Japanese chickens come in different sizes, with very unique characteristics. These breeds date back as far as 2,000 years back and have become naturally significant to Japanese culture.
Let’s look at the 12 Japanese chicken breeds- some of which you can find in your neighbor’s backyard. Meanwhile, others are extremely rare that you may need to visit the Land of the Rising Sun to see them in person.
Some of these fancy Japanese chicken breeds have been around for over 2,000 years (1), while others were introduced later. Regardless of their history, these chicken breeds have unique qualities that attract mainly hobbyists.
1. Tosa-no-Onagadori (Japanese long tail fowl)
This Japanese chicken breed is definitely unique, gaining its title as a Special Natural Monument of Japan. It has the longest tail feathers of any chicken breed. The Tosa-no-Onagadori’s tail feathers grow constantly throughout its life at a rate of about 70-100 cm per year.
They come in 5 color varieties: Silver duckwing, black-breasted, white, red, and buff columbian. These chickens also have a single comb with white earlobes and grayish-green shanks.
2. Shokoku (Japanese Elegancy)
Initially bred as fighting cocks, the Shokoku breed is now purely ornamental — and rightfully so. These Japanese chickens have tail feathers that reach over 1 meter long. They also have long saddle hackles that drape off their rumps.
Plumage color varieties include silver duckwing, black-breasted white with brown wing coverts, and all white. They have a single comb with red earlobes and yellow shanks.
3. Oh-Shamo [Japanese Large Game]
The Oh-Shamo is a tall and heavy chicken breed that actually originated from Thailand. They were mainly used for cockfighting back in the day. However, this large Japanese breed was discovered to have excellent meat quality. Now they are used to produce meat-type chickens through cross-breeding.
Oh-Shamo roosters weigh up to 5.6kg while hens can weigh up to 4.9kg (2). They have a pea comb with red earlobes and yellow shanks. As for color varieties, their plumage comes in white, mottled, silver duckwing, blue, buff columbian, black, and black-breasted red.
4. Koeyoshi (Japanese Good Crower)
Some Japanese chickens share similar characteristics. For example, the Koeyoshi has a similar body frame with the Oh-shamo, but it has longer feathers, especially on the tails. This Japanese breed is also called a “Good Crower” because it is known for having one of the longest crowing times, sometimes lasting 15 seconds.
These chickens, like the Oh-shamo, have a pea comb with red earlobes and yellow shanks. However, the Koeyoshi is smaller and the plumage comes only in black-breasted white with brown wing coverts.
5. Satsumadori (Kagoshima Game)
The Satsumadori does not have elaborate plumage compared to the long-tailed Japanese chicken breeds. But it does have tail feathers that fan out nicely. And since cockfighting is now prohibited in Japan, people now breed this chicken for ornamental purposes.
With an erect body shape, pea comb, red earlobes, and yellow shanks featuring a spur, the Satsumadori is a nice chicken to keep around. Plumage colors include black, white, black-breasted red, and black-breasted white.
6. Kuro-Kashiwa (Japanese Black Long-Tailed Fowl)
Another long crowing Japanese chicken breed is the Kurokashiwa. It’s a rare breed that has become sought after by chicken collectors. Although the Kurokashiwa doesn’t lay a lot of eggs, they are docile and easy to handle, making them great pets.
This bird only comes in black plumage with a single comb, blackish red earlobes and gray shanks. It is also a long-tailed breed, making the Kurokashiwa a symbol of luxury among chicken owners.
7. Uzurao (Japanese Small Rumpless)
After discussing a bunch of long-tailed Japanese breeds, let’s take a look at the Uzaro, a.k.a. Japanese Small Rumpless chicken. Yes, this breed lacks tail feathers. The Uzaro has a single comb with white earlobes and yellow shanks.
8. Chabo (Japanese Bantam)
One of the more common Japanese chicken breeds is the Chabo or Japanese Bantam. They are short, stocky chickens with erect tail feathers and short shanks.
Their plumage color varieties range from silver duckwing, white, black, buff columbian, blue and many others. Regardless of plumage, Chabos have single combs, red earlobes and yellow shanks.
9. Ukokkei (Japanese Silkie)
Another famous Japanese chicken breed is the Silkie. These fluffy chickens have a genetic mutation. Their feathers have abnormal barbules and barbicels that make the feathers appear silky.
Their combs can be either walnut or crest. Silkies also have blue earlobes and lead-gray shanks.
As the name suggests, these chickens are not bred primarily for their looks. They gain the attention of farmers for producing meat and eggs. Although, you’ll find that some are now purely ornamental because of their rarity.
The Nagoya is a dual-purpose Japanese chicken breed. Hens are excellent layers but aren’t the best sitters. As for meat production, these meaty birds are ready for slaughter between 120-150 days (3).
These chickens come only in black-tailed buff with orange hackles and saddle feathers. They also have single combs, red earlobes, and slate-blue legs.
11. Tosa-Kukin (Japanese Cochin)
The Tosa-Kukin is a Japanese chicken breed that was bred from the Cochin and other Japanese native breeds. Like the Nagoya, this breed was meant to be a dual-purpose chicken. However, since their numbers are low, they are now just ornamental.
In terms of plumage, there is only one color variety which is the buff columbian with brown tail feathers. The Tosa-Kukin also has a single comb with red earlobes and yellow shanks.
Last on our list is the Mikawa. This Japanese chicken breed, interestingly enough, does not have Japanese ancestry. It was established from other breeds for egg production. Since then, it has become one of the rare breeds in Japan.
These buff-colored chickens have a single comb, with white earlobes and yellow shanks.
Japanese chicken breeds have both aesthetic and utility qualities. They are easily cross-bred to produce commercial chickens with improved characteristics. However, on their own rights, they are beautiful chickens, with most of the breeds mentioned being deemed Natural Monuments of Japan. This means that these chicken breeds are protected for their unique characteristics.
- Japanese Native Chickens. Retrieved from: https://www.angrin.tlri.gov.tw/apec2003/chapter3jpchicken.pdf
- Introduction of Japanese native fowls. Retrieved from: https://jpn-psa.jp/en/introduction/
- Nagoya Chicken. Retrieved from: https://www.domesticforest.com/nagoya-chicken/
Tana grew up around island farms and pine forests. Her love for nature lead to her degree in Biology and mission to lessen her environmental impact. Now she grows food in her backyard and shares what she learns from Eco Peanut with others.