One of the most unique chicken breeds in terms of both appearance and personality is the Malay. This breed, which originated in England, is sometimes known as the towering chicken due to its incredibly long legs and upright stance.
Although it is not considered to be a good egg layer, the Malay chicken makes an interesting addition for those who are simply fascinated by beautiful birds.
Background and History of Malay Chickens
The origins of the Malay chicken can be traced back to around 1830 when chicken enthusiasts imported large Indian chickens to England. The Indian chickens were called Grey Chittagong. In stature and appearance, they are thought to have been much like the Malays of today. Malays may also have descended from a breed known as the Kulm.
The large, imposing Malays quickly became popular with keepers and breeders, and many people began breeding them in order to perfect the variety and preserve the chicken’s unique appearance. They were given the name Malay in reference to their origins in the Malay Peninsula.
In 1845, Malay chickens were first included in the British Poultry Standards. A year later, they were brought to the United States for the first time. However, it was not until 1883 that the breed was recognized by the American Poultry Association. The first color to be accepted as the red feathered, black breasted variety.
Interestingly, the Malay chicken breed was the first breed for which a bantam, or smaller, the variety was created. The bantam version of the breed was accepted by the American Poultry Association in 1904.
In the 1800s, the Malay chicken breed was quite popular in both the United States and many parts of Europe. However, as time passed, the breed, which is difficult to care for and does not produce many eggs, lost favor with chicken enthusiasts.
In fact, the Food and Agriculture Organization has listed the status of the chicken within the United States as critical.
Malay Chicken Breed Standard
- Malays stand between 26 and 35 inches tall
- Females weigh nine pounds, males weigh 11 pounds
- Malays are available in a variety of colors
- Malays have a long, tall body shape
The most striking feature of the Malay chicken is, of course, their incredible height. These chickens are usually between 26 and 35 inches tall. In contrast, the average barnyard hen stands, at most, about 26 inches tall.
The Malay chicken also has a very erect posture with long, muscular legs, a long, strong body shape, and a long neck. Females of the breed weigh about nine pounds, while males weigh about 11 pounds.
Malay chickens are available in a variety of colors. The most popular is still the original black and red combination. Other colors such as white, tan, and a combination of these different colors are also often seen.
The feathers of the chicken are stiff, relatively long, and lie close to the body of the bird. The feathers are also very shiny and the black feathers may have an iridescent sheen.
The legs of the Malay chicken are yellow with large scales and no feathers. The combs and wattles of the birds are a pale red color. Both the combs and wattles are small and sit close to the bird’s head. The beaks of these chickens are also yellow. These birds have a large head and hooded eyes, which give the chicken a rather intense stare.
Personality and Temperament
The Malay chicken is generally known as a flighty, skittish breed. They do not like to be confined and they do not like to be placed together with too many other chickens. Despite this, they are often used for show, which usually takes place in loud, confined spaces.
Malay chickens are also considered to be quite aggressive. They are not a good choice for families with children or for beginner chicken keepers. They can also be aggressive to other chickens and may peck at or bully chickens they are not comfortable around.
In addition, they have been known to pluck out the feathers of other chickens. Malay roosters can also become quite territorial and are generally very protective of their hens. They may act aggressively toward anyone, person or animal, who comes too close to their flock of hens.
Malay roosters, however, are actually a good choice for anyone who has close neighbors or is looking for a bird that makes little sounds. The crow of the Malay is raspy and short. Although it may crow frequently, the rooster’s crow is not nearly as piercing or load as that of other chicken breeds.
Despite this reputation for aggression and nervous temperament, many keepers of the Malay chicken describe them as being friendly. They are also known as curious, active, and energetic birds with strong and interesting personalities. Because of this, many keepers fall in love with both the breed’s exotic look as well as its fascinating disposition.
Malay Chicken Egg Laying
- Younger hens produce between 70 and 120 eggs per year
- Older hens produce between 30 and 50 eggs per year
- Eggs are medium-sized and brown in color
- Hens do not tend to brood well
Malay chickens are not considered to be good egg layers. They will only lay for part of the year, usually during the warmer months. Even then, hens only produce between 70 and 120 eggs each year. As they age, the production of eggs will sharply decrease, with hens producing between 30 and 50 eggs each year.
The eggs of the Malay chicken are brown in color and medium in size. The hens make good mothers, but any chicks should be kept away from the roosters, as roosters can become aggressive. Malay hens, however, are not very good at sitting on a nest. They do not have overly broody temperaments, although they are not entirely disinterested in it.
The issue is that they are too tall and heavy to sit comfortably in a brooding space. In addition, the short feathers and narrow body of the hen often cannot adequately cover the eggs in order to keep them warm. For this reason, if keepers wish to produce Malay chicks, it is often best to place the eggs in an incubator.
Health Issues and Care
Malay chickens are a hardy breed and do not generally encounter too many illnesses as adults. They do enjoy roaming around, and that, combined with their weight, can sometimes cause foot issues such as bumblefoot. Keepers will need to keep an eye out for any chickens that seem injured or less inclined to put weight on one foot.
Most of the health issues that Malay chickens encounter happen when they are chicks. Because of their size, these birds can experience growth problems. Chicks can grow too quickly if given a diet rich in protein.
This can lead to muscle and bone problems later in life. Instead, chicks should be offered a diet that is rich in nutrients and vitamins but low in protein. Allowing the growing chickens to free-range can also help add variety to their diet, but this may also introduce too much protein.
Malay chicks are also prone to coccidiosis, which is a parasitic disease. The parasite attacks the digestive system and can cause problems that eventually lead to death.
Adding probiotics, apple cider vinegar, cinnamon, oregano oil, and garlic to the chicks’ diet can help to ward off coccidiosis. This mix offers chicks a good variety of natural antibiotics, probiotics, and immune boosters.
3 Tips for Raising Malay Chickens
- Roosters should be kept by themselves or with a pair of hens
- Malay chickens do not tolerate confinement
- Malay chickens should be brought inside during the night
Despite how serious and imposing they look, Malay chickens are not that difficult to raise, although they are better suited to intermediate or experienced chicken keepers.
It is important to remember that roosters are often aggressive, especially toward other chickens, particularly other roosters. For this reason, it is often best when keeping a Malay rooster to either keep him by himself or with one or two hens.
Malay chickens do not tolerate confinement well and therefore are not good candidates for lives spent entirely in a coop. These birds have a wild temperament and prefer to roam wherever they please.
This daily exercise can also help to keep up the muscular body shape of the bird. If they are confined, Malays often become very stressed. They may even pull out their own feathers. Instead, it is much better to allow these birds to free-range in as much open space as possible.
Malay chickens are quite heavy and therefore, they can’t fly. This means that they cannot easily escape from ground predators such as bobcats or coyotes. For this reason, it is best to bring the chickens into a large, secure, covered enclosure during the night so that predators can’t reach them.
Malay chickens were originally prized because of their elegant appearance, and chicken keepers today still appreciate their unique beauty and strong personalities.
Although they are not good egg layers and can sometimes offer slightly more of a challenge to keep, these birds are a good choice for anyone who is enthusiastic about supporting and restoring rare chicken breeds.
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.