Onagadori Chicken: Egg Production, Breed Personality and Care

Onagadori Chicken Featured
With less than 1,000 estimated Onagadori Chickens in existence, they are now considered an endangered species. These beautiful birds are iconic in Japan with strong cultural roots, and represent an ornamental piece rather than egg or meat producer.

Many people think of chickens only for what they provide us in terms of food: a source of meat and eggs. The setting of a big red barn comes to mind, and the classic image of a white bird with a red comb and wattle is likely to be the first depiction of a chicken that one thinks of. 

However, there are many varieties of chicken that break this mold. One of the greatest examples of this is found in an incredibly unique ornamental breed of chicken: The Onagadori.

What is an Onagadori chicken?

Onagadori chickens are a Japanese breed that originated in The Edo Period, otherwise known as the Tokugawa Period, of Japan’s history dating to the early seventeenth century. 

The Onagadori were originally bred in the Tosa Province, which is now known as the Kōchi Prefecture, on Shikoku island. Though the true origins of the breed aren’t completely known, it is believed that the Onagadori was created by breeding the Totenko, Shokoku, and Minohiki breeds. 

Throughout Japan’s history, Onagadori chickens have been esteemed as a symbol of great honor and have been declared as a Special National Treasure by the Japanese government in 1952.

Onagadori chickens are a uniquely Japanese breed. Despite having been exported to Europe in the 1940s, the Onagadori didn’t adapt well to the European climate and had to be cross-bred with a variety of other breeds such as the Totenko, Leghorn, and Old English Game. 

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This mixed breed is now known as the Phoenix chicken, which is another long-tailed chicken breed that looks strikingly similar to the Onagadori but has tail feathers that will naturally molt and will not get as long.

What does an Onagadori chicken look like?

Onagadori chickens are revered in Japan for their most notable physical feature: their tail feathers. Normally, as chickens molt their feathers, eventually their tail feathers will be replaced. 

However, the Onagadori’s genetics have led the roosters to have tail feathers that grow perpetually. Because of this, their tail feathers have the potential to reach lengths of 30-40 feet

 Onagadori chicken on perch

While remarkably beautiful, these extra-long feathers hinder the Onagadori’s ability to fly significantly, making them rather clumsy. Many breeders can help the mobility of the Onagadori by tying up the tail feathers so they are out of the way and won’t obstruct the bird’s movement

Having a variety of high perches will also allow for the Onagadori to rest with the tail feathers gracefully draping down away from their body.

Beyond their incredibly long tail feathers, Onagadori are found in typically 3 colorways, being that of black-breasted red, black-breasted white, and true white. Genetics show that the black-breasted white was the original coloration of the bird, and that the other colors were brought into the mix through cross-breeding. 

 Onagadori chicken on grass with supe rlong tail

Although not as long as the tail feathers, the Onagadori’s saddle feathers are also significantly long, and blend quite well into the length of the rear plumage.The Onagadori has a medium-sized single comb, which usually comes to about 5-6 vertical points. 

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They have a medium-sized wattle that matches the red coloration of the comb, and have prominent white earlobes nestled next to reddish-brown eyes. 

How Long Does An Onagadori Chicken Take To Reach Full Size?

While their tail feathers are exceptionally long, Onagadoris are considered medium-sized chickens. Hens reach an average weight of about 3 pounds, while roosters can grow to about 4 pounds

On average, it takes Onagadori about 20 weeks for them to reach full size. However, the Onagadori rooster’s tail feathers will continue growing throughout its lifetime. 

Onagadori have a lifespan of about 6-7 years, and their tail feathers grow between 28-52 inches every year if properly cared for. The tail usually consists of between 16-18 feathers, and a few of them are known as the Kawari-honge/kouge which are notably wide feathers, and are often the longest. 

These feathers are highly important when Onagadori are being judged in competitions, as they determine how healthy and prized the bird is as a whole.

Onagadori Chicken Egg Color

Onagadori hens will start laying eggs at around 26 weeks old. Although they aren’t the most prolific egg layers, Onagadori chickens still lay a respectable 50-100 eggs per year and produce them continuously throughout the year. 

The eggs themselves are on the smaller side, and are usually a light shade of brown. The hens are known to become quite broody, so they will take to hatching eggs under the right conditions.

When it comes to breeding, Onagadoris are usually only bred by specialty and experienced breeders for ornamental purposes. Since they are an incredibly rare breed, and truly only bred in Japan, it is believed that there are only 1,000 or fewer of these birds in existence today. 

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Onagadori eggs are also particularly hard to come by, as they are not only rare but also protected by Japan’s government when they were declared a national treasure of Japan. So it is currently impossible to export the eggs out of Japan, and any Onagadori chicken outside of Japan has likely been crossbred with another species of chicken at some point.

Owning An Onagadori Chicken

Today, Onagadori chickens are considered endangered, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Since they are a very niche and ornamental breed, with a very unique location for breeding, it is highly likely that Onagadoris will continue to have a remarkably small population. 

It’s therefore very unlikely that you’ll ever get to own an Onagadori Chicken.

Finding them outside of Japan is almost impossible, and even within the country, they’re typically only found in zoos. But yet, it is amazing knowing that this extraordinary species of chicken still exists and that there are breeders who care to help with the conservation efforts. 

The Onagadori proves that a chicken isn’t always just the provider of a fresh meal, but can also stand as proof of deep and culturally significant history. The long tail feathers of the Onagadori are a beautiful display of Japan’s history and future.


Raised in Wisconsin, Leland has spent most of his life adjacent to the rich farmlands of the Midwest. He has visited many farms while exploring his home state, which eventually led him to work directly with farmers on a variety of projects. Between building furniture with Amish-milled wood and helping a local farmer construct a greenhouse, Leland developed a deep interest in homesteading and wants to one day have farmland of his own. Leland is able to combine his love of writing and recent passion for agriculture by writing articles focused on a variety of aspects of farming and homesteading.

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