Breed Spotlight: Ayam Cemani
The Ayam Cemani chicken originates from the Java island of Indonesia and the word, ayam, directly translates from Indonesian to English as chicken. But before we dive into this breed, let’s get the hard part out of the way first; it’s pronounced i-yam seh-mah-nee. You may hear people shorten the name to just Ayam.
The Ayam Cemani is a gorgeous black chicken. She’s the little black dress missing from your flock. The accessory to make it all pop. From the top of its comb to the tips of its toes, it’s a beautiful and glistening black bird. The Ayam Cemani is from a unique group of chickens with a hyperpigmentation gene called Fibromelanosis. The feathers, skin, combs, wattles, and internal organs will be black in an Ayam Cemani.
What won’t be black are the eggs. They’ll be a cream or tinted egg, and one can expect 1-2 eggs per week from the Ayam. This lower egg production is one of the reasons the breed remains so rare. It’s also a smaller framed bird which, for the most part, keeps it out of the dual-purpose category. We’ll come back to that in a moment.
Occasionally, red-tinted combs or wattles can present in some instances, and this color “leakage” may come from the foundational breed, the Ayam Kedu. As the Ayam Cemani is not yet recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA), this leakage is yet to be considered a fault. However, most reputable breeders will try to breed away from it.
The Ayam is a shy bird. She won’t be the first chicken in your flock to greet you in the morning, but it will stay tightly knit to the group. Keenly aware of the safety in numbers, it will actively forage with the flock and remain vigilant to would-be predation.
The Ayam Cemani prefers to roost high and will seek out trees and high fences if given the opportunity. Keeping an elevated roost in the coop and a covered run will discourage them from seeking accommodations outside.
These two characteristics, a lighter framed build and heightened awareness make an Ayam Cemani rooster an optimal choice for small flocks. Especially flocks with bantams, where there may be concern about a heavy rooster breeding small hens. A bonus is strong genetics throwing fun color on offspring, should one of your hens decide to set a nest.
The Ayam Cemani is considered an ornamental breed. Some cultural and culinary circles seek out the Ayam Cemani breed, where the black-skinned roasted bird is considered a delicacy. If you plan to use the Ayam as a table bird, know that you’ll have a smaller carcass. Adult females will be 4.5 pounds live weight, and roosters will be closer to 5.5 pounds.
The Ayam Cemani is showy, high-stepping, and luminous. You’ll wonder why you didn’t add them to your flock sooner.
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