Buried deep in the Indonesian jungle stands a strange, abandoned structure called Gereja Ayam. Although shaped like a giant chicken church it is in fact neither a chicken nor a church.

It was 2am when I headed to Borobudur from Jogja on my motorbike. The hour and a half ride on the empty motorway was a welcome break from the jam-packed city streets and I gave me time to wander around and find a good view point of the temple for sunrise.

As I neared the temple some locals on scooters approached and offered to take me to a hilltop with an excellent view of Borobodur temple. Their offer seemed like an overpriced scam, and they mentioned that the place was popular with foreign tourists. Popularity was not what I desired on this trip, so I refused them multiple times. In the end they found other victims, but I followed them, keeping a safe distance.

The place was full of gullible white foreigners, including me, naive idiots who thought they were getting ‘a special private view of nature’. Soon after the sun appeared and lit up the landscape, Borobudur appearing in miniature on the horizon, as if the size of the key ring. I laughed to myself. Tired of stepping on the same old rake again. At least I hadn’t paid for the experience.

Sumbing mountain hiding behind the morning haze.
Sumbing mountain hiding behind the morning haze.

People snapped hundreds of pictures (with ×300 zooms) leaving behind them piles of garbage. Sunlight illuminated the surroundings and through the miserable grey clouds I noticed a weird shape, like an egg with a crown, sticking out above the trees.

The 'Chicken Church' head.

Curiosity led me to walk further in to the dark jungle, until I reached the giant concrete bird building.

What the head looks like up close.

According to the internet this strange construction was designed to be a church, but its creator says the building is neither a chicken nor a church.

The architect revealed that when he had been working in Jakarta he received a divine message from God to build a prayer house in the form of a dove. “Perhaps because of my Christian faith, people thought I was building a church” he told Jakarta Globe. “But it’s not a church. I was building a prayer house, a place for people who believe in God.

The prayer house opened its doors in the 90s, welcoming those of any faith that wanted to make the trek, including Buddhists, Muslims, and Christians. They held services in the upper floor, while the lower floors provided rehab for disabled children, drug addicts and emotionally disturbed people.

Indonesian girl wearing an al-amira and hoodie.

Downstairs there are rooms and bathrooms that look like they’ve been newly repaired. There was another door but I didn’t enter, it was covered in graffiti of curse words and pictures of naked women.

Local travellers sitting on top of 'Chicken's' head.

Most of the interior of the building was left incomplete after it’s construction and it had to shut down in 2000 due to insufficient funds, just like the Ghost Palace hotel on Bali. People still continued to visit the site to admire its bizarre shape hiding in such a serene and mysterious location.

Now, the ‘Chicken Church’ site is somewhat changed. Residents have built concrete road access to the building and the owner has people at the entrance selling tickets and drinks. The floor of the church has been fixed and the pillars taken down.

Girl performing inside the Chicken Church.
Girl performing inside the Chicken Church.

The ‘Chicken’ now has a viewing platform on her head and what I had thought to be an egg with a crown, is actually a ‘chicken’ head and a crown. So to answer the question of ‘which came first, the chicken or the egg?’ the answer is the egg.