What is a Malaysian Serama?
A Malaysian Serama is a small bantam chicken of Malaysian descent. They do not have any standard sized counterparts.They came to the USA at the beginning of the Millenium by two importers, Jerry Schexnayder of Louisiana and KJ Theodore of Illinois, with Jerry importing the vast majority with a total of 135 birds. That began the saga of Seramas in the USA. I began with my first trio in January, 2003. I have learned a lot along the way in my journey of this fascinating little bird called the Malaysian Serama. Sadly, I also have learned that they have fallen victim to a marketing ploy as a means of making money being the sole goal of many people, and not for the betterment of the breed.
All too often, I see birds being passed off as Serama, whether you call them Malaysian Serama, American Serama, Serama Bantams or what have you, that aren't a good representation of a Serama. Too often, people aren't educated when it comes to Seramas, and this is further perpetuating the downfall of these great little birds when an uneducated buyer purchases birds thinking they are Serama, when they are not. Or they enter into the breed not realizing what their true characteristics are and not breeding for those characteristics, taking for granted anything produced by two "Seramas" is automatically a Serama.
Malaysian Seramas, as I choose to call them, are different from any other poultry breed in the USA or anywhere for that matter in that they are a vertical bird verses a horizontal bird as seen in dorkings, cubulayas, leghorns, cornish, jungle fowl, silkies, brahmas or moderns for example. Those breeds and all other breeds of poultry with the exception of seramas have a level or horizontal body type, but a true serama has an up and down, vertical body type. They are in the shape of a "V" when you look at them from the side.
Typically, a cock bird will have more of a v-shape than a hen will. Hens historically to this point in the development of Serama outside of Malaysia are behind in the extreme showiness one will see in a cock bird. Part of this is because a cock is naturally more of a showman, his testosterone having influence on how he presents himself to the world. Some Serama hens are quite exceptional in their type as well, but usually do not show this extreme showiness readily unless asked to pose or presented with a challenger. To have a very typey Malaysian Serama hen is an important aspect of furthering the breed. And I use the term "breed" loosely here because it is a landrace yet, a breed that is still in development.
Malaysian Seramas come in a wide array of colors, their genotype is huge and as thus, produces sometimes many different phenotypes being seen in just one bird. There are it is said 2500 different colors in Seramas. Can a Serama be color bred to a known variety? Yes, they can and are being color bred to several different varieties here in the USA and abroad. Does a Malaysian Serama only come in the smooth feathered variety? No, there are silkieds (the hookless feathered gene that occurs naturally and was not created by crossing a Serama with a Silkie chicken), featherlegged (varying degrees can be seen in some Seramas and again, this is naturally occurring and is found in their gene pool) and frizzleds (to my knowledge at this point the frizzled Serama in the USA is not naturally occurring and has been introduced into the gene pool in the USA here by a few select breeders using the crossing of a frizzled Japanese in at least one case that I am aware of). If anyone well versed in Malaysian Serama genetics has produced a frizzled Serama without the need for cross breeding to achieve it, I would love to hear from you.
Malaysian Serama Type
So, there's a bit of basic background on Malaysian Seramas. Now to the issue of how do you recognize a true Serama or one of quality. First, the V-shape. The V-shape is what defines a Serama more so than any other aspect in my personal opinion. Theoretically, you should be able to draw a V shape around a Serama and that given bird should fit into that shape. The Serama back-if you can see a back on a Serama then it is a long back, and it is NOT desirable. Wing carriage should be vertical, the wings should be set high on the bird's shoulder and fall vertically downward to end just above the foot. Tail carriage should be vertical, the two main tail feathers-sickles, should rise directly up from the point where the tail-bed meets the back and base of the bird's neck. Ideally, the tail should bump up against the bird's neck, with the head being held up and very near or at the tail. The chest should be full, well rounded and placed high on the bird, filling out the space between the wing bows. The neck should be held back over the top of the bird's body with the head set on top of the neck, again with the head up and back near the tail. When looking at a Serama from a side view, you should be able to draw a verticle line from the eye, straight down through the wing, to the foot of the bird when in pose. Anything less than this and you do not have an ideal Serama, either for breeding or for exhibiting.
Keeping Pet Seramas
Too often, I see people keeping pet quality, also known as CULL quality Seramas, and allowing them to breed. I cannot stress enough how much damage this is doing to the breed as a whole. Cull quality can only produce on average more cull quality birds!!! Trust me when I say there is enough cull quality birds being produced by good qualtiy birds out there to last a lifetime. Please pet Serama owners, do not allow your culls to breed and reproduce. If you truly love the Serama, then do the Serama a favor and leave the breeding to the birds with the correct type and to those who have the experience and knowledge needed to further perpetuate the breed's development. While I am not normally one to tell another what they can do with their birds, I do ask that you in all good faith help the breed by not breeding inferior birds. Seramas are wonderful birds, they make excellent pets, their personality is unlike any other breed of poultry out there that I am aware of. They truly are people oriented fowl. But keep them as pets, as your gardening buddies, as your yard ornaments, but not as breeders.
Commonly Seen Faults and Recognizing When a Serama Maybe Isn't a Serama
There are many faults commonly seen in the average Serama. A long back-as an experienced breeder I will tell you that this is a bugger to try to breed out of your offspring. A long tail bed is often times seen with a long back, another very undesirable characteristic and NOT one of a true Malaysian Serama. Lacking in chest is another failure often seen. The bird will have no chest capacity, no muscle tone, no depth between the wing bows, or poor placement of their chest. Those birds remind me of a Slim Jim jerky stick. Wings that are horizontally held or too short or too long are undesirable. Of all the evils, a horizontal wing position is the worst when it comes to wing faults. The too long/too short wing can be corrected with selective breeding but a tightly held wing (making it look horizontal) is hard to overcome and is often associated with a horizontally built bird, which is a direct contrast to what a Serama should be. Leg length is another factor. Crossbreeding has influence on leg length with chabo or japanese infused Seramas often times having too short of leg length. Along with the short leg length comes the creeper gene. On the other hand, a long legged bird will often have incorrect wing length and will look unbalanced, too slim and tall to fill that V shape correctly. Tail placement on a bird is a big factor, it's the back half of your Serama and what is needed to finish off the desired V shape. A low slung tail gives the bird an unbalanced image, and often associated with that low slung tail is a closed tail. The tail should be upright, well spread both at the base of the tail and from the side view, giving it a fan-like appearance. Sickles ideally are straight up from the tail bed, having little to desirably no curvature to them at all. A tail with a lot of curvature, squirrel tail or wry tail could be an indication of japanese or chabo infusion. I say indication because this can occur without the influence but often times is seen with the influence of a jap or chabo. A horizontally shaped bird is the contradiction of what a Malaysian Serama should be. Dutch, OEGB, Japenese, Chabo will often times produce this characteristic (those breeds are the ones that are commonly crossed in an attempt to portray offspring as a true Serama) or it can also easily be produced by allowing to birds greatly lacking in type to reproduce offspring. Nearly every poultry breed has a unique characteristic about it. When two breeds are crossed, the offspring take from each parent and each parent will leave its breed stamp on that offspring. If you educate yourself on the common breed characteristics unique to a given breed, you will often times be able to easily recognize when a Serama is being presented as purebred when in fact it really isn't. If the bird looks like any other breed, than it isn't a Serama. Seramas are unique unto themselves. They are V shaped, they are showy, they are not easily confused with another breed such as OEGB, Japanese or Dutch.
Seramas can and will come in an array of sizes. My personal preference for breeding and showing are those birds that border on the A/B size. Seramas are usually recognized by class sizes here in the USA and also recently by the proposed ABA standard that is in submission. Below is the current standard for both SCNA and ABA as of October 18, 2009.
The current SCNA Standard of Perfection for class sizes states:
- A Class: (theoretically) null to 13 ounces/ 350 grams in cocks, and 11 ounces/ 325 grams in hens (there is no such thing as a Micro-A bird!).
- B Class: 16 ounces/500 grams in cocks, and 14 ounces/425 grams in hens
- C Class: 19 ounces/600 gram in cocks, and 17 ounces/525 grams in hens
- Cockerels: up to 16 ounces/500 grams
- Pullets: up to 14 ounces/425 grams
Proposed ABA Standard of Perfection states:
- Cocks 16 ounces with a 20% variable on weight or 12.8 to 19.2 ounces/358 to 537 grams, without disqualification.
- Hens 14 ounces with a 20% variable on weight or 11.2 to 16.8 ounces/313 to 470 grams, without disqualification.
- Cockerels: 14 ounces with a 20% variable on weight or 11.2 to 16.8 ounces/313 to 470 grams, without disqualification.
- Pullets: 12 ounces with a 20% variable on weight, or 9.6 to 14.4 ounces/368 to 403 grams, without disqualification.
On a special note, there are a few instances where are particular Serama, be it a hen or a cock, will be heavier than the norm, because that bird carries more body mass and muscle on it than a normal bird does. That will make this particular bird heavier than it really appears to be in size generally. It won't be taller, it will just weigh more than another bird of slimmer statue. I personally prefer birds built like this.
The above standard information was gathered from SCNAOnline.org, the Serama Council of North America's website.
Choosing a Serama
When choosing your Serama, there really is no single factor but many factors as I've outlined in this article. A Serama isn't just a small bantam. It isn't just a chicken someone has slapped a label onto as a marketing scheme. A Serama is a living work of art and unless all of these unique characteristics that a Serama should possess are put together into one package, you really don't have a true Malaysian Serama, an American Serama, or a Serama bantam. Don't be fooled by hype of a 5 ounce adult Serama, or a supposed flock of nothing but Class A birds, there are many more factors to be taken into consideration when choosing your Serama. It's the whole package, not bits and pieces here and there. You wouldn't by a BMW with Chevy seats, or a Ford steering wheel, or Volkswagon side view mirrors, or a lawnmower engine, would you? I would hope not! And if that's the case, then don't settle for a Serama that isn't all what it should be. Look for correct type, a living work of art. Color and size (within reason) should not be the first thing you consider when looking for a Serama.
Respectfully submitted in hopes of the betterment of Serama on October 18, 2009 by Julie L. Miller.
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