“Look how fat that chicken’s legs are!” said Caroline.
We were at a coffee shop somewhere between Phước Long and Đồng Xoài. I looked to where she was pointing and saw that the chicken did indeed have fat legs. In fact, all the chickens at the back of the coffee shop had very fat legs. Weirdly fat.
Unusually, the chickens were in an enclosure and had a nice roost. Chickens in this part of the world usually dart all over the place, leading their families around and scratching in the dirt for grubs. The roosters will strut through their territory, crowing and collecting hens for their harem. Generally speaking, it’s not normal to have protective containment facilities.
But these were very special chickens. These were Dong Tao chickens.
You will not find these chickens anywhere else in the world; they are endemic to the Dong Tao commune in the Khoai Chau district, and their fat little thighs are considered something of a delicacy among discerning consumers of poultry. Upmarket restaurants in Saigon will slap a couple of the scaly red trunks on a plate, stewed with Chinese herbs and mushrooms. Diners find the chicken so delicious that restaurants have run out of stock on occasion. This has made the price of these adorable little mutants high – a kilogram of meat will cost a diner about $30.00. This may not seem like a lot compared to premium cuts of beef, but we must remember that Vietnam is a country where a decent meal is usually $1-2.
As ridiculous as these feathery little dinosaurs look, a pair of breeding adults have reportedly sold for as much as $2,500.00. The reason for the high price is simple: due to their bulbous stumps, Dong Tao Chickens are terrible at caring for their eggs, and this makes them notoriously difficult to breed. And that’s when they even lay eggs – they’re decidedly sensitive to changes in the weather, and so lay fewer than other breeds. Another thing that doesn’t do them any favours is that they’re grumpy bastards too, often getting into fights with each other and having territorial disputes over patches of dirt and desirable hens. At least feeding them is relatively inexpensive – they’re really into crickets.
A fully-grown bird can weigh up to 6 kilograms – that’s two bricks. That’s 30 hamsters. That’s 300 mice. That’s heavier than a normal cat (Caroline’s cats don’t fit into this description). Get 100 Dong Tao chickens together (without them bashing each other) and you’ve got yourself a cow in weight.
Here’s a video we took.
I’ll leave it here with a motivational quote:
They said I had “chicken legs” when I first joined the gym. Well who has chicken legs now!??!
– Some guy on Reddit