the source of revolution


rare long-tailed chickens


There are few publications in the world’s western cultures describing the basic requirements of long-tailed birds.

Nearly four years in the making, Long Tailed Fowl, a guide to the history and management of long-tailed birds, provides information that will fascinate anyone interested in these beautiful birds.

Those wishing to keep birds carrying the non-molting genes especially require specialized knowledge that is presented clearly and concisely. Chapters on history, housing, grooming, dietary requirements, rearing and flock management are included, with practical information relevant to long-tailed breeds. Centuries-old Japanese breeding methods are combined with current knowledge and practice to present a comprehensive and indispensable source of information for enthusiasts.


Other breeds outside of Japan, such as the Phoenix and Yokohama, have been mistakenly called “Onagadori”, but the Onagadori is a specific breed, unlike any other. It becomes obvious that no other breed of bird can claim the name when it is clearly understood what an Onagadori is: the possessor of a unique genetic makeup that causes males of the breed to go years without moulting certain groups of tail feathers. a time when it is given the right environment.

The breed is believed to have originated from a mix of red and green junglefowl, inheriting some traits from each ancestor. To this day, there is a breed in Java called the Bekisar that is a hybrid of a male Green Jungle Fowl and a Red Jungle Fowl hen. The resulting male offspring are usually sterile. However, occasionally a partially fertile male will be produced. These hybrids carry the tail genes of the Onagadori, as well as the long cackling gene of breeds such as Tomaru, Denizli, Totenko, and Koeyoshi. The latter two breeds are not known to exist in the United States at the time of this writing.

One could imagine from this current hybrid how the Onagadori could have been produced in the early days of the breed’s development before it was homozygous for its best-known traits.

The Onagadori wasn’t just another ‘pretty face’ bred simply to look attractive. It had a purpose long ago in Tosa, now Kochi, where it was developed. It is said that farmers who raised the birds used the tail feathers as a form of tax payment to the regional Daimyo of Shogun Prefecture during Japan’s feudal period. These breeders were then exempt from paying monetary taxes. The feathers were used to adorn the ceremonial spears and helmets of these military officers. This ornamentation made the Tosa procession instantly recognizable.

Tails weren’t always as long as they are today. The trait started simply with a few birds that had tails that were slightly longer than normal, perhaps only two or three feet long. Through selective breeding and a high level of care by their keepers, the tails reached greater length over time. A few centuries later, tails nine feet or longer were becoming more common.

In the early 1920s, some breeders began to use special cages for roosters. The same style of cage is still in use today. Japanese breeders call these cages tomebako, or “stop box.” The name “stop box” arises from the practice of using the box to keep the rooster calm, prevent his hormones from fluctuating, and thus suppress the regular pattern of shedding of the tail coverts, snouts, and feathers of the rooster. the chair, which usually occurs every one to two years. However, around 20% to 40% of these feathers can still moult even in the best quality Onagadori. The main tail feathers are of extreme length compared to other breeds, but shed regularly unlike decks, sickles, and saddles.

The non-molting gene

When males from non-molting lines are five to ten months old, they can begin to be kept in a tomebako. The best male should be chosen with health, temperament, and tail plumage in mind. Those that exhibit a calm temperament with many multiple feathers and good feather length are the ones to choose for further development in tomebako. At this time, broken or damaged tail or saddle feathers can be carefully plucked and allowed to grow back. The tomebako is a wooden box approximately six feet high, three feet wide, and nine inches deep. Its interior construction is such that the bird, the bird’s tail and the dropping tray each have their own compartment. Roosters raised in this way must have daily contact with their keepers. At least one hour of exercise and daily walks are required. Males should also be kept warm during the winter, a temperature of at least 50ºF to 55ºF.

Onagadori are Gt/Gt mt/mt Mf/Mf. Bars and pairing denote homozygosity. Other long-tailed breeds, like Phoenix, are Gt/Gt Mt+/Mt+ Mf/Mf, which means they have the dominant trait for regular molting cycle rather than the recessive trait of no molting. Chickens that are not long-tailed varieties are gt+/gt+ Mt+/Mt+, which means they lack the rapid growth trait of tail and saddle feathers, as well as the non-molting trait.

dietary requirements

A good diet will consist of a very natural menu, similar to the wild grains that the Jungle Fowl would eat. Grains high in gluten such as corn, wheat, barley, millet, and milo should be avoided. These grains sometimes pass through the body undigested and are eaten again by birds. In fact, such grains would have to go through a chicken’s digestion twice for full absorption of all the nutrients. Grains like oats and brown rice are preferable as they are more digestible. Nutrition is important with all poultry, but especially long-tailed breeds. Empty foods should be avoided, foods low in nutrition and high in sugars are not good for them.

Protein is an important part of the diet, but the source of that protein must be examined. All proteins are not created equal, vegetable protein is not easily utilized. Neither plant protein nor protein from poultry by-products, such as feathers and ground bones, will fully meet your nutritional needs. What they need is animal protein, ideally from marine fish. Said fish not only has a type of protein that can be used efficiently, but also has valuable vitamins, omega oils and essential fatty acids for good health. Many of the birds in Kochi, Japan are fed fish since Kochi is a coastal prefecture and fish is widely available.


Breeding techniques are a major topic of discussion with these birds. The choice of a mate must be based on several considerations, all of which will influence the next generation. Not only must due thought be given to the choice of the two individuals involved, but the qualities of each bird’s parent must also be examined.

A matchup must be based on health first. If both birds are healthy, the next consideration is the relationship between them. If they are siblings, mating should be avoided. Line parenting from father to daughter, son to mother, nephew to aunt, uncle to niece, and grandchildren to grandparents is acceptable, but mating siblings is not advisable. This would combine the same recessive genetic traits as line breeding, but with the disadvantage of producing birds that are possibly homozygous for bad or weak genes.

However, breeding siblings together for a single generation will usually reveal most of the recessive traits. The resulting offspring can be a useful bird to breed with, as both good and bad traits can emerge, revealing what should be bred and what traits should be perpetuated. If these inbred birds are used, it should be to cross birds of good type and resistance.

The breeder must know the lineage of each bird in a flock. A flock size of forty hens and ten roosters is a good base to start a serious breeding program. This obviously takes some time to achieve as only the best birds are selected from the bred.


Daily contact with Onagadori, or birds raised that way, will allow the birds to get used to regular maintenance. This includes trimming of the toenails, spurs, and upper jaw, all of which have a rapid growth rate on Onagadori. Phoenix has a similar growth spurt in these areas, though not as fast as Onagadori, and trimming should be practiced as needed.

As discussed in a previous chapter, the upper jaw may need to be trimmed with a guillotine-type dog clipper if feather scratching becomes a problem. While this is rare in quality animals, the upper jaw may still require trimming if it grows too large and is likely to be eaten. In this case, the lower tip of the upper jaw should be trimmed so that it protrudes slightly from the tip of the lower jaw.

The lower jaw rarely needs trimming. There is very little room for error due to the arrangement of the inside of the mouth, the meat inside it, and the blood vessel that is very close to the tip. If it ever needs to be trimmed, a nail file is preferable to clippers, and it is worked with care, shaping it to the proper profile.

More on this topic

These topics and more are explained in greater depth in the book. Long-tailed birds, their history and care by David Rogers and Toni-Marie Astin.


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