Silkie Chickens: A Complete Guide to World’s Favorite Fluffy Bantam

October 21, 2020

Silkie Chickens: A Complete Guide to World’s Favorite Fluffy Bantam

So, you’re here because you want to learn all about the fluffy chicken that’s been taking the world by storm since the thirteenth century? Or are you just a fan of these cute little critters? It doesn’t matter what brought you here, what’s going to keep you here is the fact that myself and my poultry peeps collectively have more than 30 years’ experience with these fantastic little birds and can truly consider ourselves Silkie Chicken Experts!

The Silkie chicken, also sometimes spelled Silky Chicken, is a unique and interesting breed that has become a popular addition to backyard flocks across the world.

Silkie chickens are known for their characteristically fluffy plumage said to feel silk- or satin-like to the touch. Their feathering sets them apart from regular chickens, but Silkies are also unusual in the sense that they have black skin, blue earlobes, extra toes and an inability to fly.  

A cheeky little head-turner, Silkie chickens delight their owners with their cute looks, friendly disposition, docile nature and adaptability. If you’re looking for a really special and out of the ordinary chook to add to your backyard flock, you cannot go wrong with these fluffy beauties.

By the end of this article, you will be dying to add a Silkie to your flock – or to just run out and buy more because they are some of the best backyard additions you could hope for!

In this article
Appearance, Size and Weight
Silkie Facts Chart
Breed Standard
Egg and Meat Production
Silkie Eggs
How many eggs do Silkie hens lay?
What color eggs do Silkie hens lay?
What size eggs do Silkie hens lay?
Silkie Meat Production
Temperament
Caring for your Silkies
Feeding
Their Favorite Treats:
Housing
Health and Wellness
Silkie Chicks:
Sexing Silkie Chicks
Are Silkies good mothers?
Caring for a Broody Silkie Hen
Origin

  

Appearance, Size and Weight

Silkies are definitely odd little creatures, but they are undeniably cute and their quirky looks is what makes them such a popular choice for backyard flock beginners.

Silkies look vastly different to any other breed of chicken and this is due to a fair number of oddities, of which only one is the characteristically fluffy feathers.

 

White Silkie Chicken with fluffy feathers free-ranging on grass

 

Yes, the Silkie has fluffy feathers that feel like silk or satin when touched. But they are feathers. A regular feather is constructed of individual hairs with little hook-like appendages that are called barbicels. The barbicels hold all the individual hairs together in a smooth and tidy feather shape. When a regular chicken preens their feathers, they are smoothing the barbicels to make sure that their plumage lies nice and flat and tidy against their bodies. A Silkie has feathers like other chickens, but their feathers lack barbicels, which means that the individual hairs of their feathers are left to grow in a fluffy and untidy fashion, which gives them the look of little cotton balls running around your yard. The Silkie’s fluffy feathering extends to their legs and they will have impressive fluffy legs and toes as well!

 

White Silkie Chicken with fluffy legs and toes walking on grass

 

Their fascinating feathers may be one reason why we all adore the Silkie chook, but it does present them with a few problems! This type of feathering means that the Silkie chicken cannot fly and won’t be waterproof should they get wet. Although chickens in general aren’t notoriously good fliers, Silkies cannot fly at all and therefore will prefer to roost lower to the ground. If you’re interested in keeping Silkies, make sure that their roosts are low enough that they can easily hop up and down without hurting themselves. But don’t be surprised if they choose to sleep in a giant fluffy heap on the floor, as this is something that is fairly common for the breed. The good news for aspiring Silkie parents is that they are an excellent choice for backyard flocks because their inability to fly means that they won’t easily flap over into the neighbor’s yard. You don’t need high fences to keep a Silkie at bay!

It is important to remember that Silkies aren’t waterproof like other chickens and birds may be. Their feathers get wet in a similar fashion to human hair and they can chill and die if they get too cold. If you live in a very wet or muddy area, make sure to provide your Silkies with a dry coop area sheltered from wind, rain and sleet, to protect your furry little friends. But this doesn’t mean that they’re scared of the cold – just that they don’t like a wet head.

Silkies have a rounded appearance and are small, short and stocky. Most elements of the Silkie chook will also be round. The head of a Silkie chicken should be covered in a round tufted crest, almost like a pom-pom, with a small rounded comb that looks similar to a walnut. The comb and wattles of a Silkie can range from black to mulberry in color and their earlobes are either bright turquoise or mulberry – the former being the preferred coloring. Their eyes should be brilliant black, small and round.

 

White Silkie Chicken showing off its fabulous blue earlobes and deep mulberry comb and wattles

 

Silkies differ from most other chickens because they have black skin (and bones!). The black skin extends to their feet and beaks, which means that they have dark legs and slate-colored or dark blue beaks. They also have five toes, which is quite uncommon in chickens, with the fifth toe extending to the back, not unlike the dewclaw in dogs. This fifth toe although an uncommon characteristic for chickens can also be found in the Faverolle, Sultan and Dorking breeds. For more information on all of the different chicken breeds and their fierce and fabulous qualities, check out the Ultimate Guide to Chicken Breeds from A – Zover at Chickenpedia!

Silkies are fairly small chickens and are therefore considered a true bantam. A bantam chicken is a miniature version of a standard-sized breed, but currently standard-sized Silkies are uncommon and not recognized in the US or Canada at all.

The Silkie hen should weigh approximately three pounds (1,3kg) and be 8 – 10 inches (20 – 25cm) tall, with the Silkie rooster weighing approximately four pounds (1,8kg) at a height of 8 – 11 inches (20 – 27cm) tall.

 

Silkie Facts Chart

So, now that we’ve done a deep-dive into the truly special Silkie chook, we’ve rounded up the fast facts for you so that you can have all the important info available at a quick glance.

 

Silkie Chicken Facts Infographic

 

Breed Standard

Alright, now we know what the Silkies look like, but did you know that there are breed standards that they have to conform to?

According to the breed standard, as per the American Poultry Association, accepted Silkie colors are white, black, blue, buff, partridge and splash.

 

Color varieties or breed standards of silkie chickens infographic

 

All the breed variants will have black skin, an extra toe on each foot, brilliant black eyes, a rounded crest like a powder puff, rounded tail and wings and the characteristically fluffy plumage on the body, down the legs and on the toes.

White Silkies are white all over and should have brilliantly turquoise earlobes. Black Silkies have black feathers with a green sheen in the light and their faces, combs and wattles should be dark mulberry approaching black. The Blue Silkie must be even-toned throughout, almost slate grey in color, without any lacing or barring. The Buff Silkie is a golden-brown color, also even-toned but they may have some darker feathers in the tail area. The Partridge Silkie is dark brown in color with a black head and tail and some black penciling on the wing feathers. The Splash Silkie is white dotted with black spots throughout the body.

Now that we have covered what they look like, let’s take a look at the egg and meat production of the Silkie and why backyard keepers choose this type of chook.

Silkie Eggs

How many eggs do Silkie hens lay?

Silkies are a popular choice for a backyard flock and they make highly fashionable pets, but unfortunately, they are notoriously poor layers in comparision to some of the prolificic 300 + egg per year layers out there! In my eyes, it means you just need more Silkies to make up for it! Ha Ha Ha! 

I have had girls that lay all through winter and that increased their annual yield at lot compared to the average numbers out there. So, I wanted to open it up to you my readers and ask: how many eggs do you get per week, per hen?

According to our recent pole from hundreds of Silke chicken owners globally, it shows that 60% of chickens are laying 3-5 times per week, thats 208 annually which is a lot more than the 100 – 120 eggs per year most places are quoting.

How do your girls stack up? Vote below or click show results if you are yet to get your Silkies.

 

Further to this, if you’re looking to prove these stats wrong, and increase your Silkie chicken egg yield, be sure to download my free Hot Tips To More Eggs Guide at the bottom of this page.

Oh, and on that note, Silkies will also keep you waiting longer than most others chickens! They will tantalize you the thought of eggs up until they are almost a year old before they provide you with a single egg!

Chicken breed egg laying comparison chart

 

So yes, Silkies aren’t the best choice for someone wanting basketfuls of eggs, but if you keep at least five hens, your girls will provide you with a handful of adorable eggs that are perfectly edible every week.

What color eggs do Silkie hens lay?

Silkie eggs are white in color and some may have an off-white or cream color.

 

Chicken breed egg color comparison chart

What size eggs do Silkie hens lay?

Silkies lay extra small to small eggs. According to the UK standards, a small egg is an egg that weighs less than 53g. In the US a small egg will weigh 42.5g or less and a peewee or extra small egg will clock in at less than 35.4g.

 

egg size comparison chart

 

Has your Silkie ever laid a record-size egg for the breed? Let us know in the comments! We’re always delighted to hear your backyard flock stories!

 

Silkie chicken egg facts infographic

Silkie Meat Production

As we talked about earlier, Silkies have black skin and bones and their meat is darker than that of regular chickens, which means that they are highly sought-after as table fare in the Asian countries. However, their small stature means that they aren’t the best meat producers, so although they are seen as a gourmet bird in some countries, they aren’t considered table fare or even dual production birds by most of the world.

 

White Silkie Chicken showing off its fabulous feathers and black skin

 

Silkies definitely aren’t the best layers, and they don’t make for the best table fare, so why keep a Silkie? Well, their temperament is one of the main reasons why people opt for this little backyard addition as they’re just so darn friendly!

 

Temperament

You will be hard-pressed to find a more docile and friendly chicken companion than the Silkie. They are known for being easy to tame, friendly and inquisitive. They love a good cuddle and will happily sit in your lap for treats. Their friendly disposition makes them an excellent choice for families with small children, as they are not intimidating, cute and quite happy to follow your young ones around the yard. Do you agree? What are your Silkies like? Let us know in the comments – we simply adore reading about your delightful little pets!

 

White Silkie Chicken being hand-fed with treats by owner

 

Little boy holding a Partridge Silkie Chicken

 

Their docile natures, even in roosters, mean that they may get picked on by more aggressive chickens – and your special Silkies won’t fight back! It is best to keep Silkies separate to more aggressive chickens and although they will happily scratch along with others in a mixed-breed flock, keep a close eye on your fluffy friends to make sure that they don’t get picked on!

By now you must be itching to add one of these friendly fluffs to your flock, but let’s take a look at their care requirements before you head off to the store.

 

Caring for your Silkies

Like any other pet, your Silkie chicken will require some care and maintenance from you in order to thrive. Although they may seem like hard work, they are actually very easy to keep and care for. You can even print out a chore chart and let your children help out with the chicken chores to teach them all about homesteading and how important good care and maintenance is to keep your chooks in tip-top shape.

 

little boys feeding white silkie chickens and jungle fowl chickens

 

Silkies are a good beginner breed as their care requirements are minimal and if you take the necessary precautions, you shouldn’t have any trouble at all.

Feeding

Silkies don’t have special feeding requirements, but it may be a good idea to buy their feed in the crumble form instead of the pelleted form as it will be easier for them to eat and digest as they are a true bantam breed and small by nature.

If you have Silkie chicks, you should feed them a good starter/grower feed for the first 16 – 20 weeks of their life. It is in your best interest to purchase a good quality commercial-grade feed to ensure that your growing babies get all the nutrients they need to develop into healthy adult birds.

From 20 weeks of age, you can switch your Silkies to a good quality commercial-grade layer crumble feed. You can also place some oyster shell grit in a separate bowl to ensure that they get enough calcium.

 

Jungle fowl and white silkie chickens eating shell grit on a bowl

 

Silkies, like any other chicken breed, are little vacuum cleaners when it comes to food and they will happily help you get rid of any kitchen scraps you may have. You can feed your chicken children leafy green vegetables, grated carrot, oats, small portions of fruit like watermelon and apple, tomatoes, fresh herbs like parsley, dill, mint and oregano and even weeds from your garden like dandelion, clover and nettles – provided that you haven’t sprayed them with any insecticide or pesticide!

 

White silkie chicken eating watermelon

 

Raw beans and green potato skins are amongst the top no-go foods for any chicken, and Silkies are no different here. These foods are highly toxic even in small amounts, so it is best to keep well away from these altogether.

We’ve put together a handy treat guide to help you know which foods are best to feed, which can be fed in moderation and which should be avoided.

Their Favorite Treats:

favourite treats for silkie chickens

 

best treats to feed silkie chickens but in moderation

 

harmful foods for silkie chickens

 

As with any other chicken, always make sure that your Silkies have access to fresh, clean water. Chickens drink a surprising amount of water and they can get dehydrated very quickly, so it is important to have water available at all times. On hot days or in the summer months, make sure that you regularly top up the waterers and keep them in a shady area for your girls to be able to enjoy a cool drink on a hot day. You can also freeze berries, fruit and seeds in blocks of ice to encourage your girls to ingest water as they peck at the frozen block to get at the chilled goodies inside. This is a really good boredom-buster and will help your flock keep cool as well as stave off boredom on lazy summer days.

 

white silkie hen and chicks drinking from a water drinker

 

Now that we’ve covered the feeding basics, let’s see where your Silkies will sleep.

Housing

Silkie chickens are a popular choice for backyard flocks because their inability to fly makes it difficult for them to escape the confines of a suburban yard. Their docile natures also mean that they adapt fairly well to confinement and will happily strut about a coop all day provided that there is enough room inside for the number of chickens you wish to keep.

As we’ve discussed earlier, the fluffy plumage of the Silkie chicken isn’t waterproof, so you’re going to have to make sure that your flock has somewhere warm and dry to shelter. The coop should be well-ventilated without being drafty and should offer superior protection from rain as a wet Silkie can easily chill and die and we don’t want you to lose one of your special pets.

Their fluffy feathers also mean that they can’t fly, so the roosts should be low enough for your Silkies to hop up and down from without hurting themselves.

 

white silkie chicken bantams on penthouse chicken coop ramp

 

Silkies also have feathered feet and although they keep them fairly clean through preening themselves, this feathering may present problems if you live in a very cold, wet or muddy area. If the feathers on their feet are exposed to snow, the feathers may freeze or accumulate ice and this can lead to frostbitten toes – so make sure your Silkies have somewhere dry to retreat should the weather turn icy. Mud and gunk can also glue up the feathers on their feet and cause discomfort, pain or even infections. It is therefore best to make sure that your run is dry and that you line the coop with proper bedding like pine shavings or dust-free hemp bedding so that their little toes stay clean and dry.

 

white silkie chickens inside the chicken coop

 

When planning your coop, make sure that your Silkies have 2 – 3 square feet (30 x 30cm – 45 x 45cm) inside the coop per chicken and at least 7 – 8 square feet (1 square meter) in the run per Silkie. Chickens, including Silkies, do better in a flock than when kept on their own and you should get at least 4 – 5 Silkies to start with. If you are allowed to keep roosters in your area, it is wise to remember that you need enough hens for your roosters otherwise the roosters might hurt the hens if there aren’t enough to go around. One rooster will quite happily be the master of up to ten hens and more than one rooster may lead to fighting amongst the boys – so if you’d like a roo to keep your girls company, stick to one unless you have a very large flock or enough space to separate them should problems occur.

Although Silkies are poor layers, they make excellent mothers and are notoriously broody birds, so it is a good idea to equip their coop with nesting boxes that are safe and inviting for these motherly little birds. One nesting box will be sufficient for 3 – 4 Silkie hens as they don’t mind sharing and it will make collecting your sweet little white eggs an easy task.

 

A black silkie hen watching over her eggs in the nesting boxes

 

Silkies do well in confinement and will happily cluck about in a proper-sized coop and run, but they are excellent foragers and love to explore, so a little bit of free-ranging is highly advisable if you have the space for it. Their small stature and docile natures mean that they cause very little damage to gardens when compared to larger and more aggressive hens, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t chow down on your veggie patch if given the chance!

Health and Wellness

Now that we’ve covered everything you need to know about their feed and housing, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of their health requirements.

Silkies require the same amount of care and attention than other chickens, but they may require additional attention to make sure that their foot feathering stays clean and dry and that they don’t get wet during rainy weather.

Silkies also have notoriously poor eyesight due to their powder puff crest of fluffy feathers that usually completely obscure their eyes from view. This makes them susceptible to predators and can make them skittish. If you are worried that your fluffy chickens are having trouble seeing their surroundings, you can gently trim the fluff around their eyes to better their view. If you are going to be showing your Silkies though, it is a better idea to use a soft hair tie or clip to tie the plumage back instead of trimming it down, as damage to the feathers will hamper the bird’s show quality.

 

white silkie chicken with face obscured by its fluffy feathers

 

So, you probably already have one foot out the door – ready to go and grab your next Silkie pet, but there are a few things we need to cover before you invest in one of these little beauties. Let’s take a look at Silkie chicks and how to make sure you don’t end up with a bunch of roosters!

 

Silkie Chicks:

Sexing Silkie Chicks

Silkies are one of the breeds that are the most difficult to sex, which means that it is near impossible to distinguish the hens from the roosters until they are about six months old. In many cases, you may only be able to tell whether your little fluffball is a hen or a rooster until it starts crowing or lays an egg! However, there are a few ways that can help you determine whether you may expect eggs or early-morning crows a few months down the line.

 

white silkie hen and rooster free ranging in the garden

 

Roosters generally stand taller and have a more upright posture than the hens. The rooster’s wattles will also develop faster than the hen’s, and they will be more dominant and inquisitive as they grow. You can use regular sexing methods on Silkies, like wing sexing, but the margin of error is great and you may end up with roosters instead of hens, so it is wise to wait until you are sure before investing in your chosen flock.

 

white silkie rooster inside a coop

 

But if you do get hens, you’re in for a treat! They are some of the best little broody birds out there, let’s take a look at their mothering capabilities.

Are Silkies good mothers?

Yes! Silkies are some of the best mothers in the entire chicken world!

“They are such good moms,” said Frank R. Reese Jr., the founder of Good Shepherd Turkey Ranch in Lindsborg, Kan., who breeds Silkies for show. “They’ll sit on anything and hatch anything. They’ll hatch ducks, turkeys, chickens.”

 

white silkie hen sitting on a clutch of eggs inside the coop

 

They are known for being broody little birds and make great mommas to their babies. It is a common notion among the chicken community that a Silkie can hatch a rock – and that holds true for this fluffy bantam. Most Silkie girls will prefer to sit on a clutch of eggs rather than lay an egg and forget about it, like most other chickens might do. They are also useful surrogates and will hatch anything you put under them, so if you have other chicken eggs, duck eggs or eggs from any other poultry that needs a warm body to sit on it – the Silkie is your answer!

 

White silkie hen sitting on a clutch of eggs inside the coop

 

If you present a Silkie hen with a clutch of eggs, you have a very good chance of her going broody and settling herself on them until the due date.

They will also successfully raise their young and keep them safe to the best of their ability. They are attentive and caring mothers and will even raise the offspring of their surrogate eggs given the chance!

 

White silkie hens taking care of their chicks

 

If you have other chickens on the homestead that you’d like to breed, adding a Silkie to your flock will provide you with a natural incubator that will require little to zero effort on your part if growing your flock.

Caring for a Broody Silkie Hen

 

white silkie hen and her chicks drinking water

 

If you have a broody Silkie hen, make sure that she is safe and not getting picked on by any other birds in the flock. A broody hen needs water and food close-by at all times as she is unlikely to leave her nest for much longer than a necessary snack or sip of water. She may lose condition so a few protein-rich treats like mealworms or scrambled eggs may provide a tasty booster, and it is wise to switch her to grower feed as this is what the chicks will eat once they hatch. Make sure that your momma hen is warm and comfortable and you will soon be rewarded with tiny little cotton buds running around the coop! Just be careful when handling or treating a broody hen as even this docile little chicken turns into a fierce mama bear when she has little ones to care for.

and lastly, where did they come from?

Origin

Silkies are a ubiquitous breed and there is no doubt about it that it is a very old breed that was first discovered in China.

The first documented account we have of a Silkie chicken is Marco Polo who encountered what he termed a “furry chicken” on his famous and fateful thirteenth-century travels.

 

white silkie chicken free ranging on grass

 

We cannot be one hundred percent sure where Silkies first scratched around, but we know that they have a long and complex history dotted across the Asian landscape, and that they were traded on the Silk Road which is most probably where the Silkie name came from.

Although early travelers like Marco Polo and Aldrovandi made mention of the unusual quality of the Silkie chicken’s plumage, there were many myths that surrounded the unique feathering once these little chickens made their way to Europe. Stories abounded that the Silkie chicken was the result of crossing a chicken and a rabbit and Silkies were even included in sideshows and labelled bird-mammals. Even though we can definitely see the likeness between the satin-like coat of a rabbit and the fluffy feathers of a Silkie – we can say with absolute certainty that these little chooks are not mammals in the slightest, just a very unique chicken.

 

two little girls holding a white silkie chicken and a rabbit

 

Watch this video for a short overview of the Silkie origin, background, appearance and breed standard.

Now that we know where they come from, let’s deep-dive into their looks!

So, there you have it. Silkies are one of the most ubiquitous breeds available today and their sweet disposition, docile nature and adaptability make them backyard flock favorites.

We adore this cute and cuddly breed for their atypical plumage, pom-pom heads and cheeky personalities. They make good pets and are a joy to have around the yard. Their quiet natures make them ideal for suburban living and their friendliness and cuteness make them highly suitable for families with small children that would like to have a chicken as a pet.

 

children with their pet silkie chicken

 

They may not be very good layers, but they will still provide you with small, white eggs every now and again, and they make fiercely good mothers for those that wish to add to their flock the natural way.

A Silkie is for you if you are looking for a unique chicken with eye-catching looks, a friendly nature and the ability to bring tremendous amounts of joy into your life.


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