Ayam Cemani 101: All You Need To Know (2022 Care Guide)

Have you heard of an all black feathered chicken with jet black skin, combs, and wattles? Well, you’ll be quite surprised at the unique appearance of the Ayam Cemani.

This rare breed originated in Indonesia and is not only a completely black bird, it is also associated with mystical powers and the dark arts because every part of them from their skin to their internal organs is solid black.

If you’re interested in introducing a mystical chicken to your coop, read on to learn more about their history, egg laying, personality and behavior right here…

History

The origin of the Ayam Cemani chicken can be traced back to Sumatra and Java, a small Indonesian island.

It is here that the ancestors of the Cemani were found including the wild or game Ayam Kedu chicken breed and the Ayam Bekisar which is a type of jungle fowl that lives on the islands of Indonesia.

Lineage

Ayam Cemani Face
Ayam Cemani Face

Despite some believing that Cemanis are part of the crossing of the green and red jungle fowl of Indonesia, the local people and poultry enthusiasts revealed that these chickens were part of a complex breeding program.

Their strange and otherworldly appearance led to this chicken’s connection to the occult and mysticism.

Interestingly, chicken in Indonesian means Ayam, and the name Cemani could mean the Cemani village or ‘complete black’ in Sanskrit.

FUN FACT

The Cemani rooster rooster has a very loud and distinct crow which resulted in boats using these birds as foghorns, a tradition in Indonesia that continues today.

The Cemani is associated with wealth and stature because of their rarity and exotic appearance.

They are rare because they are the only chicken breed to carry the dominant black gene responsible for hyperpigmentation.

As Medicine

They have also become an important part of traditional medicine as they are thought to possess magical powers and bring good fortune.

It was only in 1998 that Jan Steverink from Holland imported these chickens to Europe.

Their gothic appearance captured the attention of many poultry hobbyists which led to their establishment as an ornamental breed.

Appearance

The Ayam Cemani is a medium size chicken with a slender body and strong, muscular legs. Their legs and feet are featherless and they walk with a confident stride.

As stunning ornamental chickens, they do possess a deep green shine across their black feathers when exposed to sunlight.

They also have a black comb, wattles, and earlobes with dark colored eyes. The single comb is large and prominent in both the hens and roosters.

Weight

The rooster weighs 4.5-6.5 lbs and the hen weighs 3.5-4.5 lbs.

There is no bantam variety associated with the Ayam Cemani.

Why are Ayam Cemani Black?

The Ayam Cemani possesses a dominant gene known as the fibromelanosis gene which creates their distinct black pigment.

Both their dark bones and organs are considered a delicacy in Asia because of their coloring and their association with the spirit world.

Ayam Cemani Blood

Contrary to popular belief, the blood of this breed is not black, but red.

It is a myth that the blood of the Ayam Cemani is black and in certain cultures, the blood of these chickens is not to be consumed.

This is because some believe that the chicken breed is bewitched .

DID YOU KNOW

The fibromelanosis gene is also responsible for their pitch-black bones and internal organs.

The Breed Standard

Ayam Cemani Chicken
Ayam Cemani Chicken

The Ayam Cemani chicken does not currently have an official US poultry standard; however, the Ayam Cemani breeder’s club is in the process of establishing a standard of perfection.

Because these birds were first exported to Holland, they do have a Dutch standard of perfection.

Features

According to the Dutch, the Ayam Cemani breed should have a muscular body, broad breast bones, and long wings set on wide shoulders.

The skin and facial appendages should all be black.

This includes their feathers, legs, and feet with four toes on each foot.

While a purple to beetle green iridescence is accepted across the feathers when they appear in sunlight, any other color is not permitted.

How to Sex Ayam Cemani Chickens?

Ayam Cemani chicks are challenging to sex and while traditional wing sexing methods work for breeds such as the Leghorn, one cannot use this technique with these gothic chickens.

If you were to attempt feather sexing, the females should feather faster compared to the males. 

Feathers

They will also have uneven feathering on the wingtips whereas the males are even feathered.

Another possible way to sex these birds is to wait until 6-8 weeks when the rooster develops a larger comb and wattles compared to the hens.

How Many Eggs Does the Ayam Cemani Lay?

These chickens are poor layers and only produce up to 80 eggs per year.

They also tend to stop laying after producing around 20-30 eggs which can last for a period of 6 months. This is simply a part of their natural egg laying cycle.

NOTE

As they don’t lay as frequently as other chickens, it can also be incredibly hard to breed them.

Their difficult breeding and low production of eggs contribute to their rarity and their high cost.

What Color Eggs Do Ayam Cemani Lay?

Many believe that these exotic hens lay black eggs but the truth is that the Ayam Cemani lays small to medium cream colored eggs.

Some can lay light pink eggs depending on the strain but if you are looking for chickens that lay dark eggs, consider the Copper Marans that lay chocolate or dark brown eggs.

What Color are Ayam Cemani Eggs?

The Ayam Cemani does not lay black eggs but rather a tinted, cream, or light brown egg color similar to that of other chickens such as Rhode Islands or Orpingtons.

If you do see black eggs advertised by poultry sellers, the coloring would have been painted or edited in the photographs.

Ayam Cemani do not produce a black eggshell, it is merely a myth because of the coloring of the chicken.

Here’s a cool video of a Ayam Cemani eggs hatching…

Ayam Cemani Chicken Hatching Eggs!!!

Do Hens Lay in Winter?

The Ayam Cemani hens will quit laying eggs in winter and if she has reached her egg cycle of 20-30 eggs, she may not lay for half a year!

Keep an eye on your chickens to ensure that they aren’t egg bound if the 6 month mark passes and they haven’t produced a single egg in a week.

NOTE

When the egg doesn’t pass through the oviduct of the hen, it becomes stuck creating a life threatening condition.

Hens that are egg bound need immediate treatment or veterinary attention to prevent complications.

Are They Good Meat Birds?

The Ayam Cemani chicken has black meat described as tasting gamier compared to chickens such as broilers that are meant for production.

It has a small carcass and is not considered the best meat bird.

DID YOU KNOW

The bones, blood, and organs are prepared in ancient medicine as a symbol of good luck, wealth, and stature in parts of Asia.

In Indonesia, it is a sacrificial bird that is eaten during rituals but in the US, UK, and Europe it is prized for its tender, dark meat.

Is the Ayam Cemani Hen Broody?

Despite some hens experiencing broodiness and raising their chicks, they aren’t typically broody and don’t make good setters.

The hens can become broody once or twice a year and are very protective of successfully hatched chicks.

Personality and Behavior

The Ayam Cemani chicken is tame, intelligent, and easy to care for which are wonderful traits to have in your chicken coop.

They aren’t boisterous or bossy so housing them with breeds of a similar nature such as the Brahma, Polish, and even little Silkies can make for a balanced and happy coop.

The hens don’t mind being handled and they also make great pets for children, provided they are treated with kindness and care.

Handling

Some chickens can be flighty when young so careful handling will help them overcome their shyness and fearfulness.

Kids will absolutely love their unusual coloring and along with their gentle disposition, they are spectacular birds for your coop.

Is the Ayam Cemani Cold Hardy?

Ayam Cemani in Snow
Ayam Cemani in Snow

These chickens come from the tropical climate of Indonesia; however, they tend to do quite well in cold climates.

They do need some help with a dry and well-insulated coop in winter which includes protection of their large combs in frost and snow.

The soft tips of their comb can suffer from frostbite when temperatures dip and with a dark comb, this type of injury might be hard to spot.

TIP

Apply vaseline or a thick layer of coconut oil to the comb and wattles of your Ayam Cemani to prevent frostbite during winter.

In summer, always have clean water and enough shade available so your birds can relax and move out of the heat when temperatures soar.

Are They Loud?

The Ayam Cemani rooster can be quite loud and with his deep vocal abilities, he certainly wouldn’t be a good choice for your neighbors, especially if they prefer to sleep in!

The hens are generally quiet and a better choice for the backyard coop.

Breed Health

The all-black chicken loves to forage and will spend most of their time free-ranging when given the opportunity but living outdoors can also increase their risk of contracting lice and mites.

Their dark feathers also make it harder to detect pests before it becomes a problem.

To avoid lice and mite issues, your birds should have an area to sand bath which helps to coat their plumage and suffocate any parasites that make their way onto their bodies.

You can also apply a poultry-approved dust or powder if your chickens can’t naturally dust bath.

FACT

bathing not only helps to get rid of and prevent pests, but it also keeps chickens smelling fresh and looking clean too.

FAQs

How Much is an Ayam Cemani Chicken?

You’re looking at around $199 per chick and $5000 for good quality breeding stock.

These birds can be quite pricey so be sure to source them from a reputable breeder who can guarantee their bloodlines and their health.

Cheaper Cemanis are usually not purebred or the chicks might have color leakage in the combs and wattles.

Why are Ayam Cemani So Expensive?

Ayam Cemani Chickens in a Cage
Ayam Cemani Chickens in a Cage

The high cost of these chickens is owed to their rarity.

Some breeders are booked months in advance for chicks which means that you’ll be placed on a waiting list if you want purely bred lines in your flock.

They lay a very small clutch and suffer from some infertility issues which makes breeding them quite challenging.

Restriction

On top of their slow production, import restrictions on fowl from other Asian countries also make it costly for breeders who want to diversify the bloodline.

In their country of origin, they are prized birds that are associated with wealth and popularity further contributing to their price.

So, if you want to add the all-black chicken to the coop, be prepared to spend a little bit more and possibly wait weeks to months before the stock becomes available.

Conclusion

The Ayam Cemani breed is the gothic chicken of Indonesia and one of the only birds in the world to be associated with mystical powers.

They are available in the US, UK, Europe, and South Africa but not Australia because they have not been imported to the country as of yet.

Share Your Thoughts!

Perhaps you’re interested in a truly unique chicken to join your flock or much like us, you’re mesmerized by this breed, so why not share our Ayam Cemani guide with some of your fellow chicken hobbyists?

As one of the rarest types of chickens in the world, they are certainly worth a mention!

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Jess Woods
Jess Woods
Founder of Chickens & You. I love raising chickens and creating a self sustainable homestead for my family. I like to spend my time writing and teaching skills for homesteading and self sufficient living. 🐓 👩‍🌾