The Asil is an ancient chicken breed that is the ancestor of many fighting fowl and broiler chickens, particularly the Cornish. It is so lethal that two roosters cannot be kept together as they will fight continually until one kills the other. Even the hens and young chicks are known to spar aggressively. Despite their intolerance for one another, the Asil is most often close to its human keepers and enjoys a free-range existence.
Table of Contents
- Aggressive bread for cockfighting
- Crosses make good meat birds
- Related to the Cornish broiler
- Very poor egg layers
- Usually friendly with people
Background and History of the Asil Chicken Breed
This heritage chicken breed is so ancient that its true origins have been lost in time. Originating from the Indian continent, this fowl has been around for thousands of years. Lewis Wright, a well-respected poultry author, noted that birds closely resembling the Aseel breed had been written about in an ancient text called “The Codes of Manu”, which dates back to 900 – 1280 B.C. He stated that if these fowl were not Aseel as they were known today, they were at the very least the breed’s ancestors.
Asil chickens first arrived on American shores in the late 1800s. They were imported by Dr. H.P. Clarke from Indianapolis, IN., and he exhibited his birds at the Indiana State Fair in 1887. His birds came from Lucknow in India.
More specimens were obtained by Dr. D.S. Newill from Pennsylvania got his birds from India in 1931. The breed arrived in England before making it to the U.S. and were documented in 1846.
The spelling of their name has a few variations – Asil, Asli, Aseel, and Azeel. It means “pure” in Indian or “high caste” in Hindi. The Caste System is how Hindus divide their social classes. To begin with, all pure game birds were given the name, but today it is reserved only for this one breed.
Over hundreds of years, the Asil chicken has gradually spread around the world. But why should a fighting chicken become so popular? They have been used to create other breeds of meat birds, such as the Cornish chicken because they produce a carcass in their offspring that is large and meaty. Today’s commercial broilers with their exceptionally high meat proportions are related to the Asil.
There are various strains of the breed, including the Rampur, Atkinson, Sonatol, Reza, and Rajah.
As cockfighting became less popular and was rightfully banned in many countries, so, unfortunately, the breed went into decline. Today they are considered to be at “threatened” status on the Livestock Conservancy Organisations list.
This breed of chicken was first recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1981 in the colors: Black Breasted Red, Wheaten, White, Dark, and Spangled.
Temperament and Behaviour of the Asil Chicken
Because this breed was developed almost exclusively for cockfighting, they are highly aggressive with each other. Day-old chicks will spar each other, and even hens, which in virtually every other breed of chicken are relatively non-aggressive, will fight each other for hours, often resulting in injury to one or both.
Roosters cannot be kept together, for to do so will result in death for the weaker one.
Despite their high level of aggression with each other, Aseels are generally easy to tame and friendly towards their owners.
Some people even manage to keep Aseels with other chicken breeds if they are the only one of their kind, as it seems they just rub each other up the wrong way instinctively. To achieve this requires a great deal of socialization from when they are chicks. They will also need more space than other breeds, so keeping your flock free-range is best.
Many owners say they are a highly intelligent breed and can even be gentle around children.
However, I would not recommend them either for a child or a new chicken keeper who is just starting out, as it simply isn’t worth the gamble when there are so many other much friendlier, easy to care for breeds of chicken available.
Both roosters and hens are highly protective, and a mother hen has even been known to kill predators such as snakes when guarding her chicks.
Breed Specifics and Traits of Aseel Chickens
For me, I think the appearance of the Asil makes it look like a very primitive chicken breed. They definitely have a game bird appearance with long, strong legs and much less feathering than other more stereotypical chickens.
Where most breeds appear to be heavier than they really are, the opposite is true of the Asil, which are heavier than you imagine them to be, weighing 4.5 lbs to 5 lbs.
Their lack of fluffy plumage means you can clearly see their muscular form, and many roosters grow long tail feathers that arch downwards towards the ground like a Phoenix or Yokahama chicken. Hens have only short tails, but they too are carried low.
While males have quite apparent hackles, the feathering around most hens’ necks seems almost identical to the rest of the feathers on their bodies. Females with well-defined hackles are likely not to be purebred.
They have almost no wattles and small pea combs, slightly larger on males than females. Their eyes are generally yellow and seem to have a piercing stare. Ear lobes are self or off-white. Skin and leg color is yellow.
These are powerful, muscular, lean-shaped birds with strong beaks, thick, muscular necks, and an upright stance. They were well known for never giving up in a fight.
Asils are quite heat tolerant, enjoying a warm, dry climate best. They can tolerate cold given the right care and protection but are not fond of extreme heat.
Other color variations that don’t have APA approval are blue-breasted red and duckwing.
Hens will fight off smaller predators, but they are no match for larger ones such as dogs or big birds of prey.
Asil Health, Disease and Care
Asils are a healthy chicken breed and are not noted as prone to any particular disease or ailment.
Although they can withstand heat and cold, they prefer weather conditions that are warm and dry. In high temperatures, they become pretty inactive and will require access to deep shade and the provision of fresh, clean water.
Their need to roam means they are good foragers and capable of finding a fair proportion of their own food. Their ability to range over large areas also makes them far less prone to fighting.
Before bringing an Asil chicken into your flock, be aware that it may not work out, and there is a possibility that you will have to separate it. When introducing a new bird, make sure there is plenty of space and never try to keep more than one rooster.
The Aseels solid legs, clawed feet and sharp spurs can easily inflict fatal wounds to other chickens. To help prevent this, it is possible to have their spurs removed. This is best done when they are chicks and must be performed by a qualified veterinarian.
Older roosters can have their spurs removed too, but it involves a far more invasive operation resulting in complications. Again this must only ever be done by a vet.
Feeding must be done according to the age of the bird and also what it is doing. If you’re raising chickens for meat, feed young adult birds a broilers ration. If you want your hens to lay and produce eggs, then ensure she is getting enough calcium and protein.
Aseels are a slow-maturing breed and are very poor seasonal layers. You will be fortunate to see as many as 40 eggs a year, but the likelihood is, it will probably be less.
The eggs themselves are small and can range from cream to pale brown. The hens do go broody and are excellent, patient sitters, and make very protective and attentive mothers.
Egg laying is seasonal and sporadic and will quickly diminish as the chicken ages.
Where to buy
It is becoming very difficult to find purebred Asil chickens, and many are now mixed with other breeds. You may be lucky enough to find them at exhibitions or from an online search. Another option is buying them as chicks from a hatchery.
We use Cackle Hatchery which has three types of Aseel chicken available, Wheaten, Dark, and Black Breasted Red. Minimum and maximum order quantities may apply, and availability is seasonal. Prices shown can alter at any time and are per chick, excluding postage.
Unsexed Aseel chick of any variety = $10.90
This ancient chicken breed has a long history. They are true fighters even as very young chicks, and this is a trait that is hard-wired into their DNA.
The roosters are beautiful game birds with their assertive, ready for anything stance and intelligent and curious brains.
Despite their reputation for being warrior birds, they are generally very personable towards their owners. Although this can vary from one individual to another and will also rely on how well socialized they were with people as chicks.
Keeping more than one rooster of this breed is not possible as they will fight to the death. Hens can be kept in small groups, but they will need a great deal of space.
Questions & Answers
1. How do you identify an Asil Chicken?
There are a few breeds that resemble Asil chickens. They are game birds and have a lean, strong shape. Roosters have tails that are quite long, held low, and curl slightly towards the ground. They have pea combs and depending on type are usually quite large.
2. How many eggs will an Aseel hen lay?
Aseel chickens are very poor layers only producing up to around 40 eggs a year. Even this number rapidly declines after a few years.
3. When do Assel chickens start laying eggs?
This type of chicken is slow to develop and pullets often don’t begin to lay until the following season after birth. On average it can take between 24 and 40 weeks for them to start laying eggs.