Ayam Cemani known as Black Chicken is not your average chicken – it is completely black.
Not only does the Ayam Cemani have pitch-black feathers but its skin, meat, and even its internal organs and bones are completely black. No other chicken is quite like the Ayam Cemani.
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What is Ayam Cemani?
The Ayam Cemani is a very rare and unique breed of chicken that comes from the island of Java, Indonesia with completely black looking.
This breed of chicken is known not only for its unique blackcoloration but for its prominence in Indonesian religious and mystical practices.
The meat of the Ayam Cemani is said to have magical properties and this bird has been used in religious sacrifices for hundreds of years.
Though the Ayam Cemani is still a rare breed, it is gaining in popularity – especially since being introduced in Europe and the United States in the late 1990s.
If you are thinking about raising Ayam Cemani chickens yourself, you would be wise to learn as much as you can about them before you begin.
The Ayam Cemani is different from the average chicken in a number of ways and it requires certain conditions and nutrients to remain healthy.
In this article you will find a wealth of information about the Ayam Cemani including facts about the breed, its history, and tips for care.
You will also receive a guide for building your own chicken coop, for breeding Ayam Cemani, and for keeping your birds healthy.
By the time you finish this guide, you will know for certain whether the Ayam Cemani is the right breed for you and, if it is, you will be well on your way to becoming an Ayam Cemani owner.
Ayam Cemani Summary
- Origins: island of Java, Indonesia
- Species: Gallus gallus domesticus (domesticated chicken)
- Breed Name: Ayam Cemani
- Coloration: completely black, inside and out
- Genetics: hyperpigmentation caused by a dominant gene (Fibromelanosis)
- Weight (male): between 2 and 3.5 kg (4.4 to 7.7 lbs.)
- Weight (female): between 1.5 and 2.5 kg (3.3 to 5.5 lbs.)
- Beak (length): 1.8 cm (0.7 inches)
- Beak (width): between 0.9 and 1.2 cm (0.35 to 0.47 inches)
- Comb: single, black; 3, 5 or 7 points
- Wattle: couple, smooth, black
- Body (male): slants back from the neck; back is thin
- Body (female): rectangular, rhombus-like in shape; back is flat and wide
- Tail: scooped like a horse’s tail
- Egg Laying: about 60 to 100 eggs during the first year; 20 to 30 eggs per cycle
- Breeding Cycle: hens take a 3 to 6 month break after each cycle
- Egg Size: about 45 grams at laying; large compared to the size of the hen
- Egg Color: cream-colored
Understanding Ayam Cemani Chickens
Before you can decide whether or not the Ayam Cemani chicken is the right breed for you, you need to learn as much as you can about them.
- Where do these chickens come from?
- What makes them black?
- Why are they so rare?
Now you will learn the basics about the Ayam Cemani chicken as well as some facts about its history as pets and the different varieties that exist. You will also learn about the Ayam Cemani chicken as a food source.
1. What Are Ayam Cemani Chickens?
As you already learned in the introduction above, the Ayam Cemani chicken is an incredibly rare and unique bird.
This species of chicken comes from the island of Java off the coast of Indonesia and it is known for its black coloration.
While some chicken breeds might have a few black feathers or an overall dark coloration, the Ayam Cemani is unique in the fact that it is pitch black over its entire body.
The black coloration of this breed is not just limited to its outward appearance – its bones, tissues, and organs are black as well.
Some have referred to the Ayam Cemani as the “Lamborghini of the chicken world” because it is so beautiful and so rare.
These chickens have long been valued for their so-called “magical” properties in their native land of Indonesia and they have been known to sell for as much as $2,500 (£2,250) per bird – yes, a single chicken can sell for over $2,000 (£1,800).
Not only are these birds valued for their so-called magical properties, but their jet black feathers are something of a commodity as well.
The feathers of the Ayam Cemani may be black but they have a metallic sheen with hints of green and purple, much like a beetle.
Though Ayam Cemani chickens are native to Indonesia, stocks of these birds are kept throughout the world in countries like Germany, the Netherlands, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.
The Ayam Cemani breed has even been introduced into Europe and the United States where breeders can make quite a profit breeding and selling these birds.
The tricky thing about this species is that they do not breed as prolifically as other species and they do not roost – the only way to hatch the eggs of this species is to incubate them.
This may account for part of the high price this breed has been known to fetch.
2. Ayam Cemani Chickens Facts
The Ayam Cemani chicken is a rare and beautiful bird known for its completely black coloration.
Body, Size, Height & Weight
These birds are average-sized when compared to many domesticated chicken breeds with males of the species growing between 2 and 3.5 kg (4.4 to 7.7 lbs.) and females growing between 1.5 and 2.5 kg (3.3 to 5.5 lbs.).
According to the Ayam Cemani standard of perfection, these birds should have a long, flat head with a black beak measuring about 1.8 cm (0.7 inches) long and between 0.9 and 1.2 cm (0.35 to 0.47 inches) wide.
The beak is completely black, as is the tongue. This breed of chicken has a single black comb with three, five or seven points and a coupled smooth wattle. The eyes are round and black, and the neck is medium sized.
The male Ayam Cemani exhibits a large, wide chest measuring about 12.5 cm (4.92 inches) in length and about 34.1 cm (13.42 inches) in diameter.
The body of the male slants back from the neck while the female’s body has a more rectangular, rhombus-like shape.
Males have a thin back with strong, sturdy wings while females have a flat, wide back and a flat wingspan.
The tail of the Ayam Cemani chicken is scooped like a horse’s tail, made completely of black feathers.
The claws of the Ayam Cemani are sharp, measuring about 10 cm (3.94 inches) long in males and 6 cm (2.36 inches) long in females.
The coloration of the Ayam Cemani chicken is due to a dominant gene that causes hyperpigmentation – this is referred to as Fibromelanosis.
This hyperpigmentation affects all parts of the chicken including the skin, feathers, and even the internal organs.
In fact, the name of this species is made in reference to its color. The word Ayam means “chicken” in Indonesian while Cemani means “completely or total black” in Javanese. (source)
The same hyperpigmentation that affects they Ayam Cemani breed is also seen in other domesticated chicken species like the Swedish Black Hen.
Ayam Cemani chickens are very rare, partially due to the fact that they do not breed as readily as other domesticated species.
The Ayam Cemani hen usually only lays about 60 to 100 eggs during their first year with the average cycle producing 20 to 30 eggs.
These birds usually stop laying for about 3 to 6 months after each cycle.
The eggs laid by the Ayam Cemani chicken are fairly large when compared to the size of the hen’s body and they are cream-colored.
Each egg weighs about 45 grams at laying. This breed tends to be a poor sitter and these birds do not roost – this means that breeders must incubate the eggs to hatch them.
3. History of Ayam Cemani Chickens as Pets
The exact origins of the Ayam Cemani chicken are unknown, but the black pigment responsible for its color is known to have existed for about 800 years in Asia.
Though the exact details of this breed’s origin are unknown, scientists have determined that it is one of the seven species belonging to the Indonesian line of jungle fowl.
This line of fowl includes a species of black partridge which has the same inside-and-out black coloration of the Ayam Cemani chicken breed.
It is believed that the Ayam Cemani chicken was first described during the 1920s by Dutch colonists.
Popular theory suggests that Mr. Tjokromihardjo from a town in central Java called Grabag, Magelang is the so-called “founder” of the breed.
Mr. Tjokromihardjo’s son is currently the owner of one of the largest commercial layer farms in Java.
The Ayam Cemani was introduced in Europe during the late 1990s by Dutch breeders at which point the popularity of the breed skyrocketed.
The breed has since been introduced into a variety of other countries including the United States, the Netherlands, Germany, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.
Though the Ayam Cemani is only starting to become popular outside its native country, it has long been used in traditional medicine in Indonesia.
The meat of the Ayam Cemani is thought to have mystical powers — a sacrifice of the chicken is thought to bring luck.
Some Asian cultures believe that eating the meat of the Ayam Cemani chicken will ease an unsettled conscience and that the crowing of the bird brings prosperity.
It is also believed that the meat of this chicken is higher in iron, making it beneficial for women both before and after childbirth.
Ayam Cemani chickens are sometimes sacrificed during childbirth to bring good fortune to the mother.
4. Ayam Cemani Chicken Varieties
Some say that the Ayam Cemani is a breed of its own while others maintain that it is simply a color morph of the Ayam Kedu breed.
The origins of the Kedu chicken can be traced back to the 1920s when Mr. Tjokromihardjo first recorded it as a separate species.
According to Mr. Tjokromihardjo, the Ayam Kedu chicken comes in three different varieties:
- Kedu Kedu
- Kedu Cemani
- Kedu Hsian
The KeduKedu is a large chicken variety has black feathers with white skin and a large red or black comb on its head.
The Kedu Hsian is a type of partridge with white skin, partridge coloration and a red comb.
The Kedu Cemani has black skin, black feathers, and a large black comb.
All three varieties grow to about 4 to 6 lbs. (1.8 to 2.7 kg) for hens and 5 to 8 pounds (2.3 to 3.6 kg.) for roosters.
The average lifespan of the Ayam Kedu chicken averages between 6 and 8 years.
The Kedu Cemani is considered to be a separate breed from the Ayam Kedu in both Europe and in North America.
Another breed of chicken native to Indonesia is the Ayam Pelung, or the Pelung Chicken.
This breed is known for its melodious crowing with males of the breed being nicknamed “singing chickens”.
A fully grown male Ayam Pelung weights between 12 and 15 pounds (5 to 6 kg) and stands as tall as 18 inches (50 cm). In contrast, hens typically max out around 8 lbs. (3.6 kg).
The AyamPelung chicken has a sturdy, well-built posture with large blue-black legs and a round red wattle.
The coloration of this breed is mixed with no distinctive color some are a mixture of black and red while others are a mix of yellow, white and green.
The Ayam Pelung chicken has a single comb which is large and red to match the wattle.
This breed has a rhythmic crow which is longer and more melodious than most domesticated chickens.
This is a factor that contributes greatly to the popularity of the species.
It is also important to note that these chickens grow very quickly which makes them a popular choice as broiler chickens and they are generally kept as free-range chickens.
Females of the breed start producing eggs early, maxing out at around 70 eggs or so per year.
Swedish Black Hen
The Swedish Black Hen, or Svart Höna, is another chicken breed that exhibits the same fibromelanistic trait as the Ayam Cemani.
This breed is actually rarer than the Ayam Cemani with an estimated population of only 500 birds existing worldwide.
The origins of the Swedish Black Hen are thought to extend back about 400 years ago when the gene causing fibromelanosis found its way into a population of chickens being transported to Norway.
A race of black chickens popped up along the Norway-Sweden border and gave birth to the modern Svart Höna.
Like the Ayam Cemani chicken, the Swedish Black Hen is a fairly small species — roosters weigh only about 4 pounds (1.8 kg) and they have sleek, slender bodies.
Females of the species lay cream-colored or white eggs,
though the birds themselves are almost entirely black with some deep red facial skin.
The feathers of the Swedish Black Hen have a metallic sheen and the birds have a relaxed and friendly temperament.
These birds are typically kept as free-range chickens since they are excellent foragers and they can withstand cold temperatures down to 20F (-60C) with no negative effects.
5. Ayam Cemani Chickens as Food (meat & Eggs)
You won’t find black chicken meat for sale at your local grocery store, unless you live in certain Asian countries.
Due to the high price of these birds, it is diffcult to find people who have actually tasted their meat.
In fact, Ayam Cemani chickens are largely raised for their red-black blood which is used in ceremonies.
The Indonesian people typically do not eat Ayam Cemani chicken meat for meals — they usually only eat it during ceremonies.
According to unnamed sources, Ayam Cemani chicken meat is more delicious than the meat of the average chicken but it can be a little gamier since these birds have a fairly narrow carcass.
Now you already know in’s and out regarding Ayam Cemani chickens.
If you want to buy it, then you’ll need to the things you’ve to consider before buying Ayam Cemani chickens.