When it comes to striking, beautifully colored chickens, the Ayam Cemani should not be overlooked. This bird, which originated in Indonesia, is still relatively uncommon outside of its home country. However, if chicken enthusiasts can find this rare breed, it makes a wonderful addition to any flock.
History of Ayam Cemani
It is unsure exactly how the Ayam Cemani chicken breed came about, and little is known about its true origins. The name Ayam means “chicken,” while Cemani can refer either to the Sanskrit words for “completely black” or the village of Cemani, where it is possible the breed originated.
The Ayam Cemani came from Java, and it was most likely originally part of the Ayam Bekisar chicken breed. Ayam Bekisar is a cross between deep green junglefowl and domesticated red junglefowl, both found in Indonesia.
The Ayam Cemani chicken, unlike the brown or reddish Ayam Bekisar chicken, has a dominant hyperpigmentation gene that causes its unusual black coloring.
The Ayam Cemani is generally considered to be a rare and special chicken breed and is traditionally kept only by wealthy owners.
This chicken breed is often considered to be a bit of a status symbol. Some farmers specialize in raising only this bird in particular, as can be seen in this video.
These chickens have also been used in traditional medicine and healing and are sometimes thought to have mystical properties.
Some people believe that birds can bring luck, while other people believe that eating the meat of the Ayam Cemani has the potential to cure various diseases. The chickens have also been used in traditional religious ceremonies.
In 1998, the Ayam Cemani chicken became known outside Indonesia when Dutch settlers began exporting and breeding them. Today, the Ayam Cemani can be found in many parts of Europe, India, and even the United States, although it is still much less common than other chicken breeds.
The Ayam Cemani is quite rare, with only about 3,500 chickens to be found around the world. In order to keep the breed standard high, a breeding organization in Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo has collected 250 breeding pairs.
Other breeding pairs exist in various areas, but the breed itself remains relatively unfamiliar to most chicken enthusiasts.
|Purpose||Ornamental, meat, eggs|
|Egg Color||Cream or pink|
|Comb Type||Single Comb|
|Egg Production||60-100 per year|
|Chicken Skin Color||Black|
|Life Span||5-8 years|
|Adult Weight (Hen)||3.5-4.5 lbs|
|Adult Weight (Rooster)||4.5-5.5 lbs|
Ayam Cemani Breed Standard and Appearance
- Between three and a half and five and a half pounds in weight
- Glossy black feathers with an iridescent coloring
- Muscular but compact appearance
- Black beaks, wattles, and combs
- Feathers lie close to the body
The Ayam Cemani chicken is highly sought after because of its unusual glossy feathers that are entirely black in color. Even more striking is the fact that the chicken’s beak, comb, wattles, tongue, and even internal organs, bones, and flesh are black.
The darker the color of the bird, the more highly it is praised, and the more it is worth.
Because of the high gloss and deep pigmentation, the feathers of the chicken often have an iridescent green or purple sheen to them.
Ayam Cemani is regarded as moderate in size. Males weigh between four and a half and five and a half pounds, although some breeders have reported that they may grow slightly larger. Females, on the other hand, weigh between three and a half and four and a half pounds.
Ayam Cemani has somewhat compact bodies and a slim, muscular appearance. The birds are usually alert and have an upright stance. The feathers lie close to the body, while the tail is held relatively high, creating an attractive cascade of feathers.
Ayam Cemani Personality and Temperament
Although they look exotic and as if they require more care than other chicken breeds, an Ayam Cemani chicken is actually quite easy to keep. They are known as hardy birds.
As long as proper shelter is provided, the Ayam Cemani chicken can withstand both hot and cold weather, so they are well suited to many different parts of the world and can acclimatize well.
Ayam Cemani is also known as a docile, relatively friendly chicken breed. According to Greenfire Farms, these chickens tend to be carefree and are unruffled even in stressful situations.
They are also considered to be quite smart. In addition, these birds are considered to need only low maintenance and do not have any special care requirements.
Because they are so calm and are generally considered to be docile, these chickens mix well with other chicken breeds, farm animals, family pets, or children. They can even be hand-fed.
Ayam Cemani Egg Laying
- Eggs are cream or pink in color
- Lay between 60 and 100 eggs a year
- May cease laying for a period of months
- Hens make caring mothers
Ayam Cemani chickens are not considered to be great egg layers. Hens lay only about one to two eggs a week, for a total of between 60 and 100 eggs a year. However, many Ayam Cemani keepers have also reported that their hens will stop laying eggs after a period of time.
This usually occurs after about 20 or 30 eggs have been laid in succession. This pause in egg-laying usually lasts for between three and six months. After, the hens start laying again regularly until the next pause.
It has been said that Ayam Cemani hens do not care for their eggs or chicks, but Ayam Cemani owners have often found this to be untrue. Many Ayam Cemani keepers state that their chickens are quite careful of their eggs and, if the eggs are left to hatch, make doting mothers.
Ayam Cemani eggs are relatively large in proportion to the size of the hen. They are pale cream with a slight pink tint in color. Some people attempt to sell black eggs as Ayam Cemani eggs, but the egg is just about the only thing about this chicken breed that is definitely not black.
Health Issues and Care
Ayam Cemani is considered to be a hardy breed and does not generally face too many health concerns. In general, chickens can go through life without requiring too much in the way of special health care.
The greatest concern Ayam Cemani faces is avian influenza. This disease, also known as the bird flu, can affect not only domesticated chickens but also wild birds.
Chickens with the bird flu are often lethargic and experience a loss of appetite. Chickens may also display wet eyes or fluid buildup in the wattles or comb. Birds also often develop a cough.
Avian influenza is most commonly spread when new birds are introduced to an established flock. This makes importing chickens, such as the Ayam Cemani, difficult. It can also pose a threat to established Ayam Cemani flocks.
Keeping the coop clean, placing new chickens in quarantine or limiting the number of birds introduced to the flock, and using only clean, unshared farm equipment can help to keep the spread of the disease in check.
Ensuring that, when new chickens are purchased, they are only bought from a highly reputable breeder with a clean farm that can also help to reduce the risk of the bird flu.
3 Tips for Raising Ayam Cemani
- Provide adequate housing and feed, similar to that used for other chicken breeds
- Purchase eggs, chicks, or chickens from a reputable breeder
- Be aware of the risks of avian influenza
Ayam Cemani chickens are rare and therefore often difficult to find. They can also be quite expensive, ranging from between $50 and $2,500.
However, for the chicken enthusiast who wants to add something striking and beautiful to their flock, there may be no better choice. If you want to know more about scarce chicken breeds, you can read our post: Top 7 Rare Chicken Breeds.
Ayam Cemani chickens do not require a great deal of specialized care. They should be provided with proper shelter and bedding, as well as nesting areas. A space to roam is also a good idea, as long as that space is free of pests and predators.
They should also be offered a nutritious, varied diet. However, both their space and diet requirements are basically the same as other more common chicken breeds.
These chickens are docile and friendly, and they make excellent additions to flocks due to their coloration and alert, attentive personalities. People looking to purchase Ayam Cemani should ensure that they are buying true Ayam Cemani eggs, which are cream and pink in color.
They should also purchase their eggs, chicks, or chickens from reputable, clean, safe breeders. People looking to buy these chickens should also be aware that healthier, hardier birds are often more expensive, but are generally worth the price.
The Ayam Cemani is not a well-known breed, due to how scarce it is, but people who own these chickens are aware of how special they are. For the true chicken enthusiast, these are definitely birds to consider. An Ayam Cemani or two will likely be the stars of any chicken flock
Joseph Hudson has been raising chickens for over 15 years. In 2018, he completed the Agriculture & Natural Resources program at Mt. San Antonio College. He currently raises over 1400 chickens on his 7.5-hectare farm. He keeps sharing his experience on raising healthy and happy chickens on Chicken Scratch The Foundry.