Yeonsan Ogye (Black Chicken)
Yeonsan Ogye is a kind of chicken raised in western central South Korea named for its color: it is completely black, including its feathers, skin, claws, beak, bones and eyes. The Ogye has a smaller head than other chickens with a crown shaped blackish-red comb. The hen's comb is in the same shape as a rooster's but much smaller, and its color changes with the seasons. Purebred Ogye lay white eggs, have four claws and a cockspur, and no hair around the legs. A mutant white colored Ogye can be observed in 1 out of 2000 chickens. In general, people raise the chickens for both eggs and meat. Ogye eggs are considered higher in quality than many other eggs, with a richer taste and texture.
Yeonsan Ogye maintain a wild, untamed character. The roosters are particularly hostile, and can injure other roosters, chickens, themselves and even humans. Yeonsan Ogye can fly onto branches easily and like to eat bugs, sand and grass rather than commercial feed and grains. Historically, this breed has been said to give stamina to those who eat them. Researchers have found a visible change in genetic factors when the Ogye is raised in other regions outside of the Gyeryong Mountains after just three generations.
These rare birds have been preserved due to the efforts of just a few. Yeonsan Ogye were designated as a national monument in 1980 when 20 farms raised this breed; however, farmers gradually stopped due to its difficult temperament, its susceptibility to diseases from other breeds and its low profitability due to its slower growth. Yeonsan Ogye cannot be raised in small cages and must be raised at least 6 months to reach a sufficient size, while other chickens are fully grown in only 2-3 months. In addition, the chickens only lay full size eggs after 8-12 months. Today, and since 1990, there is only one farm that still raises this breed, which has also held a Yeonsan Ogye cultural festival every year since 2003. The current situation has created a problem of a prevalence of recessive traits due to inbreeding. Today, annual production is limited to 2000-3000 birds a year, half of the amount produced in 1980.