These dragon chickens are among the world’s most expensive poultry as their massive thighs are a delicacy in Vietnam.
The bizarre-looking breed, also called the Dong Tao chicken, is prized for its delicious meat and was once bred exclusively for the country’s royal family.
A pair of the chickens can cost a staggering £1,600 as they are in very short supply as well as being difficult to breed.
Dragon chickens, usually served in restaurants that cater for the wealthy, are native to the Dong Tao commune in Khoai Chau district, about 20 miles from Hanoi.
The birds’ bulbous legs are covered with reddish scales and can grow to be as thick as a person’s wrist.
A male adult Dong Tao chicken can weigh up to 6kg. The hens are generally white, while the coks have colourful feathers.
The birds, which enjoy a meal of crickets, are extremely sensitive to changes in temperature and tend to lay fewer eggs than common chickens.
Their huge legs and feet also make the hatching process more difficult, so more attention is needed from farmers to produce chicks.
A newly-hatched chick takes eight months to one year to become a marketable bird of three to five kilograms.
Mr. Tuan, who first purchased 10 Dong Tao chickens “for fun,” has spent several years trying to understand the right way to breed them. He learned the hard way that the strange birds do not like living in captivity and constantly fight with each other when caged.
He now raises them on a spacious farm with plenty of room and exercise. According to him, this improves the taste and quality of the meat.
It takes a year of free-range farming for Tuan’s chickens to fully mature. He revealed that Dong Tao hens tend to lay fewer eggs than regular ones, and their unusually large feet make the hatching process difficult.
So he has actually devised a manual hatching technique to preserve as many eggs as possible.
Raising Dong Tao chickens seems like a lot of trouble, but Tuan says it’s all worth the effort. The older the chickens grow, the firmer, crisper and sweeter their meat.
Van Dinh Ha, a chicken farmer from Trung Dinh hamlet, agrees: “The bird is in high demand, but also in short supply.” So the potential for profits is far higher than with a regular poultry farm.