If you have ever wondered how to start a hobby keeping ornamental chicken or breed them as a business, you can always turn to the Malaysia Ornamental Poultry Association (MOPA) for guidance.
The one-year-old organisation with more than 200 members is now on a membership drive. For RM50, you can be a member of MOPA and take part in all their activities, even if you don’t own any exotic chicken.
One of MOPA’s functions is to promote exotic chicken, educate members on how to breed them and assist anyone who wants to start a chicken farm.
Fairuz Jalal with Polish chicken (left) and rhw Red and White Ohiki.
If you are game for this hobby and have money to spare, keeping ornamental chicken is worth your time.
These rare breeds would cost you anything from RM300 (for a Serama chick) to RM20,000 for a Phoenix or Onagadori!
“Our members are eager to help anyone who is keen to know more about these rare breeds or the poultry industry.
“Keeping ornamental chicken is a relaxing hobby.
“The poultry breeders and enthusiasts are always game to exchange ideas and guide those who want to turn the hobby into business,” said MOPA secretary Zizi Hassan, who also sells exotic chicken under his company Eijo Biotech.
Amir with his Phoenix chicken – a German breed long-tailed chicken derived from cross-breeding imported long-tailed Japanese birds similar to the Onagadori with other breeds.
For Zizi, having a pet chicken is not only a rewarding hobby but is also fun and relaxing.
“Just like other pets, these exotic chicken have as much personality and can be endearing.
“Watching the different varieties will give you that exhilarating experience especially watching the chicks hatch,” he said.
MOPA member Calvin Thoo said keeping pet chickens was relatively simple even if you did not live on a farm.
“They come in all shapes with beautiful colours and patterns.
Shafeeq with his light giant Cochin, a breed of large domestic chicken derived from large feather-legged chickens brought from China to Europe and North America in the 1840s.
“I name all my chickens and try to engage with them on most occasions. I have 10 exotic chickens so far and hope to add to my collection,” said the animal lover who also has 20 cats.
For Amir Hamzah, who breeds Phoenix (a German breed of long-tailed chicken) and the Onagadori chicken from Japan, keeping chickens is a good way to introduce children to nature and is low-maintenance.
“Onagadori is an ancient breed, which dates back to the 1600s. The name means long-tailed and honourable chicken in Japanese.
“The tail feather will grow throughout the life of the rooster. In fact, the tail, saddle and sickle feathers grow constantly.
“This breed was developed from another long-tailed Japanese chicken, the Shokoko,” said Amir.
The Wyandotte chicken is an American breed developed in the 1870s. It was named after the indigenous Wyandot people of North America.
Another ornamental chicken fan is Shafeeq Samuri who collects mostly light giant Cochin, a breed of large domestic chicken derived from a large feather-legged chicken, which was brought in from China.
“We hope to recruit new members and get a place to start a MOPA farm and a chicken petting zoo where we can promote the different chicken breeds and encourage family participation.
“We also plan to start our own newsletter and get schoolchildren to be involved in our weekend activities,” said Shafeeq, who is also Sate Kajang Samuri owner and executive director.
Another MOPA member who stepped forward to offer assistance to preserve rare breeds was Wan Mohd Zakhir.
“As more people get involved in breeding exotic chicken here, we do not have to import these rare breeds anymore and more people can buy them at a cheaper price,” said Zakhir, who breeds Ayam Serama in the hundreds.
The Silkie Bantam is one of the most popular and beloved, and one of the most entertaining to watch. They are referred to as the lap kitty of the chicken world, complete with hair-like plumage and an incredibly sweet temperament.
He said, unlike other exotic chicken, Serama was very much a Malaysian breed and was one of the most popular and most entertaining to watch.
“The Malaysian Serama is the smallest breed of chicken in the world, weighing less than 500g and is only between 15 and 25 centimetres tall.
“Serama is the result of crossing Japanese bantams with Malaysian bantams,” said Zakhir, who prefers these little birds because they are much quieter than the large chicken.
Serama eggs range in colour from pure white to dark brown and it takes five Serama eggs to equal one large- grade egg.
This Japanese long-tailed Ohiki rooster is a single-combed bird with white earlobes and red-brown eyes.
MOPA president Anizam Yaakob owns the Ayam Cemani from Indonesia, which are unique and much sought after.
“Some believe that Ayam Cemani has mystical powers. Cemani has a game fowl-like appearance and the feathers are black with a metallic-green and purple sheen.
“The black colouration continues in the skin, muscles, bones and organs. The average weight of a Cemani is about 1.4kg to 1.8kg,” said another enthusiast, Fairuz Jalal, 34.
Apart from exotic chickens, these breeders also sell “utility chicken”, which are chickens bred and raised to produce eggs, and broilers which are chickens raised and bred for food.
“Chicken farm business is a profitable one. You can also enjoy the benefits of farm-fresh food and not worry if the chickens or eggs are safe to consume,” said breeder Hazwan Fahmi, who has a 1.2ha chicken farm in Sungai Ramal Dalam in Kajang.
The Ayam Cemani is one of the most exotic rare chicken breeds. Their whole body is black, from feathers, skin, even their organs. They also have a hefty price tag.
And when there is an excess of exotic chicken and their eggs in their farm, breeders such as Hazwan, Zizi, Fairuz, Shafeeq and Zakhir have no choice but to sell them, give them away or consume them.
“But believe it or not, none of us can tell the difference when it comes to the chicken’s meat and eggs,” said Hazwan.
MOPA members are in the process of compiling a database for their future reference.
The Phoenix is a German breed of long-tailed chicken. It derives from cross-breeding of imported long-tailed Japanese birds similar to the Onagadori with other breeds.
So far, they have information on more than 100 types of exotic chicken such as the Wyandotte Begium, Lakenvalder, Barbu d’Uccle, Pekin, Serama Black Sumatra, Giant Cochin, Brahma, Silkie Sebright, Serama and Selasih.
“These rare breeds require specialised veterinary care just like dogs and cats but not many veterinarians are able to provide this,” said Hazwan.
A modern game bantam also known as Tyra Banks