Silkie chickens are the fluffiest, friendliest, funniest, most FABULOUS little chickens I have ever met. They are also wonderfully weird!
Sure, we’re all biased at silkiechickenexperts.com, but it’s not just because Silkies are so sweet and stunning that we’re besotted by this breed. It’s because they’re so unique.
There’s a lot more to these powder-puff poultry than meets the eye. We’ve clucked up an impressive 50 years of Silkie keeping and breeding between us at Silkie Experts, and I can’t wait to tell you all about these loveable little pocket rockets.
Silkies, just like any breed of chicken, have lots of weird and wonderful quirks that make the unique. It also means that they are counting on you to learn how to love them! Don’t leave it too late to learn what your Silkies needs. Some are easily injured with just the wrong choice of perch, and others are prone to certain diseases or can’t eat certain treats. If only there was an encyclopedia of chicken facts and courses. Great news, there is! My friends over at Chickenpedia teach you how to prevent problems for your Silkies so you can ensure they live a happy, healthy and productive, long life. I recommend them to all of my readers, so be sure you check them out. They are live savers, for real!
Let’s meet the Silkie chicken breed. Be prepared to fall utterly in love. I warned you!
Silkies are small, stout, rounded chickens with fluff everywhere. Silkies average 8-14 inches tall and 27.6 inches in length. Silkie bantam boys weigh 36 oz, and Silkie bantam girls weigh 32 oz.
Silkie hens should have pom-pom hairstyles and Silkie roos rock the Elvis look with shiny ‘streamer’ feathers pointing backward.
Unique in every way, Silkies have black skin, five toes (it’s usually four for chickens), and turquoise-blue or mulberry earlobes.
Silkies chickens are genuine bantams, meaning that they always were little, they’ve not been bred from a bigger bird as is usually the case with bantams.
In the U.S. there are only Silkie bantams, but in Europe, it’s more complicated:
Standard-sized Silkies, or Large Fowl Silkies, are bigger varieties of Silkie that were bred ‘up’ from the original bantams in Europe. When this happened the Europeans labeled the original Silkies as Silkie bantams to differentiate them from the new, bigger birds. Don't read too much into the words 'large fowl' though: they're all dinky!
The British Poultry Standard for Silkie bantams is smaller than in the US: male bantams should weigh 22oz, and female bantams should weigh just 18oz. Large fowl Silkie roosters should weigh 2 – 3 lbs and Silkie hens should weigh 1.5 lbs – 2 lbs.
Silkies stand out from the chicken crowd in every way. Their fluffy, down-like feathers are the reason they're called Silkies: they're silly-soft to stroke. More on these fabulous feathers coming up!
Chicken skin is usually white, but Silkies have dark blue or black skin hidden underneath all their fluff. The rare melanism in the Silkie's connective tissue is caused by fibromelanosis: a mutation believed to come from Asia.
Silkie chickens have five toes. That won't sound weird if you're new to keeping chickens, but as all other breeds have four toes, it is. Polydactyly (extra digits) is now expected as part of the breed standard, so long as that funky fifth toe grows directly off the fourth.
Six-toed Silkies have been seen about town, but they wouldn't be accepted by breed standards. That’s just one toe too far!
Silkies have unique turquoise earlobes, which again is not the norm for chickens. They're literally little bundles of specialness.
Silkie hens are the broodiest of all the broody hens! If you leave your phone lying around their coop, they'll probably perch their butt on it. You’ll be amazed what these ladies will hatch. More on that later on…
Silkies even sound different from other chickens. Silkie roosters have a quirky crow and 'call' rather than 'cock-a-doodle-doo'. Take a listen...
<Silkie egg song and crow videos>
You absolutely should judge this book by its cover since Silkies are as soft on the inside as they are on the outside. Their nurturing nature and pet-worthy personalities are just two of many reasons we're so drawn to them.
Silkies love a cuddle, are super-affectionate, and will happily snuggle into your lap for a fuss. They even purr!
Silkies are a top choice for kids since even the grumpiest toddler or teenager will cheer up when they fuss this lump of lovableness. They're light, easy to handle, mild-mannered, and they're not flighty or fussy. Silkies are often used as PAT (Pets As Therapy) animals, which proves my point perfectly.
Silkies mix great with other cheerful chicken breeds. Since they’re small, docile, and friendly they won't start a fight in your flock. If you have a bossy bird in your backyard then she may well pick on a soft little Silkie, especially if she’s a bit jealous of her beautiful clooks!
The Silkie chicken breed lays 2-3 eggs a week, and around 100 eggs a year. Silkies are considered a bit below average when it comes to egg production, but on the flip side of that egg, they’re cold-hardy and lay consistently throughout the colder months.
Silkies lay small, cream-colored, or speckled eggs which are thought to be richer in all the good stuff than most other eggs; including nutritive constituents, oxidative stability, and rheological properties.
"Silkies are excellent layers of relatively large-sized bantam eggs, and unlike most other breeds, silkies will continue laying eggs throughout the winter because their fluffy feathers keep them warm and content. In addition to being great egg layers, silkies are known for being the broodiest of all chicken breeds and are often used to incubate and raise the offspring of other poultry." Successful Farming
Silkie bantam hens start to lay at 6 to 9 months, but the later a pullet starts to lay, the better she seems to do in the long run, so don’t rush her! Silkies lay the most eggs in their first season and will line your tummy with yummy mini eggs until they're 2-4 years old.
We asked our network of Silkie owners how generous their girls were, and 60% said they received 4 eggs per week. Some supermomma Silkies were laying 5 eggs every week! However, there were some lazy ladies laying just 2 eggs a week.
"Silkie bantams are renowned for laying small eggs and depending on the climate & environment that you live in that determines how many eggs you are likely to get per week. I have personally owned silkies and those girls I hatched myself and they laid all through winter (which is only mild). I averaged 5 eggs per week, they were fantastic layers."
You’ll also find Red, Gray, Lavender, and Cuckoo Silkies which are just as stunning. You can’t show them (yet) but that’s no reason not to treat yourself to some cute Silkie chicks in these pretty colors.
Bearded Silkies have a little extra tuft of fluff under their beak. Yes, that's right, she's a bearded lady, and she pulls it off perfectly well. Most Silkie varieties can be found in a bearded or non-bearded variety, with bearded being most popular in the US and non-bearded in Europe.
Silkie roosters are calmer and quieter than other breeds and make great dads, too. They're so soft-natured they've been known to share feed with their chicks, which is unusual for roosters.
Boys will be boys, though and even Silkie roos are protective and competitive when they have company. Solo Silkie roosters are less likely to bother crowing or making a noise.
Silkies are slower to mature than other chicken breeds, so it’s hard to know if you have a Silkie hen or roo until they're fully grown at 3 to 4 months old. You'll be awaiting your first egg or crow before you find out if you have a Charlie or a Charlene in your coop.
Silkie chickens are exceptionally good backyard breeds, in every way! They don’t need too much space, they’re easy to manage, they’re not too noisy, they don’t fly (aka escape)…oh, and they’re FLUFFY.
Silkies are great for beginners. They’re fancy hens but they’re also easy-going, low-maintenance ladies who are happy to be handled and cared for.
Silkies are quiet chickens. One of the best things about Silkies is how well-suited they are to homes with noise-averse neighbors. Momma hen is even considerate when she's laying her eggs and her egg song is subtle and sweet in comparison to other breeds (not to mention some of the ladies I’ve met on the maternity ward. Yes, you, bed 12).
One thing to watch out for is that the Silkie chicken breed does not handle damp conditions. Period! It’s not because they’re precious about their pom-pom looks, it’s those pesky unbarbed pennaceous feathers.
All birds have strong flight feathers on their tails and wings and down feathers which keep them insulated and warm. Some birds, like the Silkie chicken breed, have pennaceous or contour feathers too. It's the Silkie's unusual pennaceous feathers that give the breed its infamous furball look.
The Silkie’s feathers are technically broken since Silkies are homozygous for a recessive allele (gene problems) which results in barbless pennaceous feathers. This is kind of like when kids chew their zippers, so they don't interlock anymore. The feathers lose their structure and look more like fluff than feathers.
The Silkie's unique feathers give them the look we adore, but they don't keep the rain out. That recessive gene that makes those feathers so darn fluffy also means that any crossbreeding will sacrifice their softness completely. They’ll just fall out. Breeding Silkies requires caution.
Silkies don’t need grooming. They rank high in the wow factor and low in maintenance. Perfect! If you want to show your Silkie off at shows then they’ll lap up a Spa Day. Some Silkie owners trim their chicken's beards a little to help them see, and some opt for an 80s Alice band. Looking good ladies!
Silkies will preen and dust bathe themselves to keep their stylish little top knots looking fabulous, and a quick rinse and towel dry will tackle any ‘problem areas’ nicely.
Silkies are small and will be fine with 3 square feet of coop per chicken. They can't fly meaning you don’t need high fences, but they scream "eat me – I'm a marshmallow" to predators, so you'll need a plan to keep them safe. Silkies need a low roost bar, and often prefer to sleep on the floor.
Silkies live for 7-9 years and might be loyally by your side even longer than that if you care for them well.
The Silkie chicken breed mainly have healthy little hatchlings. Some strains might suffer from a hereditary predisposition to Mareks disease, but most good breeders will have handled this for you with vaccinations. Those fluffy feathers do produce more dander than the average chick so if you’re keeping hatchlings in the house be prepared and don’t panic.
Being fluff bombs makes it hard to spot pesky parasites, so sneaking a little inspection into snuggle time is well worth doing. Make sure you do your homework on managing pests.
Silkies have vaulted heads which makes them prone to head injuries if they're bullied by bigger breeds. Being nice doesn't always work out well and it makes the Silkie chicken breed more vulnerable to attacks and predation.
The Silkie is the broodiest chicken breed I know. Silkie hens are insanely broody and make marvelous mommas.
Their maternal nature is abused commercially and Silkies are the go-to nanny for hatching eggs of other less-natural mommas. We're not just chatting chickens here! Silkies hatch eggs for geese, ducks, quails, and pheasants. Give the girl an egg and she'll hatch it!
The history of the Silkie chicken breed goes back at least 1000 years when they were first recorded in South-East Asia. Nobody knows egg-sactly where the first Silkie hatched, but it's obvious that this ornamental, oriental gem has some Japanese or Chinese heritage. They're often called Chinese silk chickens.
In the 13th century Marco Polo noted in his journal that he had spotted a ‘furry chicken’ in China. That's got to be our Silkie, surely. When Silkies found their way to North America and Europe, they were considered a bit freakish with their funky, fluffy feathers. Silkies were even shown at the circus and early Dutch breeders convinced their customers that Silkies were half hen half rabbit. Are Silkies the real Easter Bunnies?
Even the perfect chicken breed (I’m of course referring to the Silkie) isn’t perfect for everyone.
97.6% of the 207 Silkie owners we asked would keep the breed again. That's a pretty good review in my eyes. Silkies rank right up there with the best of the breeds and score a silky-smooth 4.5/5 in the Chicken Choice Awards.
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The Silkie Chicken breed will find its way into your heart. They're gorgeous, they're polite, they're quiet, they're friendly, they're…well they're the perfect poultry pets!
We love these ladies for their personalities and poufiness, but their unusual black meat is considered a delicacy in China and Malaysia and is rich in Carnitine which has anti-aging properties. I still couldn’t. Could you?
I hope you’ve learned at least something you didn’t know about Silkies here. You wouldn't take home any animal without learning how to love them first, so knowing the ins and outs of your chosen chicken breed counts when it comes to offering them a happy and healthy home.
Even the most experienced chicken owners out there find themselves scratching their heads daily over a random noise or an odd walk from their hens. Pets should be fun and rewarding and keeping chickens is no different.
As I said earlier, Chickenpedia is the perfect place to learn how to care for - and how to prepare for - your Silkie chickens. You'll have unlimited access to reliable information, expert guidance, real-world tips, and reassuring chats on all things Silkie. It’s the only place to be for the Silkie lovers amongst us. And remember, prevention is always better than treatment!
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