Chickens are common sights on farms and small homesteads. They’re so commonplace, it’s easy to believe that they’re affordable and suited for all environments. But there are some rare breeds, like the Đông Tảo, that are surprisingly expensive due to the combination of rarity and high demand.

Although they’re in high demand, don’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of these chickens. To help explain why they’re so expensive and what Đông Tảo chickens are exactly, we put together this guide to introduce you to this expensive chicken breed.

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What Are Đông Tảo Chickens?

Also known as “Dragon Chickens” due to their massive, scaly legs, Đông Tảo chickens originated in Vietnam in the Khoái Châu District. They were used as ritual offerings or kept only by the Vietnamese aristocracy and bureaucrats.

They share many features with other chicken breeds — namely, the rooster’s bright feathers, although the females are white. Both male and female Đông Tảo chickens are massive and can weigh anywhere between 10 and 13 pounds. Their cost is where things change: $2,500 for a breeding pair is a massive price leap from many of the breeds that most people are familiar with.

Despite their intimidating and commanding presence, which makes them a great symbol for royalty and their traditional intention as pets for the aristocracy, Đông Tảo chickens are calm and even-tempered.

Most of all, though, they’re prized for their aromatic meat and are often served in expensive restaurants. Their legs, which can grow as thick as an adult human’s wrist, are considered delicacies too.

Dong Tao Chicken outside
Image Credit: Johnwoodkim Phuong, Shutterstock

Why Are Đông Tảo Chickens So Expensive?

Despite their popularity, Đông Tảo chickens are incredibly rare. Not only are they highly susceptible to changes in climate, but they also require a bit more maintenance than most other chicken breeds. This is especially true if you want to breed them.

Due to the size of their legs, Đông Tảo chickens are much clumsier than smaller chickens. When you consider how delicate their eggs are and how few they lay, you can see why hatching chicks successfully requires human help.

Despite their designation as meat birds, they don’t grow nearly as fast as many other broiler chickens. Instead, it can take between 8 and 12 months for a Đông Tảo chicken to be fully grown.

Their usage doesn’t end at meat production, though. Many Vietnamese breeders tend to their flock as carefully as possible to allow them to participate in beauty competitions. This involves a careful grooming regime to keep their feathers in good condition. Breeders will even rub a tea-and-salt solution onto their legs. A high-protein diet helps keep these chickens as healthy as possible.

This combination of rarity and high demand is what makes the breed so expensive.

Where Are Đông Tảo Chickens Raised?

Although Đông Tảo chickens have become well-known worldwide for both their appearance and the quality of their meat, they’re still mostly raised in Vietnam. Their home village, Đông Tảo, is a commune located about 18 miles from Hanoi, the country’s cultural capital, and is where most of this breed’s population is located.

Some people, like Giang Tuấn Vũ, a third-generation Đông Tảo farmer, have been perfecting the art of raising these birds for over 20 years.

Are Đông Tảo Chickens the Most Expensive Breed in the World?

Considering their steep price, it might be surprising to learn that Đông Tảo chickens are not the most expensive breed of chicken in the world. While they are a close second, the honor of first place goes to the Ayam Cemani of Indonesia.

Although they’re not nearly as big or as dragon-like in appearance, Ayam Cemani chickens are known as the “Lamborghini” of chickens, and there are only 3,500 known to exist. They’re sought after for the pitch-black color of their feathers and meat.

Image Credit: duyquang, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

Once raised by the Vietnamese aristocracy, Đông Tảo chickens are highly sought after for both their unique, dragon-like legs and the quality of their meat. These days, they’re given as gifts during the Vietnamese New Year or used at expensive restaurants to add their aromatic taste to a fancy meal.

They’re mostly located in their home village of Đông Tảo in the Khoái Châu District. Although they’re not the most expensive breed of chicken in the world, a pair of Đông Tảo chickens can cost up to $2,500. This is due to their rarity, level of care, and desirability.

Featured Image Credit: Hoang Quoc Phuong, Shutterstock