YOUR WEEKLY DOSE OF WOWZERS AND WONDER FROM THE NATURAL WORLD
If we asked you to name the first black animal that comes to your mind, what would it be?
For some, it might be a black cat, a black widow spider, or maybe a black bear.
But did you know there is a breed of chicken that is all black? And they're not just black on the outside, they're even black on the inside!
Today, we’re looking at the rare and Wowzerful Black Ayam Cemani chicken!
You may be wondering, "What makes these Wowzerful black birds look the way they do?"
Well, it all comes down to genetics!
Sometime in the past, likely hundreds of years ago, someone found an all-black chicken and thought it looked amazing.
They continued to breed them, which encouraged this genetic mutation.
They slowly began to spread throughout portions of the Eastern hemisphere—they had a unique ability to catch the attention of traders, and some people believed they possessed magical powers.
The Javanese people initially believed these birds could help bridge the gap between the lands of the living and the dead,and used them in rituals to try to gain the favour of their ancestors, ward off ghosts, and perform other-worldly rituals!
Today, scientists know what causes their unique colouring—it's a condition called fibromelanosis.
This means that melanin-producing cells—the same cells that determine our skin and eye colours—migrate to other areas of the chicken’s body as it develops.
Once the cells begin to spread, they reproduce endlessly, resulting in not just black feathers but black muscles, bones, eyes, feet, and more!
But while their pigmentation is ultra-rich and dark, the black isn’t always true black.
Many birds exhibit a green or purple sheen, almost like oil on water, or the shimmering rainbow you’d see on a bubble as it floats through the air.
Three other chicken breeds also exhibit this trait: the Swedish Bohuslän-Dals Svarthöna, the Vietnamese Black H’Mong, and the Chinese Silkie.
Scientists believe that if you trace the lineage of these chicken breeds back far enough, you’d probably find a common all-black ancestor.
Today, the chicken is mainly considered a status symbol and is and often kept by the wealthy, or people of royal lineage.
Males typically weigh between 2 to 3 kilograms, while female chickens are slightly smaller, ranging between 1.5 to 2 kilograms.
Like other chicken breeds, the black Ayam Cemani chicken eats a diet of grains such as milled corn, red rice, or seeds.
They’ll also snap up insects, worms, spiders, beetles, and other creepy crawlies—they’re not picky when it comes to food!
Ayam Cemani are friendly, sociable birds, unlike some other chicken breeds.
Even the roosters are gentle, making them an exciting option for people who desire a rare pet.
They are able to deal with hot and cold climates very well, making them well-suited to various environments.
Their general rarity, and their tendency to take long pauses between laying their eggs, mean they’re not an ideal food source for humans.
While its black meat might make for some interesting, eye-catching hot wings, or a one-of-a-kind sandwich, it would be one pricey meal!
Unless you know someone obsessed who is obsessed with rare chickens, you’re not likely to find one of these obsidian avians around you any time soon!
A single Ayam Cemani has sold in the United States for as much as $2,500 US dollars! That’s one pricey piece of poultry!
Only a few parts of these chickens are not black—their blood, tongue, and the eggs they lay. Their blood is dark red, their tongues are often grey or white, and their eggs are often very light brown or pink!
While we often think of chickens as dutiful parents, Ayam Cemani rarely hatch their own eggs. As such, breeding them can somewhat challenging.
Roosters of this breed have a very distinctive crow. They are often used as a foghorn or proximity warning on small Javanese fishing boats!
Get a close up look at an Ayam Cemani in this video from Farm F.I.T.