Beautiful & Black: The Ayam Cemani

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    Our nature as human beings is to want for that which is interesting to us. For some that means wanting to have chickens while for others that means wanting to have specific chickens, rare chickens, exotic chickens. It is much like seeing someone with a fancy pair of shoes and wanting some for yourself; if you see a fancy chicken, you just might want to add one to your flock.

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    Possibly one of the most interesting chickens in the world is an all-black chicken that originated in Java, Indonesia. By 'all-black' I literally mean to tell you that every part of this bird is black. Black skin. Black comb and wattles. Black meat. Black internal organs. Black plumage. Black tongue (the tongue must be black for a true specimen). Even their bones are black. They bleed red, although folklore might try to trick you into believing otherwise, and they lay approximately 160 eggs annually that are typically brownish in color. Hens are known to be very motherly and typically weight 4-6lbs while roosters are 5-8lbs and have very large combs. They are a hard feathered bird with upright tail feathers and live up to 8 years of age. The Ayam Cemani is a descendant and type of the Ayam Kedu which is also mostly black but has a natural colored comb and cloaca.

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    These birds are valued highly and sought after for ritualistic purposes in Indonesia. In fact, one bird can sell for the equivalent of an entire month's worth of wages, which is quite a sum, especially for those with plans to sacrifice the bird. It is believed they have mystical powers and the blacker they are in appearance, the higher the price for which they sell. Unlike the American black cat, this black chicken can bring you good luck.

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    If you live in the United States and wish to own an Ayam Cemani, I have bad news. The USDA currently has a ban on import of both live birds and viable eggs from a series of countries and Indonesia is on that list. That means no importation of Ayam Cemani chickens for now due to the presence of highly contagious and easily spread avian influenza. However, should that ban be lifted, you will have to follow procedural steps to acquire your own Ayam Cemani. All imported birds require a 30 day quarantine at a USDA Animal Import Center and they must be accompanied by an Animal Import Permit (for which you have to apply in advance) and have on file a health certificate from a veterinarian accepted by the USDA.

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    While it may never become realistic to acquire and own this rare and beautiful bird, they are worthy of our appreciation. This unique, standout chicken shows us that attractiveness and appeal can come in many shapes and colors, and there is room in our hearts and coops for them all.

    *Information about sacrifice for educational purposes only; we do not condone or encourage any such behavior.

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