Cockfighting Becomes a Source of Income for Thai Women

Phromanas Jumpa, a 27-year-old Thai woman also known as Mod, is rising to prominence in Thailand for being a gamefowl breeder. Nicknamed the “Angel of Gamefowl,” Mod entered a TV talent show called Super100 where she showcased her expertise on birds. Mod has become a prominent face at cockfighting rings in northwestern Thailand.

In Thailand, cockfighting is a longstanding part of the culture. Betting on the outcome of a fight is legal at licensed venues. Unlike in other Southeast Asian countries, in Thailand, the spurs on the birds’ legs are wrapped in tape to prevent serious injuries. Rings can be found across the country but tournaments are mostly held in rural provinces.

Mod’s farm is located a few hours from Chiang Mai, surrounded by rice fields. Over the last few years, cockfighting has changed from being a farmer’s side hustle into a primary source of income for entrepreneurs.

Gamefowl breeding has become a rare gateway to upward social mobility. In an interview, Mod stated, “Bird breeding didn’t use to have status, and only recently is it being considered a primary profession. These days, bird breeders can have a car, house, and a bigger income than people with ordinary jobs.”

Her farm houses more than 100 birds, and sales can reach THB 100,000 (USD 2,900) a month. A fighting bird can sell anywhere between THB 3,000 to 50,000, but with the right marketing, sales can reach higher amounts.

‘Bird’ S Meesuwan, another gamefowl breeder, said, “I make around 15 million baht ($435,000) per month in revenue, and that doesn’t include the prize money from fights.” In January 2022, S Meesuwan’s champion cockerel Trickster won a match with a cash prize of THB 70.2 million (USD 2 million). For businessmen like S Meesuwan, high-stakes matches are a PR stunt as it is where he can get customers to buy the offspring of his winning birds.

“Even 15 years ago, I was making 3,000 baht a day in sales, but now it’s 300,000… 500,000… or even a million per day,” S Meesuwan said, recalling how he used to supplement his family’s income by running food to spectators at a local cockfighting ring in Ayutthaya. Today, S Meesuwan is the proprietor of one of Asia’s most successful gamefowl farms.

Reputation and relentless digital marketing are just some of the biggest factors that can determine a farm’s success. Once a fighting cock has won its highest-grossing match, it is unlikely to fight again and instead preserved by the breeder for its profitable reputation.

Breeders will take reservations for the offspring of champion cockerels even before the chicks are born. S Meesuwan’s farm has 250,000 followers on LINE. Mod also uses LINE to sell her gamefowl nationwide and abroad. She ships them in wooden boxes to Laos, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Breeding gamefowl as a new financial opportunity has led to a change in the demographic of cockfighting in Thailand. Cockfighting has attracted women, low-income opportunists, and even social media marketers.

“In the beginning, my mother didn’t like this profession for me; it is still new in Thai society for women to raise fighting chickens,” Mod said, noting that cockfighting has a reputation for being a male-dominated sport. People generally look down on women who get into working environments with a lot of men. But people are becoming more accepting,” she added.

Bussarin Choeybanditthaku, a gamefowl breeder who has been in the business for 29 years and turned down an offer of THB 20 million for one of her Thai pedigree birds said that while bird breeding can be a good way for Thai women and men alike to make income, it is something that should be tried out first. “There is a lot of dirty work behind a farm’s upkeep, and it is far from a glamorous profession.”