Some Whitley County hens are giving kids a head-start with dyeing their Easter eggs.
Aracauna chickens at the Joseph Decuis Farmstead in rural Columbia City lay blue eggs. About 150 lavender, brown, white and multicolor hens produce brown, white, pinkish and blue eggs that are sold by the dozen at the Joseph Decuis Emporium, 151 N. Main St., Roanoke.
“It’s like finding Easter in your egg carton year-round,” said Alice Eshelman, an owner of the farmstead, emporium, and the Joseph Decuis Restaurant just up the block from the emporium. “They’re not a consistent color.
“It’s not just blue; it’s all variations of blue, and for Easter I put together a basket of eggs that are all different colors, as fresh as when they were laid. Between them all we’ve got a cross-section of Easter and you don’t even have to dye them.
“We try to spread the blues out between all the cartons of eggs, so that somebody doesn’t end up with all the blue ones.”
The aracaunas originated in South America and were brought to the U.S. from Chilé. Several strains of the variety are nurtured today. The hens may lay blue or green or sometime brown eggs. The birds themselves may be almost white, or lavender or other colors. Some strains have very short tails. Many birds have ear tufts, which in chicken parlance are not to be confused with beards.
Eshelman said the breeding stock came from Murray McMurray — an Iowa hatchery that has supplied poultry fanciers for decades — and from a group known as Easter Eggers.
But when they wander the “NO weasels allowed” pen at the farmstead, the aracaunas blend right in with multicolored birds and the lone barred rock hen.
“I feel you can taste the difference. There’s a lot of flavor there because it’s more nutrient dense, it’s more filling,” Eshelman said. “It’s not just all eggs, but eggs from a farm that allows their hens to free range.”
Eshelman said she finds the aracauna eggs to have stronger shells, too.
The Joseph Decuis aracauna chickens, wagyu cattle, Mangalitza pigs, goats, sheet and bourbon turkeys get few visitors. But during from May to October, Pete Eshelman has been known to lead a tour of the farm. Saturday tours are scheduled in combination with dinner reservations at the restaurant in nearby Roanoke. Call (260) 672-1715.
Visitors will see more of the chickens’ handiwork. “We have chicken hotels. That’s what the teenage workers on the farm call them,” Alice Eshelman said. “They are large, screened-in buildings. They are probably 6 feet by 10 or 12 feet, and then 5 feet high. We hook them up to the Gator and pull them every day or every other day so they get fresh bugs and grass to munch. At the end of the summer we have green stripes running down the lawn from where the chicken hotels have traveled, so they’re leaving healthy stuff for my grass.”
(Visit backyardchickens.com for more about the aracauna and similar breeds.)