Pros: Unique, very people friendly, hardy, good layers in heat and cold, lovely blue to greenish colored eggs, great forager, dual purpose, great personalty
Cons: The lethal tuft gene that results in some productivity issues.
A challenging breed for the newcomer and even challenging for the advanced breeder when breeding towards the SOP but they more than make up for all of their difficulties by providing so much enjoyment and use. Breeding for the trademark tufts is not for everyone, especially those with tender hearts. The gene responsible for the tufts (which are not the same as muffs/beard in other breeds) is lethal when the chick get a gene from each parent (also called homozygous) and will die in the shell before hatching. There is, obviously, no way to tell which chicks will die in the shell as they generally continue to develop until just before hatching so there is no way to candle and cull those eggs early on in incubation and can result in less chicks hatched than most breeders would like to see. Breeding clean faced to tufted is practiced by many breeders to limit the losses. Some breeders breed tufted to tufted and accept losses and some breeders breed a tufted rooster to hens that are both clean faced and tufted. Rumpless and tufts are both unique to this breed and only the South American breeds that the Araucana was founded on have these traits. The rumpless trait is fairly easy to breed for and is one of the first things that people notice about this unique breed. It should be noted that the European Araucana breed is tailed and has the beard and muffs.
In general, they are excellent for the farm. They are a dual purpose breed so the excess cockerels, and we all know there are always excess cockerels, can be butchered for the home for fresh, clean meat for the table or sold for meat birds. Second, they not only are good layers in both hot and cold climates, their eggs are a lovely blue to blue/green color and can bring a little more money just because people love something different. Thirdly, these blue egg layers are often used to cross with the "chocolate" colored egg layers to produce the "Olive Eggers". So, marketability can be very good for the farmer. They are excellent foragers and not often as subject to predators as some of the quieter, slower breeds. They can be broody and are good mothers so those who want to raise a few and don't want to bother with incubation or raising the chicks can let mother nature take the reins.
Backyard hen keepers in town generally have just a few hens and having a unique, rumpless and tufted or simply rumpless hen is a sight to behold and will have your neighbors asking about your unique hens and pretty blue eggs. If you're only going to keep 4 to 6 hens, why not have the prettiest on the block??
As far as breeders, as I mentioned above they can be a challenge on many levels. However, this breed has found a new following and the result is more breeders every year. This breed has been listed on the ALBC (American Livestock Breeds Conservancy) list as "watched" for years. They are not critically endangered yet the smaller numbers make it more difficult to keep the gene pool strong and healthy so the past few years of increasing interest has benefited the breed immeasurably. I have witnessed giant leaps in the numbers of breeders who are working to bring their flocks to perfection. Those lines that are being developed are bringing a lot of improvement to the breed on the whole and will provide future breeders a good number of separate lines to cross and further the breeds health (which is already good) and productivity. I feel that many breeders will continue to use the clean faced as well as some tailed individuals and I don't think that will ever end. There will "always" be a few tailed and a few clean faced simply because of the genetics of this breed but I personally feel these non SOP individuals have something to contribute. The use of non SOP individuals such as the clean faced and tailed or partial tailed is another thing that sets this breed apart from others from a "breeders" standpoint. Many breeders consider "faults" in breeders as unacceptable, however these are not necessarily "faults" in some breeders eyes but a part of a breed that is simply a little more complicated to work with and to me, that makes getting great hatches with lots of tufts and rumpless chicks, even more sweet.
Not knocking any breed, but I enjoy challenges that make me think and set goals. To work with a breed that has everything set with culls rare is not as interesting to me. There are those who feel the Araucana is a mutt because it is not a cookie cutter breed. That sort of evens things out a bit and part of the reason there are SO many breeds of poultry. They all have a place and a following. When choosing your breed, there are so many things to take into account. I hope my review is helpful to those interested in the Araucana. If there is anything I can help you with, please send me a PM.