If there was a competition for the most unique chicken breeds out there, the Dong Tao chicken would undoubtedly be high up on that list if not at the very top. This chicken is of Vietnamese origin and its distinct look once made it a reserve of the royal family.
The Dong Tao chicken remains a rare chicken breed even today and is highly prized for its meat. Raising these chickens is a singular experience that, realistically, many chicken farmers are unlikely to ever experience but that shouldn’t keep you from trying.
Dong Tao chickens have one feature that stands out above the rest, their thick legs. This feature gives them a much higher value compared to your regular meat birds, but it also has negative effects on other aspects of their lives.
These chickens do, however, have more going for them, including a great personality. Their origins in South-East Asia mean not every environment will be right for raising them though.
If you have ever wanted to raise a rare chicken breed, the Dong Tao chicken might be what you’re looking for. Read on to find out if you can pay the high price of admission to join the exclusive club of Dong Tao chicken farmers.
|Dong Tao, Dragon Chicken, gà Đông Tảo
|Khoái Châu, Vietnam
|Warm and Humid
|Mild-Mannered, Roosters may get aggressive around hens
|Roosters: 13 lbs.
Hens: 9.9 lbs.
|Legs can grow as thick as an adult human wrist.
The Origins of the Dong Tao Chicken Breed
Dong Tao chickens are named after the village that is most associated with them, Dong Tao, located in the Khoai Chau District in Vietnam.
These chickens also go by the name dragon chicken, perhaps alluding to the fact that the chicken’s legs and feet look more like something you’d find on a dragon.
Many chicken breeds you see today are likely to have been developed after the 1800s, but Dong Tao chickens go back hundreds of years. It is believed that these chickens were initially bred for cockfighting.
As old as they are the exact origins of the dragon chicken breed are yet to be established. It is said that in the days gone by, you couldn’t get a taste of Dong Tao chicken unless you were in the Vietnamese royal family or a Mandarin.
Dong Tao Chicken Appearance
The first thing you’re likely to notice about the Dong Tao chicken is its massive legs and feet which can grow to be as thick as an adult human’s wrist. These thick legs are covered by scales that have reddish-pink color to them.
The enlarged legs of the dragon chicken are present in both hens and roosters, but the effect is particularly visible in the males.
Once you look past the legs, the next thing you may notice is that the Dong Tao is a larger chicken breed compared to others. In fact, the roosters can weigh as much as 13 pounds at maturity while the hens may weigh around 10 pounds.
As with most chickens, the male Dong Taos’ plumage tends to be darker and has more color varieties compared to the females.
The hens are usually lighter colors like white mixed with buff or all white while the rooster can have black breasts with red feathers on their backs and wings. Some of the males may also be auburn with white, gray, and black feathers scattered throughout.
The wattles and combs on both hens and roosters will be bright red. Dong Tao chicks will typically have black wings contrasting with their white bodies.
Dong Tao Chicken Uses
Dong Tao chickens are not easy to breed, and this probably contributes to their rarity. For starters, the females are not the most proficient layers, producing one or two eggs in a whole week.
The enlarged legs of the hens make it easy for them to break the eggs after laying. As a result, farmers may have to invest in an incubator if they hope to get any chicks they can raise in the future.
It’s clear that dragon chickens are not the bird to get if you’re interested in getting a lot of eggs. However, with some people willing to pay as much as $2000 for a top-quality Dong Tao chicken, there is still a significant incentive for farmers to raise them.
According to some, the meat of the Dong Tao is tastier than that of any other chicken breed. It is said to be both lean and chewy in texture.
The red meat of Dong Tao chickens may be something to talk about, but it is the big feet that are the stars of the show. While you may be used to discarding your regular chicken legs as scraps, the Dong Tao’s legs are considered a delicacy, especially in its country of origin.
Preparing Dong Tao Meat
Among the Vietnamese people, a lot of care goes into the preparation of the meat from a Dong Tao chicken. When boiled, this chicken is typically served with a dipping sauce composed of chili, sugar, lime juice, and fish sauce.
Dong Tao chicken meat can be fried and served with steamed rice. The chicken can also be stewed with onions, lemongrass, ginger, and fish sauce.
Some people may disagree on whether the meat of the Dong Tao chicken is worth $2000. However, the demand for these chickens is high enough that there have been attempts to illegally export their eggs outside the country.
One of the reasons why these birds command such a high value is the fact that they make unique gifts. The highest value Dong Tao chickens are usually reserved for sale during Tết, the Vietnamese new year when they are given as gifts.
This idea of using Dong Tao chickens as gifts for those held in high esteem is not new. It dates back to ancient times when they were presented as gifts to the king.
Dragon chickens are not just offered as gifts to the living. The birds are also included as offerings when there are religious ceremonies of great significance.
Personality of Dong Tao Chickens
Some people keep Dong Tao chickens as pets which makes sense because they show very little aggression toward humans. These birds’ temperament is quite calm, and they don’t get easily disturbed by noises or unexpected movements in their vicinity.
The males can get a little aggressive around the hens because they are quite protective. Some will even stand guard while the hens are drinking water or eating.
Raising Dong Tao Chickens
By now you might be thinking that it would be great to get the chance to raise a few of these unique giants. However, before you commit to raising a dragon chicken, it’s important to know what this entails because they need more care than your standard backyard flock.
Before they can be sold at their best price, Dong Tao chickens must be tended to for several years. At some point, it might even be necessary to enter the birds into a beauty contest or two to raise their profiles and their prices.
Hatching the Chicks
The challenge of raising Dong Tao chickens starts quite early. The hens’ enlarged legs make them prone to breaking the eggs so to successfully hatch chicks, the eggs will need to be placed in an incubator.
Housing and Environment
Dragon chickens don’t like to be cooped up for long periods and can easily become destructive in such situations. These chickens will require more space compared to regular chickens not just because of their size, but because they feed opportunistically.
Space: For the best results, each Dong Tao chicken should have at least 3 square feet of space available. The hens will not need many nesting boxes because one Dong Tao hen will only lay 1 – 3 eggs in a week.
Raising Dong Tao chickens in a garden is believed to be better since the birds will be more active. This higher level of activity yields meat that is rated higher.
Temperature and Humidity: Dong Tao chickens thrive in a warm and humid environment, similar to what you would find in their area of origin. The temperature you should be targeting is between 23.9 and 29 degrees Celsius with humidity levels of 50% or higher.
Sunlight: Experienced breeders ensure that their dragon chickens get around 2 hours of sunlight every day. This can be a problem if you’re planning to raise these chickens in a place with long seasons without significant sunshine.
What you feed your Dong Tao chickens will play a critical role in the quality of the bird it grows up to be. Dong Taos are fed a varied diet that includes things like:
- Soaked rice
- Corn kernels
- Peanuts (lightly roasted and pureed)
- Tilapia (boiled)
This type of feed is said to give the birds meat that is firm while increasing the amount of fat in the chickens’ bodies. It also helps to keep the feathers shiny.
The diet of the chickens can also be changed when it is close to being sent to a buyer. Beef, pork, and egg yolks may become a regular part of the diet at this point.
Due to their opportunistic feeding habits, other things that Dong Tao chickens will eat are grass, fresh grains, legumes, insects, fruits, and vegetables. Ensure your chickens always have a supply of clean drinking water because dragon chickens get thirsty quickly.
The Dong Tao chickens that grab the most headlines are usually the ones that have lived the longest. This is because the size of the bird’s features will increase with age as will their rating.
Farmers can keep their most valuable Dong Tao chickens for up to 7 years, entering them into beauty contests and raising their profiles. However, not every dragon chicken will be kept around for that long, and many are sold long before then for their meat.
As is typical of show birds, there is a cleaning regimen that goes along with raising Dong Tao chickens, especially before contests or before being sent off to a buyer. Farmers will wash the chickens’ feet with a tea and saltwater solution carefully brushing between the folds.
The living environment of your birds should also be kept clean, including the nesting boxes. Certain parasites and bacteria can easily accumulate in unhygienic conditions, compromising the health of your flock.
Why do Dong Tao Chickens Have Big Legs?
To anyone who is used to regular chicken breeds, the Dong Tao’s physique, particularly the legs may look like a deformity. Some may even assume that their large legs are not natural.
Although it’s possible that some selective breeding gave rise to Dong Tao chickens, these chickens have been around for hundreds of years. There isn’t any information as to what gave rise to the enlarged legs but there is no evidence that it was anything ‘unnatural’.
More importantly, Dong Tao chickens are considered to be perfectly healthy and will be quite active if given the space to move about on their massive legs. Additionally, there has been no indication that their meat is any less healthy than that of regular chicken.
Also Read: Kadaknath Chicken
Are Dong Tao Chickens Worth the Trouble?
Dong Tao chickens are unlike any other breed of chicken, not just in their appearance, but in the level of care they demand. Considering one of these chickens can fetch as much as $2000, this should not be a surprise.
Hundreds of years ago, Dong Tao chickens were the gift of choice to present to the king. Their reputation as a worthy gift for those held in high regard continues to date, perhaps contributing to their eye-watering price tags.
Not every Dong Tao chicken you raise will be a $2000 bird, but the meat of these chickens still commands a premium price. This is especially true as the bird’s popularity has started to expand outside its native Vietnam.
Dong Tao hens don’t make good layers, so these chickens are best kept for their meat which can be enjoyed in a number of ways. You may have to commit to caring for each bird for several years if you want to get the best possible price when you sell.
These chickens are also kept as pets thanks to their approachable personalities, but you’ll have to invest time and money to ensure they are housed comfortably and eating well.
Whether you consider dragon chickens to be worth the hype or not, there are many who hold these birds in high esteem. If you can provide the quality of care they require, they can be wonderful companions and, perhaps, a lucrative venture too.