Saturday, May 18Food Security Matters

What is Labuyo Chicken: Profile and Characteristics

There are two types of “labuyo” in the Philippines. One is hot chili pepper and the other one is a bird called “labuyo chicken”

When we hear the word “labuyo”, most of us would immediately refer to “siling labuyo”, the hottest native pepper used as condiment especially with “sawsawan.” But do you know that we have a chicken called “labuyo?”

labuyo chicken
Image credit Projectnoah

What is Labuyo Chicken?

“Labuyo”, or the red junglefowl (Gallus gallus) is a tropical bird in the family Phasianidae. It ranges across much of Southeast Asia and parts of South Asia. Red junglefowl is the primary ancestor of the domestic chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus); the grey junglefowl, Sri Lankan junglefowl, and green junglefowl have also contributed genetic materials to the gene pool of the domesticated chicken.

Here in the Philippines, although the government does not consider Labuyo as an endangered species, in some areas where these birds are almost extinct, it is illegal to hunt or trap these animals.

In Hiligaynon/Ilonggo, they call it “ilahas nga manok”, or wild chicken.

The native chicken breed that is closest to Labuyo is Darag – a native of Negros and Panay. Their plumage is almost the same but Darag is a bit bigger compared to Labuyo.

The nominated race of red junglefowl has a mix of feather colors, with orange, brown, red, gold, grey, white, olive, and even metallic green plumage. The tail of the male rooster can grow up to 28 centimeters (11 in), and the whole bird may be as long as 70 centimeters (28 in). There are 14 tail feathers. A molt in June changes the bird’s plumage to an eclipse pattern, which lasts through October. The male eclipse pattern includes a black feather in the middle of the back and small red-orange plumes spread across the body. Female eclipse plumage is generally indistinguishable from the plumage at other seasons, but the molting schedule is the same as that of males.

Compared to the more familiar domestic chicken, the red junglefowl has a much smaller body mass (around 2¼ lbs (1 kg) in females and 3¼ lbs (1.5kg) in males) and is brighter in coloration. Junglefowl is also behaviourally different from domestic chickens, being naturally very shy of humans compared to the much tamer domesticated subspecies.

Labuyo are hard to catch. In Mindoro where there is still a significant population of these wild birds, some native peoples (Mangyans) are still trapping these chickens for food as shown in the following video here.

Labuyo, however, can be domesticated if bred domestically. There are many people in the provinces who actually cross-breed the Labuyo with both native and imported breeds, especially those who are fond of cockfights.

Labuyo can still be found and abundant in the wilderness of Panay, Mindoro, Palawan, and Negros Islands.

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