Phoenix Chicken

Gallus gallus

Last updated: November 15, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit Lukas Beno/Shutterstock.com

These small chickens have tails that can be up to five feet long!

Phoenix Chicken Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Galliformes
Family
Phasianidae
Genus
Gallus
Scientific Name
Gallus gallus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Phoenix Chicken Conservation Status


Phoenix Chicken Facts

Prey
Insects, invertebrates, small animals
Name Of Young
Chicks
Group Behavior
  • Flock
Fun Fact
These small chickens have tails that can be up to five feet long!
Estimated Population Size
Fewer than 10,000 worldwide. On the Livestock Conservancy watch list.
Biggest Threat
Predators such as foxes, raccoons and snakes
Most Distinctive Feature
Long tail that can reach five feet in length
Distinctive Feature
Bright red comb with five points, white earlobes and red wattle
Other Name(s)
Silver Phoenix chicken, Golden Phoenix chicken, Black Breasted Red Phoenix chicken, Asiatic Phoenix chicken, Mediterranean Phoenix Chicken
Temperament
Sociable, docile
Diet
Omnivore
Lifestyle
  • Sociable
Favorite Food
Grains, fruits, vegetables
Common Name
Phoenix chicken
Special Features
Long tail feathers up to five feet in length
Origin
Originated in Germany. Descendant of Japanese Onagadori and European domestic chickens
Number Of Species
1
Location
Worldwide
Nesting Location
Coops or enclosures

Phoenix Chicken Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Red
  • Black
  • Silver
  • Olive
  • Multi-colored
  • Golden
Skin Type
Feathers
Lifespan
5 to 8 years
Venomous
No
Aggression
Low

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The Phoenix chicken is a descendant of the Japanese Onagadori chicken, which has tail feathers up to 27 feet long!

The small and graceful Phoenix chicken originated in the late 19th century in Germany. It was the product of selective breeding, combining traits from historic Japanese chickens, including the impressive Onagadori which boasts tail feathers up to 27 feet long, and European breeds which were known to be of more hardy stock. Although Phoenix chickens are better able to withstand harsh weather than their Japanese ancestors, they still require special care and attention in order to thrive. Prized around the world, these ornamental birds bring beauty to backyard flocks with their silver, golden and copper hues, their long tail feathers measuring up to five feet in length and their generally docile personalities.  

Incredible Phoenix Chicken Facts

  • The first president of the German Poultry Association, Hugo Du Roi, began cross breeding Japanese chickens in the mid-1800s. He created breeds such as the Yokohama and the Phoenix.
  • According to the Livestock Conservancy, Japanese Onagadori chickens were “crossed with Leghorn, Malay, Modern Game, Old English Game, Ramelsloher, Bruegge Game, Yokohama, and Kruper that produced the modern Phoenix.”
  • Phoenix chickens need a diet high in protein in order to grow their impressively long tail feathers. They lose their sickle feathers and regrow them each year.
  • The American Poultry Association recognizes three standard breeds of Phoenix chickens, including the Silver variety, recognized in 1965, the Golden variety added in 1983 and the Black Breasted Red standard, added in 2018.
  • They recognize Silver and Golden bantam varieties, both weigh under two pounds.
  • Look up! Phoenix chickens are particularly flighty and you will find them in unexpectedly high perches, making enclosures tricky.

Where to Find Phoenix Chickens

Phoenix chickens are a part of small breeding populations in captivity all around the world. Like many other domesticated chickens, these chickens stay in an enclosure or allowed to free range. You will not generally find them in large flocks or commercial operations, because they are neither large enough to be a good source of meat nor are they highly productive when it comes to laying eggs.

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Breeders who choose to raise Phoenix chickens usually do so because of their ornamental qualities. Much like landscapers, bird enthusiasts add beautiful specimens like the Phoenix chicken to their gardens simply for the pleasure of enjoying their beauty. The ornate birds are also a popular choice for those interested in competitions.

Celebrity Sighting

One place you would definitely find Phoenix chickens is on Martha Stewart’s farm in Bedford, New York. She added half a dozen chicks to her flock in 2020. She shared photos of the chicks and their home on her blog as they grew to maturity. The large enclosures on Stewart’s farm, along with the cozy, heated coops are ideal for raising the slender Phoenix chickens in a colder climate.

On the Watch List

Phoenix chickens are on the Livestock Conservancy watch list. This means there are fewer than 10,000 individual birds worldwide. Owners and breeders prize the birds for their ornamental qualities and their docile temperament. You may order chicks from a number of specialty hatcheries in the United States and in other parts of the world.


Articles Mentioning Phoenix Chicken

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Articles Mentioning Phoenix Chicken

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Phoenix Chicken Scientific Name

The Phoenix chicken’s scientific name is Gallus gallus or Gallus gallus domesticus, just like other domesticated chickens around the world. The red junglefowl of South and Southeast Asia, G. gallus, was named by Linnaeus in 1758. Today dozens of different breeds comprise the Gallus gallus domesticus species.

Phoenix Chicken Appearance

Phoenix chickens are small, slender and graceful-looking birds. The larger varieties weigh in at only 4 to 5.5 pounds. The bantam breeds are even smaller, with both the males and females weighing less than 2 pounds. The American Poultry Association in the United States recognizes five separate varieties. These include the larger standard size of the Silver Phoenix, 1965, the Golden Phoenix,1983, and the Black Breasted Red Phoenix chickens receives affirmation by the APA in 2018. The APA also recognizes the Golden and Silver bantam varieties.

Males vs Females

Phoenix chickens are sexually dimorphic. The birds differ in appearance between male and female as they mature. While juveniles are light, grayish and mottled in appearance, the coloring and shape of males and females begins to diverge as the approach adulthood, just like many other types of fowl.

Female Phoenix chickens are the smaller of the breed. The females of the different recognized varieties look similar to one another, with the females’ feathers varying from silvery gray to coppery brown or light tan with a wash of gold.

Male Phoenix chickens are easier to differentiate due to their striking plumage. Each variety in the United Stated has glossy black background feathers on their breast and thighs. They have long, flowing tails featuring thick, black sickle feathers with a shiny greenish cast. Silver roosters have silvery feathers on their heads, necks and backs, while males of the Golden variety have gold to bronze-colored feathers and the Black Breasted Red roosters have vibrant coppery feathers against the black breast, legs and tail.

Both male and female chickens produce feathers and production is affected by a number of factors, including hormone production, temperature, light, and the bird’s individual diet. Hormones may be the biggest contributor to the male Phoenix chicken’s showy plumes. However, a diet rich in protein is absolutely necessary for growing those extra-long tail feathers that can range from two to five feet in length.

Other Physical Characteristics

Males of all varieties have bright red faces with red wattles and red combs with five sharp points. Females have the same features, but less amplified than the males. Both sexes have prominent white earlobes. Their legs are the color of slate and clean in appearance, and their beaks have a bluish gray tint.

Phoenix Chicken Behavior

Phoenix chickens are sociable birds with a docile nature. They may or may not be especially friendly. Because these ornamental birds have such a striking appearance, they have become very popular as show birds. The American Phoenix Breeders Association is a non-profit organization which promotes selective breeding and exhibition of all five recognized varieties in the United States. It is worth noting that the birds are show birds for youth all over the country.   

Enclosures and Coops

Owners must take special care when designing an enclosure for a small flock of these birds. They tolerate heat quite well but may suffer in cold environments as compared to hardier chickens, due to their slender build and thinner plumage. If you live in a cold region and are not able to invest in heaters for your chicken coop, the Phoenix may not be the best choice.

Phoenix chickens are especially flighty and may be found in high places. Simple fences are not likely to keep them in. If you don’t plan for them to range free during the day, your enclosure needs to be covered all the way around.

Other Requirements

Males in particular need high perches because their tail feathers are so long. They need ample room to hang down without damage.

Keep the ground as clean and free of debris as possible. Male Phoenix chickens cannot keep their lengthy tail feathers lifted up and away from accumulated waste, which can cause disease.

Thanks to their docile nature, Phoenix chickens are generally easy to mix with other breeds in a backyard flock. However, owners must take care if they are placed with larger birds, because their small size and unusual plumage could make them targets of other fowl.

Diet

Like other poultry, Phoenix chickens are typically raised on a succession of grain-based feeds. Chicks get one type of formula ideal for helping them grow. As the hens approach 24 weeks, they are usually switched over to another feed designed with plenty of calcium for optimum egg production.

All birds need a diet rich in protein to support the growth of feathers. Feathers are comprised of 90 percent or more of the protein keratin. Phoenix chickens, especially the males which grow sickle feathers up to five feet long each year, need an abundance of protein. Most of those necessary amino acids come from their feed.

A proper diet will also include a variety of other nutrients, most of which are found in commercial feed. Breeders can supplement chicken feed with treats at a 90 to 10 percent ratio. That means only 10 percent of the chicken’s diet should consist of treats like table scraps, fruits and vegetables. Of course, owners should always take care to avoid toxic foods like avocado pits and skins, beans and rhubarb.

Allowing Phoenix chickens ample room to forage will also help to improve their diet as they consume insects, worms, caterpillars and other prey.  

Phoenix Chicken Reproduction

Phoenix chickens do not produce an abundance of eggs. Hens may lay as few as one egg per week, averaging between 52 to 126 eggs per year, according to the Livestock Conservancy. The eggs are lightly tinted and small. Phoenix hens can tend toward broodiness, and reportedly are good mothers.

Phoenix chicks can be purchased and shipped from a number of specialty breeders. With care and attention, these chicks can be raised and bred by young and old alike, however they are considered higher maintenance chickens and require a bit of extra work.

Predators

Phoenix chickens, especially the bantam varieties, are at particular risk from predators due to their size. These small chickens are attractive prey for animals such as raccoons, foxes, and coyotes. Owls and hawks may hunt them from the air, swooping down for an easy meal if the chickens are not kept in a covered enclosure.

Chicks are especially vulnerable to attacks by a variety of predators, including snakes. They may be better raised indoors until they are large enough to be safely outside.

Breeders should create an enclosure that protects Phoenix chickens, not only by preventing predators from getting in, but also preventing the chickens from flying out. Even tall fences are not likely to contain the rising Phoenix.

Consider whether your location is safe enough for chickens to roam freely during the day or at any time. If not, make sure you are able to provide a covered enclosure large enough for them to move around freely and tall enough for any males to perch up high.

Lifespan of the Phoenix Chicken

Phoenix chickens can live a long life if they are provided with a secure home and kept safe from predators particularly at night. Certain avian diseases, such as infectious bronchitis, avian influenza, fowl cholera, fowl pox, aspergillosis, and different forms of mycoplasma can pose threats to domestic chickens. However, breeders can reduce the risk to their flock by keeping enclosures as clean as possible and maintaining adequate space for the number of birds. With proper care, Phoenix chickens can easily live between 5 to 8 years.  

Birds Similar to the Phoenix Chicken

The Phoenix chicken is similar to its ancestor, the Onagadori chicken. Both birds have impressively long and beautiful tail feathers. The Onagadori, however, does not molt its tail feathers. This is thought to be due to a recessive gene, and is the reason that the sickle feathers are able to grow to such amazing lengths.

The Yokohama chicken, also bred by Hugo Du Roi during the same mid-1800s time period as the Phoenix chicken, shares common ancestry and many similarities. In the Poultry Club of Great Britain, the Phoenix is actually listed under the Yokohama standard, not as a separate standard breed. One difference between the Yokohama and the Phoenix is seen in the Red Shouldered and White varieties. These birds have pure white background plumage and tail feathers rather than glossy black.

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About the Author

Tavia discovered she had a gift for teaching when she was 21 years old. Having recently changed her major from engineering to wildlife biology, she was thrilled to take on an internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She began her work excited about going into the field and saving endangered species, but soon realized she could make the biggest difference by helping to educate young people about animals, the environment and science in general. Tavia loves all animals, especially the ones that need our help the most. Over the years, she has cared for many pets, including snakes, toads, a tarantula, tree frogs, a salamander, hissing cockroaches, mice, donkeys, calves, horses, and a number of cats and dogs, but dogs are definitely her favorite! She believes that together, we can make our world a better place.

Phoenix Chicken FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Why do people raise Phoenix chickens?

These ornamental chickens are prized for their beautiful tail feathers and their docile personalities.

How many varieties of Phoenix chickens exist?

Five varieties are recognized in the United States, plus others in other parts of the world, including the Asiatic, the Mediterranean and a number of varieties in Australia.

Where did Phoenix chickens originate?

Phoenix chickens originated in Germany in the mid-1800s via selective breeding.

Who created the Phoenix chicken?

Hugo Du Roi, the first president of the German Poultry Association was responsible for the breeding program that created the Phoenix chicken.

Where do Phoenix chickens live?

Phoenix chickens live all over the world in small, captive breeding populations. They are better suited to warm climates than cold.

What do Phoenix chickens eat?

Phoenix chickens eat primarily commercial chicken feed. It supplies them with abundant protein and other nutrients needed for proper health and feather production.

What treats do Phoenix chickens like?

Phoenix chickens enjoy most fruits and vegetables, and also insects and worms.

What should Phoenix chickens not eat?

They should never eat rhubarb, avocado pits or skins, or beans.

Are Phoenix chickens good egg producers?

They do not produce a large amount of eggs, averaging only 52 to 126 per year. Their eggs are small in size.

Are Phoenix chickens good for meat?

Phoenix chickens are small, and do not produce much meat.

Are Phoenix chickens easy to raise?

They require a bit more care than many other types of chickens. This is mainly due to the long tail feathers on the roosters and the flightiness of the chickens. They are docile and sociable, though.

Are Phoenix chickens rare?

These chickens are on the Livestock Conservancy watch list, which means there are fewer than 10,000 individual birds worldwide. They are not endangered or threatened, but neither are they common.

Where can I see a Phoenix chicken?

American Phoenix Breeders hold exhibitions across the United States. Visit their website to learn about upcoming shows.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Martha Up Close and Personal, Available here: https://www.themarthablog.com/2021/01/my-growing-phoenix-chickens.html
  2. NCBI Taxonomy Browser, Available here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Taxonomy/Browser/wwwtax.cgi?id=9031
  3. National Library of Medicine, Available here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6333526/
  4. American Phoenix Breeders Association, Available here: https://americanphoenixbreeders.com/
  5. Frontiers in Physiology, Available here: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2019.01609/full
  6. Feed Greatness / Patrick Biggs, Ph.D., Available here: https://www.purinamills.com/chicken-feed/education/detail/what-to-feed-chickens-chicken-treats-to-feed-and-avoid
  7. Stanford University, Available here: https://web.stanford.edu/group/stanfordbirds/text/essays/Diet_and_Nutrition.html
  8. University of Florida IFAS Extension / G. D. Butcher, J. P. Jacob, and F. B. Mather, Available here: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/PS044

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