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Dong Tao Chicken Breed Profile: All You Need to Know

Dong Tao Chicken

The Dong Tao chicken, or Vietnamese Dragon chicken, is an incredibly rare and highly valuable breed best known for its strange appearance and specialty meat.

These mild-mannered birds have thick, heavy, and scaly legs.

They may have typical single combs with standard-sized waddles — or these features may also be thick and scaly, too.

If you’re looking into adding this breed to your flock, read this Dong Tao chicken breed profile first, and see if it matches your needs.

Dong Tao Chicken Background and History

Dong Taos are easy-to-identify thanks to their extremely thick and scaly legs.

Because of their distinctive legs, they’re often called “dragon chickens.”

They were initially bred as ornamental and meat birds in Vietnam for the royal classes and mandarins.

These chickens are said to be good luck, a sign of fortune, and a way to bring prosperity to those who own them.

Their meat is also highly unique and richly flavorful, adding to their demand.

And to further push their uniqueness, it takes at least eight months for them to mature — quite the jump from standard chicken breeds’ typical three months (or six weeks for a Cornish Cross).

Dong Tao Chicken Breed Standard Appearance

Beyond their strange feet and legs, Dong Tao roosters exhibit a vibrant color palette, with red, green, and black feathers adorning their bodies.

Hens, on the other hand, primarily grow white plumage, often with random patches of light brown feathers.

This stark contrast in appearance between males and females makes it easy to differentiate between them as adults.

All Dong Tao chickens, however, have reddish combs and wattles.

Some have “normal” sized single combs and waddles that resemble many other common chicken breeds; others have thick, heavy, or long waddles and combs that are scaly like their legs.

And because of this, they will remind you more of a reptile rather than a bird.

Their skin displays a combination of pink, red, and white hues, which can also be observed on their feet.

Dong Tao Chicks

Dong Tao chicks immediately have thick legs that stand out from other breeds.

Their newly hatched legs are at least two to three times the size of other chicken breeds.

Chicks are not as easy to sex.

These are not sex-linked, meaning you cannot easily differentiate between cockerels and pullets just by glancing at them.

Both genders tend to be white with black wings.


Adult Appearance

These unique chickens have a stout and muscular build with a broad chest and thick legs.

Their bodies are robust and compact, with thick, tree-trunk-like legs.

Their legs and feet are covered in rough, thick scales, and they have relatively long toes.

Typically they have four toes on each foot.

Dong Tao chickens have an attractive plumage that varies in color and pattern.

The most common plumage color is black, with hints of red or gray.

Some individuals may also display patches of white feathers.

Many, especially the roosters, have iridescent blue-black feathers on the wings and tail.

Their feathers are dense and well-adhered to the body, giving them a sleek and polished appearance.

Dong Tao chickens have small, compact heads with a prominent and upright comb.

The comb can vary in shape and size, with single combs being the most common variation.

Like the legs, the comb is much thicker than a typical chicken’s, slightly scaly, and long enough to droop to one side.

Their waddles are often oversized and may hang down to their crops.

Most of these birds have reddish-brown eyes, with a few exceptions having yellow eyes.

Size and Weight

Dong Tao chickens typically weigh 6 to 16 pounds each at full maturity, which happens at 8 to 12 months old.

Despite the apparent unusual inward bending of their knees, Dong Tao Chickens have found a remarkable balance between their large legs and feet.

This unique trait aids in their stability and movement, enabling them to navigate their environment with surprising grace.

Free-range Dong Tao chickens may take 18 months to hit full maturity.

Most hens are closer to 10 pounds, while most roosters weigh around 13 pounds.

Their legs make up an impressive fraction of their weight, too.

We believe the largest recorded Dong Tao legs were 2.2 pounds each (roughly 1 kilogram each).

They are typically 12 to 14 inches tall, as both roosters and hens.

Dong Tao chickens often have legs similar to an adult human’s wrist, around 4 inches in circumference.


Dong Tao Chicken Personality and Temperament

Though these birds have an intimidating appearance, they are surprisingly sweet and docile creatures who make companions.

They have a naturally calm temperament that easily fosters trust and connection with humans, which is good for beginner chicken keepers.

They easily develop a bond with their caretakers, so they are suitable for gentle children and those interested in keeping chickens as pets.

Dong Tao Chickens, despite their significant size and weight, are also capable of flight.

However, their flying abilities are relatively limited, typically not exceeding heights of three feet or so.

Some craftier individuals may “stairstep” hop or fly up trees, roosts, or fences, but most can be contained by a four-foot-tall fence, especially if the run is covered.

Nonetheless, they prefer to remain close to their coops and return to safety after satisfying their foraging instincts.

Dong Tao Chicken Egg Production

Dong Tao chickens are moderate egg layers, usually producing 100 eggs yearly, though this range may fluctuate from 60 to 120 eggs in a year.

This equals 1 to 3 eggs per week, depending on the season and the individual.

As the hens age, they tend to lay fewer eggs, but their eggs will get slightly larger yearly.

Eggs are medium to large in size, with a varying range of shades.

The eggshells can be light brown, cream, or off-white.

Each hen will have her own individual shades, and the colors shouldn’t vary from each hen.

Lucky for their keepers, Dong Tao chickens have a tendency towards broodiness.

This means that they may develop a strong inclination to incubate and hatch their eggs.

Their maternal instincts often make them devoted and attentive when it comes to raising their chicks.

However, broodiness can result in a temporary pause in egg production.

The downside to their broodiness is their size and clumsiness.

It’s easy for the hens to step on and break their eggs because of their massive legs and feet.

However, hens of all breeds really step on an egg in the nesting box occasionally.

Unfortunately, the difference is Dong Tao hens are not granted the same graces as other breeds.

When they step on an egg, it usually cracks under their weight and kills the viability of that egg.

If you want to breed Dong Tao chickens, their eggs can be incubated for more successful hatch rates.

Make sure you collect eggs frequently to prevent accidental cracks and breaks.

Expect to pay $120 and up for a dozen fertilized (hatching) eggs.

Breeders often sell eggs in half-dozens too, at $55 or so per 6 eggs.

Some eggs from special, well-known breeders are valued at $2,000 each.

The incubation period for Dong Tao eggs is approximately 21 days, similar to most chicken breeds.

Proper incubation conditions, including temperature and humidity levels, are crucial for ensuring a successful hatch.

You can read more about incubating, hatching, and raising chicks here.

Dong Tao Chicken Meat Production

Dong Tao chickens produce some of the most expensive poultry meat in the world.

Their meat is renowned for its superior taste, tenderness, and juiciness.

The texture is succulent and flavorful, making it a desirable choice for culinary enthusiasts and chefs.

The unique characteristics of their meat have greatly contributed to their reputation as a gourmet delicacy.

The ideal age for meat processing is around 8 to 10 months, ensuring the meat has developed the desired flavor and quantity without sacrificing quality or tenderness.

At this age, you can expect 6 pounds or more of meat and a few pounds of flavorful bone — perfect for crafting delectable broths and chicken stock.

Dong Tao chicken meat is versatile and can be utilized in many culinary applications.

It is often used in traditional yet luxurious Vietnamese dishes, where its distinct flavor adds depth and richness to the cuisine.

Dong Tao meat is most often boiled and then served with a special dipping sauce.

This sweet sauce includes chili spices, lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar.

The legs are often boiled and served this way too.

Another common dish is fried Dong Tao meat with steamed and seasoned rice.

Dong Tao chicken meat offers a good nutritional profile; it’s a rich source of high-quality protein, essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.

Due to their rarity and unique attributes, Dong Tao chickens and their meat have gained considerable market demand, particularly in regions where they are appreciated for their cultural significance and gastronomic value.

As a result, Dong Tao chicken meat commands a higher price than other, more common chicken breeds’ meat.

Dong Tao Chicken Common Health Problems

Freezing in Cooler Climates

Dong Tao chickens prefer hot and humid climates; 75 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit with 50% or greater humidity is strongly recommended.

Due to their slow feather growth, Dong Tao Chickens may experience sensitivity to cold temperatures until their plumage is fully developed.

Once their feathers are fully grown, they’re more capable of surviving cooler periods.

These birds are particularly sensitive to weather changes, so do your best to mitigate the effects of wildly fluctuating temperatures.

Hens will completely halt egg production with temperature fluctuations (up or down) and rapidly changing weather.

Be sure to read our guides to keeping chickens in hot and cold temperatures.

Bumblefoot and Other Leg and Foot Ailments 

Due to their massive size and weight, Dong Tao chickens are prone to leg and foot problems.

The sheer weight can put pressure on their legs, leading to issues such as sprains, strains, or even fractures.

Dong Tao chickens are much happier when they have room to roam, like pasture-raising or free-ranging, but they can seriously injure themselves by jumping down more than a few feet.

If possible, provide ramps, and stair-step their roosts so your chickens are less likely to attempt to fly or jump down from their perches.

If you’re going to keep these chickens in an enclosure, look around for potential “jump” locations that are more than two feet off the ground.

Remove these if possible, or offer better, less severe alternatives for your chickens to get down safely.

Also, Dong Tao’s large feet may be susceptible to conditions like bumblefoot, which is an infection of the foot pad.

We have a comprehensive guide on treating bumblefoot here.


Dong Tao chickens are naturally inclined to put on weight (10 to 13 pounds is a lot for a chicken that is only a foot tall!).

If not managed properly, this can lead to obesity, further exacerbating above mentioned leg and joint problems.

It’s crucial to provide a balanced diet and ensure they have ample space for exercise to prevent excessive weight gain.

If your Dong Tao chickens aren’t moving enough on their own, add enrichment activities to their run, and get creative with your setup.

For example, keep their roosts, feed, and water sources as far apart as possible to encourage more movement.

Respiratory Infections

Dong Tao chickens, like other poultry breeds, can be susceptible to respiratory infections.

Factors such as poor ventilation, damp conditions, or exposure to pathogens can contribute to respiratory issues.

Common respiratory infections include infectious bronchitis, mycoplasma, or avian influenza.

The reason why respiratory issues tend to flair up more with Dong Tao chickens is because of their high value.

Owners, very understandably, tend to keep their more expensive birds in tighter enclosures as a safety precaution – but being too cooped up is a problem all on its own.

Ensure your coop and run are clean, well-ventilated, and not overcrowded.


Again, Dong Tao chickens are much more expensive than other breeds, so their keepers are likelier to keep them in an enclosure for their safety.

Another side-effect of being kept in one place at all times is increased parasitic load.

External parasites, such as mites or lice, can cause irritation, feather loss, and discomfort.

Internal parasites, such as worms, can affect their health and lead to weight loss, poor growth, or even death.

Practicing good coop hygiene and deworming chickens as needed (without building parasitic resistance) are important preventive measures.

Old Age

While some chicken breeds regularly live to see a decade or two, Dong Taos can only be expected to live to be six or seven years old.

This is attributed to their large size and the fact that their legs never seem to stop growing.

Eventually, they just get too large for their body to manage and hold upright, leading to failed internal organs or broken legs.

Maintaining a clean environment for the Dong Tao Chicken and all other breeds

How to Keep Dong Tao Chickens Healthy

A Clean Environment

Each Dong Tao chicken should have at least 3 square feet of space in the coop, with even more space in their run or pasture.

Preventing overcrowding makes it easier for you to maintain the space.

And this seriously benefits your chickens’ overall mental and physical health.

Establish a regular cleaning routine for your chicken coop.

Remove any accumulated waste, like droppings and soiled bedding, every week, at the bare minimum.

The Deep Litter Method is the exception to this rule, but you probably won’t want this method with Dong Tao chickens.

They tend to be a hot and humid climate type of bird, and this bedding method is better for cold climates in the winter.

Thoroughly clean the coop periodically, about every 3 to 4 months.

This deep cleaning should involve removing all bedding, disinfecting surfaces, and allowing the coop to dry completely before adding fresh bedding.

Choose suitable bedding materials, such as straw, wood shavings, or sand, for your chicken coop.

Just remember that no matter which material you choose, the bedding should always be clean, dry, and absorbent.

Regularly replace soiled or damp bedding to maintain a clean and odor-free environment.

Consider installing a droppings board beneath roosting areas to collect droppings (this is where chickens defecate the most often), making cleaning easier for you.

Regularly remove droppings from the coop and dispose of them properly, either by composting or disposing in a designated waste area.

Plenty of Good Ventilation

Ensure adequate ventilation in the chicken coop.

Proper airflow helps remove moisture, ammonia, and odors, which can contribute to respiratory issues.

Provide vents or windows that can be opened and closed to control air circulation while protecting from drafts.

So what’s the difference between a draft and ventilation?

When I first heard, “chickens need good ventilation but not a draft,” I, too, wondered if there was any difference between those two words.

With a little research, I soon learned that there is.

A draft is usually unintentional, sneaking in through cracks, gaps in boards, under doors, and around window frames.

On the other hand, ventilation is a deliberate and purposeful airflow created through means such as windows and vents.

If you notice air entering through a hole or crack near the ground, it’s likely a draft.

These drafts can bring cold air directly into the coop or barn, affecting the warmth that your chickens are working to maintain.

However, if the opening or crack is positioned higher up near the ceiling, it likely won’t directly impact your animals unless they are roosting above it.

Make sure that the vents are always positioned above the roosting areas.

This way, cold air won’t blow directly onto or below your flock at night.

And yes, it’s possible to have a draft even without proper ventilation.

Ammonia – lighter than oxygen and carbon dioxide – tends to accumulate at the top of your coop or barn.

Having fresh, cool air entering from the bottom of your coop does not guarantee safe breathing conditions.

By placing vents higher up, you can eliminate drafts without subjecting your animals to discomfort from the cold.

Additionally, these vents allow excess moisture to escape, which is an added benefit in maintaining a healthy and well-regulated environment for your critters.

Create a Biosecure Property

Practice good biosecurity to minimize the risk of disease transmission – this can save your birds’ lives and you thousands of dollars.

Limit or prohibit farm visitors, or put preventative measures in place to reduce the risk of disease transmission.

Visitors should stay out of the chicken spaces, change shoes before entering their spaces, disinfect their hands and feet before entering, or wear preventative plastic foot coverings and gloves while on the premises.

You should also quarantine new birds, including newly hatched chicks, for two to four weeks.

If you take your birds off your property for any reason (to breed, to show, to visit the veterinarian, etc.), they should be quarantined before rejoining the rest of your flock.

Learn more about biosecurity in this article.

Feed A Well-Balanced Diet

I won’t get too into the specifics of chicken diets (because that could quickly become a book), but here’s a quick overview:

  • Chickens need 17 to 23% protein, with growing birds and layers needing more protein than adults and non-layers. 
  • All chickens require at least 38 nutrients in their diet for optimal health. 
  • Most chickens need 0.85 to 0.95% calcium; layers need 3.5 to 4.5% calcium. 
  • All chickens need 4 to 6% fat and 2.5 to 4% fiber in their diets. 

You can read all about your flock’s nutritional needs here.

Vaccinations to Consider

Here’s a brief overview of available vaccinations for your flock:

  • Marek’s Disease Vaccine. This prevents the viral infection that causes tumors and poor immune system health.
  • Newcastle Disease Vaccine. This prevents the highly contagious infection that leads to respiratory, nervous system, and gastrointestinal symptoms and failures in chickens.
  • Avian Influenza Vaccine. This vaccine prevents “bird flu,” which is deadly and can spread through many bird species.
  • Coccidiosis Vaccine / Anticoccidials. This is a specific parasite dewormer that kills off dangerous worms that will weaken or even slowly kill birds in your flock.
  • Other Deworming Medications. General dewormers remove roundworms, tapeworms, and other parasites that steal vital nutrients from your chickens.

Wondering how to do a chicken health check? Read this.

Breeding Tips for Raising Dong Tao Chickens

A breeding pair of Dong Tao chickens regularly runs around $2,500, while a dozen hatching eggs are closer to $120.

Because of this price difference, many new breeders opt to start with fertilized eggs and an incubator rather than jumping straight in with an adult breeding pair.

You’ll need a secure location to protect your animals (and your investment) while still offering ample room and enrichment for your feathery tree-trunk-legged friends.

They love free-ranging and roaming pastures, but they shouldn’t be allowed to jump from heights – their legs are relatively fragile under their heavy weights.

If possible, raise your Dong Taos in hot and humid climates, or provide one artificially with an enclosed building.

75 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit with a 50% or greater humidity level is strongly recommended.

Birds with pasture access tend to command higher prices, but they incur greater risks of injury or death thanks to your local predators.

You’ll need to weigh the pros and cons of each, assess your property’s risk, and pay attention to your flock’s overall happiness and health to make your decision.

Be patient with Dong Tao chickens.

They are sweet, docile creatures who enjoy human company, but they are slow-growing, clumsy, and require more feed than other chicken breeds.

With all this said, they are resilient, intelligent, and a joy to raise.

FAQ About Dong Tao Chickens

Why Are Dong Tao Chickens So Expensive?

Dong Taos are rare chickens.

This happens because of the convergence of several issues.

For one, most Dong Tao hens lay very few eggs a year, sometimes sixty eggs annually.

Many of these eggs are accidentally stepped on and broken by their heavy-footed mothers, too, meaning breeders have fewer eggs to sell and distribute.

These chickens are also slow to mature, meaning they need to eat more (which costs more) for them to be of egg or meat-producing ages.

Finally, Dong Tao meat is unique, delicious, and holds significant cultural meaning for a large population of people.

How Big Do Dong Tao Chickens Get?

Dong Taos typically weighs 10 to 13 pounds, but may occasionally reach sixteen pounds.

Most of these birds are twelve to fourteen inches tall.

Are Dong Tao Chickens Friendly?

Dong Tao chickens should get along with other flockmates well and enjoy the companionship of humans with proper socialization.

They are generally social, outgoing, and docile by nature.

Why Are Dong Tao Chicken Legs So Weird?

Dong Tao chickens have unique legs that are excessively thick, sometimes the circumference of an adult man’s wrist, with scales somewhat resembling a dragon’s skin.

This is the direct result of hundreds of years of selective breeding.

Dong Tao Chicken Breed Profile Summary

Dong Tao chickens are a unique and captivating breed known for their large size, robust build, and striking appearance.

Originating from Vietnam, they hold cultural significance and have been cherished for centuries.

The breed is characterized by its massive legs and feet, as well as varying plumage colors and patterns.

Dong Tao chickens possess a good-natured temperament and quickly develop trust with humans.

They exhibit poor to moderate egg-laying capacity and are broody but frequently break their eggs by accident.

You would also have to wait 8 to 18 months for them to reach maturity for meat harvest, but they are well worth the weight.

They are appreciated for their exceptional meat quality, especially culturally speaking.

Dong Tao chickens require typical proper care for chickens, including regular health checks, suitable nutrition, and a clean living environment.

Their distinct characteristics, cultural significance, and gourmet meat quality make them a rare yet highly sought-after breed among poultry enthusiasts.

Interested to learn more about different chicken breeds?

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