The Poultryphile Files: Featuring the Ayam Cemani

The Ayam Cemani, which translates to chicken Cemani, originated from the island of Java, Indonesia and has been used for centuries for healing and magical purposes, not for regular consumption.  Due to a genetic mutation, it’s known for having black feathers, comb, wattles, legs, skin, organs and bones making it a sight to behold. In Indonesia, Ayam Cemani are considered a status symbol. Contrary to rumor, no black blood and they lay a light brown  egg.

One might think they are viewing a black and white photo when seeing it. Its rare appearance, as well as difficulty in breeding, makes it one of the most sought-after birds for poultry fanciers.  The Ayam Cemani only lays between 60 and 80 eggs a year –a big difference from the 300 a typical hen will lay annually.  This, in addition to breeders culling the birds who show any deviation in coloring, makes them extremely hard to find and even more so to breed for any monetary gain. This brings the price of the Ayam Cenami to around $800 for a juvenile pair.  Shocked?  This is a price break from a few years ago when they were going for  $4,000 for a breeding pair.  Want some hatching eggs?  They can run $100 a dozen and of course, anything can go wrong in the hatch tank.

Is it worth the fuss?  Considering the in the States magical powers of  chickens might not hold as much value as in Indonesia, people are not going to be beating a path to your door to use it for any mystical purposes. In addition, the fact that for centuries the Ayam Cemani have not been bred for regular meat consumption, begs the question: If it has not been used as a regular source of meat for so long, is it because it’s not very tasty?  Obviously, it is not a strong egg producer either so one must conclude that  breeding this bird might bring at the very least– aesthetic pleasure.

What indeed, is the draw for people when it comes to a rare chicken? Surges of interest in environmentalism and survivalism might explain it. People are on the lookout for the best in their birds.  While the Ayam Cenami might be construed as a “vanity” chicken.  It definitely has the qualifications to make any backyard poultryphile drool.



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