Ayam Cemani Chickens

Reader Contribution by Shelby Devore and Farminence
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What is the Ayam Cemani?

The Ayam Cemani is a unique breed of chicken.  If you’ve researched chicken breeds, then you’ve likely come across photos of this rare chicken. The breed is fairly new to the U.S. and is easily distinguished with its all black feathers, skin and meat. 

The breed was developed in Indonesia where it is kept by upper classes of society. It is thought to have magical powers and is quite valuable and sought after in Asian countries.

Why are Ayam Cemani all Black?

The Ayam Cemani are thought to be the result of crosses between domestic chickens and green jungle fowl.  Not all of these crosses will survive, but those that do sometimes have the dark pigmentation of the Ayam Cemani. 

Ayam Cemani are black due to excessive pigmentation.  This is called fibromelanosis.  Fibromelanosis is the result of genetics.  A bird must have two copies of the fibromelanosis gene to be a true Ayam Cemani.  Birds that only have one copy will appear darker than birds with no copy of the gene, but they will not be truly all-black.

It can be hard to breed Ayam Cemani as it can appear that a bird is a true Ayam Cemani when in fact there is only one copy of the fibromelanosis gene is present.

Ayam Cemani Characteristics

Ayam Cemani are smaller birds that are game-like in appearance.  They weigh in around 4-5 pounds and have an alert, upright stance.  They wear their feathers tucked in close and do not have excessive plumage.

The birds are not aggressive.  In fact, many owners report that Ayam Cemani are quite sociable and enjoy their humans.  They get along well with other chicken breeds and other livestock.

Is an Ayam Cemani Right for You?

This breed can be quite expensive, with a breeding pair costing about $5,000.  Breeders are often sold out years in advance to keep up with the demands for this luxury chicken breed.

Don’t purchase the Ayam Cemani if you want a breed that will be a reliable egg layer.  Most Ayam Cemani hens will lay about 60 eggs per year.  This is quite short of the 180-260 eggs that many layer breeds will produce in a year.

If you’re interested in breeding Ayam Cemani for profit, then you’ll need to make sure that you really understand the genetics behind the breed.  You’ll also want to understand the breeds standards.  In the U.S., the standards for the Ayam Cemani can be found on the Ayam Breeders Association website. 

Feeding and housing the Ayam Cemani is no different than it would be for any other breed of chicken.  Provide them with ample food and water.  A secure coop is a must have to keep these expensive chickens safe from predators. 

If you’re looking to wow your neighbors, then this is the chicken breed for you!

Shelby DeVore is a livestock expert with experience teaching high school agriculture and multiple poultry science teams. Shelby has over 20 years of experience raising poultry for show, meat and eggs. She lives on a farm in west Tennessee with her husband and two children along with too many chickens to count. You can catch up with her on her homesteading blog, Farminence. And read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS blogs here.


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