We’ve found your next ideal pet – and it’s a chicken! Silkies make some of the best backyard pets and their unique appearance makes them a popular choice for those of us looking for a “pretty” chicken. The Silkie is one of the cutest and most adorable little chickens you’ll ever meet. They are sweet and docile, make wonderful mamas, are easy and inexpensive to keep, and just so darn cute that all your friends will be headed over for brunch and a photoshoot with your little fluffballs.
These little pocket pets are perfect for families with small children as kids delight in cuddling these soft little chickens on their laps, and their docile natures mean that they won’t get into any scraps with any of your family members or other pets. What’s more, 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! We’ve all had these cute little creatures as pets and will be able to tell you exactly what makes them such a good fit for anyone looking to extend their family with a feathered friend.
So, let’s take a closer look at this wonderful breed and why they are the perfect pet.
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Silkies: The Best Pet Chicken Breed
Appearance of the Silkie Chicken
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.
Silkies are mentioned a second time by Ulisse Aldrovandi, a celebrated Italian writer, in his treatise on chickens where he talked about the Silkie has a “chicken with hair like a black cat”.
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.
Now that we know where they come from, let’s deep-dive into their looks!
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.
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!
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.
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.
Now, that we know all the general things about what makes Silkies so special, let’s take a look at how they shape up as pets.
As we’ve said before, Silkies make wonderful family pets. 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!
“You can definitely keep chickens as pets, and Silkies make GREAT pets, especially for households with children. I also know MANY seniors who keep Silkies because they’re easier to care for than a dog, and they’re great company,” states Maat van Uitert, author ofChickens: Naturally Raising a Sustainable Flock, which was a bestseller on Amazon in its category.
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!
Silkie chickens are one of the most charming and sweet natured breeds you will come across- we are yet to meet a silkie we haven’t fallen completely in love with!
They are egg-ceptionally friendly, docile and calm, so they make a perfect pet- especially for children. They will happily sit in your little one’s lap without hesitation, snuggling up close and lapping up all the love and attention.
Just look at thisadorable video of a Silkie rooster and his human sharing a cuddle. This Silkie actually learned how to jump into his human’s lap!
Unlike some chickens who get rather flighty around humans, silkies have poor flying skills and love human interaction, making handling (and hugging) them a breeze.
Have neighbors in close proximity? Although the roosters do crow, in general Silkies are a very quiet breed, only piping up when they have proudly laid an egg or there is pending danger. They are known for beingwonderful mothers and often adopt others as their own, which only adds to their beautiful personality. If you live in a suburban area with noise-sensitive neighbors, a hen-only Silkie flock is an ideal choice.
Silkie chickens have a lifespan of about nine years, so it’s not a commitment to be taken on lightly. But if you’re ready for the responsibility, you can raise your Silkie as a real pet. Some Silkies have been known to live longer, so give them a little extra TLC and you’ll have their love for many years to come! Think of it as a kitten who can also produce the eggs for your omelet! They’re equally soft to the touch, playful, and entertaining to watch!
Silkies are fairly common, so if you’d like to add one or a few of these feathered beauties to your family, you’ll have no problem getting your hands on them.
While Silkies have the nature of sweet, docile little darlings, don’t be fooled, they are still considered quite a hardy and resilient breed! Their pretty plumage keeps them relatively insulated, so they are able to thrive in both cold and warm climates.
For those that are interested in keeping Silkies, be aware though that as their feathers are more like fur, it isn’t waterproof like other chicken breeds, so they will need ample shelter and protection. Being smaller and unable to fly, they do bear confinement well, however they will make great use of large spaces if given it, and are fantastic foragers- able to spot tasty morsels from afar!
Once you have decided that you’d like to keep your own flock and you’ve decided to start out with a couple of those cute fluffy chicks known as Silkies, you will need to decide where to get them. It is a good idea to purchase your chickens from a reputable breeder in order to ensure good quality birds.
A good breeder will most likely specialize in only one or two breeds and should be able to show you the parent stock of the chicks you’ll be buying. By choosing a breeder that specializes in Silkies, you are ensuring that you get the best quality bird for the price you pay. As Silkies are fairly common all over the US, UK and Australia, you should have no trouble locating a local breeder or hatchery. Make sure that you ask for pictures or to see the parent stock of the babies you’ll be buying to make sure that their coloring is correct for what you want and that you get healthy babies.
You can buy day-old chicks but be warned that they can be very fragile. If you’re not as experienced in chicken keeping or raising chicks, it’s best to buy week-old chicks.
But that’s just the beginning of your Silkie-keeping journey. In order for them to thrive, you’ll need to make sure that you take good care of them throughout their little lives.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Now that we’ve covered the feeding basics, let’s see where your Silkies will sleep.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
So, there you have it. The Silkie will make an absolutely egg-celent pet. However, as well as the beloved Silkie, there are so many brilliant breeds to consider when buying chickens. Deciding to become a chicken parent is the easy part. The hardest part is deciding which breed is most suitable for you. It can be eggs-tremely confusing and difficult – so where should you begin?
Cluckily, our friends over at Chickenpedia have created an amazingChicken Breeds Course. This extensive online course shares useful advice on choosing the right chickens for you as well as size and frequency of eggs laid. You’ll even learn about their individual personalities, and be able to use their family-friendly compatibility scale through this well-structured program. It really is a great way to find your perfect backyard buddies which is why I highly recommend them to all of my readers! The courses are beginner-friendly and filled with vital information to help you raise a happy, healthy flock.
Do you have any Silkies already? Let us know why you think they make the perfect pet – we adore reading all your Silkie stories.
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