The Enchanting World of Silkie Chickens: A Complete Guide

Silkie chickens have captured the hearts of poultry enthusiasts worldwide with their unique and furry appearance. Renowned for their distinctive feathers, they are the only breed to possess such a remarkable trait. These captivating creatures trace their origins back to ancient Chinese dynasties, having traveled the Silk Road to eastern Europe and eventually making their way to modern-day America. As we delve deeper into the world of these enchanting birds, prepare to be amazed by their fascinating characteristics and rich history.

Silkie Chicken

Silkie Chicken: An Overview

Silkie chickens have a long and storied past. Initially introduced to Europe in the 1800s, they quickly gained popularity for their extraordinary appearance. In their homeland of China and the Far East, Silkies were revered for their eggs and meat, which were considered to possess magical and medicinal properties. Today, they are predominantly cherished as exhibition birds, showpieces, or ornamental pets due to their limited egg-laying capabilities. However, they have become beloved among backyard enthusiasts for their exceptional brooding skills. The recent resurgence in their popularity is a testament to their remarkable qualities as both reliable broodies and delightful family companions.

Silkie Chicken: Beginner Friendly: Ideal (docile and friendly). Lifespan: 7-8 years. Weight: Hen (1.5-2lb) and Rooster (2-3lb). Color: Various (eight recognized colors). Egg Production: 2-3 per week. Egg Color: Cream to tinted. Known For Broodiness: Yes. Good With Children: Yes. Cost of Chicken: $5-$120 depending on color and quality.

Silkie Chicken: A Captivating Appearance

Flock Of Silkies

Once you lay eyes on a Silkie chicken, they are unmistakable. Their feathers possess a silky, almost fur-like texture. With their plump bodies, short backs, and abundant chests, they exhibit a distinct physique. Their short, grey legs are set wide apart, providing stability. The Silkie’s head is adorned with a crested pom pom, resembling a playful expression even on the dreariest days. In purebred Silkies, the comb should be a deep red shade known as mulberry. Bearded or non-bearded, their coal-black eyes lend an air of mystery. A unique characteristic of Silkies is their light blue earlobes. Surprisingly, beneath their feathers lies black skin, muscles, and bones. Even their meat is black, with the exception of their red blood.

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Size and Weight

Silkies in the United States tend to be slightly smaller than their European counterparts. Roosters weigh between 2-3lb, while hens range from 1.5-2lb. Bantam Silkies are also available, weighing approximately 36oz for roosters and 32oz for hens.

Color Varieties

Silkies come in various colors, with eight recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA): black, blue, buff, gray, partridge, self-blue (lavender), splash, and white. Additionally, breed enthusiasts are continuously working on developing new color variations, awaiting acceptance from the APA.

Silkies

Pros and Cons of Silkie Chickens

Pros:

  • Excellent maternal instincts
  • Unique and captivating appearance
  • Can be kept as house pets
  • Great with children
  • Soft and fur-like feathers

Cons:

  • Poor egg layers
  • Not well-suited for cold climates
  • Susceptible to bullying
  • Feather care may require additional attention

Owning a Silkie Chicken: A Delightful Experience

Three Silkie Chickens

Owning Silkie chickens is a delight, as they require minimal care and never fail to bring smiles to the faces of visitors. These gentle and peaceful birds enjoy free-ranging, but close supervision is necessary due to their vulnerability to predators. Providing a fully enclosed area to protect them from hawks is advisable, considering their impaired vision caused by their head feathers. Silkie chickens make excellent house pets and are particularly suitable for apartments due to their quiet nature.

Personality

Silkie chickens are known for their docile and friendly nature. However, their gentle disposition often makes them targets for more assertive breeds like Rhode Island Reds. To foster a harmonious flock, it is best to introduce Silkies to other docile breeds such as Polish or Cochins. Silkies readily interact with humans and thoroughly enjoy lap time, often nodding off while being cuddled. Their laid-back and non-confrontational demeanor makes them ideal for families, especially as their feathers feel akin to luxurious fur, perfect for stroking.

Egg Production

While Silkie chickens may not be prolific egg layers, boasting only 2-3 small eggs per week (approximately 100-120 per year), they excel in broodiness. Their natural inclination to motherhood and their exceptional nurturing abilities set them apart as outstanding caregivers.

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Egg Production: Eggs Per Week: 2-3 Eggs. Color: Cream to tinted. Size: Small to medium.

Noise Levels

Silkie chickens are incredibly quiet, even when performing their egg song. Their tranquil demeanor makes them suitable for apartment living. While hens rarely create fuss, their crowing roosters can still be a nuisance to neighbors, although Silkie roosters are generally considered less noisy than other breeds.

Caring for Silkie Chickens: A Low Maintenance Breed

Silkie Chickens

Overall, Silkie chickens are a relatively low-maintenance breed. They adapt well to confinement as long as they have sufficient space and perches. However, it is important to note that Silkies lack barbicels on their feathers, rendering them vulnerable to inclement weather. When it rains, they are prone to getting soaked to the skin. Thus, they require access to a dry and secure shelter. If they do get wet, they should be dried off and kept warm until their body temperature returns to normal.

Health Issues

Certain strains of Silkies are more susceptible to Marek’s disease. If you are purchasing from a private breeder, it is advisable to inquire about this condition. Otherwise, Silkies are generally healthy. Regular parasite checks should be part of their daily care routine. Treatment can be administered as needed or scheduled regularly, as per your preference. With proper care and attention, Silkies can live for 7-8 years, although some have been known to live much longer.

Feeding

A Silkie chicken typically consumes about ¼lb of feed per day. Standard 16% layer feed is suitable for their nutritional needs. Supplementing their diet with fresh greens and occasional treats will keep them happy, active, and healthy.

A Silkie

Coop Setup and Roaming

When providing housing for Silkies, ensure a minimum of 4 square feet of space per chicken. Unlike other breeds, they prefer sleeping on the floor instead of roosting. To protect them from rodents or insects, it is recommended to raise their sleeping area a few inches off the ground. Nesting boxes should be easily accessible since Silkies cannot fly. Placing the nests on the ground or elevating them slightly with a small platform will accommodate their needs. When allowing Silkies to free-range, it is essential to protect them from predators since they are unable to fly. Cordoning off an outdoor area with appropriate overhead protection from hawks or owls is crucial. Standard-sized birds require a minimum of 8 square feet per chicken in the run, with slightly less space needed for bantams. If space allows, providing more room is advantageous.

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The Rich History of Silkie Chickens

White and Gray Silkie

Silkie chickens have an incredibly ancient lineage. Originating around 200BC during the Han dynasty in China, they remained largely unknown in the Western world for many centuries. However, explorers such as Marco Polo and Ulisse Aldrovandi mentioned them in their travels during the 1200s and 1500s, respectively. Aldrovandi described Silkies as chickens with fur, captivating the imagination of people everywhere. Silkie chickens finally made their way to Europe in the 1800s, where they were embraced as an utterly unique and mysterious breed. They even became the subject of outlandish claims, such as being a hybrid between a rabbit and a chicken—a belief that persisted among the curious until the truth was revealed.

Frequently Asked Questions

What color eggs do Silkie chickens lay? Silkie chickens lay white/cream-colored eggs with occasional tinting.

How many eggs do Silkie chickens lay? They are considered poor layers, producing only 2-3 eggs per week.

What colors are Silkie chickens available in? Silkie chickens come in eight recognized colors: black, blue, buff, gray, partridge, self-blue, splash, and white.

Are Silkie chickens related to Showgirl chickens? Yes, Showgirls are the result of crossing a Silkie with a Naked Neck breed.

In Conclusion

Silkie chickens rank among the most gentle and docile breeds in existence. While they may not excel in egg production, their endearing qualities have made them beloved among poultry keepers worldwide. Their affinity for human companionship and their exceptional brooding capabilities make them perfect family pets. If you are seeking an enchanting addition to your flock or desire to hatch chicks, Silkie chickens are an excellent choice. Share your experiences of keeping Silkies in the comments section below and embark on a journey enriched by these delightful creatures.

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