Is it a chicken or is it a rabbit? A question asked by more than one curious person while staring at a Silkie and trying to figure out where the head is.
Silkie chickens certainly don’t look like your average chicken due to their lack of feathers. Well, Silkies do have feathers, but they don’t have the barbicels that hold most feathers together. When a bird preens, it is clicking the tiny barbicels together, so their feathers stay in place and look neat and orderly.
Since Silkies don’t have barbicels, their feathers fly freely everywhere with no rhyme or reason.
About Silkie Chickens
There is no specific documentation of the origin nor the breeds that went into creating Silkie Chickens. These birds seem to have originated in China.
Silkies were accepted into the American Standard of Perfection as of 1874.
There are two types of Silkies, bearded and nonbearded Silkies. Bearded Silkies have a muff around their faces. There are several different color varieties in Silkies, such as black, blue, buff, grey, partridge, and white.
1. Size and Weight
While Silkie chickens are technically categorized as bantams, many people consider Silkies a different class of bird altogether. These are rather petite birds, with hens weighing about 3 pounds and roosters approximately 4 pounds.
Silkies are probably best known for their affectionate and gentle dispositions. Always ready to cuddle up with their owners and happy to sit in your lap, you won’t find a much sweeter breed of chicken.
Silkie hens are also famous for their constant desire to go broody and raise a batch of chicks. Many chicken breeders keep a small flock of Silkies purely to use them for their mothering tendencies.
3. Egg Production
If you are after a breed for egg production, Silkies probably aren’t your bird. Silkies average about 100 small and light colored eggs per year.
The primary purposes of Silkies are as pets, brood mothers, and exhibition.
4. Meat Production
Silkies are small birds, so they definitely don’t make the best meat producers. However, if you are after some exotic looking meat, it doesn’t get more exotic than a Silkie.
These chickens have black skin and bluish tinged flesh, so they are startling in appearance on your dinner table.
Despite their odd color, Silkie meat doesn’t taste any different than regular chicken meat.
Taking Care of Silkies
1. Feeding and Nutritional Needs
Silkies are rather small birds, and it is best to feed them crumbles rather than pellets so they do not have a hard time eating and digesting food.
When raising chicks, feed them chick starter/grower for the first 16-18 weeks of their life.
Once your birds are nearing laying age, switch them to a good quality laying crumble feed. Provide supplemental calcium, such as oyster shells in a separate dish so your hens can eat it as needed.
2. Housing and Fencing
Because Silkies are small and lack feathers that lay neatly on their body, they can have a hard time staying warm and dry. You will need a draft-free, but well-ventilated coop where your Silkies can seek refuge from the weather.
Inside the coop, provide 2-3 square feet per bird, and 7-8 square feet per bird in the chicken run.
You can also consider Silkies as house pets; these fluffy little birds are gaining popularity as a good house pet.
3. Health Issues and Care
Silkies can be prone to a few different health issues, including scaly leg mites and Marek’s disease. Scaly leg mites are a parasite that are especially attracted to feather legged chickens.
Keeping a clean coop and making sure your birds have good dust bathing areas will help prevent this.
Marek’s disease is caused by the herpes virus and transfers from bird to bird because it is viral. There is no cure for it, so it is best to be proactive and prevent the disease. Don’t crowd your birds, keep living conditions as sanitary as possible, quarantine new arrivals, and some even vaccinate their chicks against the disease.
Breeding Silkies is a fun and rewarding process, and often you’ll have built-in incubators with broody hens.
There is a high demand for Silkies, so you should have no problem selling extra adults, chicks, or hatching eggs. With several different color variations out there, you can pick one that you enjoy and have fun with it!
You won’t find another breed quite like a Silkie, but Sultans do share some characteristics. Sultans are white birds with feathered legs and an exciting top knot on their head. Unlike Silkies, Sultans don’t have an incredible tendency to go broody, but you will find these birds fun and charming to raise nonetheless.
2. Cochin Bantams
Cochins Bantams do not have the silky feathers; however, they are very similar to Silkies in personality. With a strong tendency to go broody and very affectionate towards their caretakers, these little birds are a joy to have around the yard.
Showgirls are half Silkie and are a cross of Turken Naked Necks and Silkies. You will find Showgirls to be remarkably similar to Silkies, and just as fun to have around.
Fun Facts About Silkies
Unlike most breeds of chickens who have four toes, Silkies have five! There were also many myths spun about these charming birds, including one told by Dutch breeders, claiming they were the offspring of a rabbit crossed with a chicken.
Although sometimes Silkies can require a little extra care, they are 100% worth it with their adorable feathers and sweet dispositions.