Your Ultimate Free Guide To The Incredible Phoenix Chicken Breed
Not all chickens are lookers.
Some, however, are beautiful… and, as is so often the case in life, the good-looking ones just aren’t as productive in the day-to-day grind.
Case in point: the Phoenix chicken.
These gorgeous birds ride the line between farm animals and household pets, making them one of the most fascinating birds you’ll ever meet.
The Feathery Details: A Piece of Phoenix History
It’s common to see Phoenix chickens referred to as “Japanese Phoenix chickens,” but the truth is, that isn’t 100% accurate. While Japanese blood does run in their veins, Phoenix chickens are technically a European breed.
Historically, Japan had a tradition of keeping “garden chickens” as a sort of outdoor pet/lawn ornament. These were truly long-feathered birds, with feet upon feet of tail feathers. While there were many breeds of ornamental chickens, the Onagadori were the most famous.
Naturally, when Europeans arrived on the scene, they wanted to take a few back with them.
The Onagadori did not thrive in the colder, harsher European climate.
Many of them became ill and died, which led breeders to search around for a solution.
NOTE: For more information on chicken diseases and how to spot them, check out our article, Chicken Diseases 101.
With the fate of the European colony of Onagadori at stake, Mr. Hugo du Roi created the Phoenix breed of chickens in Germany in an attempt to bolster their stamina and equip them to handle the weather.
He bred them with heftier, more robust chickens like Leghorns and Dutch varieties.
The gambit worked, giving us the breed known today as the Phoenix.
Profiling the Phoenix Chicken
When you take a bird that came from the Japanese Onagadori — a combination of the Shokuku, Totenko, and possibly Minohiki Japanese breeds — and cross-breed it with Leghorns, Modern Game, Old English Game, Bruegge Game, Kruper, Malay, Ramelsloher, and Yokohama breeds (these guys have a lengthy pedigree!), you know you’re going to get something special.
Let’s take a closer look at the characteristics of a Phoenix chicken and what makes them such a majestic-looking bird.
The Basics of Being a Phoenix
The Phoenix is not a particularly large chicken, with their standard weights being approximately 5.5 lbs for a rooster and 4 lbs for a hen.
There is also a bantam version of the Phoenix, which weigh in closer to 1.6 lbs for the males and 1.5 lbs for the females. Not too big when you consider that an average Leghorn (one of their relatives) is usually 6-7 lbs!
The Phoenix chicken has a single comb with five upright points. Roosters sport medium-sized combs while the females generally have smaller ones. Their wattles are also a small to medium size on most birds. Both their wattles and combs are bright red.
They have dark reddish-brown eyes and their earlobes are strikingly white, giving the appearance of earrings hanging from the sides of their heads.
Their feet and shanks are clean and smooth and are anywhere from a light to a dark blue or slate color.
They prefer warmer climates to cold ones, but, when given a good coop to shelter from the cold, they can do just fine in winter weather. (More on living quarters for Phoenixes further down.)
Is That a Pheasant? No, It’s a Phoenix! The Phoenix Tail
The tail of a Phoenix is without a doubt their best feature. But the most impressive tails you see — the kind that make you want to run out and buy one right now — come at a cost to you, the owner. Helping a Phoenix grow a gorgeous tail requires a great amount of care and attention. This makes them a high maintenance bird.
Their ancestors, the Onagadori, had a rare gene that prevented their tail feathers from molting. Like human hair, it would just keep growing and growing. Some Onagadori tails are said to have pushed 30 feet in length!
However, when the Onagadori chickens were cross-bred with the European varieties, all of whom molted regularly and consequently had shorter tails, some of the luster of the long tail feathers was lost. But it wasn’t entirely gone. Phoenix chickens still molt much less often than other chickens, giving the breed a chance to grow tails up to five feet in length.
So just like long human hair, you’ll have to tend to the feathers regularly, keeping them clean and ensuring their environment isn’t overly dirty. Provide higher perches that allow for their tail feathers to hang down, and make sure there is enough living space so their tails don’t get stepped on by fellow chickens. Note that they also run the risk of picking up dirt and feces when in a more confined space.
NOTE: Apart from the condition of their tails, many owners claim that Phoenix chickens do quite well in smaller spaces. If you’re not concerned with having a show-ready tail, and are interested in building a small chicken coop in an urban area, check out some of our top suggestions!
Phoenix Personality Traits: Friend or Foe?
What is the temperament of a Phoenix chicken?
The good news is that this breed is quite docile. They tend to be gentle and shy and can be quite submissive as a pet.
However, they are not man’s best friend by a long stretch, and generally take on more of an aloof, feline attitude. They are also good mothers, but that means they can go broody often, as well.
The main way you can try to curb this unsocial disposition is by handling them regularly from a very young age. This generally makes them much more tolerant of human interaction.
What Do Phoenix Chickens Eat?
In general, Phoenix chickens need fairly modest amounts of feed, especially if they are free range.
There is one thing in their diet, though, that stands out above the rest: protein! It takes a lot of protein to grow those tail feathers, so an abundance of protein is a must. Beyond that, the debate goes back and forth regarding what exactly you should feed your Phoenix.
It appears that the Japanese, who have been raising long-tailed birds for centuries, include things like fresh fish, kelp, and rice in their diets in varying amounts.
But the truth is, there is nothing close to a consensus on how many of those things a typical Phoenix chicken’s feed should include. The main thing to keep in mind is that they are still chickens and can eat like chickens, but whatever feed you choose, make sure to keep those protein levels higher than normal.
NOTE: For more information on what to feed your chickens in general, check out our ultimate guide to chicken feed!
Phoenix Chicken Eggs
Before you get your hopes up too high, you should know that the Phoenix chicken egg production is pretty pathetic, all things considered. They are often reported to lay around three white, creamy, or light brown eggs a week, although some sources put the number as low as one!
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Phoenix chicken eggs are small. So don’t count on them to bail you out of going to the grocery store when you’re in a pinch!
The Phoenix Rooster
While hens are usually preferred when it comes to backyard chickens, with Phoenix chickens, it is the roosters who really shine.
Why is that? Because it’s the roosters that grow the long tail feathers!
With a protein-heavy diet and low egg production, these birds really do feel more like a family pet, and because of that, most owners prefer a dazzling rooster with a proud comb and multiple feet of well-kept plumage.
Here’s a video of a beautiful Phoenix rooster in action, showing off its tail feathers for all to see.
Phoenix Chicken Breeds
There are quite a few varieties of Phoenix bird colors. Of these variations, the Silver and Gold are recognized by the APA. Phoenix chickens are accepted into the American Poultry Association with both large fowl and bantam varieties.
Here are some of the most common variations within the breed, categorized by the color of their plumage. However, while these are the official colors, each individual Phoenix is prone to a variety of colors, all of which can vary unpredictably.
Also keep in mind that some of these, like the Silver and Gold, have “duckwing” varieties due to differences in the wing feathers.
Silver Phoenix Chicken
Silver Phoenix chickens have a predominantly silver plumage, though often with overtones of white, blue, and black feathers mixed in, creating a gorgeous mixture of sleek colors.
Golden Phoenix Chicken
This variety of the Phoenix chicken is a cross of both the Black-Breasted Red Phoenix and the Silver Duckwing Phoenix, with a wonderful combination of gold and black feathers.
White Phoenix Chicken
This Phoenix chicken is one of the only varieties that tends to be monochromatic. Most White Phoenix chickens have white feathers from their heads and breasts right down to their long, beautiful tails.
Black-Breasted Red Phoenix
With a black breast and tail feathers and red neck, shoulders, and back feathers, Black-Breasted Red Phoenix chickens bring a level of class and pomp to the entire Phoenix family.
Phoenix Chicken Facts
Here are some of the more typical questions asked about these beautiful birds.
Are Phoenix chickens ornamental?
Yes, they are absolutely ornamental. With their striking colors and beautiful tails that harken back to the decorative “garden chickens” of Japan, these birds are born to be shown off.
Do Phoenix chickens lay eggs?
They do! The production can be as low as one a week, but some Phoenix owners have had much more success. The eggs are also very small and can be anywhere from white to light tan in color.
Is the Phoenix chicken endangered?
No, they are not officially endangered. However, while many resources will casually refer to them as common, other sources go back and forth about whether they are officially a “watched” or “threatened” breed.
What is the Phoenix chicken mating ratio?
Once again, this number can vary from source to source, but this count of 9 females to 1 male for a Silver duckwing strikes near the general mark.
When can you purchase chicks?
They tend to become available in February and run through a portion of the summer, usually going out of stock for the year around July or August, depending on the supplier.
How Does the Phoenix Measure Up?
So, how does this luxurious chicken measure up against others of its kind? Here’s a quick rundown of three other chickens and how they compare to the Phoenix.
The Silkie Chicken
If strange or wonderful birds are your thing, you’re going to want to check out the Silkie chicken. This one looks as if a chicken and the Abominable Snowman had a baby!
Similar to the Phoenix, the Silkie traces its roots back to Japan, Java, India, and China. But where the Phoenix inherited elegance, the Silkie went in a very different direction. A veritable fluff-ball from head to foot, one of the two versions of this bird even has a beard!
Their egg production is rather lackluster, much like that of the Phoenix. It seems that birds bred for their looks just can’t get their laying act together!
However, they are mild-mannered, loving, and good with humans.
Learn more with our guide to Silkie chickens.
With origins much vaguer than simply “from Poland,” this bird begins to tread the line between bizarre and functional.
Once again sporting a beard and a wicked afro, this breed is both pleasant and on the quieter side of the pecking order.
When it comes to eggs, we’ve finally found a weirdo that can deliver! The typical Polish hen can provide as many as 200 medium-to-large eggs a year, making them both functional as well as fun to… well, stare at!
You can read more on Polish chickens here.
The Red Star Chicken
If the intensely frou-frou nature of the Phoenix isn’t what you expected when you started this article, you may want to take a look at Red Star chickens. They are the epitome of function over form.
Bred with the growing needs of the food industry in mind, these chickens are egg-laying machines. We’re talking between 280 and 300 eggs per year! They mature quickly and start laying weeks before most chickens, lay year round, and are tough enough for both hot and cold climates.
With a sort of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde dichotomy at play, the Red Star can vary in temperament from a wonderful house-pet-level animal to an angry grump that just wants to be left alone.
You can find out more in our guide to Red Star chickens.
Where to Buy Phoenix Chickens
If you want to find Phoenix chicken breeders, you can always try one of the more mainstream sites like cacklehatchery.com or purelypoultry.com to see if and when they’ll have some available. Remember to look into bantam options too, if you’d like smaller birds.
But before you do, we suggest you visit our post on where and how to buy chicks and chickens.
If your still searching for the Mr/Mrs right (chicken), why not check out our other guides to Plymouth-Rock, Buckeye, or Ameraucana Breeds!
A Bird of Beauty
And there you have it – the Phoenix chicken in all its glory. Built more like a pheasant or a peacock, this gorgeous bird can be a splendid addition to your flock.
Just remember that you’re getting beauty here, not efficiency.
Bred from those famed “ornamental garden chickens,” Phoenix chickens are poor layers, and they can take a bit of care to keep their tail feathers in good shape.
But if you can do that, along with handling them well from a young age, you should have a beautiful centerpiece for your flock that will have jaws hitting the floor.
If you liked the post or are thinking of getting a Phoenix, leave a comment. We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!