Silkie chickens are undeniably the fluffiest chickens to grace our presence…and the bearded variety, well they are the fluffiest of all! Firstly, lets start off with a quick visual, A vs B in the image below, you can see the differences in their face here, here and here.
The Bearded Silkie Chicken, by definition, is a Silkie chicken with obvious excess facial fluff that resembles a beard with sideburns.They should have three thick stripes or ovals of protruding fluff that start at the back of the eyes running backwards, and under the beak running downwards. I’ll dive into a lot more detail about these bearded beauties in a moment!
Essentially, the bearded Silkie chicken is a beautiful bouffant of a bird that could understandably be mistaken for a mobile marshmallow with a beak.
Silkie chickens are wonderfully weird in every way, from their black skin and extra toes to fluffy feathers and turquoise earlobes. Some Silkies however have cranked their quirkiness up a notch. They grew beards. Even the bearded Silkie hens have feathery facial hair.
If you know Silkies, then you know there are plenty of varieties to pick your perfect poultry from. Silkies are true bantams, but you can also find them as large fowl. There are dozens of colors of Silkie to choose from, and now you can add bearded or non-bearded to your list of Silkie chicken choices.
Along with choice come decisions…and questions! Why are some Silkies bearded but some aren’t? What causes their beards to grow? Are beards bad for chickens?
THE ANSWERS YOU’RE LOOKING FOR ARE ALL RIGHT HERE IN THESE 15 FACIAL-FLUFF-FOCUSED FAQS.
According to the American Bantam Association, the Bearded Silkie Chicken is a Silkie that has a “thick & full beard and muffs…forming a collar of three ovals in a triangular group, giving a muffed effect.”
Bearded Silkie chickens are a variety of Silkie with additional feathering on either side of and beneath their beaks. Like they needed more fluff, right? These three rows of downwards-facing facial feathers merge to form - what could only ever have been called - a beard.
The bearded Silkie’s fluffy beards vary in size and fulness but are always substantial enough to cover up the Silkie’s signature turquoise earlobes and their wattles.
You can’t miss a bearded silkie, since all you can see is a pointy black beak peeping out from a waddling ball of feathers. The bearded Silkie is a very distinctive chick!
Non-bearded Silkies are just as cute, but they show off their fab little faces, including their turquoise earlobes and their wattles.
Everything else about the non-bearded Silkie is just as fluffed up and fabulous as the bearded Silkie, they just look as though they got up a little earlier and made time to shave before they left the coop.
You won’t get more eggs from a bearded Silkie or less noise from a non-bearded. Their beards are the only thing that differentiates them.
Beards aren’t the norm for chickens. They’re a special touch - an egg-stra - if you like. Since Silkies are unique in every possible way, it makes perfect sense that they’ve another quirky trait to add to their list.
Silkies earn their name from their fluffy feathers 🪶 which are silly-soft to stroke, but those (technically faulty) feathers are completely unique to the Silkie chicken breed. All Silkies have dark blue or black skin, rather than the usual white or yellow. This comes down to a rare mutation which causes fibromelanosis.
Silkie chickens even have five toes, whereas all other chicken breeds have four. Polydactyly (extra digits) is now expected as part of the Silkie breed standard.
There’s more. Silkies have truly unique turquoise earlobes. Again, not the norm for chickens. Silkies refuse to follow the crowd. They're little balls of specialness.
So, compared to most chicken breeds bearded Silkie chickens have faulty feathers, skin melanoma, freaky feet, weird-colored earlobes, and beards. They couldn’t get any more special. (Actually, they can. Check out Silkie Frizzles!)
With or without beards,Silkies are addictive. 98% of the 207 Silkie owners that we asked said they would keep the breed again. Now that’s a solid 5-star ⭐ review!
Unlike trying to guess the gender of a Silkie, telling a bearded Silkie chicken from a non-bearded one is simple. You can’t miss their fluffy chin feathers.
“Non-bearded Silkies share the same overall dimension and form as bearded Silkies. The only exception lies on the face, where without the presence of a fluffy beard, the face, turquoise earlobes, and wattle become apparent” (Sciencing.com)
All six color varieties of Silkie chicken which are recognized by the American Poultry Association are available in bearded and non-bearded varieties. You can find bearded ladies in white, black, blue, buff, partridge, and splash.
Other non-accepted (but much-loved) little lovelies like the red, gray, lavender, and cuckoo Silkie are also available in bearded and non-bearded varieties. You won’t be limited on choice of chook if you’re hunting for a bird with a beard.
The gene that causes Silkie chickens to grow beards is present in all Silkie chickens, but it’s been ‘turned up’ in the bearded variety. This is why only some Silkies are bearded.
Silkies originated from the Orient and began their journey as non-bearded birds. Silkies in Europe have mainly retained their clean faces and are sometimes called European Silkies for this reason. In the U.S. 🇺🇸 most Silkies are bearded.
"We have no knowledge of the exact time when [beards] formed. But we believe that it has hundreds of years of history." (Dr. Ying Guo)
Bearded Silkies have a genetic mutation that causes a higher expression or level of the gene HOXB8 which causes excessive feathering around the face.
When scientists at the China Agricultural University were trying to get to the bottom of these bearded beauties they discovered that all bearded chickens had a mutation that resulted in more expressions of HOXB8 gene. This is one of a group of genes called the Hox group which is responsible for hair and feather growth in humans and mice too.
“HOXB8 is an important gene, which plays roles in hair development,” (Dr. Ying Guo)
A genetic mutation in chickens with beards and muffs results in the HOXB8 being present at much higher levels in the chicken’s facial skin. The more expressions of HOXB8 that are present, the more feather growth occurs. This is why some chickens have beards and muffs.
Muffs are feathery tufts around the outer cheeks, whereas beards are tufts at the side of the beak and beneath it. A chicken with one doesn’t always have the other. Muffs are easier to spot if less fluffy chicken breeds than Silkies, like the Araucana.
Male and female bearded Silkies both strut their bearded stuff with pride. Beards are not just for the boys when it comes to Silkie styling! Since they’re such fabulous fluff balls their beards blend into their feathery looks flawlessly.
It’s usually possible to tell if a Silkie chick is bearded or not by the time their fluff erupts: at 3-5 days old. The older your chick gets, the clearer it is to see. By the time your chickens are mature, it will be clear to see if they are bearded Silkies or not. It’s much easier than working out if they’re pullets or cockerels!
The genetic expression that causes beard growth is dominant, so chicks who have one bearded and one non-bearded parent will be bearded, but often they will display thinner or less-prominent beards.
Beards don’t provide Silkies with any major advantages or disadvantages. Chickens with beards are usually less prone to frostbite since they have very small wattles which aren’t exposed to the elements, but on the flip side, they can get messier from eating and drinking which can lead to pest infestations if they aren’t able to keep themselves clean.
Whatever breed of chicken you chose, managing pests and lice (especially in Silkies) will be high in your poultry parenting responsibilities. I recommend Chickenpedia’s Mites & Lice course because it is a trustworthy but speedy lesson on recognizing, managing, and preventing parasites and pests. It could be the difference between life and death if your chickens.
They’re just the same, so it’s down to which facial features melt your heart the most.
BEARDED OR FRESH FACED. HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR SILKIES?
Answers in the comments!
Silkies aren’t the only chicken breed that can boast about their bearded varieties. Easter Eggers and Araucana breeds are often mistaken for each other because they can have both beards and muffs. You’ll have heard of the Belgian Bearded d'Uccle? That’s just a few!
THERE'S SO MUCH MORE TO LEARN ABOUT THE SILKIE CHICKEN BREED
SILKIE EXPERT IS EXACTLY WHERE YOU’LL FIND IT ALL!
Had you heard of HEXB8 before you read this? Would you have known to research it before buying a bearded Silkie? Unless you know what to research, then it’s easy to miss important facts about your chickens, and how to keep happy and healthy hens at home.
Keeping chickens is a blessing and a challenge. Silkies are so ‘out there’ in chicken terms, that you need to understand why all the things that make them special can also make them vulnerable.
You don’t have to panic. Keeping Silkies is rewarding, fun, enjoyable, and potentially addictive, once you know what to egg-spect. You needn’t feel like a beginner for long.
Chickenpedia’s suite of chicken care courses are the only courses I’d recommend for sourcing reliable tips and expert advice on Silkie ownership.
Take just one course with Chickenpedia, and you’ll get access to the entire suite of their chicken courses, downloads, tips, and tricks to help you ace chicken keeping and enjoy sharing your home with healthy and happy Silkie chickens.
Comments will be approved before showing up.