- Purpose: Ornamental/Pet
- Eggs: Pink-cream
- Egg Size: Medium
- Color: Black
- Comb Type: Single
The first sight of a rare Ayam Cemani informs you immediately that it’s no ordinary bird.
With an upright, almost game-like stature, alert gaze, and (most notably) black everything, this chicken is a statement piece in the few flocks where it finds its home.
When I say black everything, I mean it — think an angsty 1990s teen browsing Hot Topic. These birds feature iridescent black feathers, black skin, black comb, black bones, and even black organs!
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The Rarest of the Rare
Indonesia is the homeland of this inky-dark chicken, where it has always been a bird of the elite. Though this Java Island land race may well have been around for thousands of years, they have made a relatively recent entry to the world-wide poultry scene. As such, they’re one of the rarest breeds of chicken to come across in the U.S. They carry that collector’s air of mystique around them.
Ayam Cemani chickens are hardy and relatively easy to handle, though their large single comb will make them susceptible to frostbite in chilly climates. In terms of personality, they can be quite friendly, making them an unusual and conversation-worthy pet! Even the roosters are said to be docile.
And if you want more of them, sources are totally conflicting on whether or not the hens go broody or make good mothers. You’re surely in for an adventure if you decide to become one of the rare breeders trying to refine the breed!
Just for the record, the all-black hyper-pigmentation is a condition known as fibromelanosis — a trait also shared by black-skinned Silkie chickens and a few other swarthy breeds. It does the bird absolutely no harm. It just means they produce about 10 times the melanin that a typical chicken produces.
If You Want One, Start Saving Now!
If you’re looking to be a more self-sufficient homesteader and use your backyard flock for meat, eggs, and fertilizer, I’m pretty sure this fancy bird is not for you. Us peasant folk are perfectly satisfied with our dependable Orpington, Rhode Island Red, and Sussex chickens! If you’re looking to fill your Instagram with endless photos of your finery and luxuries however, you can now add a chicken beside your 4-digit handbag and diamond-dripping watch.
Though they do all the things that more common chickens do, these chickens are more often compared to jewels and Lamborghinis. They are meant to be status symbols — they always have been, historically — and they often carry the price tag that such lavish expenses require.
Just for reference, Greenfire Farms, one of the first U.S. distributors of Ayam Cemani chickens, began selling individual birds at a hefty $2500 for adults in 2013, but their prices have been scaled back to a more “affordable” $200 for a day-old chick.
I reference Greenfire Farms specifically because they are one of the few reputable breeders to securely obtain breeding stock. As you might expect from any highly-sought luxury, copycats and swindlers are out there to make a quick buck, and sell anything they can pass for a true Ayam Cemani at the highest price they dare. Buyer beware if you see someone trying to sell black eggs as Ayam Cemani hatching eggs — it’s a scam!
What’s the Yield?
Despite their night-dark exterior, these birds produce white to pinkish-cream-tinted eggs. Hens aren’t prolific, and usually produce anywhere from 60 to 100 medium-size eggs a year.
These birds are medium-weight with roosters reaching around 5 pounds at maturity and hens about 4 pounds. You’re unlikely to turn a collector bird that cost several hundred dollars into dinner, but if you do, you’ll probably understand why Indonesians have used the black meat, organs, and bones of this chicken for ceremonial and sacrificial dishes. It truly does look a little out of this world.
There is a current USDA ban on importing poultry from Indonesia, so the American market for the Ayam Cemani is slim. Some countries, like Australia, don’t have a population of these rare birds due to the restrictions, so if you have one in your flock, treat it like the elusive jewel it is!
If you love the idea of an all-black chicken but want one even rarer (yet slightly more affordable) than the Ayam Cemani, consider the Swedish Black Hen — a more sturdy, cold-hardy cousin that to my untrained eye, looks identical.
Photos of Ayam Cemani
- Ayam Cemani Standard of Perfection, Ayam Cemani Breeders Association
- Breed Profile: Ayam Cemani, Backyard Chicken Coops
- Ayam Cemani: Breed Information, Care Guide, Egg Color and More, The Happy Chicken Coop
- Ayam Cemani, Greenfire Farms