Black Chickens: The Rare Ayam Cemanis

Above: Ayam Cemani Cock

The Ayam Cemani is rare chicken breed with a unique appearance. This is due to a genetic predisposition to the excessive build-up of melanin (a natural skin-pigment). This type of abnormal pigmentation results in abnormally dark skin, feathers, organs and even bones. It is called Fibromelanosis. The only part of the breed not affected is their blood (which is, for the information, normally colored)…

Ayam Cemani Eggs

Ayam Cemanis do not lay black eggs (contradictory to what the peculiar coloration of their bodies lead some to believe). The only two pieces evidence I could find 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.

Ayam Cemani eggs are cream-colored. Some say that Cemanis do not set well. I believed this until I came across several awesome Ayam Cemani breeders on backyardchickens.com. Both breeders affirmed that the hens are amazing setters and make excellent mothers. However, this means that Ayam Cemanis 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 be gentle- tempered. This makes them great as exotic pets. However, some say that they have a tendency to be flighty. You can read Ayam Cemani owners’ reviews on BackYard Chickens Forum: 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

Ayam Cemanis were imported to Europe in1998. However, the breed is likely far older than that. Ayam Cemanis originated in Indonesia. In fact, “Ayam” means “chicken” in Indonesian. There is some superstitious beliefs (mostly in the their native country) that encompass Ayam Cemanis’ unusual coloration. Thus, they are used in religious ceremonies and prized for their alleged healing properties.

Availability

Ayam Cemanis are somewhat difficult to obtain. They are available in the U.S. on-line for order from some specialty breeders. However, Ayam Cemanis are usually expensive. The breed is very unique, different and beautiful and would make a striking appearance in any backyard flock!

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