If you’re into keeping chickens yet, you probably are aware that there’s some mighty striking looking birds out there. Some of them are so pretty, you feel the urge to collect all those showy roosters just for yard candy. (Not a good idea – been there, done that.) They all pale in comparison to this one here, the Ayam Cemani, the most coveted chicken in the world.
Most likely the rarest of the rare breeds, the Ayam Cemani comes from Asia, and is hard to find almost everywhere else on the globe. Supply and demand won’t reach a point of market saturation anytime soon. Due to import bans on chickens from Indonesia, no one has managed to get stock or eggs from the place of origin, Java Island. The price of a hatching egg in Europe is several hundred dollars. There are said to be a handful of private flocks around the U.S., but given the import ban, this seems somewhat impossible. Needless to say, one enterprising chicken farmer in Florida somehow managed to get either stock or a few fertilized eggs, and has young pairs ready to sell this spring.
How much would you expect to have to fork over to have a bird this beautiful strutting around the backyard? Hope you’ve got big pockets. One young Cemani just sold at auction in March on RareBreedAuctions.com for $3,581.21. See now that’s some pricey chicken bling. But, if you want the more gorgeous chicken in the world, it goes without saying that they won’t come cheap. Pairs are available from the sole source, Greenfire Farms for $5000… and they can’t even be sexed accurately.
There’s more to the allure of the Ayam Cemani than surface attraction. As with anything we get from an indigenous people, this poultry oddity is awash with myst and myth. It’s name in Javanese means ‘chicken’ ‘completely black’. And it is too, inside and out, as black as the ace of spades. There is a rumor going around that even it’s blood is black, but that’s not true. No matter what color the skin or meat is – blood can’t be any other color but red. Black chicken meat? Yup. A delicacy that is said to taste more like quail than chicken, which isn’t surprising knowing that the Cemani comes from forest bird stock. Wild chickens? You think they just appeared magically domesticated? They came from somewhere, like the horse or pig, and gradually became a natural part of domesticated society.
At the price they’re fetching, it will be a long time before the average person will be able to add a few to the hen house. Still, they are worth looking forward to someday. They’re great for free range being highly capable of protecting themselves from predators, and are very friendly too. As layers the Cemani is said to be nicely productive of good sized eggs. In Indonesia the meat is said to have mythical qualities, though you might be pretty hesitant at eating jet black drumsticks.
If you find someone offering Ayam Cemani hatching eggs in the US, you might want to hesitate to purchase them. A true breed Cemani has black comb and wattle, black beak, black eyes, black legs, black skin and the entire inside of the mouth is black too. If you buy eggs, you won’t know what you’ve got until they hatch. It wouldn’t be surprising to see some shysters offering these for sale as fertile eggs for some fast cash – it would be as easy as selling edible banana seeds on eBay and Amazon. (In case you were wondering, fruit bananas are seedless, and can only be grown from divisions.)
Images courtesy of Greenfire Farms, where you can learn more about the Cemani and some other truly rare breed chickens. They have some less expensive breeds that are quite striking colored with excellent markings. A great place to visit for anyone who is into chickens.