Chickens aren’t often compared to luxury sports cars. In fact, you probably don’t ever hear about chickens compared to anything that sleek, fancy or outrageously expensive. But then, it isn’t everyday that someone starts up a conversation about the Ayam Cemani Chicken, referred to in the poultry market as “The Lamborghini of Poultry”.
And it happens to be a moniker well suited for this incredibly rare breed of chicken from Indonesia. You are not going to find these chickens clucking around an ordinary poultry farm any more than you would find a Lamborghini at a Toyota dealership. But, if you did happen to encounter the bird among other chickens, you would immediately notice the striking features that set it apart from it’s fowl-feathered friends.
Its feathers are jet black. Its skin is jet black. Even its organs, meat and bones are black. The black coloring is the result of a genetic trait known as “fibromelanosis.” The word “Ayam” means “chicken” in Indonesian, and “Cemani” translates to “completely black” in Javanese. And, for American breeders of the Ayam Cemani Chicken, all that black translates to lots of green.
History of the Ayam Cemani Chicken
The origins of this rare bird are almost as dark and mysterious as the bird itself. In fact, there are several theories of its origin, as the exact historical records cannot specifically pinpoint where the chicken first came from. One of the more popular explanations is that it was brought into Indonesia from Sumatra and that the original population in Sumatra has long been extinct. Others speculate that it is a hybrid of a female domesticated chicken and a green or red jungle fowl native to the area. And still others think that it was found on a tiny group of islands slightly east of the country.
Today, there is an assortment of other hybrids, but none so prized as the first-generation Ayam Cemani. Many in Indonesia still believe that the best specimens possess magical powers, and they may often be used in rituals. In the past, the birds were prized as canoe mascots, and their distinctive, especially loud crows could be heard several miles away helping the ancient mariners to identify other crafts on the waters.
Not all of the chickens in the past were completely black, but breeding over time produced this spectacular result, and the breed has gradually been imported into America and other countries in Europe.
What Makes It So Expensive?
While it is fairly common and inexpensive in Indonesia, it is exceptionally rare in the United States and other countries, so collectors are willing to pay a pretty penny to own one or more of these hard-to-find chickens. Currently only a select few poultry breeders are able to import them into the country, but if the population were to grow, the prices might fall.
It is also somewhat difficult to produce purely black and perfect specimens, and the breed doesn’t produce as many eggs as run-of-the-mill chickens. So, getting a perfect Ayam Cemani chicken can take a great deal of time and culling, which also drives up the price.
Current Trends in the Ayam Cemani’s Popularity
Social media has certainly contributed to the Ayam Cemani becoming more collectible among those who might have never heard of it otherwise. Those who own one of these chickens can claim boasting rights. The deep allure of the magical powers associated with it also helps to spur conversation between those fascinated by the beautiful bird.
Indeed, with each new article posted by media outlets such as Yahoo!, “Food and Wine Magazine” and others, the Ayam Cemani’s fame grows, and so does the number of individuals interested in claiming one for their own.
Prominent Breeders in the U.S. and Europe
If you have several hundred to a few thousand dollars to spare and want to be one of the few who can own one of the fabled black chickens, the following breeders in the United States and Europe are selling. But take note: demand (and prices) are high, and there is no sign of them falling anytime soon.
Greenfire Farms–located in North Florida, this specialized chicken breeder sells some of the world’s rarest and most beautiful chickens, including, of course, the Ayam Cemani.
Watson Ridge Ranch–located in Texas, this breeder offers the pure Indonesian descendants, as well as those with mixed genetics, which may be fairly less expensive.
Various breeders in the Netherlands, Sweden and other areas of Europe also purport to have the Ayam Cemani chicken for sale, though they are extremely rare. But, if you can afford to purchase one of these chickens, maybe you could also afford the plane fare to Indonesia, where the Ayam Cemani is much more common.
Anyway, when you pay that much for a chicken, you are not going to plan a fried chicken dinner with it anytime soon, are you? Although you would be able to brag a bit after eating what may be the most expensive eggs on the planet.