Malaysian Serama Bantams

Malaysian serama, Serama bantams, World's smallest Chicken

                              Serama Lethal Genetics

After breeding serama since 2004 and doing a lot of research into the lethal genetics involved I decided to carry out some breeding experiments in 2007. Many articles on serama claim that all serama carry lethal genetics, but this is not so. Serama were produced from cross breeding other breeds with Japanese bantams, and therefore there is an occurrence of the short legged genetics present in its gene pool, though this does not have to be. The short legged gene and therefore lethal gene can be bred out through careful stock selection and not breeding from short legged stock.

How serama should look

The serama is an upright breed which carries itself with a high held breast with its keel being almost vertical and wings being held in vertical position. The serama should not have short stumpy legs, with these short stumpy legs often comes a poor posture with long horizontal body, often causing high wing carriage as the bird is too low to be able to drop its wings. Sometimes serama are seen with their breast almost parallel with the ground this is not how serama should look. Remember type is of the utmost importance, not size, so stock selection is very important. Don’t just breed from a bird because it is small, it must have the whole package, or at least the attributes to produce quality offspring.

Below- A serama cockerel bred by myself in 2010 showing the desired upright stance, vertical breast and good leg length.

      Below - A serama hen showing the undesirable short legs, high wings and horizontal stance.

How can I breed the lethal factor out?

As was stated previously the serama has Japanese bantam influence in its genetic make up. Japanese bantams are required to have excessively short legs for show purposes, therefore short legged birds are bred from to produce short legged offspring. When I state “Long legs” what is meant is the correct length for serama and not excessively long legs.

This table shows how the short legged genetics work (In theory)

 Parents

 Short legs X Long legs

 Short legs X Short legs

 Long legs X Long legs

 Offspring

 50% short legs

 50% long legs

 25% dead in shell          (lethal factor)

 25% long legs

 50% short legs

 100% long legs

All short legged chicks will carry the short legged gene and can therefore produce chicks with lethal factors when bred back to a short legged mate, while none of the long legged chicks will carry the short legged gene and when bred to a long legged mate will produce no short legged chicks and no chicks carrying the lethal factor.

Whilst there are exceptions to these rules in that there are incidences of intermediate leg lengths the numbers are very little and little scientific research has been made into these genetics. In order to completely eradicate the short legged genes it is probably best to avoid birds with intermediate leg lengths sticking to long legged breeding only.

 

Breeding

I bred from serama exhibiting short legs to both short and long legged birds and found that the hatch success (in practise over several documented batches) from short legged to short legged birds was not particularly high with several dead in shell chicks approx 25% as with Japanese. Long legged to short legged birds had good hatch rates but I still received a few dead in shell chicks perhaps 10% (in practise over several documented batches) plus also hatching more of the undesirable short legged chicks which did not adhere with the serama standard. When I bred long legged birds to long legged birds I began seeing a huge increase in hatch success with less than 5% of chicks being dead in the shell (in practise over several documented batches).

By 2010 I had removed all short legged birds from my breeding stock and culled heavily. I had only bred from birds which were bred from long legged to long legged parentage to ensure that 100% of their offspring carried no lethal genetics. I bred 50 chicks and encountered 0% short legged offspring, proving my method had worked.

Results

By January 2011 the youngsters I had kept back for my own breeding which were bred in 2010 were ready for breeding. I set 6 eggs and of the 6 set I hatched 6 chicks.

I set again this time 8 eggs, and again 8 chicks emerged. I set another 4 and hatched 4 chicks, and again 6 eggs with 6 chicks hatching. By February 14th 2011 I had hatched 24 chicks from 24 fertile eggs. No dead in shell chicks whatsoever. I am amazed and overjoyed and thought I’d share my success with others.

April 2011 - I am happy to report 100% hatching

May 2011 - I am happy to report that only one failed to hatch

Of course serama hatching will still be tricky and of course I don’t expect 100% hatches in every batch as nature does not always allow for this, eggs which have been knocked by rough birds in a pen, humidity, temperature in the pens, where eggs are stored and of course incubator fluctuations will also affect how many will hatch.

A good quality and reliable incubator is crucial in serama incubation & hatching.  

Succesful hatching techniques can be mastered with lots of practise and careful selection of  freshly laid, good sized eggs, and reliable parentage etc, but at least with no lethal factor to contend with there is one less hurdle involved in a successful hatch. Plus there are less surplus birds, as there are no stumpy legged offspring to either cull or re-home, which could potentially find their way into someone else’s breeding programme furthering the production of birds carrying lethal genetics.

 

Malaysian & American serama and the short legged genetics

In Malaysia it is not acceptible to exhibit a bird with excessively short legs, these are culled and and not bred from. In America the standard states that serama with short legs be disqualified from exhibition.