Breeding Ayam Cemani chickens is not a task that should be undertaken lightly. Because these birds sell for such a high price it can be tempting to breed them simply for profit.
It is important to realize, however, that breeding poultry can be a fairly complex process.
Not only do you need to learn how to incubate and hatch the eggs, but you also have to learn about culling — this is a necessary evil for any poultry breeder.
In this article you will learn the basics about breeding requirements for Ayam Cemani chickens and receive tips for incubating, hatching, and culling the chicks.
Basic Breeding Info
Before you make the decision to breed your Ayam Cemani chickens you should consider your reasons for doing so.
Do you simply want to make an extra buck or are you legitimately interested in growing a flock of healthy and vibrant Ayam Cemani chickens?
Unless you are willing to do the work to properly breed your chickens and care for the chicks, you should not breed them.
Your best bet is to keep a small flock of Ayam Cemani hens and to use them for egg production purposes only.
If you do decide that breeding your chickens is the right choice you need to take the time to learn the basics about chicken breeding.
Your first step is to choose the two chickens you want to breed — one male and one female.
If you are breeding your chickens simply to build your own flock it may not be important which birds you choose as long as they are both healthy.
If you are breeding your Ayam Cemani chickens for show, however, you need to select the ideal specimens of both sexes to use in breeding so that the chicks will be good examples ofthe Ayam Cemani breed standard.
Ayam Cemani chickens do not lay as many eggs each year as other domesticated breeds so the breeding process could be a little lengthier than you might have otherwise imagined.
The average Ayam Cemani hen lays about 60 eggs per year and, if you plan to hatch the eggs, they will all have to be artificially incubated. You will learn more about incubating your eggs later in this article.
The Breeding Process
The breeding process for Ayam Cemani chickens is not significantly different from that of other domesticated breeds.
If you place a mature male chicken (a cock) in the same area as a group of mature females (hens), breeding will occur with little input from you.
From very shortly after the two sexes have been introduced you should start to notice certain courting behavior.
The male will initiate courting behavior by dropping one of his wings and dancing in a circle.
In response, the hen will crouch down, dipping both her head and her body, as an indication that she is receptive to mating.
Once the hen indicates her receptiveness to mating, the male will mount her, grabbing her by the neck, comb, or back to hold himself on.
You will then witness the male treading on the hen’s back followed by a dipping of his tail to the side of the hen’s tail as he spreads his tail feathers.
When the cloacae of both birds come into contact with each other, the male releases his ejaculate directly into the female’s vagina where fertilization might occur.
Ayam Cemani hens will lay eggs whether or not they have been fertilized. It is only the fertilized eggs, however, that can be hatched into chicks.
It takes about 25 hours for an egg to make its way through the hen’s system and fertilization can only take place during the first 15 minutes or
so after the egg has been released.
This means that fertilization may not occur with every mating and it may take several mating attempts for a male Ayam Cemani chicken to fertilize an egg.
In most cases, however, Ayam Cemani hens will remain fertile for about two weeks after a mating.
If you want to make sure that your hen is only fertilized by a particular rooster you should keep her separated from other roosters for at least 3 weeks.
Hatching Ayam Cemani Eggs
Whether you breed your own Ayam Cemani chickens or receive your eggs from another breeder, you have to be very careful about how you go about hatching them.
Ayam Cemani hens are not sitters so they will not incubate the eggs themselves — you have to incubate them artificially.
If you order your eggs by mail you should let them settle for about 24 hours or so before placing them in the incubator.
This rest period is necessary to allow the air inside the eggs to normalize before incubation.
In addition to giving your Ayam Cemani eggs a little bit of time to normalize, you can store them for up to 14 days before putting them in the incubator.
After 14 days the rate of hatchability declines significantly. To store your eggs, keep them in an egg carton or another egg storage container at a temperature of 550 to 600F (130 to 15.50 C) and a humidity between 70% and 75%.
Keep the eggs stored pointy side down and slant or turn them daily during storage.
To make this easy you can place a piece of 2-by-4-inch wood under one end of the carton and change it to the other side once a day.
Before you start incubating your eggs, you should have the incubator running for at least 24 hours — this will ensure that it is the proper temperature when you add your eggs.
The ideal temperature for an Ayam Cemani incubator is 37.50C (99.50 F)
The humidity should be kept at 50% for the first 18 days and then increased to 55% to 60% for the last three days that the eggs spend in the incubator.
It is very important to keep a steady temperature in your incubator so you should use a thermometer to monitor the temperature.
It will be easier to maintain a steady temperature in a larger incubator and slight changes in temperature will be less devastating.
You should make adjustments to the temperature as neededjudging by the results of each hatching. If the eggs hatch too early, lower the temperature a little for the next batch.
If they hatch too late, raise the temperature a little.
To maintain the proper humidity in your incubator you’ll have to use a hygrometer to get an accurate reading. Again, maintaining a stable humidity level will be easier in a large incubator.
As long as you keep the humidity within 10% or 15% of the ideal range, however, your eggs should be just fine.
Temperature is much more critical than humidity when it comes to hatching your Ayam Cemani eggs. As long as you maintain the right conditions your eggs should hatch in about 21 days.
Make sure to turn the eggs three times a day during the first 18 days and then leave them alone for the last 3 days before hatching.
After the 18th day, keep the incubator closed unless you need to add water to maintain the humidity.
How to Deal with Culling
If you decide to breed your Ayam Cemani chickens you may have to sell some ofthe eggs or chicks at some point.
Although this breed of chicken doesn’t produce as many eggs as some domesticated breeds, you probably do not have the capacity to add 50 or more birds to your flock each year.
Selling some of the eggs or young chickens is a much nicer alternative to culling.
Keep in mind that it takes 5 to 6 months for Ayam Cemani chicks to mature enough to start laying their own eggs.
Ayam Cemani hens do not lay daily eggs like some breeds, but you should learn how often your hens lay and use that information to determine how many birds you need to keep to meet your family’s need for eggs.
As you hens get older they will produce less and less eggs.
If you decide to cull your older hens rather than keep them as pets, you have two options — you can do it at your hen’s first molt or wait until the second molt or later.
Hens experience their first molt around 18 months of age. During this process they lose most oftheir feathers and grow new ones.
This process takes a lot of extra protein and calories which disrupts egg production. It can take 3 months or more for the hen to begin laying again at a normal rate.
Some hens stop laying completely during their molt whilst some hens continue to lay, though often at a reduced rate.
If you don’t want to deal with increased food costs and decreased production, start raising replacement hens about 6 months early and cull the older hens when they start to molt.
Your second option is to cull the hens after their second molt or later.
If you do wait for your hens to complete their first molt, the eggs they lay after will be a little bit larger.
It is also important to note, however, that those eggs will come fewer and farther between.
Your Ayam Cemani hen will eventually get to an age when they will stop producing eggs altogether at which point you may decide to cull the bird or keep it as a pet.
If you decide to keep your hens as pets they can live for 8 to 10 years.
The most common method used for culling chickens is the neck dislocation method.
When performed correctly, this method renders the chicken unconscious immediately this minimizes its suffering during the process.
Another obvious way is to take the chicken to a vet where they will be able to put the bird to sleep for you.
Below you will find a step-by-step guide for culling chickens:
- Catch the chicken as calmly as possible — try to do it in the evening when the bird is already roosting and in its calmest state.
- Use your non-dominant hand to hold down the chicken’s legs, gripping them just above the feet.
- Place the chicken’s chest on top of your thigh to support its weight— this will result in holding the bird upside down.
- Hold the bird’s neck between your thumb and fore-finger, positioning the thumb under the bird’s beak and tilting its head back slightly.
- In a firm, quick motion pull the neck sharply downward while bringing the head back at the same time press your knuckles into the vertebrae so the neck is stretched while the head is bent all at the same time.
- Continue to hold the bird for a few seconds until the flapping and kicking subsides — this can continue for several seconds even after the dislocation.
If you wish to consume the meat, all that is left is to pluck and dress the bird.
You can learn to do this yourself or you can take your culled chickens to a butcher to have it done for you. You can then use the meat as you like.