Other name(s): Chinese Silkie Chicken; Bearded Silkie; Bantam Silkie; Standard Silkie; Silky Chicken
Scientific name: Gallus gallus domesticus
Country / Place of origin: Asia
History: The silkie chicken is a small, unique breed of poultry aptly named for its fluffy plumage that is said to feel like silk. Originating in Southeast Asia, most likely in China, sometime before the 1200s, the first written record of silkie chickens comes from Marco Polo, who wrote of chickens with fur-like feathers in the logs from his Asian travels in the 13th century. Silkies made their way West via the Silk Route and were officially accepted into the North American Standard of Perfection in 1874. Today, silkie chickens come in bearded and non-beaded varieties and can be seen in poultry shows and backyards across the United States.
Current Uses: Because of their friendly temperament and inability to fly many people choose to keep silkie chickens as family pets in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Silkies are also shown in exhibitions and used to raise other breeds of chicken and poultry because they are exceptionally broody. While they are not best known for their egg production, silkies are actually excellent layers of relatively large-sized bantam eggs, and unlike most other breeds, will continue laying eggs throughout the winter because their fluffy feathers keep them warm and content. To purchase silkies from a reputable breeder and get any of your chicken questions answered, contact Amber Waves.
Appearance: The most striking feature of the silkie chicken is its fluffy, silk-like plumage; however, the differences from other breeds of chickens don’t stop there. Silkies are also unique because of their dark blue flesh and bones, blue earlobes, and five (as opposed to four) toes on each foot. The American Bantam Association accepts six standard colors of Silkies for showing: black, blue, buff, white, partridge, splash and gray. However, there are also some non-standard, yet, popular colors. These popular non-standard colors are red, lavender, porcelain and cuckoo.
Average weight: 1.5 – 3.5 pounds
Lifespan: 9 years
Grooming: Silkies don’t require much grooming; however, they should be checked over every week for lice, mites, and changes in health. If lice are found, silkies require a dust bath, and it is best to treat the entire flock as opposed to only the bird the bugs were found on.
Diet: Feed silkies the same food as all breeds of hen and give them a layer complete food when they are of egg laying age to ensure they get all the nutrients they need for good egg production. Otherwise, silkie chickens need no special diet; they eat seeds, grains, vegetation, and bugs (which can provide excellent pest control). For optimum health, it is important to keep their feeding area and water clean.
Housing: To keep them safe from the elements and predators, silkie chickens need a coop much like other breeds of chickens. However, roosting posts should be kept lower to the ground in a silkie chicken coop since silkies can’t fly. Whether built at home or purchased premade, each silkie requires three feet of space. Nesting boxes, chicken feeders, and a watering station are also needed. Silkies should get plenty of outside time and exercise, so a small fenced in area should be provided for them.
Health issues: Despite their docile nature and inability to fly, silkies are quite hardy and resilient. Their feathers keep them relatively insulated, so they can thrive in cold as well as warm climates. However, mite and lice infestations can cause serious health issues including death, so silkies should be treated as soon as any bugs are found on them. Housing, feeding, and drinking areas should be kept as clean as possible to keep silkies healthy. Silkies can also suffer from diseases, so it is important to purchase birds from a reputable breeder with an NPIP certified flock. The National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) provides certification that poultry and poultry products destined for interstate and international shipments are disease free. In order to be a NPIP flock, requirements include Annual P-T Testing, AI Testing, Annual premises Inspection, and Annual Records Audit.
Behavior / Temperament / Activity level: Silkie chickens are the most friendly and docile of the chicken breeds making them excellent pets for anyone interested in chickens, even children. They are extremely broody and will “adopt” any poultry or other small animal that follow them around. Silkies can become quite affectionate to their owners, but frequent, gentle handling is required to get them used to people. Silkies need exercise just like everyone else, and if given the space, they will run around looking for things to eat.