The Ayam Cemani chicken is a beautiful blackbird with a mystical reputation – does it belong in your backyard flock?
If you’ve been looking for the perfect chicken to round out your flock, the Ayam Cemani could be the one.
But don’t rush to the hatchery website to place your order – this unusual bird can be challenging to find and even more challenging to raise.
Nonetheless, the difficulties are worthwhile.
The Ayam Cemani is one of the most exclusive and luxurious chicken breeds available.
A Brief History of Ayam Cemani Chickens
Sumatra is thought to be the origin of the Ayam Cemani.
This bird, which is related to a small subsection of chicken breeds known as Kedu, may have developed and originated on Java’s central plains, where it descended from the majestic Ayam Bekisar breed.
However, pinpointing the exact origins of this exotic bird is problematic because it is now extinct as an original breed in Sumatra.
This bird, a cross between jungle fowl and domesticated red fowl, is part of a family of chickens with a distinct crowing sound used as a foghorn on ships during early voyages.
In Indonesian, “Ayam” translates to “chicken,” but the latter part of the name, Cemani, is more ambiguous.
It can refer to the Cemani village or the phrase “solid black.”
This chicken, revered in Javanese folklore since the 1100s, is a bird of the elite. It is deep red, nearly black blood is thought to be a good luck charm and a delicacy of the spirits, heralding in both wealth and power.
This chicken, thought by some to be a landrace bird, was once a well-established breed.
This bird is a pet chicken breed commonly raised by individuals of high social and economic status. It is raised as a symbol of status and luxury.
It’s also thought to be a good luck charm.
The blood, bones, and other parts of the bird are frequently used in traditional medicine to indicate good fortune.
Some cultures believe that the chicken possesses magical powers, such as the ability to send messages between the living and the dead.
It is frequently used as a sacrificial bird in Indonesia, but its flesh is rarely eaten in this country or elsewhere.
The breed has a relatively new history in North America. It was only introduced to Europe in 1998, and it was quickly exported elsewhere.
Appearance of the Ayam Cemani Chicken
The Ayam Cemani is one of the most intriguing – yet striking – chicken breeds you’ll ever see.
The bird has black skin, wattles, eyes, comb, feet, bones, blood, and all-black feathers that shine iridescent green in direct sunlight.
The American Poultry Association has not officially designated these chickens as a breed, but the Ayam Cemani Club in the United States has worked hard to develop a standard of perfection.
Ayam Cemani Breeding Requirements
According to the Dutch Standard of Perfection, the following conditions must be met in a true-blood Ayam Cemani.
The pose is upright and game-like.
Medium-sized body (around 4.5-6.5 lbs for roosters, and 3.5-4.5 for hens)
Body types that are strong, muscular, and have a firm build
Solid black feathers that fit snugly
Solid black eyes, skin, comb, and wattles
In the sunlight, feathers may appear beetle-green or purple.
Broad breast and mediums-ahead, sloping back
Long, powerful wings
Tail posture is moderately high.
Powerful, muscular thighs
Each foot has four toes.
Because these chickens are not particularly large, they are unsuitable for most commercial purposes.
However, like a game bird or jungle fowl, they are lovely to look at and are the ideal choice for a chicken keeper looking for an attractive ornamental breed of chicken.
Patterns of Behavior of Ayam Cemani Chickens
Ayam Cemanis aren’t remarkable when it comes to their behavior.
They are low-maintenance and simple to operate.
They can be skittish and flee in certain situations, but you will likely notice that this is less of an issue once they become accustomed to your presence.
These birds are friendly and pleasant in general.
Even the roosters are generally calm.
However, both hens and roosters are known to be extremely intelligent – you’ll want to make sure your chicken fences are “Cemani”-proof to avoid escapees!
These chickens can withstand both hot and cold weather, quickly shaking off icy conditions and unbearable heat.
As long as you provide adequate shade and cold-weather housing, your Ayam Cemani will likely be a hardy breed in most weather conditions.
Is Ayam Cemani Chicken Good for Egg Layering?
Unfortunately, Ayam Cemani chickens are not known for laying eggs.
They typically lay one single egg per week, for 80 eggs per year.
They have a reputation for stopping laying for extended periods – they may lay twenty-five eggs and then stop entirely for six months before restarting.
This behavior does not appear to be influenced by anything specific; it does not always correspond to broodiness or molting.
If you want to raise eggs for meat, this unpredictability can be a real pain.
The eggs laid by the Ayam Cemani hen will be pretty large, especially compared to the hen’s average size.
The eggs are cream in color with a slight pink tinge. Some myths out there claim Ayam Cemanis lay black eggs; however, this is not true.
Ayam Cemanis aren’t known for being broody, but they can go broody occasionally depending on their genetics, environmental conditions, and coop hierarchy.
When the brown eggs hatch, they tend to be good mothers, providing adequate care for their young.
Is the Ayam Cemani Chicken Healthy?
The Ayam Cemani is commonly raised as a sacred animal in Indonesia; as a result, it is highly valued and rarely eaten for meat.
However, some believe that eating the meat of the Ayam Cemani will cure disease and bring good luck to those who consume it.
The Ayam Cemani is raised for its blood rather than its meat in most countries.
The deep red, almost black blood is frequently used in sacrificial ceremonies, and it is also thought to bring good luck.
Few chefs in the United States are aware of the culinary benefits of Ayam Cemani chicken meat.
It is uncommon in the poultry market because, while not unpleasant, it is prohibitively expensive.
While Ayam Cemani meat may have a slight taste advantage over pure white chicken meat, its price tag is so high that most chicken owners and chefs would choose meat with a lower price tag over Ayam Cemani meat.
While Ayam Cemani chickens are thought to bring good luck and cure various diseases, you shouldn’t expect the meat to satisfy your hunger.
There isn’t much of it, with the average chicken weighing less than five pounds.
Ayam Cemani Chicken Health Concerns
Some people believe that Ayam Cemanis are predisposed to specific health problems because of their coloring.
This is not the case.
Ayam Cemanis has mutant fibro melanistic genes, which are not common but not dangerous.
Why are black Ayam Cemani chickens famous?
The fibro melanistic gene deposits an excess of black pigment.
As a result, the Ayam Cemani chicken’s skin, tissues, and other parts appear black.
This gene is also found in three other birds: the Swedish Svart Hona chicken, the Silkie chicken, and the Kadaknath chicken (a bird from the Madhya Pradesh region of India).
Melanization occurs during the embryonic stage.
The melanization affects every aspect of the bird, from its feathers to its onyx feet and organs.
The gene mutation responsible for the black coloring produces ten times the melanin found in an ordinary chicken.
Even the baby chicks are dressed in black!
Even this chicken’s blood, while not wholly black, is darker than usual.
If you decide to butcher your Ayam Cemani for meat, the bone marrow is also black, giving it a distinct appearance.
Ayam Cemani is otherwise a healthy, energetic bird. Although it is susceptible to the same conditions that affect other breeds of chickens, such as chicken mites, coccidiosis, or lice, it is not more vulnerable to any health condition than any other breed.
The Ayam Cemani is thought to have healing powers – believers in its mystical traits believe that the Ayam Cemani’s blood can reverse bad luck and cure a wide range of physical disorders.
Healing ceremonies are typically led by animist gurus who place the blood in a bowl, prevent it with other offerings, and mutter certain incantations to aid in the healing of your body and soul.
Taking Care of Ayam Cemani Chickens
Here are some pointers on how to care for these amazing birds:
Chicks as an example
These chickens are raised in bamboo coops in their native Indonesia.
However, in the United States, you can raise Ayam Cemanis in the same way as any other bird. They can be raised as chicks or as started juveniles.
If you’re starting your Ayam Cemanis from hatched eggs, you’ll need to keep them in a warm brooder (95 degrees Fahrenheit at first, then five degrees lower each week until the temperature is the same as the room’s ambient temperature).
Feed your Ayam Cemanis chick starter until it is ready to go outside.
As Older Chickens
Once you’ve relocated your Ayam Cemanis to the coop, you can feed them either egg layer or broiler feed – which will depend on your specific individual chickens and your overall goals for raising your flock.
You should provide supplemental foods such as fresh vegetables, fruits and occasional treats such as scratch grain to keep them entertained.
Ensure your chickens have plenty of fresh, clean water and shelter from the elements.
Although Ayam Cemanis are descended from jungle fowl, they will not be able to escape the hungry jaws of raccoons, hawks, or foxes unless the coop is well-ventilated and predator-proof.
A chicken tractor or covered run is an excellent way to keep your birds safe.
It would help if you didn’t have to worry about clipping wings because Ayam Cemanis aren’t known for being flighty.
You shouldn’t have to cover your run unless you want to – while a covered run will protect your birds from aerial predators, you shouldn’t have to worry about them flying over short fences.
The Advantages of Growing Ayam Cemani Chickens
Prospective owners can reap a slew of benefits from the Ayam Cemani.
Aside from its stunning appearance, it also produces large cream-colored eggs for you to enjoy.
You may also be able to hatch your chicks using one of these chickens as a broody mother.
This chicken is relatively docile, making it easy to handle and interact with – no roosters to worry about here.
Because it is active and not overly flighty, you may not need a super tall fence or enclosed run to keep this bird contained.
It tolerates confinement well and performs well when raised in close quarters with other birds.
This breed of chicken is also extremely cold and heat resistant.
It can handle free-ranging in both settings with ease when given the right conditions.
And, despite its haunting – and, yes, creepy – appearance, this chicken is a friendly, good-natured bird.
The Difficulties of Growing Ayam Cemani
One of the most challenging aspects of raising an Ayam Cemani chicken is that it can be costly.
If you decide to buy an unsexed chicken, it can easily cost you $200; a sexed juvenile will cost you twice.
As a result, this bird is not for the faint of heart or the frugal.
It is also not recommended that you raise Ayam Cemani if you are new to chicken raising.
This is not because raising this bird is more complex than raising any other breed, but because the birds of this breed are so expensive.
If you decide to put money down for one of these birds, you will be taking a significant risk.
They’re also challenging to come by.
While they are commonly found and bred in Indonesia, there are numerous import restrictions, particularly in light of the avian influenza outbreak.
While they are widely bred in Europe and America, their numbers are much smaller.
There are thought to be fewer than 4,000 of these birds left today.
Greenfire Farms in the United States claims to be the first to import pure Ayam Cemani chickens into the United States legally.
While you can occasionally find cheaper specimens for sale, you should be cautious – you often get what you pay for. When you raise your Ayam Cemani to maturity, you may notice that it loses some of its black colorings or does not exhibit all of the proper characteristics of a genuine member of this breed.
In this case, you may also have difficulty producing purebred offspring.
What is the best way to tell if you have a purebred Ayam Cemani chicken?
If you’re raising a chicken for meat, you probably won’t – at least not until you cut it open. Then, a true Ayam Cemani will be completely black on the inside and out.
If you buy from a reputable breeder, expect to wait at least six months on a waiting list before receiving one of these one-of-a-kind birds.
These chickens are frequently raised as pets, but they aren’t the friendliest of all chickens.
They are not antisocial or aggressive, but they will not cuddle up to you as a Silkie chicken would.
And because they aren’t usually raised for purposes besides ornamentation, this might be a frustrating experience for you to deal with.
Is This Bird a Good Fit for Your Flock?
Although the Ayam Cemani chicken has been around for centuries, it is becoming more popular as it has recently come to the attention of chicken lovers in the west.
It’s one of the most unique – and rare – exotic breeds you can raise, and while it’s difficult to ship to the United States, it’s the one you should consider if you want a chicken that stands out from the crowd.
So, what are you holding out for?
Put your name on the list for Ayam Cemani chicken.
We assure you that raising one of these elegant “gothic” birds is well worth the wait – and the cost!
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