Some chicken breeds are just made to stand apart from the rest of the flock. One of the best examples of this would be the Japanese Shamo chicken, a regal and unique chicken that looks every bit the fighter it was born to be. Also known as one of the tallest breeds of chicken in the world, the Shamo is sure to be the star of your flock. Is this breed right for you, though? This complete breed guide will answer every question you have about the Shamo chicken and more.
History of the Shamo Chicken Breed
The Shamo chicken is a breed of chicken that is native to Japan, where it has been bred for over 300 years. According to the Livestock Conservancy, it is believed that the original ancestors of the Shamo chicken hailed from Pakistan and Thailand. They arrived in Japan during the Edo period (1603 to 1867) and are thought to be descendants of a strain of Asil (Aseel) chickens.
Currently, there are four varieties of Shamo that you may see:
- Oo Shamo
- Nankin Shamo
- Ko Shamo
- Chu Shamo
The Shamo chicken was first seen outside of Japan by Bruno Duringen, a German poultry author, who stated that breeding pairs arrived in Germany in 1884. A second pair arrived in Germany in 1953, straight from the Tokyo Zoo.
Historically, Shamo chickens were bred for cockfighting, a bloodsport that is now illegal in many parts of the world. Cockfighting was officially outlawed in Japan in 1947, after the end of World War II. However, it continued to be practiced illegally for many years afterwards, particularly in rural areas where it was deeply ingrained in the local culture. Today, cockfighting is illegal throughout Japan and is not considered to be a socially acceptable activity.
Because of this rise and fall in the popularity and prevalence of cockfighting, the population of Shamo chickens has also seen a rise and fall. Although it is difficult to say how many of this striking breed live in the world, it has become exceedingly rare. As such, you should anticipate some difficulty when finding a breeder in a region near you. Furthermore, The Shamo Chicken is listed as “critical” on the Livestock Conservancy’s Conservation Priority List. It is included on the “Watch List” from the Rare Poultry Society in the United Kingdom, meaning that it is at risk of becoming endangered.
Today, Shamos are primarily kept for exhibition purposes, and are popular among poultry enthusiasts who appreciate their unique appearance and strong, independent personalities.
Physical Characteristics of the Shamo Chicken
As one would expect from a descendant of the warrior-like Asil/Aseel chicken, the Shamo chicken breed is known for their impressive size and muscular strength. These are striking birds that look less like chickens and more like vultures or miniature feathered dinosaurs. Male or female, the Shamo stands upright, often reaching 30 inches tall. The Shamo also has long legs and a broad chest that give it a powerful and imposing appearance that is sure to turn heads. The breed is also known for its long, muscular neck and its large, wide-set wings, which are held tightly against its body when it is at rest. The Shamo’s feathers are generally short and tight-fitting, which helps to accentuate its muscular build.
Shamo roosters are a minimum of 6 pounds, but there are some varieties of Shamo chicken that may exceed 8 pounds. Most Shamo hens are between 4-6 pounds.
The American Poultry Association (APA) has established a breed standard for the Shamo chicken that states that the bird should have a large and bold head, with a strong, broad jawline and a large, erect comb. It is also common to see a Shamo with a pea comb that is close to the head. They have bright, small earlobes, wattles, and combs; sometimes the wattles look so small that you may overlook them.
The eyes should be bright and alert, with a piercing gaze that reflects the bird’s intelligence and awareness. Additionally, the APA standard recognizes several different varieties of the Shamo chicken, including black, dark, brown, and white.
You can also watch this very detailed video overview of this breed:
Temperament and Personality of the Shamo Chicken
The Shamo chicken is a breed that is known for its unique personality and temperament. As mentioned before, these birds were originally bred for cockfighting, they have since become popular as ornamental birds and backyard chickens. Shamo hens are generally docile and friendly birds when properly socialized, and they can make excellent pets for those who are interested in their unique appearance and personality.
That being said, these birds, especially the roosters, have an aggressive streak. You cannot have males together for an extended period of time. Even young male chicks will fight one another constantly. If you plan on raising Shamo chickens, you may end up having to keep them separated. Sometimes, roosters will even fight to the death.
When properly socialized and provided plenty of space to roam, the independence of the Shamo comes to light. These birds are known for their confidence and self-assurance, and they are not easily intimidated by other birds or animals.
Despite their independent streak, Shamos can also be quite affectionate and enjoy spending time with their owners. They are curious birds by nature and enjoy exploring their surroundings, as well as interacting with humans. Some Shamo owners describe their birds as being almost dog-like in their loyalty and devotion, following their owners around and even coming when called.
Shamo Hen Egg Laying and Broodiness
If you are looking for chickens that keep your baskets filled with eggs, look elsewhere. The Shamo hen is not incredibly productive — expect around 90 medium-sized eggs per year. That said, these hens are known to go very broody and make for exceptional mothers. If you have other breeds of chickens who struggle to go broody, have a Shamo chicken adopt the clutch of eggs as their own. They won’t mind.
However, you should be careful around Shamo hens when the eggs are beginning to hatch. Due to their size and strength, Shamo hens may be too clumsy around hatching or freshly hatched chicks. They sometimes break the eggs. Be sure to observe them when attempting to let these hens sit and hatch eggs.
Can You Use a Shamo Chicken for Meat Production?
Curious about whether a Shamo chicken will make a nice meal? The answer is not really. Shamo chickens can be used for their meat, but it is not a common choice. Being that these birds are tall and lean, they are often very tough and not flavorful. If you are looking to use chicken for meat and eggs, consider a hybrid or broiler breed.
The Shamo is best used for exhibition, ornamentation, or companionship.
Shamo Health Issues and Concerns
The lifespan of the Shamo chicken breed can vary depending on various factors such as their living conditions, diet, and level of care. On average, Shamos can live up to 10 years or more with proper care and attention.
Like all chickens, Shamos are susceptible to a range of health issues such as respiratory diseases, parasites, and infections. Always be on the lookout for signs of health problems, such as poultry mites and worms. Poultry mites can be transmitted to your flock by contact, including those from wild birds and rodents in the yard.
Regular veterinary checkups, good nutrition, and the proper maintenance and sanitation of the coop are all essential to keeping Shamos healthy and extending their lifespan.
Care Tips for Raising Happy, Healthy Shamo Chickens
Here are some tips to ensure that you raising happy Shamo chickens:
- Provide adequate space: Shamo chickens are large birds and need plenty of space to move around freely. A minimum of 10 square feet per bird in a coop and 100 square feet in an outdoor run is recommended. Shamo chickens do not handle containment well and will need to be able to free range throughout the day. Also, keep in mind that, while Shamo chickens are large and heavy, they can also jump and fly short distances. Make sure you have a high enough fence.
- Ensure proper nutrition: Shamos require a balanced diet of high-quality chicken feed supplemented with fresh fruits, vegetables, and protein sources like mealworms. Offer clean water and make sure they have access to grit for digestion.
- Maintain good hygiene: Regular cleaning of the coop and run is essential to prevent the buildup of bacteria and parasites that can cause disease. Provide fresh bedding and clean water regularly. It is also recommended that you leave out plenty of dust baths for your Shamo chickens; they have short feathers designed for it!
- Exercise and socialization: Shamos are active birds and need plenty of opportunities to move and exercise. Provide perches and roosts in the coop and outdoor run for them to jump and fly, and allow them to free-range if possible. Proper socialization with other chickens is important, but watch for aggression and bullying. For the Shamo chicken breed, the earlier you start with socialization, the better.
- Preventive health care: Regular check-ups with a veterinarian experienced with chickens is recommended to ensure that your Shamos are healthy and free from any diseases or parasites. Vaccinations and deworming may also be necessary.
Final Thoughts on the Japanese Shamo Chicken
The Shamo chicken is a fascinating and unique breed that has a long history of use in cockfighting and exhibition poultry shows. While they may not be the most affectionate or docile of chicken breeds, they are certainly one of the most impressive and striking. Remember to provide your Shamo with plenty of space if you are hoping to keep one or two.
Valerie has been content writing since 2016 for websites and companies all around the world. A traveler, dancer, martial artist, Valerie loves gathering experiences and wisdom. Her travels have taken her to over 20 countries, and she hopes to see more of the world soon.