Backyard chickens are growing in popularity. There are many ordinary chicken breeds but none is so refined as the Silkie chicken.
What is a Silkie Chicken? While there are many types of chickens, none is as gorgeous as the Silkie. Named after its luscious plumage that feels like silk, the Silkie chicken really stands out in a crowd. It has lofty feathers that stick out all over, including their heads. While you will get a good amount of eggs from a Silkie chicken, their calm demeanor make them an excellent backyard choice if you have children.
Silkie Chicken Origin and History
Silkie chickens probably hail from China and are sometimes called Chinese silk chickens. However, they might also have origins in Java and India.
At the height of travel via the Silk Road, Silkie chickens made their way to Europe where they quickly became popular. Once travel opened up to North America, these chickens then found yet another new home.
Nowadays, Silkie chickens are very popular thanks to their ornamental look. Backyard farmers will breed Silkie chickens and interestingly, they are sometimes used to hatch the eggs of other waterfowl, such as geese and ducks.
What are silkie chickens good for?
Silkie chickens are great for backyards. They are docile and not at all aggressive, making them a perfect backyard pet for your kids.
You can expect about 150 eggs a year from a Silkie chicken, although this will be a larger amount if you live in a warmer climate. Some Silkies will actually produce an egg a day.
One other benefit of Silkie chickens is that the hens love to sit on eggs. If you are trying to hatch other eggs, even from different bird species, Silkies are quite good at sitting and hatching them.
Silkie Chicken Characteristics
Size and Weight
Depending on where the Silkie chickens live, they can be classified under two weight categories. In North America, Silkie chickens are classified as a bantam breed, which means they are a smaller bird.
This bantam sized Silkie is actually a different breed than other European Silkies, which is why they are smaller, weighing 2.25 pounds for males and 2 pounds for females.
In Europe, Silkies are classified as standard-sized, although they are at the smaller end of this category. Males weigh 4 pounds and females weigh 3 pounds.
Silkie chickens have feathers that feel like silk. They are very fluffy and seem larger than they actually weigh.
Around their face, Silkie chickens have a large tuft of feathers on top of their head. They also have quite striking blue earlobes.
There are both bearded and non-bearded Silkies. Bearded versions will have extra Silkie feathering under their beaks.
What makes Silkie chickens have such distinct feathers is that these feathers don’t have barbicels. Barbicels are small hooks that connect the feathers. Without them, the feathers stick up.
Finally, an interesting characteristic of Silkie chickens is that they have extra toes. While most chickens have four toes on each foot, Silkies have an extra, short fifth toe.
In the chicken world, Silkies make for terrific backyard chickens. They have a very calm personality and are perfect if you have children.
Silkie chickens get along with other breeds of chickens or can stay in confinement. They are quite versatile.
The most common color for Silkie chickens is white. However, they can also be found with black, red, grey, and blue colorings. Silkie chickens can be a solid color or have a splash of colors against white feathers.
One of the defining characteristics of Silkie hens is that they love laying on eggs. What’s more, is that they are happy laying on other eggs that aren’t their own.
Silkie chickens are frequently used to lay on other bird’s eggs, such as geese, ducks, and quails.
Silkie chickens are a typical breed of chickens. They need a nice, clean coop, and plenty of fresh food and water.
Because of their unique feathers, you will need to pay attention to this aspect of upkeep. They have poor eyesight and their head feathers may need to be trimmed so that they don’t obstruct their vision further.
It’s best to keep your Silkie chickens in a dry area. Their feathers grow down their legs to their feet, and if these feathers get too muddy, the chickens will become too cold.
Unfortunately, the feathers of Silkie chickens are not waterproof. So, they need to be either raised in a climate that doesn’t get too wet, or have a large, dry area in their coop.
Finally, Silkie chickens are very docile. They won’t fight back if provoked, so if you raise them with other breeds of chickens, make sure they aren’t aggressive.
The lifespan of Silkie chickens is between 7 and 9 years.
Unlike common chickens, Silkie chickens have black meat, skin, and bones. For North American tastes, this can be a bit off-putting while Asian cuisine has really embraced the unusual color.
Despite the different color, Silkie meat tastes just like common chicken and can be used in a variety of recipes.
Common dishes for Silkie chicken include curry, soup, or confit. It pairs well with fresh ginger and orange peel.
Poultry Uses or Purpose
You can use Silkie chickens for both eggs and meat purposes, although most become backyard pets and therefore are primarily used for eggs.
Expect a Silkie chicken to lay about 3 eggs per week, or 150 eggs per year. If you live in a warmer climate, this number should be larger.
However, Silkie chickens lay smaller than average eggs because they are a smaller chicken. Therefore while their egg laying is reliable, there isn’t an overabundance of it.
Silkie chicken meat is considered a delicacy in many parts of the world, so there is a market for it. Their skin, meat, and bones are black which is quite unusual.
Despite this rare color, Silkie chicken meat tastes like regular meat and can be used in all manner of recipes.
Poultry Breed Standard
Do to their unique appearance, Silkie chickens are often used in shows.
For color, Silkie chickens should be either black or white, although different colors may be allowed depending on your specific region.
For defining characteristics, Silkie chickens should have a crest and a beard. For legs and feet, make sure they are a dark blue or black color, and there should be an extra toe on each foot.
The most important breed standard for Silkie chickens is their feathers. They should be extremely fluffy and none of the feathers should be hard.
The fluffy feathers should extend all the way down to their feet.
Do silkie chickens lay edible eggs?
|Egg color||light cream color|
|Egg size||small in size|
|Egg quality||deep yellow yokes and smaller whites|
|Egg yearly production||150 to 200 eggs per year|
Requirements of Raising Silkie Chickens
While most backyard chickens eat pellets, these may be too large for Silkie chickens as they are a smaller breed. Instead, use layer crumbles and feed your chickens daily.
Silkies also like grated carrot and apple mixed with bran and meat mill. If you have vegetable or bread scraps, these make for a tasty treat.
There should be space for fresh water that is replenished daily.
Silkie chickens are a bit delicate. Their fluffy feathers that extend down their legs mean that they can become muddy and therefore cold quite quickly.
While Silkies are good at keeping themselves clean, too much mud can prove to be fatal, especially if it is cold and wet outside.
Therefore, be sure to house your Silkies in a dry area and clean out any mud if the weather turns too wet.
For the coop, standard 12-inch nesting boxes and plenty of straw will do.
Like all backyard chickens, make sure your chicken pen is safe from predators. Fine wire mesh should be used so that even small rodents aren’t able to get in.
The floor should either be made from a solid material or have wire mesh buried under the dirt so that predators can’t burrow underneath.
The roof of your coop should be covered as owls and hawks are predators that may try to swoop in for your Silkies.
How much are Silkie chickens worth?
Silkie chickens range in price from $20 to $130. Younger birds will cost less and many people decide to purchase Silkie eggs to minimize the cost.
If you’re new to the world of Silkie chickens, always go with a recognized breeder to ensure you get the best quality for your money.
Is the Silkie Chicken Right For You?
Silkie chickens make excellent backyard pets. They are friendly and docile and perfect if you have children that can’t wait to hold them.
While Silkie chickens do lay eggs, they are small and don’t always produce a lot, so you may have to sacrifice in this area.
If you’re looking for a showstopper of a chicken and want to impress your neighbors, then Silkie chickens and their unusual fluffy feathers will surely be the talk around town.
Silkie chickens are an excellent addition to any backyard. They are fun, flamboyant, and a welcome addition to any family.