Developed in Indonesia, the Ayam Cemani, were first used by Javanese shamans for religious and mystic rites, in addition to being a bird found in courts and owned by the elite. Currently, these goth chickens serve as the latest craze of bird breeders and fanciers who are eager to get their hands on unusual-looking breeds. 

What differentiates the Cemanis from others birds of a similar ebony feather, is that they have pink tongues and dark brown eyes, along with internal organs that are of normal hues, whereas the Cemani is characterized by an "internal blackness” that is found only three other breeds: the Bohuslän-Dals svarthöna (Swedish black chicken), the Vietnamese Black H’mong chicken, and the Silkie. The source of the "internal blackness" is the result of dermal hyperpigmentation. 

Fibromelanosis (FM) is caused by a mutation that affects how pigment-producing cells travel in early development, and is characterized by “intense pigmentation of the dermal layer of skin” which results in a blue-black appearance. The term was coined to “denote the association of pigmentation with internal connective tissue” (organs), and can be seen in the trachea, blood vessels, muscle sheaths and more. 

Led by Professor Leif Anderson, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Microbiology, Uppsala University, in Uppsala, Sweden, a team of researchers from Sweden, China and America discovered that all four breeds of chicken shared the same mutation. This finding was consistent with anecdotal evidence that suggested Swedish chickens like the Bohuslän-Dals svarthöna inherited their hue from Asian chickens that were first brought to Norway by a sailor. It also illustrates nicely how humans have distributed a singular unusual mutation around the globe.


Cover: Greenfire Farms


Facts about: Ayam Cemani

 The Ayam Cemani is so rare and exotic that it's sometimes referred to as "the Lamborghini of poultry."

 A day-old unsexed chick goes for $199 (not including shipping and handling) while a single bird can fetch a whopping $2,500. As a result, it's best to buy your goth chicken from a reputable breeder as there have been cases of Cemani fraud.

 "Ayam" is the Indonesian word for chicken; "Cemani" means "completely black."

 The only thing not "completely black" about the Ayam Cemani s the cream-colored eggs that they lay.