Black Chicken is healthy

Completely black chickens | Ayam Cemani

Ayam Cemani (mostly just referred to as Cemani) are a noticeable specialty in the chicken yard: The lively, nimble animals are deep black from head to toe. Even the comb, ear lobes, eyes, bones, and flesh are black in color. The interesting breed originally comes from Indonesia, but can also be kept well in our latitudes.



Weight cock2 to 2.5 kilograms
Weight hen1.5 to 2 kilograms
Laying performance80 eggs a year
Egg weightat least 45 grams for hatching eggs
Egg colorcreamy white to ivory colored
Winter layersYes
Brood instinctpronounced
Comb shapeeasy
Spring feetNo
Hues of colorexclusively black
Ring sizeHen 16 / Rooster 18

Origin and history

Originally the completely black animals come from a very specific region in Indonesia and are mainly found in the place Kedu (Java Tengah) to this day. The breed has probably existed for several hundred to a thousand years, but its exact history is hidden in the dark of time. According to geneticists, the unusual black color is due to the mutation of a single animal. From this, both the Ayam Cemani and other, also darkly pigmented races have probably developed.

In their Asian homeland, these chickens are often used for magical or shamanistic rituals, as they are said to have mystical and healing properties. For example, the animals are used in various sacrificial rituals. Ayam Cemani are also popular in other Asian countries and regions - especially in the up-and-coming China - as their meat is considered particularly delicate and nutritious. Due to their rarity, the animals are very expensive: a single chicken can easily be traded for several hundred euros, provided it is a pure-bred and flawless animal.

Ayam Cemani in Europe

The animals first became known in Europe in the 1920s, when Europeans who immigrated to Indonesia from the Netherlands first reported about the unusual animals. However, the first specimens came here only a few years ago when the Dutchman Jan Steverink went in search of the home of the deep black chickens and brought hatching eggs to Europe for the first time in 1998. However, these did not prove to be particularly productive, because only two chicks hatched from the 20 eggs brought with them - one of which was unusable for further breeding due to crooked legs.

The second chick turned out to be a healthy hen and was eventually bred to a Sumatran rooster. Steverink had more hatching eggs sent from Indonesia, but the hatching rate was always very low. For this reason, Ayam Cemani available in Europe are in the vast majority of cases not purebred, but come from crossing lines. This can often be seen in features such as a greenish shimmering plumage, lighter flesh, a dark red instead of black colored comb or one or the other light feather.

Official recognition as a breed

The first European Ayam Cemani was presented in 2003 at the young poultry show in Hanover. The breed was only officially recognized in 2006, although there are still only a few breeders and no special association.

Tip: There are other black breeds besides the Cemani chickens. Probably the best known are the more common silkies, which also have black skin and flesh. But the little-known Swedish black chicken - which has been kept and bred in Sweden and Norway for centuries - and the H’Mong chicken from Vietnam also show hyperpigmentation typical of the breed.

Breed description

Cemani chickens have a distinct fighting style, are muscular, and have an upright, proud posture. They are relatively small and light - the average weight for roosters is around 1.8 to 2 kilograms, and for hens only around one and a half kilograms. That is why the animals are sometimes listed as a dwarf breed, although strictly speaking it is not such a breed.

Further characteristics typical of the breed are:

  • muscular but slim body
  • slightly wider chest
  • Even meat onset without excessive breast and thighs
  • strong claws and beak
  • Posture and figure reveal the fighting spirit
  • long runs
  • strong neck
  • clearly visible thighs

The cock and hen show only a few differences. Only the thick, fleshy, simple comb with four to six points and the high carried tail distinguish the sexes. In addition, roosters are slightly larger and heavier and more upright in their keeping than hens.

Shades of color

Purebred Ayam Cemani are all over their bodies - also inside! - Deep black, the rather coarse plumage also has a matt color with a bluish shimmer. If, on the other hand, the animals show a green sheen, then they are crossbred animals mixed with Sumatra. Also typical of pure-bred Ayam Cemani is the peculiarity that adult animals - even if they were completely black as chicks - sometimes develop a red crest and colored tail feathers after moulting. For this reason, experienced owners and breeders only buy annual animals.

The unusual black color is a characteristic that has arisen naturally through mutation, which, however, is preserved through targeted breeding and is typical of this breed. Even if bones and meat are usually also black or very darkly pigmented - with the exception of some crossbred animals, which sometimes have black bones and white meat - the eggs have a normal light color inside and out and yellow yolks. The blood of the Ayam Cemani is also not black (as is sometimes claimed), but only dark red.

Use / economy

In terms of their profitability, other chicken breeds come off much better on a self-catering farm. Ayam Cemani

  • lay only up to 80 eggs a year
  • Crossbreed animals up to 140
  • lay quite small eggs weighing up to 45 grams
  • mostly these are much smaller
  • have only a low slaughter weight

In addition, the dark pigmentation takes some getting used to for many: the black meat also makes a chicken soup appear black and such a dark Sunday roast is also not for everyone, at least visually. However, the meat is said to have an unusually delicate taste that is reminiscent of game. Some describe it as pheasant-like.
In principle, you can use and prepare the meat of the Cemani chickens like any other chicken meat.


Ayam Cemani are definitely not chickens for beginners, they need owners with a lot of experience. The animals do not have a simple character, especially since this also shows their fighting heritage. You are:

  • very lively
  • very scary
  • disappeared at the slightest unfamiliar noise in the barn
  • difficult to tame
  • rather shy
  • little human-related
  • busy forage seekers
  • very good flyers
  • have a great urge to move
  • quite aggressive

Typically, Ayam Cemani will mess with anyone and anything who gets in their way. In the chicken yard, the animals often determine the pecking order and are meticulous about observing it - if you don't adhere to it, you will quickly notice it. If this is, however, you can usually hold several taps together. The animals also watch out for each other: If a Cemani chicken is in distress, the others often come running and support their fellows.

Cemani hens are excellent chicks with a strong brood instinct. Unfortunately, the hatching rate of the eggs is very poor, and often only very few chicks hatch, especially with artificial brood. This is due to the high inbreeding rate of the European line, as this can only be traced back to a few animals. For this reason, crossing Sumatran chickens from time to time to freshen up blood makes sense.

Tip: If you want to tame Cemani chickens, you should raise them by hand and look after the chicks intensively from an early age. However, artificial rearing is much more difficult compared to hatching, as the young need a lot of warmth and are quite sensitive.


Not only their character, but also their demeanor is not easy. Ayam Cemani are not suitable for pure stable housing, they need:

  • a large, varied run
  • many hiding places (bushes)
  • Trees, because they like to sit in trees
  • a spacious, easy-to-reach stable

The larger and more varied in its design the run, the more likely the hardworking forage seekers to take care of themselves and, at least during the summer months, only need to be fed a little. However, you should surround it with a two meter high fence and stretch a net over it: Cemanis are very good fliers and will flee at every opportunity.

Tip: Although Cemanis are quite robust and also hardy in our country, they should still be protected during the cold season. For this purpose, grease the non-feathered parts of the body - such as the comb and ear discs - as protection against the cold.

additional Information

There are only a few Ayam Cemani breeders in Germany, and there is still no official special association. If you want information and breeder addresses, it is best to contact the public relations officer of the Association of German Rassegeflügelzüchter e. V. (BDRG). Otherwise, hatching eggs (young animals only rarely) can be found in the various classified ads (e.g. on relevant websites or in the poultry newspaper). Here, however, the origin and breeding line is not always guaranteed!