The Silkie chicken is a good bird that is widely kept as a pet. These friendliest chickens are very calm and docile more than any other breed of chicken.
They have very unique and special features which makes them different from other chickens. So, what do you know about these mellow birds?
Silkie chickens don’t weigh much to make them good meat birds and also get broody very easily hence interrupting their laying pattern.
In this article, I am going to cover everything you need to know about these fluffy chickens. This will help you know whether it is the right breed for you or not.
History of Silkie Chickens
Silkie chicken is believed to have originated from parts of Southeast Asia particularly China. Other sources hint that these chickens could have possibly originated from India and Java.
The ancient writings that talk about these chickens were from Marco Polo. In his records, he talked about furry chickens that had their bodies covered in fur like rabbits.
Marco came across the Chinese silkies on his voyage across Asia in the 13th century. In 1598, Ulisse Androvandi an Italian scholar then wrote about these chickens.
In his writings, he described silkie chickens as woolen birds that appeared and clothed like a black cat. Up to date, Ulisse`s description is admired by many.
These chickens are believed to have made their way to the west via the silk route. In the United States, they were quickly admired and embraced by many because of their fancy appearance.
Early Dutch breeders lured buyers that they were a cross between chickens and rabbits which many found themselves believing.
Sideshows promoted them by saying that they had mammalian fur on them. In 1874, silkies got an admission in the APA where they still enjoy recognition up to date.
Silkie chickens are available in different recognized color varieties like white, buff, black, splash, blue, grey, red and partridge.
Silkie chicken characteristics
These chickens are small in size and do not weigh much. Actually, this has made some countries recognize both the Bantam silkies and the large fowls as bantams.
A mature silkie rooster weighs 1.8kgs while a hen weighs 1.4kgs. However, the weight may differ with some new silkie versions that have been crossed with other birds to improve on body size and weight.
These chickens have a very unique body plumage. Their feathers lack barbicels giving them a silky or what others may refer to a satin feel when touched.
This fur-like appearance makes them very vulnerable to wetness because they easily catch cold or chill. A pure breed silkie chicken will have a dark face.
In some Silkie chicken varieties, they will exhibit a crest of feathers on their heads while others are bearded and have muffs.
Their walnut combs are very small, tucked inside the crested head, or completely submerged and rounded.
These cushion combs should be of a dark mulberry color for a pure breed silkie chicken. Their breasts are broad and full with broad bodies and short backs.
The earlobes are turquoise while the wattles are rounded and dark. The beak is darkish blue with the eyes being black.
Silkie chickens have ashen-blue feet which have feathers on them. On each foot, there are five toes that are well wide-out.
The Silkie chicken has a dark skin, meat and greyish bones. This uniqueness makes it a delicacy in most parts of Asia where it is perceived to have anti-aging properties.
Silkie chicken temperament and hardiness
Silkie chickens are very calm, docile and placid birds with a calm demeanor. The roosters are the least aggressive among all rooster breeds and pose no threat to your kids when raised as rooster pets.
However, personality may differ and one male among many may exhibit rowdiness. Male silkie chickens are known to share maternal responsibilities with the hens and will be seen caring for the chicks just like Cochin chicken roosters do.
Silkie chickens will always follow you chatting and making sure love and affection is all over you. They will enjoy sitting on your lap because they are very cuddly. Additionally, they will enjoy a nap on your bed with you.
They love and appreciate tasty treats like pineapple and and those left over raisins. Your birds will get used to those cute chicken names you brand them and will come when you call them.
These birds rank low on the pecking order just like Red sexlinks chickens are. They will do no harm to other hen breeds and are better raised with other calm chickens like Feverolles who are just like they are.
In addition to their calm nature, silkies are great foragers. They love free ranging and looking for their own seeds, insects and tasty bugs on your backyard.
When free ranging, you better be around to herd them and provide security. They are light and make bad flyers giving chicken predators such an easy task of picking them for a meal.
Silkies are cold tolerant chickens that will do well in areas where winter weather is common. Furthermore, these birds also adapt and do well in hot climates as long as they get enough shaded areas and plenty of cold water to cool their bodies.
Although they are super hardy, wetness is a big disadvantage. Their fur-like feathers are not water proof because they are held loose on the body.
Any little moisture is retained making them chill or freeze in winter. When they get wet, blow dry them or use a towel to remove any wetness on their bodies.
Silkie chicken is a very calm and quiet bird. This allows you to raise her in an urban setting in areas where chickens are allowed because they will not disturb your neighbors.
Egg laying and uses
Female silkie chickens are faithful layers of 120 eggs per year translating this to 3 eggs per week. These eggs have a small single yellow yolk and are good to eat being rich in protein.
Silkie chicken eggs are medium to small and have a cream or tinted colored egg shells. The eggs are small and will weigh less that the common chicken eggs on an egg scale.
Unlike commercial hens that will lay as early as 18 to 20 weeks old, silkie pullets are ready to lay at the age of 24 weeks or 6 months old.
This is also the time that you can be able to tell the difference between a silkie cockerel from a pullet. The males are hen feathered and thus become hard to differentiate hens vs roosters when young.
Silkie hens are exceptional broody and this often interrupts their laying pattern. They make sweet mothers and are even ready to adopt the young of other chickens, ducks, quails and pheasants.
If you want to have them, Mill hatchery and Hoover’s hatchery have silkie chicks and some chickens for sale.
Most silkie keepers use them as brooders because they are good at it. They are also raised as ornamental birds, pets while a few breeders raise them for showing.
In most parts of Asia, their meat is highly valued where it is prepared in restaurants. A silkie dish is very pricy because the meat is believed to have some medicinal value.
Lifespan of a silkie chicken
This is one of the chicken pets that can live for many years. Under normal circumstances, silkie chickens have a lifespan of 7-9 years.
However, I have heard stories of people who kept silkies as pets say that they lived for over 15 years old. Chicken pets can live for long because they are given the best care.
This bird is very friendly and it is the kind that can live in your house as long as they have their chicken diapers put on.
Most chickens are not able to make it to old age because of the kind of lifestyle and environment around them.
A flock exposed to predators is likely to be swept all because they make a nice target and an easy meal. Lack of shelter is one factor that will lead to predation.
Hungry silkies are likely to suffer from malnutrition and perhaps ill health. This will greatly affect their lifespan and reduce the number of years they are going to live.
Both internal and external parasites will lead to general body stress, malnutrition and diseases. Such issues will lower the life expectancy of your pet chickens and lead to an early death.
Silkies are very calm and rank at the bottom of the pecking order. They are small in size making other huge chickens intimidate them easily.
When raising silkie chickens in mixed flocks, you better do it with other calm breeds like Serama chickens.
This will help reduce cases of chicken bullying, feather picking and unnecessary fights. However, I doubt whether different rooster breeds will live together in harmony without chaos. You better watch out!
Before raising different chicken breeds together, put them in separate chicken pens to monitor their behavior. However, to be on the safe side, let them grow together from chicks to adulthood.
Put new silkie birds on the roost bars under the cover of darkness. Let dawn find them together with the older birds in the same coop.
This way, it will not be easy to tell who came first and who came last. But remember to be there and monitor how they are doing together. Just in case they are bullied, put them in isolation pens until they all get used to each other.
Silkie chicken is a strong, sturdy and robust bird. It is hardy and can do well on both cold and hot weather conditions doing even better in cold climatic zones.
They are fluffy with dense fur-like body feathers. This plumage makes your girls suffer from heat stress especially on a hot summer day.
These chickens will also drink a lot to keep their bodies cool and hydrated. To keep them safe, ensure their water drinkers are full of clean drinking water.
Provide plenty of shaded areas to shelter against direct sunlight. Their feet will also catch mud balls when wet because of the leg feathers.
Body feathers will get wet making your silkies cold and can chill the birds to death unless death dried. Restrain them and keep them in a heated chicken coop to keep of mud balls and wet body feathers.
Thread and gape worms are another health threat to silkie chickens. To treat internal parasites, seek advice from a qualified bird vet near you on the right chicken wormer to administer.
Silkie Hen vs Silkie Rooster
When it comes to the gender question, there is a difference between a silkie hen and a roo. These birds are sexually dimorphic and thus, there must be a difference.
Silkies are not sexlinks chickens. This means that, there exist no unique features between them that you can see with your naked eyes.
The only way to tell the gender difference in baby silkie chickens is through vent sexing. This procedure is very delicate and should only be performed by a qualified bird vet. Otherwise, it can lead to death or severe damage of the sex organs.
So, what is the easiest way to tell the difference between a male silkie from a female silkie? Well, you better be patient and let the birds grow to check the secondary features.
What secondary features tell the difference?
Ideally, Silkie chicken roosters are bigger in size and taller in height than the ladies. This makes the boys heavier than the opposite where the males weigh about 1.8kgs and stands at about 9-14 inches.
On the other hand, silkie hens are smaller in size, shorter and slightly lighter in weight thatn the males. The girls weigh about 1.4kgs and have a height of about 8-12 inches.
However, to be able to tell the difference between a silkie hen and a silkie rooster you have to wait for about 5-6 months until the birds grow into maturity.
Silkie chicken combs
A silkie rooster comb is often larger than the hens and of a walnut shape and with several peaks on it. The rooster comb helps to tell if the bird is of a male gender.
The hen comb is much smaller and sometimes not well seen. This is because it is tucked under the crested head plume. A silkie hen comb is of a V-shape.
Silkie rooster spur
Silkie roosters will develop spurs at a certain stage in their lives while the hens will not. Rooster spurs are long nails that are developed by a protein, keratin.
They are similar to talons or claws and are used by roosters as defense mechanism during a fight. These toenails should be clipped and trimmed to avoid the bird from injuring itself and facilitate smooth walking.
Crowing and mating
Another unique feature to tell whether silkies are males or females is to listen to their sounds. Males will start to crow at teenage stage as a sign to tell other roos that there is a man around.
Hens are mostly very quiet but somehow chatty when around you. They will hardly produce any sound except when the urge to lay strikes, when calling chicks and when singing the egg melody after laying.
Mating is another sign to tell who is a man and who is a woman among the flock. Males will be heard calling the hens and tid-bitting them with tasty treats luring them to mate.
The hens will often act in a more submissive way by letting the males lead and act as watch dogs especially when they are out foraging.
Although in both gender there are wattles, those in females delay to develop and will grow later in life. Those of males will start to develop when these birds are about 4-5 months old.
Silkie rooster wattles are bigger and are clearly seen than the hen wattles. This makes it easy for you to look at these chickens with your eyes and tell the gender difference.
|Features||Silkie Rooster||Silkie Hen|
|Combs||Big, clearly seen, have peaks and are of a walnut shape||Small, not well seen because of head feathers and are V-shaped|
|Size and Height||Weighs about 1.8kgs and are 9-14 inches tall||Weighs about 1.4kgs and are 8-12 inches tall|
|Wattles||Big and grow early at around 4-5 months old||They are vey tiny and will not grow until late in life|
|Mating||They will often mate with the hens by enticing them with treats||Are always submissive and when mating will sit|
|Crowing||Will begin to crow at 5 months old to show dominance||Hardly make any sound unless when calling chicks or after laying|
|Spurs||Long toenails will grow on the legs||No spurs will grow on the legs|
Facts about silkie chicken
- They are very calm, docile and placid chickens.
- Silkies rank low on the pecking order and are not rowdy.
- Will do very well on free ranging because they are great foragers.
- The feathers at the butt area can grow big and thus need regular clipping to promote hygiene and facilitate mating.
- These chickens are small and light in weight. This makes them easy for predators to pick.
- Their fluffy plume lacks barbicels and thus renders them to be poor flyers.
- Silkies are exceptionally broody and are often used to hatch eggs of other poultry. They make good moms and will even adopt different chick breeds, baby pheasants and quail chicks.
- They are cold tolerant chickens that will equally adapt in hot weather. However, their feathers need to be kept dry because they retain water and the birds can chill to death.
Silkies are among the friendliest chicken breeds that I know of. Their extreme docility is on another level and makes good chicken pets.
These chickens are fair layers of cream or tinted eggs that are good for eating. The hens get broody easily and make sweet moms to her baby silkie chicks.
They are a lap chickens that are very cuddly. Tasty treats like mealworms are their favorite especially when eating from your hand.
Do you keep silkie chicken? Let us hear from you.
Sharing amounts to kindness!