The Ayam Cemani is a chicken breed like no other. Whether you’ve been keeping chickens for months, years, or decades, it’s unlikely that you’ll have come across this rare, unique and expensive breed before.
If you’re looking to add some wow factor to your flock, you’ll need to learn more about the Ayam Cemani chicken. Here we explain the breed, their eggs, and how to care for them.
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This breed is thought to be the rarest chickens globally and quickly becoming a firm favorite of USA breeders and poultry owners. It is a fairly modern breed that comes from Indonesia. It was first imported to Europe just 22 years ago, in 1998.
Ayam Cemanis have since been imported to the USA, where they now sell for roughly $2,500 per bird.
What makes these chickens stand out from the crowd is that they are as black as the cosmos, inside and out. In fact, if you saw a picture on the internet without having heard about them before, you might think the picture was photoshopped.
Ayam Cemani Name
This bird gets its especially-appropriate name from Indonesia, where the breed originates from, which is an island in Java. In the Indonesian language, Ayam means chicken and Cemani means thoroughly black or down to the bones.
They are also sometimes locally known as Ayam Kedu, Kedu being the actual village in Java where they’re from.
Ayam Cemani chickens possess a dominant gene that causes hyperpigmentation. Also known as fibromelanosis, this gene mutation makes the chicken completely black.
This breeds’ feathers, beaks, combs, wattles, tongues, internal organs, meat, and bones are black. The only thing about Ayam Ceminis that isn’t black is their blood, which is the usual red color, although it’s said to be slightly darker than usual.
The fibromelanosis gene is an extremely rare mutation found in just a few other chicken breeds around the world. Other black fowl breeds include Chinese Silkies, Indian Kadaknaths, Swedish Svarthonas, and Vietnamese Black H’Mongs.
The ancestor of the Ayam Cemani is the Ayam Kedu. It’s a pure Indonesian breed which has been the crux of many myths and beliefs, mainly due to its beautiful and utterly bewitching appearance.
It’s commonly thought that this bird has been used for mystical and religious purposes since around the 12th century for its special powers.
Size-wise, these chickens are of medium weight with a slim, yet firm and muscular looking build. The males weigh around 4.4 to 6.5 pounds, while the female hens are a fair amount lighter, ranging from 3.5 to 4.5 pounds.
They have a broad breast and fairly wide shoulders with long wings. They also usually stand tall and proud, holding their tail up moderately high.
These birds have four toes on each foot and close-fitting feathers that are reminiscent of game birds.
Their all-black plumage often takes on a green, turquoise, or purple iridescence under the right light.
The Ayam Cemani breed of chicken is very friendly, and although it may take you a while to find them to buy, they’re not difficult birds to keep.
It also has a reputation for being friendly, but not cuddly, so if you’re looking for a lap bird, then this isn’t it. That said, the bird will take feed from your hands, which makes it a fantastic addition to any backyard flock.
These chickens are fairly docile and not at all skittish and are therefore very easy to handle.
When introducing new birds into your flock, it’s important to consider all of the birds’ temperaments and keep an eye on their relationships as they develop.
Friendlier breeds, such as this breed, are at risk of being bullied by more aggressive breeds, so you may need to house them in separate coops if problems arise.
Ayam Cemani Eggs
When considering any chicken breed for your backyard flock, it’s important to know about egg production, even if that’s not the reason you’re keeping them.
What Color Eggs Does Ayam Cemani Lay?
Ayam Cemani hens lay eggs that are cream colored. Oftentimes, they have a pink tint or hue to them.
Do Black Chickens Lay Black Eggs?
When encountering this breed of chicken for the first time, many people wonder if they lay black eggs.
Everything else is black, so it makes sense that they would lay black chicken eggs, right?
Although some images of black eggs may appear in a search for this breed’s eggs, Ayam Cemani chickens don’t lay black eggs.
It’s a popular misconception that fibromelanosis in black chickens could also cause the chickens to lay black eggs.
Do Any Chickens Lay Black Eggs?
We’re sorry to say that no chicken breed in the world, known to humans, lays black chicken eggs. The closest a chicken might come to a black egg could be the Easter egger chicken laying a dark olive green or dark blue egg.
The images of black eggs that sometimes pop up in searches might belong to an emu or a Cayuga duck.
What Do the Ayam Cemani Eggs Look Like?
In actual fact, this breed of chicken lays perfectly normal-looking eggs. They are usually white or off-white in color with a pinkish hue.
The eggs aren’t affected by the hyperpigmentation because the hen’s body protects the eggs from it. The baby chick that grows up inside the egg, though, will also be jet black inside and out because of the dominant black gene.
Their eggs tend to be unusually large for a medium-sized chicken, at an average of 45 grams (1.6 oz) per egg.
However, they only lay around two per week, so this breed isn’t usually kept for its egg-laying abilities.
Why Choose Ayam Cemani
Most people keep this breed of chicken either for bragging rights, meat, or breeding. Keeping them solely for eggs is rare as they aren’t big producers.
Ornamental or Collection
This breed is quite possibly one of the most chillingly beautiful chickens you’ll ever lay your eyes on.
Understandably, many people want to own this breed for ornamental purposes, often as part of a larger, varied, and colorful backyard flock.
If you collect rare poultry breeds, then we’re confident that the Cemani will quickly become one of your favorite birds.
They are visually stunning and an absolute pleasure to have around due to their docile and friendly nature.
Although this chickens’ meat looks like it’s been marinated in squid ink, it actually tastes very much like regular chicken.
However, it’s said to taste more savory and flavorful than standard chicken meat. The rich pigment is thought to be the cause of this.
In fact, the price point is too high for restaurants at this point. The market, though, is expected to pick up as more breeders enter the market.
If you are considering breeding Cemani chickens, be aware they are hard to source. You’ll want at least four hens per rooster.
The difficulty in find pure Ayam Cemanis for sale, the long wait time, and their high cost may make breeding at home not as cost effective as other breeds. Still, it may be worth it when you consider how much a chick sells for in the market.
The hens aren’t particularly keen brooders, so you may have to incubate the eggs yourself.
Finally, another great reason for choosing this chicken breed over any other is how easy it is to care for it and keep.
Ayam Cemani birds are very hot and cold hardy, so they will cope well in most environments, even in the most extreme weather months. That is, of course, with the right housing.
Many people would assume that these chickens are somehow predisposed to more illnesses or problems because of their color mutation.
Fortunately, this isn’t the case. Their color mutation doesn’t appear to affect their health in any way at all. They’re actually really strong and healthy birds.
Why You Should Not Choose This Chicken Breed
These chickens are far from ideal for everyone, so you should also evaluate all the drawbacks associated with them before investing.
The main reasons people may not choose this breed of chicken are price point, long waiting list, low egg production, and the fact that they can’t always be shown.
It is a prized chicken breed in Indonesia. With the high level of investment needed to own this chicken breed, it’s safe to say that it’s not for everyone.
Many people just won’t have the budget for a chicken that’s mostly kept for its aesthetics instead of practicality.
There is also typically a waiting list you must join in order to obtain this breed. The long wait is often a factor which prevents backyard homesteaders from buying these chickens.
One of the reasons this bird remains so rare is that imports from Indonesia are severely restricted at the moment.
Due to the threat of Avian influenza, there are hefty restrictions on non-vital imports to the USA.
If you’re searching for the right chicken breed to own, chances are you want it now, next week, or maybe next month.
If you want chickens anytime in the near future, you can forget about Ayam Cemanis since the waiting list can sometimes be up to one year.
Few Eggs Produced
As mentioned previously, Ayam Cemani hens only lay around two eggs per week or roughly 80 to 100 per year. They also tend to go off-lay from time to time.
Sometimes they’ll lay 20 to 30 eggs and then just stop laying for no apparent reason at all.
Then a few months later, they’ll start laying again as if nothing ever happened. This makes Ayam Cemani too unreliable and slow to be kept for their egg-laying abilities.
Can’t Be Shown
Although the United States has been importing Ayam Kedu chickens to the USA for roughly 20 years now, it is yet to become a recognized breed by the American Poultry Association.
They are working to set a standard of perfection for this breed, but this chicken typically can’t compete in shows until then.
What You’ll Need to Raise Ayam Kedu Chickens
As previously stated, this breed of chicken is a pretty low maintenance type of bird. For this reason, you can raise them as much as you would any other backyard chickens.
They’re very hardy birds, but they’ll still need the same shade and cold-weather housing that you’d provide your other chicken breeds.
They are also unusually smart, so if you’re not planning on free-ranging them, make sure you’ve got a really secure fence. Otherwise, it won’t take them long to locate the weak points and escape.
The ideal chicken run for this breed is one that is completely covered over by chicken wire. These birds aren’t flighty, but they are good flyers.
Plus you’ll want to do all you can to protect these beauties from predators. They also do love free-ranging and take foraging very seriously, so you should make an effort to let them out whenever you can.
Ideally, your flock size should be more than two birds. As intelligent and sociable birds as they are, they will thrive as part of a larger flock.
They may seem standoffish, but we assure you that they socialize well. That said, as with all chickens, you should introduce them to each other slowly and monitor relationships.
Investing in Ayam Cemani Chickens
With their rarity and cost, you should be extremely careful about where you buy your Ayam Kedu chickens from.
A good place to start would be with the Ayam Cemani Breeders Association. Therefore, make sure the breeder you’re in touch with is registered with them.
The association was founded in 2015 by breed enthusiasts who are keen to continue selective breeding.
A true Ayam Kedu chicken should be pure black and not have any color abnormalities. Many breeders will only sell them in pairs to ensure that they can continue pure breeding.
Why is Ayam Cemani Expensive?
The Ayam Cemani is expensive because they are from Indonesia. They aren’t commonly breed in the United States. There are breeders with long wait lists.
Also, there isn’t a big demand in the US for them. This is because this breed isn’t considered among the best egg laying chickens. Therefore, it’s not as common to raise.
Ayam Cemani: A Rare Breed Indeed
Owning Ayam Kedu or Cemani chickens is the poultry owner’s equivalent of having a Lamborghini parked in your front yard.
People won’t be able to help themselves from looking twice or slowing down in the hope of spotting it in your garden. They are true black beauties.
They’re also wonderful to have around as a friendly pet as well as adding aesthetic appeal to your backyard flock.
If you think this chicken breed could be the right one for you, then we recommend you join a waiting list sooner rather than later. Lastly, always remember to vet the breeders before you buy!