The Serama (Malay Ayam Serama), also called the Malaysian Serama is a bantam breed originating in Malaysia. They are relatively new outside Malaysia, having been recently imported to North America. The Serama is also one of Malaysia's trademarks.
They are the lightest chicken in the world. The Serama are characterized by their vertical tail feathers, near-vertical wings, full breast, and short legs. Seramas are not yet recognized as a breed by the American Poultry Association or the American Bantam Association, but enthusiasts are working on making this so. Serama in the U.S. have been the subject of controversy with regard to what ideal type/standard should be pursued. As a result two schools of thought have emerged, the original Malaysian Standard proposed by the U.S. Serama Club, and the American standard proposed by the Serama Council of North America.
It seems that lately there has been some confusion regarding what the Malaysian Serama and the American Serama are. The purpose of this article is to aid people in understanding what these labels mean in relation to the Serama.
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.
The Serama was imported into the U.S. in 2000 and at that time was widely referred to as the Malaysian Serama, denoting its country of origin. Upon its inception in 2002, the Serama Council of North America (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 types. 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 discernible.
Most people, at the moment, refer to Malaysian Serama as Serama from Malaysia. I know of several breeders that refer to their birds as Malaysian Serama, but actually breed American Serama. I have done that on occasion. You can see why there might be some confusion regarding names.
Throughout this article you've seen me speak of nothing but type; one further difference does exist between the types within their standards. The SCNA standard recognizes the A, B, and C classes, other standards simply recognize A and B classes. The SCNA currently recognizes three class sizes 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 which 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.
I hope that this clears some confusion when someone refers to one of these tiny birds as a Malaysian Serama or an American Serama.