Ayam Cemani Breed Information and Owner’s Guide

The Ayam Cemani is an unusual breed.

These chickens have an otherworldly appearance and are completely black.

They are kept more as ornamental chickens than as productive backyard flock members. Having said that, they are very easygoing, and hardy, so they can be kept by just about everyone.

Keep on reading to learn more about this mystical chicken…

Ayam Cemani

Ayam Cemani Chicken Overview

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Ayam Cemanis

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Ayam Cemani Rooster and Hen

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Ayam Cemani

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Ayam Cemani chicken


The Ayam Cemani is one of the rarest chicken breeds around.

It is believed that there are only around 3500 worldwide! This is partly why Ayam Cemanis are so expensive.

The name Ayam translates from Indonesian to chicken, and the word Cemani comes from the Javanese language meaning black.

Ayam Cemanis are fibromelanistic chickens which means that everything is black: feathers, skin, muscles and bones. There is not a speck of color on this all black chicken. The black is caused by fibromelanosis which produces excess amounts of pigmentation (melanin) within the tissues. However, their feathers display a stunning iridescent green and purple in the sunlight.

In their homeland they are treated as a magical being. They are thought to be a good luck charm that fights off evil. They are also supposed to bring good fortune and peace of mind to their owner.

Unfortunately, they are not the best egg laying breed. These chickens are cyclical layers and tend to only lay around 60 eggs per year!

Ayam Cemani
Beginner Friendly: No.
Lifespan: 6-8 years.
Weight: Hen (5.5lb) and Rooster (7lb).
Color: Black
Egg Production: 1-2 per week.
Egg Color: Cream.
Known For Broodiness: No.
Good With Children: No.
Cost of Chicken: Unsexed ($200) Sexed ($400).

Appearance and Color

Ayam Cemani Rooster and Hen

The Ayam Cemani is a solid black chicken.

This means that their eyes, comb, wattle, skin, and feathers have an all-black appearance to them. The only non-black part of this breed is their blood.

Because this breed’s genetics have not changed much, they still have the typical Jungle fowl appearance. They stand tall and have sleek feathers, long tail feathers, and sharp spurs.

This is a small but muscular and well developed chicken. Their body is upright and their legs should be clean of feathers. As Ayam Cemanis are a gamebird their feathers should be tightly packed. In the sunlight these black feathers show a beautiful green and purple iridescence.

Size and Weight

Ayam Cemanis are a small to medium-sized chicken.

Roosters will range between 4.4-7lbs and hens will be 3.3-5.5lbs.

Ayam Cemani chicken

What Is It Like To Own A Ayam Cemani?

Ayam Cemanis are active chickens that enjoy roaming.

Roosters can be flighty but the hens are normally calm and docile. They do not need lots of care apart from the usual concerns of food, shelter and protection. They can be kept in a run; however, they would really prefer to free range and will benefit tremendously if they can wander.

Overall she is a quiet yet busy chicken that is best kept in a flock of her own kind.

Personality

The Ayam Cemani is quite an easy breed to deal with.

Even though historically they were used for rooster fighting in Bali, their temperament is relatively docile.

Whilst they are very easy to handle you should not expect them to act as a lap chicken. They do not care to be lap chickens but will tolerate being picked up and held for short periods of time.

Ayam Cemanis also tend to do well with flock mates.

An Ayam Cemani

Egg Production

The Ayam Cemani is a poor egg layer and they tend to go off lay quite frequently.

This chicken is a cyclical egg layer. This means they will lay 20-30 eggs then go off lay for an extended period of time. It can be anywhere from 3-6 months before they start the cycle again.

They only tend to lay between 60 and 80 eggs per year. If you are looking for a breed that can lay lots of eggs then the Ayman Cemani is not the breed for you.

A common misconception is that they lay all black eggs. However, the Ayam Cemani actually lays a cream colored egg. Hens will start laying eggs around five to six months of age.

Egg Production
Eggs Per Week: 1-2 Eggs.
Color: Cream.
Size: Medium.

Noise Levels

Ayam Cemani hens are very quiet.

Roosters, however, love to share their voice with the world. They have a very distinct crow and in their homeland they were commonly used as a foghorn.

Care Guide

Ayam Cemani Chick

Health Issues

Ayam Cemanis are a healthy breed.

Their gene pool is quite extensive with a good amount of breeding stock in Europe and of course Indonesia.

Having said that, you will still need to watch out for the typical poultry diseases or parasites – lice, mites, and worms are all a concern.

Another thing to watch out for is heat stress. Because of their black skin and feathers, they can be more prone to heat stress than other breeds. Heat stress can lead to respiratory distress, dehydration, and in some cases death. You will need to provide them with plenty of shade and fresh water.

Feeding

Throughout most of the year you can give this breed a 16% layer feed.

They will need slightly more protein when molting, so switching up to 20% is recommended.

You also need to make sure that they have access to plenty of calcium. This helps to support them and keeps their eggshells strong. A good source of calcium is oyster shell.

Coop Setup and Roaming

Although these birds are fairly small, they are still considered to be a standard size, so each chicken will need 4 square feet of coop space. If you have a particularly large run or they are allowed to free range you can give them slightly less coop space.

For roosting space you should give them each 12 inches.

They do not require anything special for the nesting boxes.

A ratio of one box per three chickens is recommended although you will probably find that everyone wants the favorite box at the same time.

If you are keeping them in a run then they each need at least 8 square feet. This will give them enough space to exercise which also helps to reduce any antisocial behavior.

Ayam Cemani Chicken Breed History

Ayam Cemani Rooster, Hen and Chick

The ancient origins of the Ayam Cemani are not very clear.

This breed can trace some of their ancestry back to the Kedu chickens of Java.

It is also possible that some of their genes can be traced to the Ayam Bekisar chicken from the Javanese islands. It has been suggested that these chickens originated on the island of Sumatra but there is no hard evidence of this. One thing that is certain is this breed has never been a common folk’s chicken.

The Javanese people used this breed for various religious purposes. It is thought that this breed helps people with cardiovascular and respiratory issues. It is unknown how long they have been used for traditional medicines, but it could date all the way back to the 12th century.

While they are known to be used in traditional medicines, they are also seen as good luck charms. In addition, it is believed that they possess magical powers and can be a communicator between the spirit and the living world.

The Ayam Cemani was first introduced to Europe in 1998 by the Dutch breeder Jan Stevernik. However, it was not until 2017 that the breed was introduced to the United States.

Currently, this breed is one of the rarest breeds there is.

There are only around 3500 Ayam Cemanis worldwide.

The Dark Side of the Coop from Great Big Story on Vimeo.

Should You Keep This Breed? (Summary)

Ayam Cemanis remained virtually unknown to the west until the 1990s.

However, their all black coloration, and mystical appearance has helped them skyrocket in popularity.

They really cannot be called a good homesteading chicken because their egg laying is poor. Most people keep these chickens for their memorable appearance instead.

If you do want to add a Cemani to your flock then be prepared to wait. Top breeders have waiting lists that are usually fully booked for at least 6 months ahead. If you have your heart set on an all black chicken but cannot find an Ayam Cemani then you should consider the Black Silkie.

If you have any questions about this wonderful breed then please leave them in the comments section below…

Chris Lesley Bio Picture
Chris Lesley has been Raising Chickens for over 20 years and is a fourth generation chicken keeper. She can remember being a young child when her grandad first taught her how to hold and care for chickens. She also holds a certificate in Animal Behavior and Welfare and is interested in backyard chicken health and care.

6 Comments

  1. I mail ordered 12 ayam cemani eggs. I kept a pair. They are very good foragers and tolerate heavy handling by my kids. Hen is laying every other day so far. They are a joy to raise.

  2. I just adopted a 32 week old Ayam Cemani yesterday! She was in a mixed flock with very little free range time. So far, in quarantine indoors, she is very personable and seems to learn words and her name quickly. She loves to eat from my hand even though she was not a “pet” chicken growing up. I’ve been carrying her outside occasionally last night and today, and she tolerates being held and touched by visitors for about half an hour at a time. With here seemingly independent nature and curiosity, I think she’ll enjoy foraging all day in my rather large Chicago City lot surrounded by tons of nature.

    Oh… and she seems to enjoy sitting on my shoulders! I think we’ve bonded quickly.

  3. We’ve got one Roo and one hen and love them. The Roo is so sweet and lets me cuddle him regularly. He’s very attentive to his mate and the other mix breed hen we have with them. He watches over them all day and sleeps on top of their cute chicken pile at night. We’re ordering some eggs here soon to add to our Cemani obsession.

  4. A good friend got me 10 Ayam Cemani eggs. only 3 hatched but they weren’t full blooded! One has black feathers with white spots ( the rooster I kept ) the second was all black but has a pink mouth and the third was just a regular brown chicken ( rooster found him a home)! the 2 I kept I named Bedy and popcorn.

  5. I have 3 hens and 2 Roos ,and just hatched 9 more .Raising them is a great hobby for me.

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