The Sumatra chicken is more of a wild game bird than domestic chicken. They are beautiful birds with plumage that sets them apart from most domestic breeds. Originally bred for cockfighting, these chickens are now an ornamental breed. They have small bodies with black skin and bones, so homesteaders rarely choose them for meat production. If desired, they can be used for eggs, but they don’t produce many of them, laying around 50–100 per year. They aren’t friendly birds, so they don’t make good pets. However, the Sumatra chicken can make a beautiful addition to existing flocks and can be bred and used for show purposes.

new chicken divider

Quick Facts About the Sumatra Chicken

Breed Name:Sumatra
Place of Origin:Indonesia
Uses:Exhibition, show, ornamental
Rooster Size:4 – 5 pounds
Chicken Size:3.5 – 4 pounds
Color:Predominantly black with hints of green sheen
Lifespan:15 – 20 years
Climate Tolerance:All climates
Care Level:Easy
Production:Up to 100 eggs per year
Temperament:Wild, aggressive, not suitable pets

Sumatra Chicken Origins

The Sumatra chicken was once called the Sumatran Pheasant. This bird originated in the islands of Sumatra, Java, and Borneo in Indonesia. The chicken is also known as the Java Pheasant Game Bird.

Sumatra chickens were originally used for cockfighting for entertainment. In 1847, they were introduced as game birds to the United States and Europe. They were added to the American Poultry Association in 1883 as an official breed.

man holding sumatra chicken
Image Credit: Piqsels

Sumatra Chicken Characteristics

Sumatra chickens are hardy birds. They are good at keeping themselves safe, flying straight up in the air to avoid potential threats. They are active, alert, and always on guard. They can be kept as pets, but they aren’t particularly friendly due to their wild natures.

This isn’t a chicken that does well in confinement. Sumatra chickens need their space and like to roam. They are social with other birds and get along well with them. However, the hens are aggressive during periods of active mothering, and the roosters can get aggressive around mating season.

The Sumatra chicken is a nervous, skittish, flighty bird. They like to have plenty of options for hiding while they’re foraging and spend time roosting in the brush to avoid predators.

Though the chickens originally come from and prefer warm regions, they are surprisingly cold hardy and can be kept in any environment.


The Sumatra chicken is kept today mainly as an ornamental bird. They can be used for shows or exhibitions, but they are not a good choice for a meat bird. They have a gamey flavor and are small.

Homesteaders looking for chickens for egg production may find luck with this breed, though. Sumatra chickens can lay up to 100 eggs per year and are efficient winter layers. These hens make excellent mothers, so breeding these chickens is easy.

Sumatra Hen
Sumatra Hen (Image Credit: Poultrygirl, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)

Appearance & Varieties

The Sumatra chicken still has a wild appearance. They have long, flowing plumage and plenty of black feathers that have a glossy look. The feathers typically have a green and purple sheen. They have purple ears, wattles, and combs, though these can be difficult to see because they’re so small. Their legs and feet are black, and the bottoms of their feet are yellow.

Black is the most common color of the Sumatra chicken. Sometimes, the bird can have a red breast.

There are two color varieties: blue and white. The blue Sumatra chickens have blue plumage with white wingtips, chests, and abdomens. White Sumatra chickens are extremely rare. They have white plumage and sometimes are all white, with black faces.

Population & Distribution

Sumatra chickens are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. This classification means there are fewer than 500 breeding birds in the United States and five or fewer breeding flocks.

The Sumatra chicken breed is becoming more popular in the United States and Europe. Hopefully, more breeders becoming aware of the breed will increase their numbers and remove their endangered status.

new chicken divider

Are Sumatra Chickens Good for Small-Scale Farming?

Sumatra chickens are not ideal options for small-scale farming. They are mainly kept as ornamental pets or show birds. They don’t produce high numbers of eggs and aren’t good options for meat. Their small bodies, black skin and bones, and gamey flavor make them unpopular farming choices.

These chickens don’t like to be confined. If you take them on as ornamental additions to your flock, they will need plenty of room to safely forage. They are usually calm birds that can get along with others, but their wild nature can lead to them showing aggression.

The Sumatra chicken is a beautiful bird that fits in nicely as an ornamental addition to a flock. The breed is rare and critically endangered, so adding these birds to your home and breeding them will help conserve their numbers.

Featured Image Credit: Sumatra Chicken (Image Credit: Opzwartbeek, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)