Exotic Pet Trends: It often begins with “love at first sight”

2602-3In Acadiana, we grew up with cats, dogs, goldfish, and parakeets as pets, but our horizons were limited, given the times. I can now boast that I have some wonderful friends in Prairieville who dote over their adorable household pet rabbit as an almost-family member. During interviews, I have encountered large, exotic parrots that back talk until their owners get truly embarrassed. I have been introduced to pet monkeys, emus, ferrets, and turkeys while on assignment. Once while doing a story, I met a guy in New Iberia who had a pet alligator that he feeds marshmallows to every day. It was an awakening, to say the least, and I got out of there as fast as my feet could move. “Marshy” was looking at me with way too much interest.

One fateful Christmas, I was forced to accept into my home a very large pet snake when someone’s date showed up with the fearful thing draped around his neck. “It doesn’t bite or strangle, I promise,” he said, as he tried (unsuccessfully) to hand it over to me as I was pouring the eggnog.

I have also encountered miniature pet pigs in my wanderings around Louisiana. Most recently, a friend of mine showed up with some precious pet Serama chickens, something I had never heard of in my life (I always thought chickens were for eating). But I was pleasantly surprised at their many attributes as pets.

12121212121212 The adorable little things turned out to be great houseguests. They followed us around like tiny, polite dogs and sat in our laps and loved to be handled; we pet them while watching TV until they napped like babies, which they were.

I asked this ultra traditional (otherwise) fellow where in the world he got the idea to acquire such pets with his already two-dog household and a busy profession; and most of all, why? So he admitted the whole unusual ordeal to me. He had happened upon Jerry Schexnayder at his farm in Vacherie, Louisiana, and when he saw the Seramas, it was simply “love at first sight.” My friend ended up adopting two on the spot.

Of course he paid a pretty penny for the rare pair. These are exotic pets that originally hail from Malaysia, where Seramas far outnumber cats and dogs as household pets. After meeting them, I can see why. In fact, I am now thinking about adopting a pair of my own. They are far less trouble than the other pets I have been considering lately. But who would ever understand my odd love-at-first-sight choice of these ultra fancy and decorative, exotic little chickens? (I have learned that some owners make their spare feathers into beautiful earrings).

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Having Serama chickens as pets is not only a fast-growing trend in Louisiana, it is also a growing trend worldwide. If you want to see or buy some of these darling little creatures, there is an international festival being held at Oak Alley next month, the Cajun Serama Classic Extravaganza International (April 8-9). It is the largest gathering of Serama enthusiasts in the western world. There will be a crawfish boil with all the trimmings, fried alligator and catfish, live bands and Cajun dancing. Each year, people from all over the world bring their Seramas and compete for the cutest and best pet!

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“They follow you around like a little puppy,” says Schexnayder. “They climb on your lap and they love to interact with humans. Once they get to know you, they love you forever, just like a little kid; you have to just bond with them. You just stroke them, and then they are your very best friend always.”

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Schexnayder has names for all his favorite Seramas, such as Lamont and Penelope. But his love for animals doesn’t stop there. “All my animals on the farm are my pets and friends,” he says. This includes everything from turkeys and geese to alligators, donkeys, and armadillos. When he has someone over who wants to buy one of his beloved pets, he seriously considers their intentions, like a good father.

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