories and offices collapsed, and many Chileans lost their homes and livelihoods. The Blue Egg Chicken Presidium, created in 2005 in collaboration with the local NGO Cet Sur to preserve a native poultry breed, was also badly hit by the earthquake. Another catastrophe hit in February 2012 in the region of Bio Bio, Quillon, where there was a forest fire due to heavy deforestation in the area. In this time of grave economic difficulty, the Presidium decided that its objective for 2012 would be to increase family income through the reproduction of these hens, and commercialization at local level, through markets and consumers’ groups.
Mapuche’s communities, VIII region (Bío-Bío)
Twenty farmers, gathered in the network Red de Mujeres Protectoras de la Biodiversidad
Rita Edecia Moya Azcarate
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