The Sumatra is a breed of fowl that I have kept on and off over a number of years. The first Sumatra fowl that we kept were used purely to hatch out waterfowl, as they are fantastic broodies and, being tight feathered, the ducklings were unlikely to get caught up in their feathers.
This was in the 1970s, when they were locally known as Sumatra Game or black Sumatras and were more common than now.
About five years ago, through a friend, I was able to get back into the breed and was quite shocked when I discovered how scarce the breed had now become.
The bantam version of the breed was quite popular, with a number of local exhibitors keeping them, but unfortunately the standard version was rarely seen.
This was a breed that needed help and I embarked on trying to get them going here again.
Unfortunately the temperament of the first strain was not what I remembered – as a very docile breed – as the cock bird regularly attacked me and eventually, after he hit me full in the face, they were relocated to a friend.
With the help of another couple of friends I was again able to start with the breed and now I have them in both the traditional black feathered variety and the blue variety – we have hatched both colour varieties of chicks this year.
This is the docile strain that I remember and a great laying strain of medium-sized light brown eggs.
On top of that they produced eggs throughout the winter, had a break in February and now they are laying flat out again and fertility is great in them.
Just by chance I learnt that another local poultry enthusiast, Helen Bradford from Portadown, had the large white version of the breed. So here we are in County Armagh with the three standard colours of this wonderful fowl breed with plans to put them out to other poultry fanciers to keep them alive.
Where did this breed originate?
As the name suggests, the Sumatra fowl originated from the Island of Sumatra in Indonesia, which is a region of the world that gives it’s name to a number of other breeds such as Malay fowl, Java fowl and the most recent breed to be included in the British Poultry standards as a rare breed, the Ayam Cemani, which is another pure black fowl breed.
The breed has been described as pheasant like with a horizontal carriage and long flowing tail. The original black feathered version has feathers that shine green.
They have small dark faces with a pea comb and dark legs and in some strains the males have multiple spurs. The males weigh about 5-6 pound and the females a pound lighter.
The breed was accepted into the British Poultry Standards in 1906 in the name of Black Sumatras and are now classified as a Light rare breed. The breed standard states that they lay white eggs but our strains of black and blue varieties both lay light brown eggs. I would be interested to establish if others have also found this anomaly in the breed standard.
n If anyone keeps or is interested in the standard Sumatra fowl I can be contacted by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning me on 07752 020831.
Together we can keep this wonderful rare breed of fowl going.