Black Chickens: The Rare Ayam Cemanis

Above: Ayam Cemani Cock

The Ayam Cemani is rare breed of chicken with a unique physical trait… They are almost completely black… Their feathers, skin, organs, tongues, feet and even bones are all black! The only thing on them that is not black is their blood (which is for the information, normally colored)…

Ayam Cemani Eggs

Contradictory to the peculiar coloration of their bodies and a somewhat popular myth, these chickens do not lay black eggs. In fact… the only two pieces evidence I could find on the internet to prove the existence of a chicken breed that even lays black eggs where:

A photo on Pinterest of black eggs that were said to be from an Ayam Cemani.

A few memes that claims Ayam Cemanis lay black eggs (which often include the Pinterest photo with a photo of an Ayam Cemani).

I currently believe what is pictured below are Emu eggs… but that is beside the point.

The actual color of Ayam Cemani eggs is cream. Some say that Cemanis do not set well. I believed until I came across several awesome Ayam Cemani breeders on backyardchickens.com. According to both of these breeders, this unique breed is an absolutely amazing setter. However, although this means that Ayam Cemanis will sit on eggs all day, they do not lay exceptionally well. A healthy Ayam Cemani hen will lay ~100 eggs per year for their first few laying years.

Why are Cemanis all Black?

The Ayam Cemani’s completely black color is due to the presence of an unusual gene that causes fibromelanosis. Fibromelanosis is an abnormal accumulation of melanin (a natural skin pigment) that causes the skin (and inner tissues) to appear black. There are actually several chicken breeds that have this genetic condition including the Silkie, Svarthona (Swedish Black) and Kadaknath.

Temperament

Ayam Cemanis are known to have exceptionally good temperaments and, when raised around people, are often easily handled. This makes them great as exotic pets. However, some say that they have a tendency to be on the flighty side. You can read Ayam Cemani owners’ reviews on BackYard Chickens Forum (link here: Ayam Cemani Breed Reviews).

Size

Ayam Cemanis are fairly small chickens but they are still to heavy to classify as Bantams. Ayam Cemani hens weigh ~3-4 pounds and Ayam Cemani Cocks weigh ~4-6 pounds.

History

Although they where not imported to Europe until 1998, evidence suggests that the breed is far older than that. The breed is known to have originated in Indonesia. In fact, “Ayam” means “chicken” in Indonesian. There is some superstition, mostly in the their native country, that revolves around the unusual coloration of the Ayam Cemani chickens and thus, they are prized for their supposed healing properties and magical powers. They are also used in some religious ceremonies.

Availability

They might be a little hard to come by but Ayam Cemanis are available on-line for order from specialty breeders. However, this fibro breed is rather expensive. I must admit… the breed is very unique, different and beautiful. An Ayam Cemani would definitely make a striking appearance in any backyard flock!

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