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British Standard
British Standard
Malay Male
Malay Male



Asia (India, Basngladesh, Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia)


  • Malayoid

Background Information

Malays are a tall, hard-feathered bird originating from Asia. They are well known for their long legs and sinister looking brow. Today these birds have taken a turn from the old world game fowl from to a more elegant style due to mostly breeder selection. The old breed features included a bird that was strong in the legs and thighs, beak and head being massive in size, a low lying brow with walnut comb,and wings positioned on the back. They are also a high station bird and are normally bred on a 3 curve profile being the head,back and tail.

Articles on the Malay

Article 1

This is another of the Asiatic breed, supposed to come from the islands of Sumatra or Java, and, though formerly much fancied and sought after, has of late years been suffered to decline. It has fallen before the spirit of utility ; it was not useful, and it has lost ground. It is a long rather than a large bird, standing remarkably upright, falling in an almost uninterrupted slope from the head to the insertion of the tail, which is small and drooping, having very beautiful but short sickle-feathers. It has a hard, cruel expression of face, a bold eye, pearled around the edge of the lids, a hard, small comb, scarcely so long as the head, having much the appearance of a double comb trimmed very small and then flattened ; a red, skinny face, very strong curved beak, and the space for an inch below it on the throat destitute of feathers. It has long yellow legs, quite clean ; it is remarkable for very hard plumage, and the hinder-parts of the cock look like those of a game-cock trimmed for fighting. The hen is of course smaller than the cock. She has the same expression of face, the same curious comb ; and in both sexes the plumage should be so hard that when handled it should feel as though one feather covered the body. From this cause the wings of the hen are more prominent than in other fowls, projecting something like those of a carrier-pigeon, though in a less degree. It is a beauty in the birds if the projection or knobs of flesh at the crop, on the end wing joint, and at the top of the breast are naked and red. They are good layers and sitters ; their eggs have a dark shell, and are said to be superior in flavor to any other. The chickens feather slowly, on which account no brood should be hatched after July ; otherwise the cold and variable weather of autumn comes upon them before they are half grown, and the increase of their bodies has so far outstripped that of their feathers, that they are half naked about the neck and shoulders, which renders them extremely susceptible of wet and cold. The chickens are not difficult to rear ; but are gawky, long-legged creatures until they have attained their full growth, and then fill out. The original colors were, cocks of a bright, rich rod, with black breast ; and hens of a bright chocolate or cinnamon color, generally one entire shade, but in some instances the hackles were darker than the rest of the plumage. Some beautiful white specimens have lately been introduced, and a few years ago there was a handsome breed of them colored like pied games. The Malays have one great virtue ; they will live anywhere ; they will inhabit a back yard of small dimensions ; they will scratch in the dust-pit and roost in a coal hole, and yet lay well and show in good condition when requisite. The Malays are inveterate fighters, and this is the quality for which they are chiefly prized in their native country, where cock-fighting is carried to the extent of excessive gambling. Men and boys may be frequently met, each carrying his favorite bird under his arm, ready to set to work the moment the opportunity shall offer. The general character of these birds is vindictive, cruel, and tyrannical.


Article 2

This breed, as well as the Great Javas, are well represented by the portraits of Black China fowls, previously shown in this work. The Great Malays were brought originally from the peninsula of that name, at the southern extremity of Asia. Richardson says : " The Malay fowl stands very high on the legs, is long-necked, serpent-headed, and is in color, usually, a dark brown, streaked with yellow ; sometimes, however, with white. His form and appearance are grand and striking in the extreme, and he is no small embellishment to the poultry yard. This fowl is also frequently, but erroneously, called the Chittagong. The Malay fowls, however, that were originally imported, were by no means such birds as I could recommend to the notice of the breeder, their size possessing too much offal, as neck,legs, and thighs, and the flesh being dark-colored and oily." It is useless to give further details of these fowls, as they are not popular, and the less we have to do with them the better,when other breeds of much more value are within our reach, at very moderate prices. It appears that a large red fowl is called "Malay," at the south, as will be seen by the following extract : The Malays do very well in this climate, (Ga.) ; lay large eggs, and about fifteen at a litter ; may easily be prevented from sitting, and are otherwise easily managed. The chickens are strong when hatched, grow fast, and feather sooner than most of the large birds ; color, red.

GEO. A. SMITH. Macon, Ga.

From Miners Domestic Poultry by T.B. MINER, 1853, NEW YORK

Article 3

From geographical situation, size, and general deportment (after the Cochin China fowl), is entitled to the next consideration of the amateur or poultry-keeper, whether for pleasure or profit. They are a majestic bird, and are imported from the peninsula from which they take their name ; their weight, in general, exceeds that of the Cochin China, the male bird weighing from 11 to 13 lbs., and the female from 9 to 10 lbs. ; height rather more than the Cochin China say, twenty-four to twenty-six inches, being higher on the legs the hens about twenty-three inches. The plumage is very various, being from black to white; the more general color of the hens is a light, reddish yellow ; the cock has a small, misshapen comb, sometimes inclined to one side, and he should be what is called snake-headed, and perfectly free from top-knot; wattles small; the hackles do not deserve any particular notice, being of the various hues of this many-colored tribe ; the tail is small, and ill-furnished, in proportion to the size of the bird ; the legs are black, blue, yellow, or white, occasionally the latter color being the greatest favorite. The eggs of the birds appear small for the size of the pullets, but full-grown hens produce reasonably large ones ; the chickens feather slowly,and require to be brought out at the early season. They are a most invaluable cross to our common domestic fowl, producing a large and hardy variety, which are excellent layers and sitters, and well calculated for the table and " improvement of the cottager's breed;" the poultry-keeper who looks to profit, should not be without some , of them, in addition to His ordinary stock. It is to the introduction of this variety, that we have to attribute the extraordinary increase in the export of living and dead poultry, from our ports, for the supply of the English market. The first Malays I brought to Dublin, I purchased in the London docks. They were brought direct from the Peninsula, as good specimens, and were the progenitors of all the fine Malays, I have since forwarded to every part of England, Ireland, and Scotland.The cock and hen were both a reddish yellow. I can clearly trace all the prize Malays, exhibited here, to them. ," There is a large bird, well known here, with a slight top-knot,said to be Malay, which is evidently a cross. I have been favored, by Thomas Rutherford, Esq., of Merrion square, with a copy of a very clever paper, alluded to in the first chapter, displaying undoubted ability, and research, and read by him, at a scientific meeting of the Royal Dublin Society, the Earl of Clancarty presiding, in which he gives the following description of the Malay : "The handsomest of the Malay, are generally black-breasted, with red hackles, and wings of the same colour, and the rump and tail black, resembling the plumage of the common game cock ; and the hens brown, like the game hens ; there are also gray, with reddish hackles and wings ; these are very often larger than the former, but they are not so well proportioned ; both are awkward in the gait ; they fatten to an enormous size as large as small turkeys. I once had a cock which weighed alive, without being fattened, 13 lbs." Having both the varieties described above, by Mr Rutherford,in my possession, I fully coincide in his opinion. There is a bird recently described, as the Pheasant Malay, and weighing only 7 lbs., which has not the slightest claim to originality,being a mere accidental cross, between the true Malay, and birds bred in the north of England, by the members of the poultry clubs, for show of feather, and described by them as mooned, creeled, or pheasant fowl, of which I shall have occasion to speak in their proper order ; they deteriorate the value of both birds, by reducing the size of the Malay, and obliterating the beautiful markings of the pheasant fowl ; they are a purely accidental cross, and not purposely bred by the fanciers of either variety, but there is no doubt of their being an excellent table fowl, as most crosses of the Malay are. It is a mere market appellation of the dealers, who too often endeavor to make sales at the risk of veracity, assuring their buyers that they are half pheasant ; and, with few exceptions, a more deficient set of men, as to the knowledge of the article in which they deal, there does not exist


Article 4

By Dr. Charles R H Everett

The old poultry writers, Browne, Finsterbusch, Temminick, and Wright felt the Malay was one of the more ancient breeds of fowl. Some even believed this race of fowl was derived from a now extinct breed of fowl. Whether they were correct in this last assumption has yet to be proved or disproved. What is for certain is their relationship to all the other Oriental Gamefowl excepting perhaps the Sumatra.

The Malay is one of the rarest breeds of poultry in North America. According two independent surveys conducted by the Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities and the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy there are estimates of less than 300 breeding Malays in the United States and Canada. Most of these birds are in the hands of individual breeders. Currently, Billy Summers of North Carolina has the largest breeding flock in the States. As rare as the Malay large fowl is the bantam Malay is even rarer. Past APA President Danny Padgett of Florida is one of only a handful of breeders of Malay bantams in the country.

Malays possess several important traits in their pure form which is important for preservationist: namely, their ability to invigorate other breeds of fowl when used in a grading breeding system. Their height, weight, and general good health can be used to great advantage by the breeder when any of these are lacking in other rare breeds of fowl. Of course, we are all aware of the use of Malays to create the Cornish which is the cornerstone of our modern chicken meat industry. What many are not aware of is its use in improving many of the other non-Oriental Game breeds as well.

Though they are not a favorite of all poultry fanciers, there is no doubt that an excellent Malay demands attention. The best are cock birds are nearly 3 feet tall and weigh more than 10 pounds! Furthermore, the best hens reach nearly that same height and possess a definite game-disposition.

The ones I have seen in the shows lately have the height and weight but many are missing the refinement of Malays of the past. Without exception they should ALL possess the 3 curves: neck, back, and tail. The back should not be a roach back, but instead, produced by the wing carriage. The tail should be carried below the horizontal and should even be drooping or ‘whipped’ as it is called. The comb is known as a strawberry, walnut or cushion comb. All of these are one in the same they are just called various names by breeders from different parts of the country. The comb looks like a strawberry that has been cut vertically with the stem end placed at the top of the head. The Malay is one of those breeds where ‘type is everything!’

The stock that I have been working with contains ‘blood’ of the great stock of the past as shown by Hazel Matthews and Henry Miller. However, I will readily confess that I have experienced my share of problems in producing quality Malays. One of the problems I experienced early on was chicks with crooked toes. I mean, they would be near perfect in every area except for those crazy crooked toes! At first, I thought it was an inbreeding problem, and then, quite by accident I discovered it was an incubation problem. I had a bunch of Malay eggs in the incubator when I allowed the temperature to go up to 104*F. (This happened during one night). To my surprise, when these particular Malay eggs hatched there were no crooked toes! Thus, from this point on I allowed for higher temperatures with Malay eggs—never 104*F again, as this was an accident, instead I run my still-air incubator at 101-102*F for Malay eggs only. With these temperatures I have eliminated the crooked toes and have experienced excellent hatches. Could it be that the Malay has a higher body temperature than other breeds of fowl?

I have not had any fertility problems with my Malays, but I have culled for basic stamina. My stock does suffer from a peculiar genetic disorder experienced by various Gamefowl known as the ‘shakes’ or ‘tremors.’ I am almost certain that this difficulty is a result of inbreeding without proper culling. Thus, I cull ruthlessly for healthy stock. If any bird shows even the slightest lack of general good health, then we call that bird ‘supper!’

Malays are not the best laying females; though mine do lay rather well from January through March. From March onward it is hit and miss. The hens will also go broody in a skinny minute; especially when the weather gets warm. The cockerels tend to be fertile before the pullets. However, I try not to use young cockerels for breeding purposes. I like to give them time to adequately mature to see if there are any health problems that will develop. The cockerels are typically not mature until they are between 2 and 3 years of age. So, if you are looking for a fast maturing breed, then you need to look elsewhere.

To avoid growing problems, remember the legs of the Malay are very long and are required to hold a tremendous amount of weight—for a chicken—when mature. I take Malay chicks off chick starter when they are 10 weeks old. I grow them out on scratch grains, bread, and grass. This lower protein diet allows for them to mature slowly. Still, I have had Malay cockerels to ‘go down on the hocks’ abruptly at 12 weeks of age. This seems to be an inability of the young bird to absorb adequate amounts of riboflavin. SPPA member, Andy Marsinko, advised me to mix active yeast into the drinking water of the cockerels for one week at weeks 12, 14 and 16. The yeast helps breakdown the riboflavin in the green feed; thus, helping the young cockerel to absorb it into his system. Since beginning this practice, I have not had a single cockerel with this problem. Interestingly, I have never had a pullet to exhibit the same problem. When telling my story to a meat poultry producer, he gave me this funny look and said, “Now that you mention it, I’ve never seen a pullet go down on the hocks either; though we have cockerels do it all the time.” I cannot explain this phenomena, but on my farm and with my stock it is a fact—only cockerels ever exhibit the problem of going down on the hocks and this only seems to happen between the ages of 12 to 16 weeks.

These giants of the poultry world have almost disappeared from North America. There survival is due to a handful of breeders. A Malay breeder must possess adequate space for the breed to mature properly. This is not a breed for a cage! However, the bantam Malay still has all the characteristics of its’ larger counterpart without as much of a space requirement. I do believe the Malay needs to be preserved for future generations. It has been a foundation breed of our modern poultry industry and may be needed again. Besides, a flock of these giant chickens it simply a sight to see!

Additional Sources

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