The Malaysian Serama origins and history are unclear. There are legends of it being descent from a chance cross between a pigeon and chicken. Other stories of the birds derived from a gift of some small chickens by the King of Thailand to a local sultan in ancient times. It was almost certainly developed in Kelantan Province in Malaysia (near Thai border). Small chickens have always been popular pets in this area and are often referred to as "ayam katik" (pygmy chickens) and "ayam cantik" (pretty chickens).
The modern breed is attributed to the efforts of Wee Yean Een from Kelantan, who named the breed "Serama" after Raja Sri Rama, a character in the Wayang Kulit (or shadow puppet plays). The breed was first exhibited in 1990 The breed was hit hard by the Asian bird flu epidemic in 2004 when many birds were culled amid government concerns.
There are no written standards for the breed in Malaysia. Many breeders have a style or type that they breed to, but often breeders keep several "styles". These styles are often names given by breeders to describe a blood line of a champion (e.g. Husin, Mat Awang), but may also be more general shape, characteristics or behaviour (e.g. slim, ball , apple, and dragon). Hence there is quite a lot of diversity in Malaysia. All the different styles compete against each other in open table top competitions (often described as "beauty contests") and scored by several judges.
The Malaysian Serama is not constrained by a single set standard in its homeland, this is why the Malaysian Serama has evolved so much in such a short timespan and still continues to evolve there today. There have been calls for an official body to step in and set standards for the various styles. However, some Malaysians have argued that a standard should not be set because it would limit the breed. One influential Serama breeder making the analogy with the automobile: "The designs for the perfect automobile is not set out by government, so why should they specify one for Serama chickens. Technology moves forward and we learn and design new things. So why should it be any different with chickens."
In 2001, the Serama was first imports to the United States by KJ Theodore of Illinois and Jerry Schexnayder of Louisiana. All Seramas in the United States are direct descendants of these original imports. The Serama was then promoted by an organization founded by Jerry Schexnayder known as The Serama Council of North America (SCNA). This council first introduced the Serama to North America in various National Poultry shows. In the spring of 2004 the first Serama only-show, known as the Cajun Classic, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana was held.
The American Serama as put forth by the Serama Council of North America has now gained acceptance by the American Poultry Association and the American Bantam Association as of April 2011.
Seramas were initially imported into the UK around 2003-2004. Birds were imported from both America and directly from Malaysia. The foundation Serama flock in the UK consisted of only a few dozen birds. In 2005, a small group of Serama owners and enthusiast decided to form the Serama Club of Great Britain, the first Serama club in the UK. They established the standard for the Serama breed for the UK. Eventually in 2008, the club was officially recognised as the affiliated breed club of the Poultry Club of Great Britain.
Seramas are still relatively rare and expensive in much of mainland Europe. The Netherlands probably has the largest number of Seramas outside the UK. Most of the stock in the Netherlands are descendent from birds/eggs imported from America and from the UK.
They are the lightest weight chicken in the world. Typically under 500g, but with even smaller birds that are under 250g being bred in its native Malaysia. The Serama are characterized by their upright posture, full breast, vertical tail feathers held upright and tight up to the body and vertical wings held down nearly touching the ground. In Malaysia they are described as brave warriors and archangel chickens, because of their very human like appearance.
Seramas are much like other Bantam breeds. After laying an egg it takes approximately 19–21 days for the chicks to develop and hatch. Chicks are more susceptible to cold temperatures compared to other breeds because of their relative small size. After hatching, it takes about 16–18 weeks for the chicks to mature and reach the point at which they themselves can begin laying eggs.