Avian Expert Articles

A Rare Bird—the All-Black Chicken

chickenNature! You’re something else. Not only are you gifted with a wide array of tools for creation, but you’re also plenty handy with colors and imagination. It doesn’t take too long to glance around us and see just how diverse the world is with its many forms of life. Shapes, functions, kind, various orientations that span the spectrum from night living to essential day creatures; from the foods eaten to the locations lived in, and colors. Did we say colors again? Why yes, I suppose we did. Since we’re mentioning colors let’s look at an unusual and certainly uncommon creature that differs drastically from their normal kind, and even more so from the mutation that delivers albinism in so many things. Say hello to the Ayem Cemani…or to put it more easily, the black chicken.

A Different Kind of Chicken

The assigned designation –Ayem Cemani– divides simply into a sensible description. Ayem means “chicken” in Indonesian, while Cemani translates to “thoroughly black.” The Ayem Cemani origin is found to be in Indonesia where they have been revered for more than a few centuries. In fact, the chicken is believed to have been used for religious ceremonies–and likely other types of ceremonies as well as early as the 12th century. What makes the Ayem Cemani chicken even more interesting is that not only are their outer appearance black, their internal organs, bones, and muscles are black as well. The only thing not black in or on an Ayem Cemani is the blood, which is found to be a normal color.

The coloration of the entire creature is a result of a genetic disorder called fibromelanosis or more simply, hyperpigmentation. The tissues of the bird are infused with excess pigmentation that impacts the entirety of the creature right through to the bones and muscles. The internal organs, tongue, beak, and well…everything else become black. This is a rare instance and because it is, these creatures are typically out of the hands of the average person. In the past, it was the rich and the powerful that kept these chickens to add more differentiation to themselves from the common people. Their rare existence contributed to a rise in cost. As always, creatures with strange but desirable abnormalities interest people, people who are willing to spend a lot to acquire a rarity in the animal kingdom.

Today, the acquisition of an Ayem Cemani is still a near impossibility, unless, of course, you have expendable cash. It is reported that a single adult Ayem Cemani is worth around $2,500 US Dollars. A chick can run around $200 each in some markets but you’re saddled with the hope they grow into the adult you want. They are equally rare because they only lay an estimated 80-100 eggs on an annual basis. Even then, there are no guarantees hens will hatch chicks because they are said to be unreliable as caring setters. The eggs they lay are cream-colored and unusually large. The males can get to 7 pounds and a female up to 5 pounds. There are breeders within the US and other European countries who have worked to make these unique chickens more available. The Ayem Cemani is considered the rarest chicken in the world.

The Ayem Cemani creature is quite assuredly a beautiful one to look at. Way to go, nature!

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