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Are you interested in Silkies? Do you just love their adorable fluffy faces? Well, let me tell you, me too. They are among the best family friendly chicken breeds and they are just so adorable to look at. Although Silkies come in a great variety of colours, today, we’ll focus specifically on the Buff Silkie chicken and what makes them the sassiest little redheads of the chicken world.
We all adore Silkies for the same reason. They are cute and cuddly, and make fantastic pets. One of the first things that you might consider when deciding to add Silkies to your backyard flock, is which colors you’d like your Silkies to be. Silkies come in a range of weird and wonderful colors, but all of them are equally beautiful, so it really boils down to personal preference when choosing a color variety.
As a collective, we have more than 30 years of experience with these fluffy little bantams of the chicken world, and among us have owned at least one little critter in each color, so we’re well-suited to telling you all you need to know about Silkies and the colors they come in.
Buffs is one of my favourite coloured Silkie varieties. There are many challenges with breeding this colour, but that is what makes it even more intriguing.
Buff is a difficult colour and can be based on partridge (eb) or wheaten (eWh). On eb based buffs it’s very hard to breed out the black, while on eWh the birds can tend to be white under colour.
Check out this video showing the difference between the Buff, Black and White Silkie.
For more information on colour genetics, check out our article on the Blue Silkie and the interesting ways they breed these beautiful birds.
Silkie Chickens are one of the most unusual chicken breeds available today. They are renowned for their fluffy plumage and uniquely black skin, as well as several other differentiating qualities including extra toes and blue earlobes.
The Silkie has the polydactyl gene which means that they have an extra toe on each foot, giving them a total of five as opposed to the usual four toes associated with chickens. The fifth toe extends to the back and is not unlike the dewclaw sometimes seen in dogs.
The most unique and interesting quality of the Silkie chicken is its atypical plumage that is more fluff than actual feathers. This gives them the appearance of having fur instead of feathers and they generally feel very soft and silky to the touch.
The origin of the Silkie chicken can be traced back to Asia and the early thirteenth century. It is now generally accepted that the Silkie originated in Eastern Asia where it was known to have existed in China some 1000 years ago. There was probably also some Japanese influence in the development of the breed particularly with regard to the soft feathers. During the sixteenth and seventeenth century the Silkie was brought to Europe and it reached the British Isles towards the middle of the nineteenth century. Here it was developed further using strains with stronger feathers but still having the silky and fluffy appearance.
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.
“The first specimens imported to the UK were from India in about 1850. They immediately won hearts with their perennial broodiness and unusual looks. They are cuddlier than most other hens, and so children get on well with them,” states Victoria Roberts, author of Poultry for Anyone.
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!
So, now that we know the general characteristics, let’s take a deeper dive into their temperament.
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 also easy to care for and good for families.
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.
The Buff Silkies will strut around your yard as little balls of ginger fluff and their sassy little personalities will be a delight to watch.
Although most of us just want to keep Silkies for their adorable looks and their quirky personalities, they do make fantastic broody birds for those that want to breed with them. So, let’s take a closer look at the breed standards that you will have to conform with when breeding these beautiful birds.
Silkies are unique and quirky in appearance and as a heritage breed, they have been accepted by the American Poultry Association as well as other show bodies as a recognized breed.
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.
The general standard of the Silkie breed notes the following as desirable show characteristics:
Silkie Chicken Breed Standard
Short, stout, compact and lively
The body is compact and rounded and lets down slightly between the legs. The breast is very full, well-rounded with good depth and width and carried forward but low. The back should be short and broad rising into the tail.
The wings should be well-rounded, short and small and carried nearly horizontal and tucked into the body. Both primary and secondary feathers should have a shredded-like appearance over the whole, or at least 50% of the feather.
The head is short, fairly rounded and small with a crest that is full and round and resembles a powder puff.
The comb should be small and oval – almost shaped like a walnut.
The beak should be lead-blue to dark grey.
The eyes should be round and dark brown to brilliant black.
Short and broad and almost round. In males, some tail feathers are allowed to hang towards the back. The underside of the tail should be predominantly fluffy and the tail feathers should have the characteristic shredded-look all over.
Short, broad and full
Legs and Feet
The legs are dark and short with the thighs wide apart, covered with very abundant silky fluff. The shanks should be fairly short, free from excessive scaliness and well feathered on the outer sides.
Silkies should have five toes, with the fourth and fifth separate, but emerging close to each other. If these two toes are fused where they emerge, they should, never-the-less, be recognisable as two toes by each having its own row of scales. The fifth toe should be longer than the fourth and should be horizontal or curving slightly upwards.
The outer and middle toes should have feathering on them as well.
This is one of the most defining characteristics and should be very silky and fluffy with a profusion of hair-like feathers all over the body.
Although all the color varieties of Silkies should adhere to the general breed standard, there are certain breed standard specifically related to the Buff Silkie. Let’s take a look at those now:
The plumage of a Buff Silkie should be golden-orange with either a dark or light undertone. Some white or blue underfeathers are permissible but any other color in the surface is to be a disqualification should the bird be shown in an official show, and the orange colour of the body cannot be mottled or splashed with white or blue.
A Buff Silkie’s earlobes should be a beautiful shade of bright turquoise blue and the wattles and comb should be black or a dark, mulberry shade - if it's red, it's not a pure-bred Silkie. The Buff in Silkies is difficult to breed and you may need to selectively breed your Buffs in order to get the very best colouring.
So, there you have it. Silkies are some of the most adorable little chickens you’ll ever come across. They are friendly, docile and stunning to look at – and they make the most fantastic family pets!
They also come in a variety of colors, with the Buff variety being especially cute and reminding us of little redheads running about the yard. If you don’t intend to breed with your Silkies, some variations in the Buff colour doesn’t really matter and the fact that Buff is difficult to breed won’t be a problem. However, it is always a good idea to have even just a basic understanding of these types of things, especially because Silkies are such good broodies and make such fantastic mothers.
We hope you learned something today and leave us a photo of your Buff Silkies in the comments – we can’t wait to see Butterscotch, Ginger, and Nutmeg!
No matter the chicken you choose for your backyard buddies, make sure that you've got the knowledge you need to raise a happy, healthy flock. Did you know 67% of chicken keepers surveyed experienced a chicken health or behaviour issue in the first 12 months that they didn’t know how to handle?
Eliminate the guesswork and stress by becoming informed. Learn how to prevent common illnesses in your Silkie chickens through this accessible online health course. I highly recommend it to all my Silkie parents, and they all tell me they wish they had done it sooner!
But don’t worry! Our feathered friends over at Chickenpedia have created a comprehensive online course that covers everything you need, including what to look for in an unhealthy chicken and how to support your hens to optimal health. All of their courses are really well structured and beginner-friendly, which is why I highly recommend them to all of my readers!
Click here to check out Chickenpedia today!
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