These fascinating tiny chickens have stolen the hearts of the Malaysian people. Popular in the United States as tabletop show birds, their unusual appearance really makes a statement. They have quite an exotic look and stand erect like little toy soldiers. Read on to learn more about the Serama, the world’s smallest chicken.
Table of Contents
- Smallest chicken in the world
- Good pets
- Child friendly
- Heat tolerant
Background and History of The Serama Chicken Breed
The Serama originates in Asia and is the smallest chicken breed in the world. Although there is some talk of such a breed being present in the Kelantan province of Malaysia in the 1600s, more is officially known about Wee Yean Een, who created a breeding program to produce these tiny fowl by crossing various other small Asian chicken breeds in 1971.
Seramas are a complex cross between Malaysian Ayam Kapas, the Malay version of a Chinese Silkie, Japanese bantams, Silkie bantams and Kapas Walik, a chicken breed with backward curling feathers resembling scales and feathered feet.
It is thought their name is derived from a King who ruled Thailand in the 1600s called King Sri Rama – although this is pure conjecture as no written evidence appears to exist.
Before a fixed idea about the correct appearance of the Serama was established, the birds could exhibit all kinds of tendencies, including curly feathers, silkie feathers, rose combs, feathered feet, or nut heads.
In their originating country of Malaysia, all of these tendencies are rejected as being undesirable. However, in Europe and the US, interest in these more unusual looking specimens remains ever-present.
Although they are still uncommon in the United States, there is a growing interest in this fascinating breed, so it is likely numbers will rise. The original Malaysian Ayam Seramas are not considered endangered.
Temperament and Behavior of the Serama Bantam Chicken
Seramas are bred with their temperament at the forefront of importance, followed closely by their unusual appearance. When selecting breeding birds, a calm, friendly, easy-going nature is paramount.
Once the inherited temperament is passed onto offspring, the young chicks must then be familiarized with human contact, and as they start to grow, they should be made accustomed to being handled from an early age.
If you wish to show your Seramas, then taking them to shows when young so they become used to crowds as soon as possible is a beneficial endeavor. Most showing for Seramas is of the tabletop variety, which means they are placed on a table, without a cage, where they ‘perform’ natural movements before the judges. In this situation a nervous bird will be a poor candidate, which is why plenty of preparation is so important.
Aggressive, timid or wild characteristics must be discouraged, and any birds showing them should not be bred from.
In Malaysia, the Ayam Serama is said to be the most popular pet in the country, outnumbering both dogs and cats.
Due to their small size and friendly nature, they make good pets for older children. They aren’t so good for younger kids as they are delicate and could be easily damaged from over-exuberant handling.
They are easy to care for too, which makes them ideal for new keepers, particularly if space is limited, as they can be kept in large cages and don’t need to go outside at all.
You can keep Seramas with other small bantam fowl, provided they also have calm temperaments, but they should not be kept with standard or large chickens as they could be picked on.
They are very quiet fowl, even the roosters’ crow is quieter than others, which also helps make them suitable for more urban situations.
Breed Specifics and Traits
The Serama bantam is a show bird and pet. They are too small to be table birds or to produce eggs for eating purposes. Being the smallest chicken breed in the world, the roosters weigh an average of 19.2 oz, Hens 16.8 oz, Cockerels 16.8 oz and Pullets 14.4 oz.
They are true bantams as no full-size equivalent exists.
Despite their miniature status, they can live for 7 to 10 years in the right conditions and must be protected from the cold and predators.
The chicks are tiny and require careful care. Being so small, they chill and dehydrate very quickly.
American Seramas are only recognised in one color by the American Poultry Association – Black. There are three colors acknowledged by the American Bantam Association – Black, White and Exchequer, which is a dappling or mottling of white and black feathers. However, in truth, there is a huge variety of colors available, even if they aren’t officially recognized.
Despite their drooping wings, Seramas are quite able to fly and can frequently be found in tree branches. They also fly over fences, so if you need to keep them outside in a restricted area, you may want to clip their wings, provided you don’t intend to show them.
General Shape and Appearance
The shape of a Serama is unusual. Their body is almost at a 90° angle to the ground, with the head held back behind a full, rounded breast which is puffed out proudly before them. When viewed from the side the bird’s eyes should be further back than their legs. Despite the head being so far back, the wattles should not touch the breast. The body itself is well muscled and full. The tail is held high and is very straight. Roosters’ tail feathers have a minimal curl to the ends, and there should be at least five long feathers on each side of the main tail. Wings point downwards but should not drag on the ground. Legs are short, but the leg shank should be longer than the middle toe. If they are the same length or shorter then the bird likely carries the creeper gene, which is lethal to chicks when both parent birds pass it on.
Head: The head is small with a single, medium size, red comb on males and a smaller single comb on females. There should be five regular serrations with distinct points. Wattles are of medium size in males and small in females. They are round and free of folds or wrinkles. The ear lobes are small and oval and fit closely to the head. The beak is stout, strong and has a good curve. The eyes are conspicuous and round.
Neck: Of medium length and long enough to prevent wattles from touching the breast. It is arched backwards to show off the breast and tapers out from head down to the shoulders. The Hackles should be flowing and abundant.
Back: Forms a V between the neck and the tail. It is broad and short.
Body: Slopes from front to rear and is short, deep and wide.
Tail: Is large and carried upright, almost touching the back of the head.
Wings: Are large and long. They remain folded close to the body and in an almost vertical position but not touching the ground.
Breast: Is full and well developed. Lifted highly and carried prominently forward.
Legs & Toes: Legs are in proportion to the bird, set widely and straight with no bowing. Four evenly spaced, straight toes on each foot.
Health and Disease
Overall, the Serama is a healthy breed. They are however not at all cold tolerant and should only be kept where temperatures do not drop below 40°F. Due to their tiny size, they are generally best kept in aviaries or enclosures that protect them from predators and exposure to bad weather conditions.
Some strains, with ancestry linked to Japanese bantams, have the creeper gene, which affects leg length. This is lethal to unborn chicks if inherited from both parents, as they will not be able to hatch.
All other standard practices, including treatment for lice, mites and worms, must be followed, as for any other type of chicken.
Correct feeding, clean housing and access to fresh drinking water will also help your chickens live happy, healthy lives.
Serama chickens lay eggs just like other chickens, but on a miniature scale. The eggs are so small they tend not to be used for anything other than breeding.
Seramas are excellent layers and can lay between 180 and 200 eggs a year. One standard sized chicken egg is equivalent to around 4 or 5 Serama eggs.
They enjoy raising broods of minute Serama chicks and are good mothers. The eggs hatch a couple of days sooner than larger chicken eggs, at 19 days as opposed to 21. The eggs are usually a cream color, but they can range a lot in shade.
Where to buy
The best way of getting Serama chickens is through a breeder. You can find lists of breeders at the American Serama Association or at the Serama Council of North America. You may also find some advertised by searching online, but be sure to check out the provenance of such birds as they may not be true Seramas.
It is best to find a supplier close to your location and collect your chicks in person as they are so tiny and delicate that they often don’t survive shipping.
It is rare to find them offered by hatcheries due to the poor survival rate of chicks during transportation.
You can buy fertile Serama eggs, chicks which usually start at around $10 per chick or adult birds which often cost in excess of $100.
As many households in Malaysia will tell you, Serama chickens make lovely pets, providing you care for them well.
Being the smallest chicken breed in the world, and coming from Asia, they don’t tolerate cold, so need protection in the winter if temperatures drop below 40°F.
Despite their small size, they have a very proud and confident appearance, although they are usually really very sweet-natured and tame.
Serama bantam chickens are suitable as tabletop show birds, for children and to keep if space is limited.
Don’t forget to check out the legalities of keeping chickens if you’re in an urban area.
To discover facts about other amazing chicken breeds, head on over to our blog, where you’ll find many more informative articles.