Did you know that Asian countries are starting to see a major farming boom? It’s true, and a large part of their interest in farming deals with raising livestock like chickens. To a point, chickens have always been a part of Asia’s robust farming culture.
It’s tragic that most Americans don’t know of some of the amazing chickens that have been brought up in countries throughout the East. One of the most impressive (and unique) is the Dong Tao chicken. Let’s talk about it and why you’d want one in your flock.
What is a Dong Tao chicken?
A Dong Tao chicken is a rare breed of chicken that hails from Vietnam—and they are absolutely unmistakable. Dong Tao chickens are nicknamed “dragon chickens,” primarily because of how reptilian they look.
What makes Dong Tao chickens unique is their abnormally thick, lumpy legs and their large heads. The chicken’s legs can make up for as much as a fifth of its body weight or more. The leg meat itself is considered to be a Vietnamese Lunar New Year delicacy.
These chickens were initially bred in Northern Vietnam almost exclusively for royalty. However, their popularity became pretty widespread throughout many parts of Asia.
Do Dong Tao chickens lay eggs well?
In terms of quality, yes. In terms of quantity or ease, no. These chickens lay around 60 eggs a year. While they can be good mothers and can get broody, these birds do occasionally need help hatching.
Raising Dong Tao chickens all the way from an egg is very difficult. Even laying the eggs has to be an assisted endeavor. It’s best not to try it unless you have experience.
How big do Dong Tao chickens get?
Dong Tao chickens are huge birds, and it’s not just their big feet that make them big, either. Though their feet may make their bodies look small, it’s an illusion. Full-size Dong Tao roosters will get to be as large as 10-13 pounds!
Chicken farmers who raise Dong Tao chickens will often breed the largest roosters, simply because more meat makes them more popular. (Besides, these chickens are in short supply since fewer eggs are laid by the hens.)
What is raising a Dong Tao chicken for meat like?
Dong Tao chickens are surprisingly hard to raise. Or rather, their muscles take a while to develop. It takes eight months to a year for these chickens to reach maturity and be able to be put to market.
Because Dong Taos are extremely meaty and muscular birds, they will need to be fed a lot of food. Traditionally, they are fed diets of corn, rice bran, chicken grit, and crickets. More responsible breeder groups will also supplement it with vitamins and minerals.
Most breeders will regularly check the legs of Dong Tao chickens to ensure that they are in good shape. They also allow them to free range, since walking is how Dong Taos get their thick legs.
What does Dong Tao chicken meat taste like?
The leg and foot meat itself is known for having a chewy texture and a highly flavorful profile. It’s best served in a stew made with lemongrass and other aromatic herbs. It’s considered to be very delicious meat, though it may be an acquired taste.
The breast meat and wing meat of Dong Tao chickens are fairly standard. It’s definitely savory, but for the most part, it’s just basic chicken meat. With that said, their pink brisket and sweetmeat are a classic year-end gift in Vietnam.
Another major reason why people want Dong Tao chicken deals with youth. Dong Tao feet are high in collagen, which is a compound said to preserve youthful skin. If you want to keep your good looks, this may be a chicken dish to try.
Are Dong Tao chickens healthy?
For the most part, Dong Tao chickens are fairly healthy. They have a lifespan of 6-7 years, which is decent for most chickens. Like all other chicken breeds, they can have mites and lice, but they can be handled with proper care.
Diet is a major factor in the care and keeping of these birds. If you want to make sure that you have a bird with flavorful meat, you need to keep them on a high-protein diet. Their leg growth is not a sign of cancer. It’s how they naturally grow.
What are Dong Tao chicken personalities like?
Dong Tao chickens are fairly cuddly chickens that like to hang out with their owners. They like to cuddle and snuggle with people, and have no problem asking for pets in their own quirky way.
One thing that people quickly learn about the Dong Tao breed is that they are very clumsy. Expect to see these birds trip over their own feet, literally. Between their clumsiness and their friendliness, it’s easy to see how people might fall for this uniquely strange breed.
If you ask adherents to the breed, Dong Tao is the best bird breed for pet ownership.
How much do Dong Tao Chickens cost?
This is one of the most expensive chicken breeds in the world, hands down. The meat alone can cost $19 a pound. If you want to have a live chicken to add to your flock, you should expect to pay at least several hundred dollars.
It’s not unusual for Dong Tao chickens with extremely thick legs to fetch as much as $2,000 or more. The eggs alone can cost $55 to $70 per clutch of six. The bigger the legs are, the more you will have to pay.
It’s not unusual for people to shell out thousands for a single fully matured Dong Tao bred by a highly recognized farm. These chickens are one of the very few breeds considered to be a luxury item by consumers and farmers alike.
Why are Dong Tao chickens so expensive?
If you are used to hearing about chicken farming, then you already know that most chickens aren’t that pricey. Most tend to cost between $2 to $15 a pop. Seeing a Dong Tao cost as much as a cheap used car is absurd, right? Well, yes and no.
The biggest issue with Dong Tao chickens is that they are rare. In fact, they are one of the 10 rarest chicken breeds in the world. Since they are in such low supply, you are going to have to pay a lot of money to get a live one.
While this chicken is not endangered per se, it is very rare to see. Very few chicken farmers are willing to put in the work it takes to keep a Dong Tao chicken until it reaches maturity. They are high-maintenance birds that need a lot of space and even more feed.
The other issue is the actual rarity of Dong Tao eggs. They only lay 60 eggs a year. They also have a tendency to accidentally crush the fertilized eggs they do lay as a result of their legs. That means that breeding has to be assisted by human hands.
Finally, there is also the status element of this breed. If you want to have a chicken that can act as a status symbol, Dong Tao is the way to go. In Vietnam, there are even beauty contests for this specific breed.
Is it worth getting a Dong Tao chicken?
It depends on what you are looking for in a chicken. If you are looking for a chicken that likes to cuddle or be a pet, then it could be. However, you could probably get a different breed that lives longer and would also cost less.
Dong Taos is not a good pick for people who want to get a fresh supply of eggs on a regular basis. They don’t lay very many and will often take breaks in their egg-laying sessions for weeks at a time. At times, they also tend to crush their own eggs by sitting on them.
Truthfully, these chickens are best kept by people who are specifically looking for a specialty meat bird. Their feet are literally the reason to buy them. In most cases, a Dong Tao chicken is not really worth it unless you have that one specific purpose.
The Dong Tao chicken is one of the rarest and most expensive chicken breeds on the face of the earth. While they may look bizarre, these cuddly birds are coveted for their meat and also can make great pets.
Unlike most other chicken breeds, this breed is mostly rooted in Vietnam and has a lot of lore behind it. As a part of traditional Vietnamese cuisine, it’s still a status symbol among consumers.
Whether or not you’re willing to pay the steep price to get one, though, is up to you.