An ancient breed initially thought to come from China. Although, Japan and other Asian countries may also stake a claim.
Only introduced to the west a couple of hundred years ago or so, they have become a prevalent breed for the British.
This calm and docile bird of extraordinary appearance is appealing to families, poultry fanciers, specialist breeders, enthusiasts, and smallholders alike.
Could this be the breed of chicken for you?
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Personality & Temperament
Characteristics in a Flock
Common Health Issues
Coop & Run Needs
Are Silkies the One for You?
Silkie Chicken Breed Information
|For Beginners?||Some research is needed|
|Cost:||Chicks ≈ £3-£5 ($4-$6), Pullets ≈ £12-16 ($15-$20), Reputable Breeder ≈ £25+ ($30+)|
|Maintenance:||Generally easy, keeping them dry is the hardest part|
|Average Lifespan:||7-9 years|
|Point of Lay Age:||7-9 months, some take up to a year|
|Bird Weight:||Female ≈ 1.3kg (3lb), Male ≈ 1.8kg (4lb)|
|Broodiness:||Great for mothering other breeds’ lays|
|Child Friendliness:||Kid-perfect and cuddle-friendly—be gentle, they’re only teeny under all that fluff|
|Cold Resistance:||Fairly hardy, must stay dry|
|Egg Output:||3-4 eggs per week, 120 eggs a year|
|Egg Colors:||Creamy White/Pale Cream|
|Feather Color(s):||White, Black, Grey, Self Blue, Buff, Red, Penciled Partridge, Cuckoo|
Personality & Temperament of Silkies
Silkies are one of the most laid-back, gentle, and sweet-natured breeds of chicken; they have a very docile temperament and are great with children, making for a tremendous first chicken.
They enjoy being around humans and other animals. Silkies do not fly and greatly appreciate their home comforts.
Fortunately, they don’t tend to rake out all your hard work in the garden but will help with bug control. Silkies are an excellent choice for someone with a small garden in which they can free-range.
Hens tend to be rather broody, making egg production minimal sometimes. The flip-side? They’re great surrogate mums to more flighty breeds.
Funnily, Silkies are so broody that they’re known to sit on items other than eggs! This should be prevented because she could sit there and waste away until the egg has hatched. It might be a while…
Silkie roosters are some of the more docile and gentle boys of the poultry world. This tends to make them great fathers and stay chilled while looking out for their flock.
They are generally quiet on the crowing front.
Characteristics in a Flock
There is minimal bullying and hen-pecking within a Silkie flock; consider carefully before mixing them with other breeds, as they may get picked on for their gentle disposition.
Smaller breeds typically mix well but keeping them with their own would most often lead to a happier flock.
Generally, one rooster to three hens is a good ratio.
Doubling or even tripling the flock size would work, as the roosters share duties and seldom fight. There may be a slightly more dominant hen that keeps the others in check; she’ll be the first out in the morning, most eager to jump up onto your lap, and last to bed.
Silkie Egg Laying Capabilities
If you are looking for high-production egg layers, there are better choices than Silkies. They are notoriously broody and can lay between 3-4 peewee/small eggs a week or so, 120 or there about each year.
Of course, not all hens are the same. Some could be much more productive than others, and some would sit on eggs forever and a day.
Silkies have a unique appearance with fluffy plumage that is more like fur than feathers, extending to their feet!
They have a pom-pom hairdo with black skin, flesh, and even bones.
Interestingly, Silkies have feathered feet and are one of only five breeds sporting five toes on each foot.
The males have what is sometimes known as a mulberry comb, or indeed walnut or rose. The breed has turquoise earlobes or, in the bearded variety, these may be covered by feathers.
Silkies are a relatively small breed of chicken. They come in many colors, although not all are recognized in some countries. Some of them are – black, white, cuckoo, partridge, grey, red, buff, self blue, and silver.
Slkies were originally true bantams, having no full-size counterpart. To be considered a bantam, a full grown Silkie must be under 1kg (2.2 lbs) for males and 900g (2 lbs) for females.
Nowadays we find larger versions of this breed—they;re no longer true bantams!
Possibly the cutest variety of all…they’re already an adorable breed, but a miniature version? Just too much cute!
There are also bearded Silkies. They come in similar shades with splashes of other colors, for instance, white with a gold splash.
Silkie Chicken Care
Common Health Issues
Hens can become underweight if allowed to sit on eggs.
Make sure they have a dry covered area for when the weather turns.
Their eyes are often out-of-sight, hidden beneath the beautiful pom-pom or sideburns of a Bearded Silkie, so a weekly eye check is essential.
If you let a broody hen hatch eggs, clear away any shells and debris. Keep an eye on the chicks, and don’t let them get tangled in the mum’s feathers.
Silkies can withstand a cold winter so long as they don’t get wet. Nothing’s worse for them than going to bed soaked, which could be their demise.
Temperatures below freezing are okay for a short while, but take insulative measures during long cold stretches.
Pay attention in the summer months too. As with any creature, the heat can be a killer; provide fresh, cool drinking water and shade.
Coop & Run Needs
Depending on how you wish to have your flock housed, whether free-ranging or in a coop or ark, it is imperative that they have a clean, dry house in which to roost at night. Not all will want to perch; some like to snuggle down in a nest box.
The vitals are clean drinking water, food, a shaded area, and a sunny patch. These chickens don’t want for much, but caring for their needs is good husbandry.
A Brief Background for Silkie Chickens
Chinese by origin, or so the story goes (possibly from other oriental countries), the Silkie has been around for a thousand years or more.
They came to Europe with maritime traders, sold as curiosities… said to be a cross between a chicken and a rabbit!
The earliest surviving words of Silkies come from an account written by Marco Polo, the 13th-century Venetian merchant who wrote of a ‘furry’ chicken during his travels in Asia.
Silkies were classified as a breed in their own right at the 1872 Crystal Palace Show and appeared in the American Standard of Perfection, first published by the American Poultry Association in 1874.
A Mrs. A Campbell (of the Campbell duck origin) of the early 1900’s worked to improve the quality of Silkies, and much of that is seen in the quality of the birds today. It’s possible that some breeders can prove lineage back to her original birds.
Unfortunately, because of their uniqueness, i.e., black skin, flesh, and bones, they are still regarded as a delicacy in China and used in traditional medicine. Apparently, the meat’s taste is of no difference to that of a ‘white fleshed’ chicken.
Silkie Chicken FAQ
Do Silkie Chickens Like to Cuddle?
Silkies are a friendly bunch, and if raised from chicks, they’ll likely be even nicer. Enjoy cuddling a hen on your lap whilst she coos quietly to you.
What are Silkie Chickens Good For?
Silkies are a good choice for a quiet breed; they are excellent broody hens and mediocre egg layers. They make great family pets as they are renowned for being good with children.
How Much is a Silkie Chicken Worth?
Silkies are worth as much as you are willing to pay for the right one. Prices can range for a well-bred classic color hen from $30-$100 (£25-£50 in the UK). See the summary table above for more pricing detail.
Are Silkie Chickens High Maintenance?
Silkies are a relatively low-maintenance breed—just some general welfare needed to maintain a healthy flock.
How Many Toes Do Silkie Chickens Have?
Silkies chickens have, so their feet have five toes due to a physical anomaly called polydactyly—just to be even more unique. I guess they like to be different!
Maybe it gives them more stability when roosting. Maybe the special breeding that produced their furry fluffiness and black bits caused a genetic, toe-growing mix-up along the way!
Who knows?! If you have any theories, let us know.
How Cold Can Silkies Handle?
Silkies are cold-hardy birds, but not if they get wet. While dry they’ll handle anything down to -18°C (0°F), although anything lower is unchartered territory.
- Pekin Bantams – The Big Guide to a Small Chicken: Pekin Bantams, one of the very few bantam breeds to not have a full size counterpart! Read more about these cute birds that, much like the loveable Silkie, come in a wonderful variety of colors.
- Most Popular Chicken Breed Guide – From Australorps to Wyandottes: Our guide to the most popular breeds in both the US and the UK, and their pros and cons, plus advice on what to look for when choosing the right breeds for your flock!
Are Silkie Chickens Right for You and Your Flock?
That’s the number one question.
Silkies are the right breed for you if you’re looking for chickens that are pretty low maintenance, friendly, calm, great with children, and make excellent mothers.
They may not have the highest egg production, but if you are after a cuddle, some company while doing the weeding, or even a sneaky little visit into the kitchen, they may well be the chicken for you.
If you have neighbors and are concerned about the noise, don’t worry. Silkies are a quiet breed–the girls will ‘talk’ to you with gentle clucking noises.
If you’re looking for a solid egg-layer, you will need another breed. On the other hand, if you are after broody hens to incubate other breeds’ eggs, these are the girls for you!