What is a Phoenix chicken and what is an Onagadori chicken? Onagadori chickens are birds with tails that molt only once every three or more years and achieve exceptional tail lengths, from 12 to 27 feet. Phoenix chickens are birds that molt each year or every-other-year and tend to have wide, rigid sickle feathers of two to five feet in length and saddle feather of 12 to 18 inches. The Phoenix chicken breed is a result of European attempts to maintain long-tailed fowl working from a small population of imported, Japanese chickens.
The first president of the National German Poultry Association, Mr. Hugo du Roi, is credited with the creation of the Phoenix breed. The long-tailed birds imported before 1900 represented a small population of chickens with delicate constitutions. Mr. du Roi made the decision to outcross to try and invigorate this small population and keep alive long-tailed fowls in Europe. It is worth speculating that the name “Phoenix” was given to the resultant chickens to acknowledge the seeming “rise from the ashes” of their soon lost parents.
In Japan, the Onagadori and its ancestors are said to have produced tails up to 27 feet in length. Such lengths are achieved by a combination of genes that cause the tail to continue to grow, not molt, over several years. It takes great care in feeding and housing of the roosters – the tails being tied in loops using silk strips and the males often being confined to perches – to produce such wonderful tails.
History tells us that the Onagadori sprang up from crosses of Shokuku and Totenko, and possibly Minohiki long-tail chicken breeds of Japan. It is these chickens, crossed with Leghorn, Malay, Modern Game, Old English Game, Ramelsloher, Bruegge Game, Yokohama, and Kruper that comprise the ancestry of the modern Phoenix. The Phoenix chicken is a German creation from long-tailed fowls of Japanese descent.
Phoenix chickens have been found in America since before 1924. F. L. Sewell, of Michigan, had them for many years prior to 1924. At the 1934 World’s Fair, birds that could be termed Onagadori were displayed. The famous poultryman, John Kriner Sr., of Pennsylvania, was able to obtain these birds. Cy Hyde, of New Jersey, later got birds from Mr. Kriner. American breeders working with these lines have maintained the Phoenix breed.
The Phoenix chicken is an alert breed with a pheasant-like appearance. They are fair layers and do go broody. The chicks are hardy, but require extra protein when their tails are growing. The breed is well-suited to estates where it can roam at large, thriving best when given a good deal of freedom.
Phoenix chickens are recognized by the American Poultry Association as a standard breed in three varieties: Silver (1965); and Golden (1983); Black Breasted Red (approximately 2003). Males weigh 5.5 lbs and females 4 lbs.
Did you know:
The Livestock Conservancy is America’s leading organization working to save over 150 heritage breeds from extinction. We rely on the support of our members, grants, and donations from the public to raise the $700,000 a year needed to maintain our conservation work with rare breeds of farm animals. Click here to learn how you can help.