One of the most beautiful chicken breeds that are also entertaining to watch is the silkie breed.
This beautiful bird is soft to the touch and easy to care for. It is so cute and has been referred to as the “lap kitty” of chickens. Silkies are truly adorable, fluffy birds, and you’d love to raise them, right?
We have covered everything that you need to know about these birds, so continue reading to learn all that you should know about silkies.
Table of Contents
History and Origin
These beautiful chickens originate from China. Although silkies are available in Europe and North America, the ones in America are bantams.
This means that they are the dwarf forms of the standard-sized chickens which are available in Europe and Asia.
The oldest documentation of the Silkie breed dates back to the late 12th or early 13th century.
At the time, Marco Polo traveled to China and wrote of the birds. He wrote that the birds had black skin and the fur of a cat.
These chickens have also been a part of different traveling circuses in the 1900s, and they were presented to people as chickens with mammalian fur.
When they were first sold in Europe, their breeders convinced people that silkies were the products of crossing chickens and rabbits.
The most distinguishable feature of silkie birds is their feathers, which look so much like silk or fur.
In simple terms, the unique feathers are fluffy and have a soft appearance.
Beards and Soft Feathers
One very distinguishable feature of this beautiful breed is the presence of feathers forming a muff around the ears.
There is also a beard under the chin, especially for those used for breeding programs and poultry shows.
If you look at the legs of your silkies, you will see fluffy feathers around them.
A silkie with full feathers looks like a ball of fluff.
Silkies are usually small, growing 8–14 inches tall. Roosters can reach 4 pounds, while hens can grow up to 3 pounds.
The minimum weight of these birds, according to the American Standard of Perfection, is 36 ounces (2.2 pounds) for mature males and 32 ounces (2 pounds) for mature females.
While you will most likely see the whole body of your silkies covered in white feathers, these birds have black bones and black skin. You will also notice that their earlobes are iridescent and bright.
Aside from being white, the feathers of silkies can also come in these colors:
These are the colors or patterns recognized by breeders so far.
They are usually cream and sometimes tinted. Silkies lay 150-200 eggs per year, and this is half of what other egg-laying chickens produce.
Silkies can live for as long as 7-9 years if you take good care of them.
If you give them regular vet checkups, quality feed, and make sure that their shelter is suitable and comfortable, they can live longer than 7 years.
If you look close enough, you will easily identify the sex of a silkie even when it is young.
The females have a round crest and their head looks as if it is covered in a globe shape. However, the males have longer feathers on their heads.
The long feathers on the head of male silkies stream backward, especially at the lower part of the crest. When they are still chicks, the presence of the long feathers will help you identify males.
In addition, males have visible wattles.
Behavior and Temperament
Silkies are motherly, docile, tame, sweet, and family-friendly.
These beautiful birds can help raise the chicks and young ones of your other birds, as they treat every chick as their own.
However, note that these birds can be noisy, especially when they’re laying eggs or running from a predator.
Other Noticeable Features
Silkies have an extra toe, which is a result of the polydactyly gene which is dominant in the breed.
The extra toe is a breed
The most common reason people raise silkie chickens is for pets. Surely, these pets are ornamental, and you’d gladly keep them in your yard.
They are also raised as brooders and sometimes for meat production.
Imagine having a white fluffball-like bird walking around your home and yard. Of course, these birds will be eye-catching. Silkies are also fun to carry and play with, so raising them as pets is a great idea.
Silkies are known to adopt the young of turkeys, quails, ducks, and other birds as their own.
This means that you do not have to be too attentive to your young birds if you have a silkie hen because the hen will care for the young birds.
This does not mean that you should abandon the chicks. Ensure that there is quality food and clean water for the chicks and mother silkie.
Silkie meat is a delicacy in many places in Asia. Some cultures believe that silkie meat has healing properties, so they make people eat silkie meat whenever they are sick.
Asides from being eaten as food in China and other places, the silkie breed meat is said to treat anemia, diabetes, and postpartum disorder, and even to reinforce immunity and muscle strength.
When a woman gives birth in China and other places, silkie meat is usually the first food given to her. They believe that the meat will help to renew the strength of the mother.
At Nanchang University, China, a research group checked the level of carnosine in silkies and white Plymouth Rock chickens.
The study concluded that silkie meat contained twice the level of carnosine than the other breed.
Carnosine, which silkie meat is rich in, helps to delay aging, as it protects brain tissues.
Hatching and Raising
Knowing the use of a breed is one thing. Knowing how to care for the breed is another.
Your journey with silkies starts when you buy their chicks or eggs, so let’s start with discussing how to incubate and hatch the silkie eggs before proceeding to other care tips.
Incubating and Hatching
Silkie eggs will hatch in 20-21 days so long as you can incubate them successfully.
The easiest way to incubate your silkies is by leaving the eggs with their mother.
Don’t worry, silkie mothers take good care of their eggs. Just make sure that you keep food and water close to the mother chicken so that she does not wander too far from her eggs.
If you do not have a silkie mom, you can use an incubator to incubate the eggs. Incubating silkie eggs is not so different from incubating the eggs of other chickens.
Just remember to turn the eggs five or seven times daily (must be an odd number). Also, candle the eggs weekly to monitor their progress.
A standard coop for silkies is 3-4 feet by 3-4 feet per bird.
If you are raising your silkies indoors, their sleeping area should have sufficient bedding so that they do not sleep on the bare floor.
Regularly clean the shelter of your silkies and remove poop from the floor so that your silkies can stay clean and healthy.
Note that silkies are hardy in winter. This means that you can treat them like other chickens in winter. Just make sure that their living conditions are comfortable.
The coop should have a bedding of hay so that you can keep the feet of your birds from touching the ground. Also, make sure that there is a heat lamp so that the coop does not get too cold.
There’s no special food or technique to feed your silkies. They are just like other chickens when it comes to feeding, so you just need to give them quality feed that is high in protein.
Some feed ideas for your silkies are:
- Chicken mash: This contains the most proteins. Also, they have just the right proportion of nutrients for your silkies.
- Grains and seeds: Seeds such as sunflower, papaya, and chia are very nutritious. You should also feed your birds grains like wheat, barley, and crushed maize.
- Mealworms and other insect larvae: Give your silkie chickens some insect treats and see them come running. They love their treats.
- Fruits and vegetables: These are sweet and contain sufficient minerals and vitamins for your birds. Give them (especially fruits) to your silkies as treats.
Remember that silkies need a lot of protein to produce their fluffy feathers, so make sure that their foods are always protein-rich. Also, ensure that their water is always clean.
The silkie breed is truly a beautiful chicken and you will enjoy raising these “furry” birds.
Remember to take good care of your chickens so that they can grow as fluffy as possible. Make sure that you stick to the recommended tips in this article.