What is a Silkie chicken?
The Silkie is a breed of chicken named for its cute manner and fluffy plumage that feels like silk or satin. The breed has many unusual qualities like black skin and bones, blue earlobes, and five toes on each foot, whereas most chickens only have four.
Below: A silkie chicken.
Silkies are one of the oldest, most beautiful and unique breeds of bantam chickens. They were written about by Marco Polo in the 13th century, when he told of seeing "chickens with hair like cats that lay the best of eggs".
Silkie feathers are unique in the chicken world. They lack the barbicels that hold a normal feather together, so a Silkie feather resembles fluff or hair.
To varying degrees Silkies have a feathery crest on the head, and feathered legs and feet. Although a Silkie might have some hard feathering in the wings, tail and on the feet, the majority of their feathering is soft.
Below:A beautiful white Silkie hen checking me out.
Because of the nature of their feathering, Silkies do not fly and generally do not perch at night like other chickens. Silkies have very dark skin and bones, which makes them un-appetising as a dinner entree to most folks. Silkies also have beautiful turquoise blue ear lobes and 5 toes on their feet.
Silkies come in a rainbow of colours, including White (most common), Black, Grey, Blue, Buff, Red, Partridge, and Splash.
Silkies are generally sweet-tempered, even the roosters are usually respectful and non-aggressive towards humans. Silkie hens are wonderful and make a great choice for a child's first 4-H project.
A Silkie hen is never as happy as when she is sitting on a clutch of eggs, even if they're not her own!
How big is a silkie?
Silkies are available in two sizes, the large and bantam form.
The Silkie is a breed of fowl belonging to the general group of domesticated poultry with a 'fur' like plumage. In size it is small and as a result in the USA it is regarded as a bantam ie; a small fowl which is usually around 25% of the size of a standard type of fowl. In the UK it is classified as a normal large fowl, but the Silkie club also recognise a bantam.
Large: Male - 6-7 lbs .. Female - 5-6 lbs
Bantam: Male - 26-30 oz .. Female - 24-28 oz
The weights for the standard large fowl Silkie is 4lb for male and 3lb for the female. It is classified as a light breed soft feather. In the USA the weights are slightly lower being 36oz. for male and 32oz. for female but birds not fully matured will weigh less.
General Silkie characteristics:
Classification: Light Breed
Primary use: Eggs and pets
Egg production yearly: 100 to 160
Egg size: Small
Temperament: Friendly, Calm
Egg colour: Tinted to cream
Silkie colours: 5 standardised colours for showing but 12 available.
- All Silkies have five toes. This is known as POLYDACTYLY and is inherited through the genes.
- All Silkies have a crest of feathers and some Silkies are bearded with a clearly defined muff and beard but still including the crest.
- They have feathered legs and feet.
- Silkies should have blue earlobes and mulberry red comb and wattles.
- Most Silkies will go broody after laying approx dozen or two eggs. Silkie hens are legendary for their brooding and mothering instincts and stories abound of Silkie hens hatching and caring for other breeds of chickens, ducks, geese, guineas, and game fowl, as well as their own chicks.
- They are calm,sweet matured and settled chickens that rarely fight and make excellent pets.
Are silkies prone to some conditions?
For the most part Silkies are hardy birds that are rarely trouble by most common chicken conditions.
Dampness. The feathers wet easily and Silkies need to be keep dry.
Silkies are prone to Scaly leg mite. If kept in wet or muddy conditions the feathers become damaged - they get dirty and worn. Unless the legs receive regular attention they are subject to Scaly leg, a condition which results in the legs becoming quite disfigured and rough. Vaseline will usually do the job if reapplied regularly but other options are available.
How to care for Silkie feet.
Silkies are also prone to Mareks's disease. A fatal, sporadically occurring illness. Infected animals show symptoms of paralysis that often go hand in hand with a contraction of the toes, with legs stretching either forwards or backwards. Sometimes it may take a couple of weeks or so, but fowl with this disease tend to die as there is no remedy. It is best to prevent the disease through vaccination.
Most silkies cannot fly, this is due to the fact they have osprey wings (the feathers are ragged and are not full feathers. No hard webs) so there's usually no problem keeping them in an fenced area.
Read more about conditions that effect silkies - https://silkie.org/silkie-problems-and-diseases.html . and parasites - https://silkie.org/silkies-and-parasites.html . Opens in a new window.