Welcoming a Pair of Seramas – The Smallest Chickens in the World!
I went to Maine for a week and left the chicks in the care of my boyfriend. They did well and grew in my absence but while I was away I got myself into a new little adventure. I had spotted a three-week old ad for serama chickens and decided to give it a try. I called and was shocked and delighted to find out the guy still had them.
Seramas are the world’s smallest chickens. I was never going to get any of the bantam breeds but how could I resist a chicken whose smallest specimens are sometimes only slightly taller than a coke can? They are also known for being super friendly because in Malaysia, where they are from, they are kept as house pets and outnumber both dogs and cats there in popularity. I was also intrigued by the idea that they do not “breed true.” In other words if I had two white seramas and bred them together I might get a few whites but more likely than not I could end up with a clutch of all sorts of different colors, and in some cases I might not get any offspring that look like their parents. They also come in over 2,500 different colors and patterns and three different feather types (normal, silkie, and frizzle.) I saw an opportunity… to get back into the pet breeding world, as I had been with the fancy rats so many years ago. How neat would it be to raise tiny house chickens? I had looked close to home to find them but they have only been in the US since vaguely 100ish surviving birds were shipped here in 2001. In other words they are a hard thing to find and when you do find them sometimes they can cost you $100 or more a head.
Some people sell serama hatching eggs but they are only 1/5 the size of a regular chicken egg and appear to be very fragile. The hatching rate for eggs sent through the mail seemed to be anywhere between 0-80% success rate with most people experiencing failure or 1-3 chicks per dozen eggs. Many died while trying to hatch at the very last moment which is a bit sickening. Others die at about two weeks, which for some odd reason is expected in the breed, and if you were one of the people trying to hatch them using a broody bantam (usually a silkie) you had to be careful the itty bitty battery-sized chicks would not smother under their foster mom’s weight and feathers!
I had found all this out and had given up on the idea until I found that ad. $20 for a pair of sermas. Without asking anything I was in the car to check it out! As it turns out they are the largest of the breed, “class D” but even so the rooster is maybe the same size as an African Gray Parrot and my hen is maybe 2/3rds the size of that. They were two years old and the guy was just moving out his older breeders in order to get some more regular layers. This was the ground floor! The rooster was black with a green iridescence to his beautiful feathers and the hen was white with a handful of black here and there. She had laid an egg earlier that day and he had scooped it up with a golf ball retrieval stick. The day before, knowing I was coming, he kindly trimmed the bird’s nails and ripped off the rooster’s spurs. The latter horrified me just a smidge and was completely unnecessary as I own no other roosters but whatever, what’s done is done. He told me a lot about what he could… told me his customers were often eccentric pet owners, even truck drivers looking for something small and friendly to share their cab with. I loved this. The idea of getting back into a community like that delighted me… He told me the model of his incubator and told me the pair had never really been handled but should tame down quick if I wanted them as pets. The rooster immediately tamed down. He loves being petted! I was in love. They went home with me…
I was a bit concerned about having a rooster. They tend to be loud. I was told seramas have 1/3 the volume of a regular rooster. I wondered if I could make that work. The next morning I had to laugh. My rooster woke up at 6AM, crowed exactly four times, and didn’t make another peep for the rest of the day. He also sounds like a broken toy. I find it sort of adorable and far more bearable a noise than my mother’s cockatoo, which I grew up with. I’d take this tiny rooster over him any day! By now he was allowing me to flip him on his back and scratch his belly and under his wings. He closes his eyes and sometimes falls asleep. The hen is much less trusting of me but will allow for handling. She’s fun to feed as she’ll go nuts for anything green. And so far they have been very quiet lovely birds. The only time they make a lot of noise is when something they don’t like is around their cage, namely the dog. They’ve gotten used to the cat. I have named them Titus (meaning giant) and Tallulah.
I am going to build them a tiny cob chicken coop, which will have to be heated. I don’t trust them with the bigger chickens and they are for all intent and purposes tropical animals. Malaysia is often 90 degrees or more and does not have snow or anything of the like. There are people who keep them outdoors but very carefully so. I will be keeping my eye on it and in the meantime I do believe I will enjoy building this tiny coop. I would really love to buy a few more hens and an incubator and start selling these wonderful little creatures off as house pets – a better alternative to caged exotic birds. Chickens are domesticated, love people, are content to live with us, can barely fly, and won’t live 80 years like a parrot can. They’re affectionate, small, easy to care for, and in this case quiet. I might become one of those crazy people that walks around with a chicken on my shoulder like a breathing business card.
I look forward to all the challenges. I’m excited and happy to be working with this breed and will keep the blog updated on my progress! Below there are some photos of my serama pair (and myself) as well as a couple photos of other people’s seramas to give you an idea of their size.