Silkies are one of the most popular chicken breeds. With their bizarre features and loving personalities, they’re a favorite in backyard flocks everywhere.
Silkies are the most recommended chicken breed to be kept as pets and raised by children. Their sweet temperaments, soft feathering, and calm attitude make them true winners in the chicken world.
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Silkie Chicken Facts:
Silkies are interesting birds and differ greatly from other chicken breeds. Their features are truly one of a kind!
Silkies available in North America are bantams, meaning they’re a miniature version of standard chickens. They weigh about half that of a standard chicken, and their eggs about 2/3 the size of a your average egg. Standard sized Silkies are available in Europe, but haven’t made their way across the ocean just yet.
Beard, or no beard?
The presence of a muff of feathers around the ears and a beard under the chin is a Silkie breed standard for poultry shows and breeding programs. However, not all Silkies have these traits. Chicken keepers must take the time to seek out bearded silkie breeders if this is a desirable trait for their flock.
Unlike most chickens, silkie’s feathers don’t have barbicels, which are like tiny hooks that hold the hairs of a feather together. This is why Silkies look so fluffy, the hairs are allowed to fly free. Silkies also grow feathers down their legs.
Photo licensed via Creative Commons from flickr user Alisha Vargas
Skin, Toes, and Earlobes:
Silkies have black skin and black bones. They are considered a delicacy in many parts of Asia, and some cultures believe the meat has healing properties. The meat of a silkie is a little darker than a standard chicken and has a richer, gamier flavor.
Silkies have a polydactyly gene, which results in an extra toe on each foot. This is a breed standard. Their extra toe appears on the back of their leg, much like the dewclaw on a dog.
Silkie earlobes are shockingly bright and iridescent, they’re colored turquoise or aquamarine.
- Lavender (not recognized by American Poultry Association)
- Cuckoo (not recognized by American Poultry Association)
Photo sourced via creative commons from flickr user Lennart Tange
History and Geography
Silkie Chickens are believed to have come from Asia. The oldest records of Silkie existence dates back to the 13th century, when Marco Polo wrote of these fluffy birds on his travels to China. He recorded that they had black skin and the hair of a cat.
Silkies have also been a favorite of many freak shows and scam artists. They were part of the traveling circus in the 1900s, touted as chickens with mammalian fur. It’s rumored that when Silkies were first sold in Western cultures, breeders tried to convince would-be buyers that they were a cross between a chicken and a rabbit.
The Chinese have been touting for hundreds of years that Silkie meat has healing powers, and just recently science has caught up with those claims. Silkie chicken meat is often eaten in China to treat anemia, postpartum disorder, diabetes, and to reinforce muscle strength and immunity. It’s usually the first thing given to a mother after she’s given birth to restore her health.
A research group at the Ministry of Education at Nanchang University conducted a study to measure the amounts of a naturally occurring peptide called carnosine in Silkies compared with that of White Plymouth Rock chickens.
Carnosine is best known for its ability to delay aging by protecting the tissues in the brain, heart, and eyes. The study found the Silkies to contain twice the amount of carnosine, proving that in fact, silkie chicken meat is better for you than standard chicken (source: Science Daily).
Photo sourced from creative commons from flickr user Jessi Adler
Physiology and Personality:
Silkie chickens have quirky personalities. They’re very quiet and reserved, but can make quite the racket when sounding a predator alarm or laying an egg. Silkies are known for their good temperament and friendly disposition.
Silkies as Pets:
Silkie Chickens make wonderful pets. They’re docile, friendly, and best of all: completely happy to be contained. Silkies don’t fly very well, so they can be kept in a chicken run or backyard with a relatively low fence. As stated earlier, they’re great with children and enjoy being held, pet, and fawned over.
Broodiness and Mothering:
Silkies are well known for their broodiness, or desire to hatch chicks. They can go broody several times in a single season, and spend months out of the year sitting on a nest of eggs, waiting for chicks to pop out. Silkies make wonderful and caring mothers. They have even been known to adopt turkeys, ducks, quail, and other poultry as their own.
Silkies are not amongst the top egg layers in the world. They will lay about 100-150 eggs per year on average. This is mainly due to the fact that they go broody so often, and hens don’t lay eggs when they’re in the broody cycle or while raising chicks. Egg laying numbers in Silkies really depend on the individual animal. Some will lay almost every day of the year, and some will lay only once a week.
Where to buy silkie chickens:
Silkies can be purchased from:
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