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.
- Silkies In A Nutshell
- Unearthing The Silkie’s Roots
- Profiling Silkie Chickens
- Grey? Buff? Splash? Take Your Pick! – Silkie Chicken Colors And Recognized Varieties
- Silkie Chickens For Sale – Where Can I Find Reliable Silkie Chicken Breeders?
- Bottom Line – To Buy, Or Not To Buy?
Silkies In A Nutshell
|Purpose for breeding||Ornamental/pets|
|Egg color/size/production||150 cream-shelled small eggs|
|Ease of care||Medium|
|Sociability with other chickens||Low in the pecking order|
Unearthing The Silkie’s Roots
This Muppet-looking ancient chicken breed can be traced back to China and the far east, 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:
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.
Unfortunately, standard-sized or bantam silkies do not have barbicels (1).
The feathering is the result of an autosomal recessive gene that develops a lack of hooklets in the pennaceous feathers.
The lack of these barbicels makes their barbs somewhat disheveled, making their feathers fur-like.
But quirkiness is found both in and out of Silkies, as they are one of the few chickens with black skin and 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.
They have a tuft of feathers on top of their head, which is referred to as a crest.
Silkies don’t have their fluffy feathering on the beak area.
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 toes 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 mother hen is roughly 3 pounds (1.4 kilograms), while the weight of a standard Silkie 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.
So, are they able to see behind their fuzzy pom-pom head feathers?
Even if their messy top knots get in the way from time to time, Silkies are able to see just fine!
Beard-free varieties 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).
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).
You can also introduce them to your backyard flock without any fuss because they get along well with other birds. Sometimes they are so calm and friendly that they can be in the lower pecking order. So, watch out if you have aggressive or bully birds!
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 these chickens 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 in the chicken coop 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.
Although Silkie hens are not great at egg-laying, silkies are one of the few breeds that make great mothers, 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 gamefowl, 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’ 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, they have the disadvantage of not being able to fly at all (2).
The fluffy appearance is caused by the fact that a Silkie’s feathers lack the tiny hooks on the barbules of their feathers which would normally hold the feather’s shape. Lacking normal feathers, a Silkie Bantam cannot really fly – except on an airplane.
As a result of their unique feathers, these birds are more defenseless against predators in relation to other chicken breeds. You want to make sure to supervise them when they are outdoors and their chicken coop is well-protected.
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.
Since Silkies are so fluffy, one of the common health issues in raising this breed is mites and lice infestation. Make sure that you keep their coop clean and their vaccinations up to date if you want to keep silkies for many years
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 types of Chicken Diseases here!
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 their eggs are perfectly edible and as nutritious as any other chicken egg, Silkies are not ideal for egg production, relatively speaking.
This breed yields around 150 cream-shelled and small-sized eggs per year, however, and despite egg production slowing down as 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.
Lastly, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Silkie that goes unnoticed, so showing these chickens at poultry 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 recognized in the United States. (3)
Five of these apply to both types of Silkies, and three apply to bearded Silkies only.
Here’s a further analysis of the Silkie Chicken breed:
Black Silkie Chicken
For both Silkie hens and Silkie roosters, their plumage should be completely black with occasional gleams of green.
Related: 17 Cool Black Chicken Breeds
This variety is recognized by the American and British Poultry Associations for both Silkie types.
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
Females and males Buff Silkie chickens should display a uniform hue of golden buff from end to end.
This variety is recognized by the American and British Poultry Associations for the two types of Silkie chickens.
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 APA for both bearded and non-bearded.
Up until recently, the British Poultry Association has not recognized this one variety of Silkie.
Partridge Silkie Chicken
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.
American and British Poultry Associations recognize this variety for both bearded and beard-free Silkies.
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
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.
Both Blue silkie hen and rooster should display a constant shade of blue throughout.
This variety is recognized 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.
Silkie Chickens For Sale – Where Can I Find Reliable Silkie Chicken Breeders?
The first decision you’ll have to make is whether to buy perky petite babies 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.
If you decide to buy baby Silkies, 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 this breed 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 babies 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 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.
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?
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!
Yes, Silkie chickens lay eggs that you can eat. Don’t let the Silkies’ outlandish appearance bamboozle you, because their small eggs are perfectly suitable for consumption and will actually taste identical to regular chicken eggs. However, their egg color has a cream shade or hue than white eggs.
Silkie chickens can live for 7 to 9 years. Although the lifespan of these chickens can vary depending on their living conditions. Backyard chicken keepers often keep these teddy bears of the chicken world in a spacious coop to prevent mite or lice infestation from attacking their feathers. If your Silkies happen to reach extreme old age, it is very likely that they will stop laying eggs a year or two before passing away.
Silkies eat regular chicken feed. Silkies fall under the 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. 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.
The Silkie chicken’s growth stages are the same as that of any other chicken breed, 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
A Silkie is worth $20.00 to $120.00 per chicken. Factors such as the quality of the bird’s feathering, the beauty and rarity of its color, and the hatchery where you purchase it will all factor into the chicken’s price.
- Poultry Breeds – Silkie (Bantam) Chicken. Retrieved from: http://afs.okstate.edu/breeds/poultry/chickens/silkiebantam/
- Silkies Can Fly. Retrieved from: https://americansilkiebantamclub.org/pages/silkies-can-fly
- Accepted Breeds & Varieties. Retrieved from: http://amerpoultryassn.com/sample-page/apa-breeds-varieties/accepted-breeds-varieties/
Alex lives in the sustainability capital of Australia (Byron Bay) where the local community thrives and strongly supports self-sufficient living and green tech entrepreneurship. He began Eco Peanut in 2014 with the mission to spread bite sized sustainability advice to the masses.