It was another ashen grey day in Hanoi and the air was cooling down, but we were getting warmer on our hunt for the mystical “dragon chickens” of Dong Tao. An anonymous tipster (aka Google) had led us on a rambling taxi ride out of Hanoi and as the sprawling skyline gave way to luscious green ferns and palm trees, it became clear that our quest had begun in earnest. We were on the road once more and speeding towards the farmlands of Dong Tao Commune; the stomping grounds of monsters most fowl.
As if heralding our arrival, the air was torn asunder with the guttural clucking and cawing of some unseen beasts. We stepped out of the taxi and were immediately greeted by Do Quoc Vuong – owner, farmer and nurturer of over 250 dragon chickens. He’d agreed to shepherd us around his coops and ensure that none of these monstrous birds would tear us limb from limb in single combat.
These dragon chickens stand over one-foot tall, weighing approximately six kilograms once fully grown and sporting preposterously over-sized feet that looked built to crush the skulls of lesser beings, they’re a menacing sight at first glance. Keep in mind the average chicken in the supermarket rarely makes it past a kilo in weight, the birds before us were truly beasts. So how did Do Quoc Vuong go from an electrician in Hung Yen to Hanoi’s patron saint of colossal chickens? It all started ten years back, when the value of these chickens was relatively unknown, but upon discovering the prices that people pay for such big bad-ass birds, Do Quoc turned his hand to rearing them.
Do Quoc explained that in the beginning he had only a limited understanding of what the chickens needed and so by starting out small, he was able to fine tune his approach with minimal losses. Navigating the pitfalls of chicken farming wasn’t easy. He also said that he had to quickly learn the methods of rearing necessary for the various types and ways to safeguard against disease. It was a steep learning curve as the value of these chickens is very much dependent on their genetics, which in turn determines how large they’ll grow. A fully-developed adult will sell for anywhere between VND1,000,000 and VND10,000,000.