Serama Chickens: Good Things In Small Packages
These Delightful Bantam Chickens Make a Wonderful Addition to Your Flock
Serama (Sir-Rom-Ah) chickens were first imported to North America in the fall of 2000. Jerry Schexnayder (www.JerrysSeramas.com) of Louisiana brought in a total of 135 adult birds, the flock consisting of 30 cocks and 105 hens. Three of the cocks died during quarantine and another seven, all “Class A,” proved to be infertile. Likewise, approximately 25 of the hens, mostly “Class A” were not viable in that they did not lay or they laid infertile eggs. Because of the concern over avian influenza and Asian bird flu madness, the Asian market is closed and no additional birds can be imported. Therefore, all Serama in North America and Europe, which is now estimated to number over 50,000, are descended of these 100 birds. It has been said that another individual imported a dozen birds at approximately the same time but this information, to this day, cannot be verified. The Serama are now found in most states, from Hawaii to Alaska, to Puerto Rico, from Mexico to several provinces of Canada and the European Union.
The Serama in North America
Serama is the smallest and lightest chicken in the world, and is highly prized as living works of art. The weight range for “Class A Cocks” is under 12 ounces and under 10 ounces for “Class A Hens.” These chickens originated in Kelantan, Malaysia as the result of selective cross breeding of several breeds of bantams. Their chesty, regal and confident bearing is a joy to behold and they have been described as the Arnold Schwartzen-eggers and Dolly Partons of the bantam kingdom.
Serama chickens are inexpensive to rear as they consume only about one pound of feed per month, eating regular chicken feed, a 50/50 mixture of game bird breeder feed and chicken crumbles. A little grain (red wheat) may be fed weekly as a treat. The hens make great moms, laying, hatching and caring for baby chicks. Incubation period for eggs is 19-20 days. These birds are not color bred, nor do they breed true to any one color. It is not uncommon to hatch as many different colored chicks as there are eggs that hatch.
Serama do not breed true to size. Out of a clutch of 10 chicks, one can expect one or two to be very small, two or three to be rather large and the remainder to be within the normal size range. They are year-round layers and have no particular laying season, although peak fertility and egg production occurs from November to February.
There is a wide range of different chicken egg colors from a Serama, ranging from the purest white to the deepest brown, with dozens of shades in between. They mature at 16-18 weeks, and are in a continuous molt, dropping a few feathers each day. It takes approximately five Serama eggs to equal the volume of one Grade “A” Large egg.
Serama chickens make beautiful pets and companions, both indoors and outdoors. Their small size requires very little space and a pair or trio can comfortably be caged in a 24″ by 18″ enclosure. They should only be let out of their cages when they are safe from predators such as dogs, cats and birds of prey. They usually raise a racket when an unfamiliar animal or object is sighted and are safe on their own as long as there are people within earshot who can recognize when they are under threat.
They make great companions while gardening and enjoying the mornings/evenings on the porch. Their regal appearance and natural beauty adds to the splendor of any garden or home.
To promote the further breeding, development and improvement of the Serama, Schexnayder started the Serama Council of North America, (SCNA), in 2003. This non-profit organization now has over 250 members from throughout North America. The SCNA is currently actively seeking standardization and acceptance by the American Bantam Association (ABA) and American Poultry Association (APA).
SERAMA HARDIER IN COLD CLIMATES THAN WAS ORIGINALLY THOUGHT
By J.P. Lawrence, Michigan, SCNA Member
Serama chickens are from a tropical climate, so before importation to the United States, the breed had not been exposed to the colder climates that occur in much of the U.S. Naturally, the thought was that these chickens could not handle the cold climates, but they are a little hardier to the cold than what was originally expected. In the first years, they were said not to do well in temperatures much less than 40°F. They have since been exposed to areas such as Michigan, Canada, and Ohio, and areas known for their cold winters.
Living right next to Lake Michigan made me wary about getting Serama. I decided to take the chance, figuring that I could find a warm spot to baby them during the winter. To say the least, they are not being babied. My birds are in the utility room of my hen house which is not insulated and is rather drafty. I have three pens at the moment: one with pullets, one with my original pair, and one with cockerels. The latter two have heat lamps on them, and that is all that they have in the way of heat. My pullets do not have any source of heat aside from themselves.
I am not the only one, however, to have birds withstand such extremes. A friend of mine, Catherine Stasevich also from Michigan, with whom I ordered my first pair, has her birds in a similar environment as I do, and she is having the same success that I am in regards to cold tolerance. She has even managed to hatch out eggs in the winter and keep the chicks in a somewhat heated room in her barn (by somewhat, I mean that I am guessing it gets no warmer than 60°F probably more commonly around 50°F).
Each day allows for a new test for the Serama chickens in this country. Whether it is to disease, cold, stress, or whatever, they are passing these tests with flying colors. They are a magnificent breed, and the fact that they are acclimating to this new environment excites me and others, especially those promoting the breed at the SCNA. All of this bodes well for the integration of this breed into American flocks.
AMERICAN SERAMA VERSES MALAYSIAN SERAMA
By J.P. Lawrence and B. Fuller
In Malaysia, these bantams are called Ayam Serama. Under this name, there are several different types or styles which Malaysians also use in reference to their birds. Some of these styles include, but are not limited to, Slim, Apple, Ball, and Dragon. Each of these styles has a distinctly different look to them. Note that there is no reference to Malaysian Serama or American Serama as styles or types within Malaysia itself.
For those unfamiliar with Malaysian Ayam Serama types, the following is a brief description of each of the types mentioned:
• Slim is a relatively tall, slender bird with a very small breast. This type looks as though it could fit into a cylinder without problem.
• Ball are quite round in appearance. The legs are short and the wings are not held at vertical, but closer to 45 degrees or less, due to wing and leg length. The breast is as large as it can be given the anatomy of the bird.
• Apple isn’t as intuitive. The breast on the Apple Serama is a bit lower and larger and the legs on this type are medium in length.
• Dragons are the “extreme” Serama. Their head is held so far back that, on some individuals, the breast is actually held higher than the head. Wings are held vertically, and legs tend to be medium to short in length.
Upon its inception in 2002, the SCNA created a standard to which breeders within the organization would breed their birds. This is where the terminology American Serama came in. American Serama does not refer to Serama from America, but Serama of American type. The founders of SCNA wrote the standard to be a combination of two types, those being the Apple and the Slim.
Since references like Slim Apple Serama would invoke further confusion, we at SCNA felt it appropriate to refer to this type as the American Serama, as it was a type developed here in the U.S. We felt it necessary to choose one type and stay with it as Serama in Malaysia have evolved greatly, which you can see from the reference to the various types found there.
Since the term American Serama came into being, there is now reference to Malaysian Serama as well within the United States. This has led to a certain amount of confusion because some breeders refer to Malaysian Serama as Serama of Malaysian type rather then Serama from Malaysia. Malaysian Serama referring to type consists of a breed that is similar to the American Serama, but differs as a shorter-legged, longer-winged bird, which is more a combination of the Ball and Slim type.
At this time, the Serama in the U.S. are in their infancy in the development of type and there is some difficulty in distinguishing between the American and Malaysian types. In five years, that will change and the types will be notably discernable.
The SCNA currently recognizes three class sizes (class A, B and C) because we do not want to limit ourselves at this time to possible non-viable weights, such as may be occurring within the Micro-A’s. In turn, breeding larger Serama outside of the C class is not promoted and is strongly discouraged. As stated before, the American Serama is in its infancy and all genetic potential must be considered in order to build the birds that best fit our standard. The current classes as defined by that standard make the best use of that genetic potential at this time. SCNA will ultimately lower their size classes to one class in order to prepare for eventual acceptance into the APA and ABA, but presently feels that it is more important to perfect the American Serama type first.
Serama Sanctioned Shows Use Tabletop Style
The joy of showing a Serama is one that is unique to the poultry community as known in the U.S. American Serama shown under SCNA sanctioned shows are exhibited in the traditional table top style as are their ancestors in Malaysia. Each Serama receives its individual time on the judge’s table and is allowed to show itself to its fullest potential. This is where the unique characteristics of the Serama shine through. They relish the spotlight, and are quite showy little performers given the chance. Serama shown under SCNA sanctioned shows are judged on the following categories: type, character, tail carriage, wing carriage, feather quality and condition. Eventually, if acceptance to the American Bantam Association is completed, they will also be shown in the American tradition of in-cage exhibition as is done in ABA and/or APA shows.
The SCNA hopes the future of the Serama will allow these fantastic little chickens to be shown in both the traditional Malaysian style and the in-cage style of American poultry shows. In the meantime, the SCNA has a very active schedule of traditional style shows each year, including a National Finals. That number is growing substantially as more people become interested in this breed and ownership spreads to adjoining states and provinces.
The first Serama Show was held with approximately 25 Seramas a few years ago. In recent months, entrant numbers have neared 200 birds per show, second only to the Old English breed. Those are very impressive statistics for this new breed, and the judging process always attracts an audience as onlookers watch these little birds display their regal character on the judge’s table.
The following are excerpts from SCNA members and breeders around the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom.
Acquiring the Serama Breed
When asked how folks first heard about or acquired Seramas, fellow owners said…
“I acquired my first Serama through a local breeder looking to get rid of the whole flock. I then imported some breeder stock directly from Jerry Schexnayder in September of 2004, and again in March of 2005. I have been working with them ever since.”—Matt Lister, GV Bantams, Abbotsford, BC, Canada
“I looked for almost two years before finding the birds that I wanted. I bought out a friend’s birds, 22 head.”—Tony, Little America Minis in Texas (http://www.littleamericaminis.com)
“I found the Serama while searching the Internet for bantam poultry and was looking for a small, quiet breed to raise and show with my children. I knew I had found the perfect breed for our backyard poultry hobby. I bought them from Jerry Schexnayder in the spring of 2003. A nice type B Class Wheaten pair that would be our flock’s foundation. I have since acquired the Serama from several other breeders.”—Clarence, Dixie Birds, Largo, Florida
“I have always been attracted to the bantam breeds. When I discovered the Serama on an online auction site, I knew I’d just discovered the perfect bantam breed for myself and my daughter. Their style, to me, was simply amazing. I purchased my first trio from an online poultry auction site. I was impatient and wanted my Serama now, I didn’t want to be placed on a waiting list. I still have the original hen. I have since added more improved stock from various breeders around the country.”—Julie, JLM Exotic Poultry, Spring Hill, Florida
“We acquired our first pair of Serama from Jerry Schexnayder. They were four months old at the time.”—Serama Kings, Oklahoma
“I first heard about the Serama through Poultry Press where the first big article was run last fall. The information and drawings caught my attention. I like the smaller birds so I contacted Jerry Schexnayder and he said he couldn’t ship birds, so I joined the SCNA, got signed up on the forum and spent a lot of time reading and getting educated about them. I bought some eggs off an online poultry auction site and found a pair of Silkied Serama at Serama Kings. I plan to raise Silkied Serama.”—Kelly, Golden State Seramas, Gilroy, California
“Living in Hawaii, it was easier to have eggs shipped in rather than the live chickens.”—Casey, Maui, Hawaii
“While doing research on the Internet about different breeds that were docile I came across The Serama Council of North America’s website (www.scnaonline.org) and some of the members’ sites, I found a wealth of information regarding the Serama and their journey to the U.S. from Malaysia by importer Jerry Schexnayder. These bantam chickens are very human-friendly.”—Jessica, My Mini Farm, Sullivan County, New York (www.MyMiniFarm.com)
“I have been a pigeon fancier for about 50 years, and found a website where pigeons are sold online. While checking pigeon listings, I saw an ad which declared ‘World’s Smallest Chickens.’ Of course, curiosity got the best of me and I clicked the listing and ended up face to face with my first Serama.”—Al De Vono, Stewartstown, Pennsylvania
Suggestions for Newcomers to Seramas
We asked owners and breeders what suggestions they would have for a newcomer to the breed of Serama.
“Learn as much as possible about the breed before actually buying any. The more you know about them beforehand, the more you will enjoy them after you finally get some. I would suggest that you stay away from eggs. Shipping the eggs greatly reduces the hatch rate and with eggs you never know the quality of the birds that are going to hatch to begin building your flock. You will be very happy you did, even if adult birds cost more to both buy and ship.”—Matt Lister, Canada.
“Read and study… I believe in putting the birds’ welfare first. Everything else comes after my responsibility to them is done. Treat them as if they were any other pet and they will respond as such. Number one: treat them with respect and kindness and you will know what wonderful pets chickens are.”—Joan Martin, Picayune, Mississippi.
“Do some research, buy birds or eggs from reputable breeders, start with inexpensive birds to be sure you can get the raising and breeding techniques down, then get better quality birds.”—Casey, Hawaii.
“Don’t do what I did, don’t rush into a purchase. Be patient, be exact, know what you are looking for. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t hesitate to bid my time on a waiting list for that quality and more expensive initial investment. I would recommend buying young or adult stock over hatching eggs so you know what you are getting.”—Julie, Florida.“Join the SCNA, get involved and get to know the other members. There is so much you can learn from the experiences of others.” —Jessica, New York.
“Buy the best birds that you can afford. I believe that purchasing eggs is a very costly mistake since they don’t travel well and your hatch rate is usually not too good and you don’t know what you are getting, really, for months. By that time you would have been dollars and months ahead if you had bought adult stock.” —Tony, Texas.
“Keep everything you hatch, ask plenty of questions, join the SCNA and above all, enjoy your birds.”—Rob, Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England.
Additional Information on the American Serama
For additional information on the American Serama and to become a member of SCNA please visit www.scnaonline.org. Signing up is easy, simply follow directions.
We hope you have found our article and excerpts to be of value. Please remember what works for one individual might not work for another, and ultimately you will have to decide what method works best for you and your ventures with an American Serama. This article is a conglomeration of several different sources as noted throughout the article and compiled on behalf of the SCNA by the association’s Publicity Committee members for your enjoyment and education about this fantastic breed of bantam poultry, the world’s smallest bantam, the American Serama.
Originally published in the April/May 2006 issue of Backyard Poultry magazine and regularly vetted for accuracy.