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This article by Brian Reeder was written awhile ago,  after they arrived in the USA in 2001.  This information is invaluable to anyone interested in breeding or showing the American Serama today.  A must read!

Discussion on the American Serama Hows and Whys
by: Brian Reeder

Since it's arrival in the USA, the serama has generated much controversy. Many see it as nothing
more than a "chabo cull" or just a crossbreed. There is some truth in both of these, but they are
not quite accurate. While the Serama was developed from chabo and crosses with many other
breeds, it is a true breed.
However, it is not a "breed" by Western standards. That is to say, it is
not set into one type nor is it set into color varieties. It is the type of breed called a "landrace",
which is a group of birds sharing common traits, but also still segregating many
other traits.

The importation of landraces from Asia into the West has occurred several times and most of our
modern breeds are descendants of such imports. Once in the West, these landraces have then
been refined into breeds, varieties, etc. In other words, refined, to suit Western tastes. The
Asiatics (cochin, brahma and langshan) are classic examples of just such events. In the East, they
are not separate breeds, and are more regional variations of the same thing. Those original
variations were refinedinto separate varieties and breeds in the West. This process is now
beginning with the serama.

With the Malaysian Serama being a landrace and not a consistent and refined breed, the question
arises, "So what do we do with them?" This has been my focus of research: to determine what
genes they have that are useful, what genes are not useful, problem traits and strong points.
Amongst their greatest traits is the wonderful and calm personality seen in many serama.
Amongst their bad traits is the fact that the majority of serama seem to lack the basic desirable
"chicken traits" ( good production/reproduction traits, high fertility, strong hatchability, etc). As
well, there are type traits desired in Malaysia (where there are at least four styles of Serama) that
are extreme and detrimental to a balanced, productive and graceful bird.

So what do we seek to make in the American Serama? What are the traits to discard and what
traits are to be intensified? In what ways do we seek to change the Malaysian Serama to make
it an American Serama?

As past SCNA Chair, I have had the privilege of working with the other members of the
Governing Council of SCNA to formulate a desirable standard that can correct the faults of the
Malaysian serama and refine it into a breed as recognized in the West. In writing this standard,
our first concern was to establish one type, rather than four or five different types, as in
Malaysia. To do that, we chose the "slim" form and combined it with the "apple" breast. Why?
The slim type gives several desirable traits. These include a longer back (which allows more
space for internal organs and promotes better reproduction/production), longer legs (which
allows the wing to not drag the ground, which is one of the major faults in most Malaysian lines
of serama), a longer neck (which keeps the wattles off the breast) and the ability to have a very
high held tail. The apple breast then gives much more developed breast muscling, allowing the
extra culls to be usable for food, gives more muscle mass to the bird thus creating more
resistance to disease and more durability and better cold weather tolerance.
To people who are used to one or the other of the Malaysian types, the American Serama type
may seem odd at first, neither one form nor the other. However on closer inspection (especially
when evaluated by a poultry man or a geneticist) the difference are not arbitrary. They are
designed to create a better, more durable and sustainable/reproducible type. This can thus create
a serama that has consistency.
Let us look at the parts of the bird and the points attached to each.

There is no point emphasis given to any size class. This is to de-emphasize size, which has been
focused on far too heavily in the US, to the detriment of the breed. Size ONLY defines the
category in which the bird falls and should have no effect or reflection on market value, with
type and temperament being the basis of the market value of the American serama.

Type receives 25 points, and is the highest number of points given to a single trait. That is
because type makes the breed. The type of the serama (both Malaysian and American) should be
very distinct from any other breed, and a bird that looks like a "chabo cull" or an "old English
cross breed" should not be considered a serama, as they do not have type (which is the general
silhouette). The overall type of the American serama is a compromise between the "slim" form
and the "apple" form. That general outline is a large V with the foot as the apex, the breast as the
front line and the back of the tail as the back line of the V. The second V in the outline is from
the back of the head/comb region and the front line of the tail. The V of the breast and back of
the tail should be slightly wider than the V of the back of the head to the front of the tail. The
overall effect is of a very proud, "cocky" appearance. This is type and short squatty birds, those
which look like poor chabo, old english or do not have the two distinct V's do not have type.
Another important point in the American Serama type is that the base of the foot should show
from the side, allowing the wing to clear the ground. More on this in the wing and leg sections.

Temperament is the next point group. Temperament receives 20 points. This is one of the most
important traits, which sets the serama (when they have this personality) apart from most other
breeds in existence. Since this breed is promoted as a "pet bird", especially for young children,
the calmness is a major and important trait to intensify. Further, aggressive, flighty or easily
agitated birds are simply not enjoyable to work with and do not make good pets. These are the
reasons for the strong emphasis on temperament.

Tail carriage comes next and scores as highly as temperament, as the tail carriage is one of
the most important points in making the overall type. In Malaysia, there has been a trend toward
heavily breasted strains with low tail angle. These are lacking in grace and are very extreme, in
fact so much so that their reproduction is decreased. While a serama should be able to lower its
tail, it must not carry it low, as that ruins the type and makes it mistakable for other breeds or
crosses. Also, wry tails are often seen in serama, and the emphasis on high points in the tail
carriage is to discourage the wry tail which is often genetic and thus requires a concerted effort
to eliminate. Wry tail can be a genetic flaw, a weak tail bed (also genetically influenced) or
caused by environmental problems in hatching. It must be guarded against, as it is extremely

The wing is next. In Malaysian serama there has been a tendency for the wing to be very long
and to often drag the ground. We find this very unattractive, unsightly and unclean. Since the
posed serama is to have the wing carried vertically, pointing to the ground, it is imperative that it
not drag the ground. However, the wing is only awarded 10 points, as the leg is equally
important in making the overall type and length to allow the wing to clear the ground. The emphasis with the ten points is toward a vertical wing, with the wing clearing the ground to beconsidered in both the wing points and leg points, as the proper length of leg is required toachieve this end.
The body receives 5 points. This is a lower point rating, because body is also considered with
type, where the wrong body form will not allow for proper type. The emphasis of the body is in
the well developed breast, though this is also considered in type points as well. A thin weak or
bony body is a great detriment both to type and health.

Legs receives 5 points. While the look of the leg is considered, the major consideration of the leg
is if it is long enough to allow the wing to clear the ground. A medium length leg is preferred, which allows the main foot to show from the side, but if one has to choose between a shorter leg or a longer leg, the preference in the American Serama would be toward the longer leg, thus ensuring the wing clears the ground. This is also considered in the points awarded to type, as the leg too short is a great detriment to type. The short leg is a flaw often seen in the Malaysian serama and is highly undesirable, as this is usually indicative of one of the complex of
achondroplatic genes, which shortens the entire skeletal system creating a "dumpy", "squatty" or
otherwise non-graceful appearance which is too chabo like. The American Serama should be a
graceful, mobile bird and the short leg prevents.

Feathering gets five points. We wish to see well finished feathering in all American Serama.
There is some segregation of the frizzling gene and it's suppressor gene in the Malaysian serama.
We wish in the American serama to breed up a true smooth feathered bird and if interested
parties use the frizzling to breed up a frizzled American Serama, this is fine too though it would
be a different variety of American Serama. What is important to us is to separate the frizzling
from the suppressor gene, which will allow for true frizzling, true smooth feather and no
intermediate forms. As well, we do not wish to see broken, damaged or poorly feathered
American Serama being shown.

Comb/wattles also gets five points. This section receives fewer points, because comb finish is a
refinement, which should be focused on at the end of breeding, rather than at the beginning
. A common beginners mistake is too much focus on combs/wattles/heads and color, in general. It is
desirable that the wattles not touch the breast, as this indicates that the neck bones are long
enough to give the graceful form and carriage desired for American Serama.
Finally, on our points scale, there is appearance. This is "finish" and is considered to help all
members to focus on properly finished birds for the show room. Appearance receives five points.
Now, with the list of areas and points defined,let us talk about what I call the "intangible traits".
These are the traits you can't see, but which are essential to a breed, if it is to survive and be
consistently reproducible. These include such traits as resistance to disease, vigor, production of a
quality and hatch able egg, high fertility, ability to breed naturally with high fertility, no traits
so extreme that they hamper or impair reproduction and health, etc.

The decision to make the form basically similar to "slim", with the longer neck, longer legs, longer back
(though the longer back is disguised by the pose and the long hackle feathers), etc,
was made to allow for a well proportioned body which can carry the internal organs with ease, to
create a more graceful form which allows the wings toclear the ground and to avoid the achondroplastic genes, which create the shorter legs, but also shortens the entire skeletal system.
These skeletal shortening genes are detrimental to health and reproductive traits. This decision
then is based on the genetic necessities of form's influence on health and reproduction, with the
visual aspect being considered, but more being a happy coincidence of the genetic reality. The compromise was found by putting the well developed apple breast onto the slim form, thus creating a balance between extreme type and vigor/reproduction, with the nod to grace and cleanliness (getting the wing off the ground). We feel our standard for the American Serama has achieved a balanced compromise that allows the best traits of the Malaysian serama to be brought forward, with the less desirable and detrimental traits being eliminated.

What we desire to create with the American Serama is a breed which is consistent and
reproducible, based upon genetic understanding of form's influence on health and reproduction.
The question was, "How extreme can the bird be before it starts to impact upon health and
reproduction?" Experiments and research show that the longer back (even if hidden by the
overall form) gives more "guts": i.e., room for the internal organs and the proper production of
eggs. We also desire that the American Serama be consistent in type with that type reproducible.
For consistency sake, we chose a compromise form, giving a wealth of genetic advantages, and
allowing for one type to be created to diffuse much of the confusion seen in the various types
seen in the Malaysian serama
Finally, I would like to stress that there are probably no birds in the US or in Malaysia that match
the SCNA American Serama standard 100%. A standard is a guideline to breed toward. Since
there has been no importation of a landrace, which was then refined into consistent breeds in
living memory, there is much confusion with the process. It is one thing to go out and get started
in a breed that has been established for decades. You buy the best and breed to the standard. Yet
it is a different process when a landrace is being turned into a refined and consistent breed.
Proceed to look for birds that are strong in various points and begin to blend them together. Since
no one bird is at this time expected to have every desired trait, the development of the American
Serama will be a process of combining traits, collecting those traits together in higher
concentration and increasing their prevalence in each generation. This is how breeds are
developed. On the flip side of this there is the need to be consistently removing the undesirable
traits in each generation. It is also important to remember that as the SCNA Virtual Evaluations
continue, that a low score for type should not necessarily exclude a given bird from breeding. As
an example, a bird with really high vigor, fertility, egg production or wonderful temperament,
but lesser form, can be blended with a bird of much higher type and in the subsequent
generations, selection would focus on the birds with better type, but also having the good traits
from the lesser type bird. It is very common that exhibition breeders do not breed from their best
show birds and the most gifted breeders learn what is desirable for breeding and what is desirable
for showing. In many cases, they are not exactly the same.