The Silkie Chicken – Everything You Need to Know

Some call them funny; a few bizarre, while others say they are the indisputable weirdos of the chicken world.

Whatever your opinion is at first sight, after reading our ultimate guide on the Silkie chicken, these fluffy oddities of the chicken realm will no doubt steal your heart and land right in your yard.  

Unearthing the Silkie’s Roots

This Muppet-looking ancient chicken breed can be traced back to China, India, Java, and Japan, although its precise place of origin has yet to be discovered.

Marco Polo first brought the breed to the Western world’s attention when he wrote about a fur-covered fowl he had heard of in his travels across Asia.

It is said that the Silkies first reached Europe by way of the Silk Road, and were soon exported around the world.

It may (or may not!) surprise you to learn that these funky birds were initially marketed as a peculiar cross between a chicken and a rabbit.

Well… we can’t really blame those early merchants!

Profiling Silkie Chickens

We analyse the Silkie Chicken based on its physical features, temperament, special care needed, and purpose:

Physical Features

Apart from their bird-bunny-amalgam appearance, the woolly feathers are one of the most unique characteristics pertaining to Silkies.

Regular chicken feathers – and most feathers in general – are mainly composed of a quill at the base, a shaft at the center, and a vane that extends outward from both sides of the shaft.

This vane is comprised of small branches called barbs, which run parallel to each other, and that in turn hold minute hooks called barbicels.

Barbicels are responsible for attaching barbs to one another, consequently giving feathers their sealed-like feel and providing birds with cutting-edge insulation.

Silkies’ feathers lack these barbicels and so their barbs are somewhat disheveled, making their feathers look like fur.

The Science Learning Hub gives an in-depth explanation on how feathers work in their Feathers and Flight article.

But quirkiness is found both in and out of Silkies, as they are one of the few chickens with black (really, dark slate-blue) skin, bones, and meat which, according to Chinese traditional medicine, have healing properties.

Their combs, wattles, and faces are also blackish-blue with hues of mulberry, whereas their beaks have blue accents and their earlobes are turquoise.

Silkies have a tuft of feathers on top of their head, that is referred to as a crest.

Their eyes are usually black, their legs feathered and, unlike many other chicken breeds, they share the same number of toes as us humans: five on each foot!

In the U.S. the Silkie is considered a bantam breed, whereas places such as the U.K. consider it a large fowl.

The weight of a standard Silkie hen is roughly 3 pounds (1.4 kilograms), while the weight of a standard rooster is roughly 4 pounds (1.8 kilograms).

Since when do chickens have beards? – The two types of Silkie chickens

Two types of Silkie chickens can be distinguished within the breed, namely the bearded and non-bearded.

You’ll find that bearded Silkies, both hens and roosters, have a plumage that covers their earlobes and continues masking the surface around their face all the way down to below their beak.

Non-bearded Silkies have more of a naked face instead, with their earlobes and wattles uncovered. 

In other words, the easiest way to distinguish one variety from the other is to see if you can easily spot the bird’s face (non-bearded), or if you just see a tiny beak amongst a large mass of fluff (bearded).

Temperament

Silkies are amongst the kindest chickens you will ever cross paths with.

This breed has a reputation of being completely at ease with human interaction and handling, so expect them to treat you as if you were just another feathered member of the flock (...or the other way around).

Their mild character makes them not only a great backyard bird, but a sublime family pet whose quiet nature will also keep any cranky next-door neighbors at bay.

An added plus with neighbors, by the way, is that Silkies are known for being garden-friendly, as they tend to scratch less than other breeds.  

For those bird keepers that are already running into garden carnage, feel free to peek at our article on How to Keep Chickens Out of the Garden.

Resilient Silkies’ bear confinement well and, like the majority of chicken breeds, are fine when raised in a free-range fashion.

If going for the latter option, however, make sure to read our subsection on Silkies and Special Care below.

Motherhood comes easy to Silkie hens, simply give them an egg – almost any kind of egg – and they will happily hatch and raise whatever creature comes out of it.

Be it quail, pheasant, a game fowl, a dinosaur… the Silkie will most likely embrace the newcomer as her own.

Perhaps the only downside to this is that their constant tendency to go broody makes them a not-so top-notch layer in comparison to other breeds.

Silkies and special care

When free-ranging your Silkies, you have to take into account both their particular vulnerability to predators as well as their sensitivity to wet, damp and extreme climates.

Due to their barbicel-less feathers, Silkies have the disadvantage of not being able to fly at all, which as a result makes them more defenseless against predators in relation to other chicken breeds.

The arrangement of their plumage, on the other hand, also fails to provide that raincoat-like waterproof protection that other birds normally get to enjoy.

This is why the combination of humidity and cold, or any type of extreme weather, must be entirely avoided or appropriately dealt with when raising Silkies.

Learn more about how to care for Silkies in damp, chilly environments by reading HenCam’s post on Winter Care for the Not So Hardy.

If you feel as though your Silkie is not happy, it may not be the environment. Don't blame yourself, it may be sick! Check out the most common type of Chicken Diseases here!

Purpose

In the Western world, Silkies have become a popular ornamental breed, in addition to also having gained notoriety as adoptive mothers with breeders of other birds that favor natural hatching in lieu of using a human-made incubator.

Although Silkie eggs are perfectly edible and as nutritious as any other chicken egg, Silkies are not exactly outstanding layers, relatively speaking.

This breed yields around 150 cream-shelled and small-sized eggs per year however, and despite them slowing down like most breeds do, you can expect them to lay during winter.

The Chinese Silkie chickens’ black meat has been eaten for hundreds of years around Asia where, as we previously mentioned, it is considered a superfood that holds healing properties such as strengthening the immune system and aiding with female fertility.

For the curious pallets, this Silkie Chicken Soup presents an example of how this meat is eaten around Asia.

Lastly, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Silkie that goes unnoticed, so showing Silkie chickens at bird shows and fairs is quite common in countries such as the UK, United States, and Australia.


Grey? Buff? Splash? Take Your Pick! – Silkie Chicken Colors and Recognized Varieties

Silkies were first recognized by the American Poultry and Bantam Associations as a bantam breed in 1874.

The British Poultry Standards, on the other hand, recognized the breed in 1865 but as a large fowl light breed instead.

At the moment, there are eight different colors of Silkie chickens recognized in the United States.

Five of these apply to both bearded and non-bearded types of Silkies, and three apply to bearded Silkies only.

In the UK, there are five recognized varieties that apply to both bearded and non-bearded Silkies.

Here's a further analysis of the Silkie Chicken breed:

Black Silkie Chicken

For both female and male Black Silkie chickens, their plumage should be completely black with occasional gleams of green.

This variety is recognized by the American and British Poultry Associations for both bearded and non-bearded Silkies.

The British Poultry Association, however, allows this variety to have a slight coloring in the area of the hackle, yet it is not considered a desirable trait.

Buff Silkie Chicken

For both female and male Buff Silkie chickens, their plumage should display a uniform hue of golden buff from end to end.

This variety is recognized by the American and British Poultry Associations for both bearded and non-bearded Silkies.

The British Poultry Association approves the presence of darker feathers in the birds’ tail area in both sexes. In the UK this color variety goes by the name Gold.

Grey Silkie Chicken

For both female and male Grey Silkie chickens, their plumage should be entirely grey, fluctuating from dark to light tones.

This variety is recognized only by the American Poultry Association for both bearded and non-bearded Silkies.

Up until recently, the British Poultry Association has not recognized this variety.

Partridge Silkie Chicken

According to the American Poultry Association, female Partridge Silkie chickens have either a completely red head or a red head with bay hues. The rest of the body is pencilled in red with both bay hues and black parts.

Male Partridge Silkie chickens also have either a completely red head, or a red head with bay hues.

Their hackles, backs, and saddles are colored in glossy green with black hues, and decorated with red lacing. Black is found in the fore part of the neck, breast, and body.

This variety is recognized by the American and British Poultry Associations for both bearded and non-bearded Silkies.

To get an idea of the color requirements set by the British Poultry Association take a quick scan through the sixth edition of their British Poultry Standards.    

White Silkie Chicken

For both female and male White Silkie chickens, their plumage should be totally snow-white and range from glossy to matte.

This variety is recognized by the American and British Poultry Associations for both bearded and non-bearded Silkies.

Blue Silkie Chicken

According to the American Poultry Association, for both female and male Blue Silkie chickens, the head should range from bluish-black to slate-blue, while the rest of their plumage should have a consistent shade of slate-blue coupled with bluish-black lacing.

According to the British Poultry Association for both female and male Blue Silkie chickens, their plumage should display a constant shade of blue throughout.

This variety is recognized by the American Poultry Association for bearded Silkies only, and for both bearded and non-bearded Silkies by the British Poultry Association.

Self Blue Silkie Chicken

Unlike the Blue variety, for both female and male Self Blue Silkie chickens, the plumage should present a slate-blue color from head to toe.

This variety is recognized by the American Poultry Association for bearded Silkies only. The British Poultry Association has yet to recognize this variety.

Splash Silkie Chicken

For both female and male Splash Silkie chickens, their plumage is white with bluish grey accents along with slate-blue spots that are irregularly placed around their feathering.

This variety is recognized by the American Poultry Association for bearded Silkies only.

The British Poultry Association has not recognized this variety so far.  


Extra Silkie Chicken Facts – Read these FAQs before adding one to your flock!

Here are some questions with answers to help you decide if the Silkie Chicken is right for you:

​​​1

Can you eat Silkie chicken eggs?

How Much Space Do I Have To Work With

Don’t let the the Silkies’ outlandish appearance bamboozle you, because their small cream-shell eggs are perfectly suitable for consumption and will actually taste identical to regular chicken eggs.

2

How long do Silkie chickens live for?

How Much Space Do I Have To Work With

Although the lifespan of Silkie chickens can vary depending on their living conditions, the average life expectancy of this breed ranges from 7 to 9 years.

If your Silkies happen to reach an extremely old age, it is very likely that they will stop laying eggs a year or two before passing away.

3

What do Silkie chickens eat?

How Much Space Do I Have To Work With

Like all other chickens, Silkies fall under the species category of the domesticated fowl – that is, the Gallus Gallus Domesticus – which means that they are simply a breed within this crowd of organisms that are genetically similar.

Therefore, rest assured that you can feed Silkies just as you would feed any other chicken breed.

Our detailed article on What to Feed (and What Not to Feed) Your Chickens walks you through the basics of how to keep your feathered friends’ stomachs merry.

4

What are the Silkie chicken growth stages?

How Much Space Do I Have To Work With

The growth stages of Silkie chickens is the same as that of any other chicken, which can generally be summarized by the following stages:

  • Baby chicks – From 1 to 4 weeks
  • Teenage stage – From 5 to 15 weeks
  • First egg – Somewhere around week 18 or 22
  • First molt – Around 18 months
  • Retirement – Around their 5th year

5

How much is a Silkie chicken worth?

How Much Space Do I Have To Work With

Factors such as the quality of the bird’s feathering, the beauty and rarity of its color, and the hatchery where you purchase it from will all factor into a Silkie chicken’s price.

This price can range from $20.00 to $120.00 per chicken.

6

Are Silkies able to see behind their fuzzy pom-pom head feathers?

How Much Space Do I Have To Work With

Even if their messy top knots get in the way from time to time, Silkies are able to see just fine!


Quiz: Is the Silkie the right chicken breed for you? Find out now!

Not a Cockfight… Just Huggable Silkies vs. Similar Chicken Breeds – Which one is your favorite?

If you think the Silkie Chicken may not be for you, here are some other similar alternatives you'd probably like:

The Authentic Belgium Campine

This is an authentic Belgian large fowl breed that is commonly used as a layer.

They are known to be quite vigorous birds with an intelligent personality and, although they can tolerate confinement, Campines are fond of foraging.

Therefore, these birds are better off raised in a confined-ranging or part-time ranging fashion.

Unlike Silkies, Campines don’t tend to go broody that often and they are not as celebrated for their motherly qualities.

This breed, however, has attracted people’s attention for years due to its elegant beauty and alluring plumage.

They were developed in Northwestern Europe, so they are normally cold-hardy – however they can also bear warm temperatures fairly well.

You can expect the classy Campines to lay around 150 medium- to large-sized white eggs per year. Recognized varieties include Silver and Golden.

Learn more about this breed on the Livestock Conservancy’s website.         

Unfortunately there are no known Bantams available in Campine breeds. But we've got you covered, explore more on Bantam Chickens here.

The Iconic North American Wyandotte

Wyandottes are an iconic North American heritage breed that perform well as both a layer and a meat bird.

Their docile character and adaptability to both free-ranging and confinement make them a favorite of backyard breeds.

Similar to Silkies, Wyandottes are known for being devoted mothers and frequently accept eggs from other breeds.  

The range of Wyandotte varieties is hands-down kaleidoscopic, with 10 different recognized varieties to choose from in addition to countless others that are on their way to being recognized.

The chickens’ looks have also pushed them to become a prominent show bird and ornamental breed.

Wyandottes are one of those ultimate cold-hardy chickens that have no trouble laying during winter.

You can expect them to lay 200 large-sized brown eggs annually and for their bodies to carry a good deal of meat.

Take a look at our paramount guide on Wyandotte chickens to read more about this breed.    

The Not So Polish Chicken

Despite the misleading name, this funky looking breed is believed to have its origins in The Netherlands.

Polish chickens perform fairly well as layers, and are a common sight in chicken shows or exhibitions.

They normally have a quiet personality and when put together with more dominant breeds, they might be inclined to fall low down in the pecking order.  

Like Silkies, there are bearded and non-bearded varieties of Polish chickens, and at the moment there are 11 recognized varieties available.

The laying reliability can vary considerably from individual to individual, but you can expect a solid Polish to lay approximately 200 medium- to large-sized white eggs each year.

Polish are resilient in cold or warm climates, but extremes should be avoided or managed correctly.  

It is perhaps clear to see that this is the breed that comes closest to looking as extraterrestrial as Silkies do.   

If interested, the website Backyard Chickens has compiled a series of reviews from farm fowl aficionados that have kept Polish birds.  

Note: For extra info on some of the other chickens out there, why not have a look at our guides to Phoenix, Plymouth-Rock, and Buckeye Chicken Breeds - We guarantee it will get your feathers ruffled. 


Where can I buy a Silkie chicken?

The first decision you’ll have to make is whether to buy perky petite chicks, or eccentric adults.

If you are feeling unsure of what to do and need some extra guidance, be sure to check out our guide on Buying Chicks or Chickens: Where to Buy and How to do It? in which we walk you through the process.

Silkie chickens for sale – Where can I find reliable silkie chicken breeders? 

If you decide to buy chicks, you have the option of buying them from online hatchery shops, feed stores, local hatcheries, or sellers via Craigslist and eBay.

When buying mature chickens, on the other hand, you will most likely have to go and personally buy them at one of your nearest hatchery stores.

Some of the hatcheries where you can currently find Silkies include:

  • Cackle Hatchery
    Sells Black, Blue, Buff, Splash, and White baby Silkie chickens. The minimum number of chicks required per order is 5 and they offer them in a special package as surplus. This means that they will provide you with a set of chicks that can vary in color (or not) depending on what hatched.
  • Meyer Hatchery
    Offers Black, Blue, Buff, White, or assorted Silkie chicks. The minimum number of chicks required per order is 3.
  • My Pet Chicken
    Sells assorted Silkie day-old chicks. The minimum number of chicks required per order will depend on where in the U.S. you are located.

Poultry Show Central and eFowl are two other sites you can use to connect with the right supplier.

If you still haven't found your ideal fowl friend, Don't stress! There are plenty of other options. You can start by checking out our Ultimate Guides to Red Star and Speckled Sussex Chickens right here!


Bottom Line - To Buy, Or Not to Buy, a Silkie?

So what do you think – are these adorable chickens for you? 

Silkies are likely to be a good choice if you:

  • Are new to keeping chickens
  • Have young kids
  • Like to keep a neat garden
  • Live somewhere with a moderate climate (or are willing to provide the birds with proper shelter)
  • Would like a constant and large egg supply
  • Are searching for a fully-devoted adoptive mother for some eggs

Let us know all about your Silkie chicken questions, ideas, or reflections in the comments section below and remember to pass this article along to your fowl-aficionado friends!  

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