Ayam Cemani: The All Black Chicken
Posted by Gypsy Shoals Farm on
The ayam cemani has earned the reputation for being the rarest (and most expensive) chicken in the world. Rightfully so and photos don’t do justice to this exotic poultry breed. They are absolutely stunning in all of their glorious black. That’s because, the ayam cemani is entirely black, from head to toe and inside to out.
This rare genetic mutation, called fibromelanosis, is only found in a few breeds of chicken throughout the world. With a large breed build and wonderfully iridescent blues, greens and purples shimmering in their black feathers, the ayam cemani is like no other chicken in the world. In fact, the ayam cemani is prized in some Eastern cultures for its’ magical, medicinal and spiritual properties.
Contrary to dis-information on the internet, the ayam cemani does not lay black eggs and does not have black blood. Ayam cemani eggs are cream colored and medium sized. Their eggs are very rich and great for baking. Ayam cemani hens are not proficient layers and unpredictable. When they “go online”, they will lay daily for a week or more, then go offline for a few weeks or maybe even months. However, with that being said, the ayam cemani hen will usually lay eggs when everyone else in the coop is on strike for the Winter.
The ayam cemani originates in Indonesia and was imported in limited numbers to the United States before the ban on bird importation went into effect. The rarity of excellent quality ayam cemani in the United States is another reason they command such a price.
Even though it is hundreds of years old, the Ayam Cemani is not yet recognized by the American Poultry Association as of this printing. However, as members of the Ayam Cemani Breeders Association, we can tell you that a proposed Standard of Perfection is being reviewed by the American Poultry Association for consideration.
Due to the high price the ayam cemani commands, there are unfortunately many poor-quality breeders selling poor-quality ayam cemanis in the United States to make a quick dollar.
It is not uncommon to hear stories of people paying hundreds of dollars for ayam cemanis, only to see them grow up with mulberry colored skin, comb and wattles, white toe nails or feather coloration. Gypsy Shoals Farm has a highly regarded reputation in the breeding community and adheres to the proposed Standard of Perfection for the breed.
Understanding What Causes Fibromelanosis
Because fibromelanosis is a genetic mutation (aka not the norm) there is a very scientific explanation for how this beautiful gift from nature occurs. Those interested in the scientific basis can find more detailed information at: The origin and evolution of fibromelanosis in domesticated chickens: Genomic comparison of Indonesian Cemani and Chinese Silkie breeds
In simple terms, the ayam cemani poultry breed possess higher than normal melanin levels, caused by a genetic (but harmless) mutation. The distinguishing all black presence is because of the pigment cell activator called fibromelanosis that is running on overdrive. The body’s cells express EDN3 and create up to 10 times the normal melanin. Fibromelanosis causes pigmentation of connective tissue, bones and organs.
The fibromelanosis gene is known as FM. The Fibromelanosis gene FM must be passed down from the parents to keep the FM Gene. The ID gene the Sex-linked Id Dermal Melanin inhibiting mutation crossed with the FM Gene, results in a bird displaying no visible skin pigmentation.
Other chicken breeds that display fibromelanosis include the Silkie and the Korean Ogye chicken. The Korean Ogye is much smaller than the ayam cemani, but displays the same “all black chicken” characteristics. Currently, the Korean Ogye is only found in its’ country of origin, South Korea. Leif Anderson, a geneticist at Uppsala University in Sweden says, “The mutation underlying fibromelanosis is very peculiar, so we are sure that it occurred once.”
Anderson goes on to say, “It’s more common to see defective pigmentation—white spots or lack of pigmentation— because it’s easier to disrupt genes than activate genes in the way that happened here.” This rarity adds to the mystique and magic lore that surround the ayam cemani breed because it truly was a freak chance of nature, that can be traced back to one bird, hundreds of years ago.
Our passion for the ayam cemani breed is unparalleled. They carry themselves with a dark strength that commands respect and immediately draws the eye of any chicken fanatic. The challenges they present to breeding, because their sheer existence is the result of a genetic mutation, makes them that much more alluring to the ayam cemani breeder who strives for the perfect bird.
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