The Ayam Cemani is a mystical bird from Indonesia that has been associated with many a magical, medicinal and lucky charm myth over the years.
When one sees this truly magnificent chicken you can understand why. The Ayam Cemani stands proudly upright as it carries its beautiful soft glossy black feathers that shine a beetle green and purple in the sun. This is a truly unique chicken in that not only its feathers are black but comb, wattles, earlobes, eyes, meat, bones and even organs are black. Although their blood is the normal color it too is really dark and has been used for both religious, sacrificial and ceremonial purposes throughout the ages in Indonesia.
The bird has been used for many a ceremonial ritual due to this and it is held in the highest of regards. It is one of the rarest breeds with most breeders are usually sold out for up to a year in advance. Not only is it rare but it is also one of the most expensive breeds and that is why it is known as the Lamborghini of poultry.
Some places in Indonesia these birds are highly valued as they are considered to be a sacred bird. They are supposed to bring luck to those who keep them and there is a belief in eating their meat can cure certain diseases.
Being such a rare chicken, it does not bode well for their numbers that they are very sought after for various rituals.
Ayam Cemani is from Java in Indonesia. They are thought to have derived from the Kedu which is believed to have developed from the Ayam Bekisar, this breed of chicken hails from a group of Islands in Indonesia. The combining of the domesticated red jungle fowl with the green jungle fowl is believed to be the origins of the Ayam Bekisar.
In past times and even still today this breed is used as a foghorn by some seafarers on their boats due to the breeds very distinct and unusual crow.
The Ayam part of the chicken breeds name means chicken in Indonesian. The Cemani can either mean solid black in Sanskrit or village of Cemani in the local Indonesian dialect.
These birds have been used as a status symbol of community standing and wealth. They are not the chicken of the common people.
Said to have magical powers this bird can supposedly communicate between the spirit world and the living. The flesh is never really eaten in Indonesia as it sacrificed to please the gods.
There is evidence that the Ayam Cemani was a developed breed although there are those that would dispute that as they believe it to be a landrace bird.
The birds were first imported from Indonesia to Europe by Jan Steverink in 1998. They have since been imported to America by a few breeding farms and there has been some talk of getting the accepting as a Standard of Perfection by the American Poultry Association.
|Country of Origin:
|American Poultry Association:
|Not yet recognized as a breed by the APA
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Appearance: Not a very large fowl, with a strong muscular body and proud confident pose. They are very alert birds with completely black eyes, wattles, combs and earlobes. Clean legs and strong long wings extending from wide shoulders.
Color(s): Hens and roosters have completely black soft glossy feathers that have a beetle green/purple sheen to them.
Comb: They have a single comb
Ave. Weight: Hens/Pullet 3.5 – 4.5 lbs.
Cockerel 4.5 – 5 lbs.
|The average lifespan is 6 – 8 years in a normal environment
|Good Starter Chicken?
|These rare expensive beauties are really hard to come by in the United States so not really for a backyard coop.
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Eggs: They are not very good egg layers.
They lay medium cream-colored eggs up to 60 per year
They will lay up to 30 eggs in their first years and then stop laying for up to 6 months.
They start to lay eggs from around just under a year old.
Meat: They have black meat
Breeding: Not a breeding bird unless you are completely familiar with this bird’s history and has a mutant fibro melanistic gene which is responsible for the excess black pigment in the bird.
If interested in breeding Ayam Cemani it advisable to check with the already registered breeders and clubs for advice and information on breeding. There are quite a few hefty restrictions on importing these birds from Indonesia because of the threat of Avian Influenza.
For advice on breeding please check our guide to breed poultry.
If you are a first-time breeder it is best to get professional advice from your local animal shelters, poultry farmers or vet.
Foraging: Ayam Cemani make great foragers and the one and only time they may get a bit noisy, is when it is time to be put back in their coop after a great day free ranging in their garden.
Show Bird: They do make excellent show birds but are mainly for ornamental purposes as they do not yet qualify for the Standard of Perfection by the APA.
Pets: They are really friendly, active and intelligent chickens that make a great pet.
Other: No pest goes unnoticed by these very alert and attentive birds.
They will give your organic garden a lot of nutritious fertilizer to ensure great blooms and tasty vegetables.
|They are not prone to any common health issues and are quite a hardy bird.
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|Friendly, active, alert and attentive birds.
|They are strong flyers but are not at all flighty birds.
|Not too noisy except for the roosters but they only crow about once a day. They do tend to get a bit objective around the time to go back into their chicken coop.
|Interaction with other chickens:
|Although they can look a bit standoffish these birds do socialize well with others. As with any flock if you are introducing new birds it is best to slowly socialize them with the flock.
|Good with kids?
|They are not a cuddly bird but do like children and there have been reports of these birds following around their human kids keeping a vigilant eye on them or even playing with them.
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|They get along well with all other domestic animals and have no problems checking them for pests.
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|Most domestic animals leave them alone as they are not small birds, but it is always best to keep an eye on dogs and cats.
If hawks and or foxes are in your area it is always best to take precautions.
Check with local animal shelters, zoos, vets, animal control and or pet stores about common predators in your area.
|Although they are extremely rare in the USA they are not as yet listed on the conservation lists. It is, however, best to check on any special license or instructions that may be set up for owning these birds. This can be checked with your local or national conservation centers.
Garden Size: They do not mind confinement too much but do prefer to stretch their powerful legs and roam around freely in the garden. They take their gardening responsibilities very seriously.
Ideal Climate: They are both cold and heat resilient.
Ideal Coop: The rule of thumb for any coop is 50 cm x 50 cm per hen/rooster in the coop.
Ensure there is a good space for the nesting boxes and nightly roosting rails at least 1.5 inches wide.
Good ventilation for air but not too drafty especially in winter.
It is always a good idea to raise the coop off the ground to give the birds a dry place to roost and lay especially in wet weather.
Ideal Coop Run: They can fly even though they are not very flighty chickens it is best to completely cover the coop run with the necessary materials. You also want to protect these expensive rare beauties from predators.
Ideal Flock Size: You do need more than two in your flock. They do like to socialize and browse with their flock.
Special Instructions: As they have not real health issues there are no special requirements for these chickens.
Accessories: The following accessories are ideal for your coop:
Straw for the boxes and roosting area
Animal carrier for transport purposes
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WHERE TO FIND THESE BIRDS TO ADD TO YOUR FLOCK
The Ayam Cemani is not a chicken breed you will readily find at any local poultry outlets and farms. You will need to order them from a registered authorized breeder with good bloodline stock. You can find these breeders through the Ayam Cemani Breeders Association or at farms such as Greenfire Farms or Feathers Lovers Farms.
Check with your local animal welfare and or shelter for more information on how you can adopt a rescue, Plymouth Rock. They will also be able to help with any special requirements, attention or care they may need.
CARING FOR THE BIRD(S)
Please click here for our full guide to “Taking care of chickens”. This is a comprehensive guide to owning chickens. It covers where to start from choosing your ideal flock, the coop that would best suit your garden, your bird and you to buying and bringing your bird(s) home.
Ayam Cemani is extremely rare, exotic beauties with mystical qualities that entrance a person and a personality that delights you. If you are looking for that chicken that will be the centerpiece of your flock, then this is the chicken for you. Although you will probably have to wait up to a year to receive your bird(s). You can get them at some lower end poultry dealers, but the quality and breeding standard of these beauties will not be the same.
Be sure to get your magical beauties de-wormed on a regular basis especially if they are free-ranging around the garden, mixing with other domestic animals and are interacting with children. A good dust bath or two positioned under a nice shady tree or canopy with a bit of sage or lavender sprinkled in will be much appreciated by these ladies. They love to take dust bath to rid their gorgeous plumes of pests and excess oils. A regular weekly or bi-weekly check for mites, lice and various other parasites should be done to ensure a healthy flock.
DIET AND NUTRITION
These chickens are partial to the odd table scraps and will eat most vegetable or fruit leftovers as a tasty treat. As with other chickens, they will eat chicken pellets, grains, chicken mash or grain mix from 8 weeks old and older. It is always best to feed your chickens their regular food first thing in the morning before letting them out to forage.
For baby chickens, the best is always Chick Starter when they are under 8 weeks old.
Laying hens should get extra protein and calcium in their diets to ensure the quality of their eggs and to keep them in tip-top health.
Please see our comprehensive guide to “Feeding your chickens” for more information of the different types of chicken feed for chicks, hens, laying hens, roosters, etc. and where to buy the feed and approximate cost of the feed.
SOCIALIZING THE BIRD(S)
Ayam Cemani is mostly tolerant of other breeds and their own kind. They have a calm nature and will settle in with just about any other breed. They do make excellent mothers and brood hens to foster other chicken’s eggs.
Always check on how well a breed will get on with your current flock before buying them as you do not want to upset your coop or stress your current flock.
As with any newcomer to the roost, you will have to quarantine the bird for 7 – 31 days to ensure it does not have any unwanted critters or disease that could spread to your current flock.
NOTES / SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS
As they are registered as a “threatened” conservation status they may need an extra license to own or keep in your garden. For advice on what the bird’s conservation status and orders are please check with your local conservation department.
For breeders, it is imperative that you always check your bird’s bloodlines and ensure you are buying your birds from a reputed breeder/farm. In order to sell birds of such stature, they have to be recorded and documented, always check with local animal breeding organizations for these records.
These legitimate documents are also required should you wish to show your bird(s) in various poultry shows/competition showings.
For information and advice on adopting rescued animals, you can visit or contact your local animal welfare center.
- Caring for your Chicken
- Socializing your Chicken
- Breeding Chicken
- Raising Chickens A-Z
- Hatching Eggs
- What is Molting
- Animal Shelter (ASPCA)
- American Veterinary Medical Association
- American Poultry Association
- American Animal Welfare Society
- American Animal Control
- American Animal Husbandry Society