The mysterious Ayam Cemani, a black bird inside and out
Ayam Cemani Chicken – The Indonesian Black Hen
This book contains a wealth of information about caring for and looking after these Indonesian chickens as pets, or for breeding. Whatever you choose, the Ayam Cemani hen is a truly unique specimen. This book is written in easy to understand English and is perfect if you are a beginner.
The Ayam Cemani originates from the Island of Java, Indonesia and is said to have been used for religious and mystical purposes since the 12th century. It is a mysterious and enigmatic breed medium sized with a sleek appearance not dissimilar to the wild jungle fowl in shape, excellent specimens that are completely black are highly prized and believed to have magical powers in their native land.
Ayam means chicken in Indonesian and Cemani means black in Javanese and this breed is just that.
The breed was first described by Dutch settlers and was first imported to Europe in 1998 by a Dutch breeder called Jan Steverink.
It is thought that the Ayam Cemani is derived from the Ayam Bekisar which is a male 1st generation hybrid between the green jungle fowl and a female domestic chicken or a female red jungle fowl.The Ayam Bekisar hybrids were very much valued by Indonesians for their crowing. They were carried in canoes where their distinctive crows could be heard over long distances and in poor weather allowing ancient mariners to remain in vocal distance of each other.
If you’re looking for an ornamental chicken that are a stunning addition to your flock then this would be the perfect bird for you. The Ayam Cemani is an elegant slim and sleek bird that stands proud and alert, with an almost game-like stance.
The feathers are short and hard and close fitting with very little fluff. The comb is upright single and deeply serrated with 5 distinct point and the tail is carried at a 45 degree angle.
The roosters weigh 5lbs the hens 4lbs, the body should be well muscled but not bulky.
The black appearance of these birds is due to fibromelanosis which results in the body producing excessive amounts of pigmentation. The feathers can have a beetle green or purple iridescence to them in sunlight.
The feathers, beak, tongue, legs, skin, bones, muscle and internal organs are all black, even the blood is a darker red than is normal for chickens.
Some people describe the breed as very docile and friendly and others describe them as flighty and nervous. My own birds were very flighty as chicks but very soon became hand tame allowing me to pick them up easily once they realised where the food and treats came from!
When introducing them to my mixed flock they had no problem trying to stand up for themselves when my Brahmas were letting them know where they were in the pecking order, even though the Brahmas were towering over them they had no fear and stuck their little chests out as if saying “You won’t bully me!”. Once everyone settled down they slotted right into the flock with no issues at all.
They are an intelligent breed that learns very quickly, they are always alert and nothing happens in the chicken run without them knowing all about it (and usually getting involved).
If you were hoping that your Ayam Cemani would be a reliable layer then you will be very disappointed, you can expect about 60 eggs a year. They may lay for a few months then stop altogether for several more months.
They usually lay when they are a year old and produce cream coloured eggs which are surprisingly large for the hens size. There are some pictures on the internet of black eggs allegedly from Ayam Cemani hens but they are hoaxes, the birds may be black inside and out but their eggs certainly are not.
Ayam Cemanis rarely go broody and raise their own chicks so if you intend to breed them you will either need a reliable broody hen or an incubator.
They are medium sized birds so unlike the Brahma they do not have huge appetites. As well as being free fed a chicken pellet or meal they love nothing more than foraging around for their own food and will make short work of any insects they find.
The Ayam Cemani is a hardy and healthy breed of chicken that tolerates most environments well and does not have any known health issues.
As with all poultry you need to keep an eye out for mites, lice and scaly leg as well as periodic worming. I worm my own flock twice a year and treat for parasites as and when it is required.
There are no specific requirements for housing Ayam Cemani that differ from most breeds. A dry draught free predator proof chicken coop with adequate ventilation, roosts and nesting boxes is all that is required. Even though they hail from warmer climes they tolerate cold climates very well.
Ayam Cemani can fly pretty well so if you need to keep them confined within a specific area you will need to keep this in mind.
The Ayam Cemani is a truly unique breed, they are easy to maintain, friendly and beautiful to look at.
If you are looking for a unique and stunning breed which doubles as a good luck charm then the Ayam Cemani could be just the chicken for you.