If you’re looking for a total overview of the glorious Silkie chicken, you’ve come to the right place! Known for their unique appearance and matching personalities, Silkie chickens are finally being recognized as the perfect pets and I’m sure you’ll agree by the end of this article!
I and my poultry peeps collectively have more than 30 years’ experience with these fantastic little birds and can truly consider ourselves Silkie Chicken Experts! So, get ready to find out all you need to know about Silkies? What makes them one of the most popular backyard chicken breeds around?
These undeniably adorable chooks are like no other. Their characteristically fluffy plumage feels like silk – hence the name- and their feathers set them apart from other chicken breeds. Keep reading to find out more about these extraordinary chickens, from appearance to care tips to egg-laying abilities and beyond!
Silkies are quirky little chooks, which is what makes them appealing pets for many. They really do look vastly different from your regular chickens due to several oddities like stunning fluffy feathers.
Regular feathers contain individual hairs with little hook-like appendages called barbicels. The barbicels hold all the individual hairs together in a smooth and tidy feather shape. Regular chicken preens their feathers for smoothing the barbicels to make sure their plumage lies nice, flat, and tidy. Silkies have feathers like other chickens, but their feathers lack barbicels. Which leaves the individual hairs of their feathers to grow in a fluffy and untidy fashion. It 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!
All the breed variants will have black skin, an extra toe on each foot, brilliant black eyes, a rounded crest like a powder puff, a rounded tail, and wings. And the characteristically fluffy plumage on the body, down the legs, and on the toes.
Silkies are fairly small chickens and are 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.
There are eight color varieties that the American Poultry Association accepts, namely black, blue, buff, gray, partridge, splash, and white. Although other color varieties exist and you’re free to keep them and cross-breed them for interesting colors. The color of the bird does not influence the eggs they lay so keep reading to find out about all Silkie eggs!
If you are interested in finding out about non-standard colors and breeding silkies for color, check out our color chart article!
The black Silkie is one color variation of the beautiful Silkie that is accepted by the American Poultry Association as well as other show holding bodies.
The black Silkie hen and rooster are both characterized by their fluffy black feathers that should have a green sheen. The face, comb, and wattles should all be dark mulberry approaching black.
Although all the color varieties of Silkies should adhere to the general breed standard, there are certain breed standards specifically related to the white Silkie. Let’s take a look at those now:
The plumage of a white Silkie should be snow-white with a lustrous sheen. Light yellow sheen is permissible but any other color on the surface is to be a disqualification should the bird be shown in an official show.
A white Silkie’s feathers should also be a crisp and brilliant white and have no brassiness and no discernible yellow or orange streaks or marks. 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 white in Silkies is recessive and easily lost and corrupted with incorrect breeding selection. White silkie chicks will have yellow fluff when they hatch due to an absence of melanism in the feathers.
You will be hard-pressed to find a more docile and friendly chicken companion than the Silkie. They are 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.
Silkies make for great pets because of their glowing personalities.
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.
While Silkies are by nature sweet and docile little darlings, they are still quite hardy and resilient breed! Their pretty plumage keeps them relatively insulated, so they can thrive in both cold and warm climates.
For those who 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!
Like any other pet, your Silkie chicken will require some care and maintenance from you 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.
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 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 don’t have special feeding requirements, but it may be a good idea to buy their feed in the crumbled 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. To find out more about feeding Silkies from chicks to old hens, read our article with top tips including an extensive list of their favorite treats!
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 a shelter. The coop should be airy without being drafty and should offer superior protection from the rain. As wet Silkies can easily chill and die and we don’t want you to lose one of your special pets.
Find out more specifics regarding space requirements for the number of Silkies you could comfortably fit in your coop here!
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!
Our silkie ladies lay small eggs that are white in color (something off-white/cream). On average, their eggs are 1.5oz (42g). So you might want a few hens laying to have enough for an omelet!
Silkies are a popular choice for a backyard flock as they make highly fashionable pets. But unfortunately, they are notoriously poor layers! Your Silkie girls will provide you with approximately 100 – 120 eggs per year. Also, they start laying later than other chickens. And some hens might keep you waiting for almost a year before they provide you with a single egg!
Once started, our silkies will generally lay consistently for around two years. One day you may notice a slight decline in egg production – it’s not as sudden as you may think. It is common for a 5-year-old hen’s production to be 50% less than in its glory days. And that continues to decrease until you have an eight-year-old who lays maybe once a blue moon.
Although their eggs are small in size and not as frequent as other hens, they are still nutritious with high vitamin levels, calcium, zinc, and more. Both delicious and healthy, these eggs reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke with other additional benefits!