Silkie Chicken: All You Need To Know

The Silkie Chicken All You Need To Know Blog Cover

Silkies, they have been called fluff-balls, aliens from another world, teddy bears and many other things in between.

Without a doubt they certainly are unusual looking chickens!

Their strange appearance, friendliness and mothering skills are surely what endears them to many folks.

Today we are going to discover the history behind this unusual breed of chicken.

We will discuss it’s egg laying capabilities and temperament before looking at how to identify a true Silkie and check if it is a good fit for your flock.

Background

There is no doubt that the Silkie is a very old breed, probably of Chinese origin. It is believed by some that the Silkie dates back as far as the Chinese Han Dynasty, in 206BC.

Silkie Chicken

The Chinese name for the Silkie is wu-gu-ji – meaning black-boned. An alternative name for this bird is the Chinese Silk Chicken. The evidence points quite strongly to Chinese origin, but it cannot be stated with complete certainty.

It was first mentioned by Marco Polo (around 1290-1300) on his remarkable journey across Europe and the Far East. Although he did not see the bird, it was reported to him by a fellow traveler and he reported it in his journal as “a furry chicken”.

The Silkie made its way westward either by the Silk Road or by the maritime routes, likely both.

The ancient Silk Road stretched from China to modern day Iraq. Numerous secondary routes crossed over into Europe and the Balkan states.

The next mention we have is from Italy where Aldrovandi in 1598 speaks of a chicken that has “fur like a black cat”.

When the Silkie was first introduced to the European public it was said to be the offspring of a chicken and a rabbit – a not so unbelievable thing back in the 1800s! Many unscrupulous sellers sold Silkies to gullible folks for curiosity and it was used as a ‘freak show’ item in travelling side shows and exhibited as a ‘bird-mammal’.

splash silkie Purchase Silkie Chickens

Appearance of Silkies

Silkie Chicken RoamingSilkies are most certainly different in many ways to a ‘regular’ chicken appearance!

The head should be crested, looking somewhat like a ‘pom-pom’ (similar to a polish chicken). If a comb is present, it should look like a ‘walnut’, being almost circular in appearance. The comb coloring should be black or dark mulberry – any other color and it is not a pure Silkie.

They have oval shaped turquoise blue earlobes and dark colored wattles. Their beak is short, quite broad at the base, it should be grey/blue in color. Eyes are black.

As for their body, it should be broad and stout, the back is short and the breast is full. They have five toes instead of the usual four found in chickens. The outer two toes should be feathered. The legs are short and wide set, grey in color.

Their feathers lack barbicels (those are the hooks that hold the feathers together), hence the fluffy appearance. The main feathering looks just like the under-down of regular chickens.

The fact that the feathers do not hold together means a Silkie cannot fly. It also means that the feathering is not waterproofed and so a wet Silkie is a pathetic sight to see. If they do get significantly wet, they need to be towel dried or even blow dried – which they enjoy if it is done on a regular basis.

Underneath all that fluff, the Silkie has black skin and bones. Sadly, this makes them a food delicacy in parts of the Far East.

The meat is also used in Chinese medicine since it contains twice as much carnitine than other chicken meat – carnitine has anti-aging properties (so it is said).

Breed Standard

The Silkie was accepted into the British Poultry Standard of Perfection in 1865 and the American Poultry Association standard in 1874.

The Australian Poultry Standard accepted Silkies in 1998 (bantams only).

Interestingly, all Silkies in the US and Canada are considered to be bantam regardless of size. Every other country in the world recognizes both bantam and large fowl types.

In the UK, large fowl Silkies should weigh around 4lb (64oz) for the male and 3lb (48oz) for the females and bantams should weigh around 600g (21oz) for males and 500g (18oz) for females.

Accepted colors are: blue, black, white, grey, buff, splash and partridge. There are several other colors available such as lavender, cuckoo and red, but they are not yet accepted in the APA.

partridge silkie
Partridge Silkie – By Steven Walling

 

black silkie
Black Silkie – By Derek Harper

 

splash silkie
A Beautiful Splash Silkie

 

Egg Laying and Temperament

Young Silkie Chicken

Silkies are poor performers in the egg laying department. If you get 120 eggs in a year you are doing well. This equates to about 3 eggs each week.

The eggs are cream to tinted in color, and are small to medium in size.

They do start laying earlier in the year than most hens, starting up once the days begin to get longer – occasionally late December but more often early January time.

As for their temperament, silkies are known to be calm, friendly and docile – even the boys. It has been recorded by several people that the roosters will ‘tid-bit’ for the chicks!

This docility can lead to them being picked on by other more ‘pushy’ flock members. They do best when put with others of a similar nature such as the Polish hen.

Despite their fluffy feathering they do tolerate the cold fairly well – wetness is something they cannot tolerate. If your climate is very cold in the winter, they would benefit from a little supplemental heat.

They are content to be confined, but if allowed to free range are great little foragers. The area in which they forage should be a ‘safe zone’ since they cannot fly to escape predators.

Silkies are more renowned as being pets, brooders and ‘ornamental’ birds.

Silkies are notoriously difficult to sex until around six months old. A breeder can certainly give you their best guess in sexing, but it’s not certain until the bird crows (or not)!

Health Issues

Apparently Silkies can be quite susceptible to Marek’s disease. Many breeders have bred their stock for natural immunity, but of course you can get your birds vaccinated.

With Silkies being very fluffy they can be a target for mites and lice, so due diligence should be paid to these little fluff balls. You may also need to trim the feathers around the eyes to help them see a little better.

Occasionally, the fluff at the rear end does need trimming for hygiene and breeding purposes.

Other than this, Silkies are quite robust and will usually live for 7-9 years, longer with lots of TLC!

Is the Silkie Right For You?

A Silkie is the ultimate in kids’ chickens. They are cuddly, fluffy and tolerant, love sitting in your lap and even enjoy cuddles.

They are a very friendly, calm and docile bird and interact very well with people – they will follow you around and ‘talk’ to you. This docility can lead to them being picked on by more aggressive flock members, so try to keep an eye open for bullying.

Silkies are notoriously broody – the standing joke is that a Silkie can hatch a rock! They also make great mothers.

Many folks keep Silkies in order to hatch out other eggs. A Silkie in ‘broody mode’ will usually accept any and all eggs (including duck) placed under her.

If you live in an apartment and want to have chickens as pets, the Silkies are a very good fit since they are pretty quiet too.

However, if you live in an area that is inclined to be wet and muddy, be aware that those conditions do not really agree with Silkies because of their feathering, but if you absolutely must have them you will need to keep them clean and dry.

Summary

The Silkie chicken always brings a smile to peoples’ faces. This ‘odd-ball’ and slightly unusual bird is certainly a crowd pleaser!

Although they won’t keep you in eggs, they will supply you will lots of love, smiles and cuddles. When they become bonded to their owners they can be described as ‘dog-like’ in their devotion.

They will follow you, talk to you, check out what you are doing and ‘help’ too!

They are certainly a great bird to have around if you have eggs you want to hatch, but don’t want to fiddle around with an incubator. Read how to hatch eggs with a broody hen for more on that.

All in all, these funny little birds are a joy to have and give much pleasure to their owners.

If you have Silkies we would love to hear from you. Leave your comments in the section below…

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Comments

  1. Mary says

    I’ve had Silkies for several years. They are broody and wonderful mothers. I did not know about drying them if they get wet. Thank you for that information.

    • Eclipse says

      Do you know anything about a high-pitched drumming coo? My new baby silkie has started making this odd noise and I’m worried as to what it might mean. She’s my first silkie and I’m scared to lose her if this is fatal.

    • CJ Morris says

      I got some bantam chicks for fun this Spring when I was picking out new chicks….there were 4 little ones with feathered feet, so I got them. 2 of them were teeny tiny, and one is now old enough to know for sure it’s a white silkie! I’m so excited! I never had a silkie, so
      I appreciate the info- I can’t wait to see if it crows!

  2. Linda Riley says

    I have 4 of the little sweeties. They are so much fun. It turns out that we have 1 fella, because he has began to sing (almost) sounds like sore throat. They love to chase grasshoppers, funny to watch.

  3. Valerie Ann Butterley says

    Unexpectedly hatched two stunning partridge Silkies and a HUGE black hybrid with the most enormous feet.
    They came with a batch of mixed Pekin eggs, so were not expected. Everybody, (grandchildren) has begged me not to get rid of them, the two Silkies I had a few years ago died of cold, and I said never again, just have to take them into the warm when the weather turns verycold!!

    • Alexandra says

      When you say your silkies died of cold could you give me further information on this. How cold – what was the temperature. I am in Scotland and have just purchased my first Silkies and would like to be prepared. Thank you!

      • The Happy Chicken Coop says

        Important thing to remember is the difference in feathers on the Silkies and their inability to dry off like other chickens. Keep them dry.

  4. Gill Walker says

    Love your site and read most blogs. I have a question. We have just lost a silky cross, she was only about a year old and we just found her dead today. She was happy and well yesterday and she was a lovely friendly girl.
    Can you tell me if this is unusual or give me any idea what could have caused it.
    Thanks Gill Walker an avid reader

  5. Whitney Ball says

    I have three white Silkies, they are such a joy. They do talk to me, one quite loudly when she wants a a treat or spots a chipmunk… I keep reading everywhere not to let them be wet or cold. Mine want to play in the rain, it drives me crazy with worry after all of the scary stories. They have shelter but they choose to go out in the run to dig for bugs when its wet. they come in absolutely filthy, then sit in their dry warm coop cleaning and fluffing their feathers. I go touch them to make sure their bodies are warm enough and they seem fine. (fingers crossed)

  6. Sir Romy says

    I started taking care of Chinese Silkies since 2016 and I find my quadro set good egg layers. They can easily fill up my egg trays in less than a week. I just love them being all so soft, fluffy and docile. ?

  7. Pamela Reeves says

    I just got my first silkies and hoping I’m taking care of them right…they have a nice run but it does leak every now and then when we get a lot of rain…they have heat lamps and plenty of shavings…any advice would be greatly appreciated

    • Macie Mcgahan says

      I highly suggest reading The Joy Of Keeping Chickens. It is very useful and says about meat and egg production, feeding, housing, and flock diseases.

    • Lorna says

      They like grass you could put some in their cage when your around then always talk soft And slow they like a mellow invirirment talk to them a lot let them hear your voice sometimes when they will eat out of your hand if they fell safe and maybe sit on your lap but you have to make them feel safe first. Good luck

  8. Mkm says

    I recently learned that silkies prefer to sleep on the floor or ground, rather than roosting. Something to keep in mind when designing their space. I had one who kept sleeping right under the roost, and other chickens kept pooping on her!

  9. Jenice Hadnagy says

    I have a little silkie she is black and her name is onyx. She is the sweetest thing in the world. She lives inside the house, we keep a diaper on her. She follows me all over the house, she knows her name and comes when I call her. She’s such a joy. But about 5 months agoi noticed she couldn’t see very well. I always keep her feathers trimmed around her eyes, so I knew it wasn’t that. I took her to the vet and she is blind. It hurts my heart because she’s not the same, she doesn’t explore or follow me like she used to. She’s healthy but she seems sad. Anyway that’s my story about my little baby. They are the best pets

    • Deborah LARICCIA BROWN says

      It’s so sad for ur sweet Onyx. I hope things have worked out for you, she sounds so sweet.

    • Lorna says

      What a sweet story if she’s sad now it’s time for you to go to her , you can sit on the floor and hold her that would give her comfort and talk to her let her eat out of your hand ,shell be ok if she can hear your voice I’m so glad to hear she means so much to you . Maybe get her a baby silkie as a friend a baby would sit right by her .

  10. Rob says

    I found a young black silkie in a super market parking lot today. I’ve never had chickens before but I’m going to keep him. He’s looking a little ratty, what can I do to clean him up a bit? Thank.

  11. Ida spinder says

    I have 2 beautiful silkies but I can never be able to hold them especially the male. They come close to me and follow me around but no touching. What shall I do
    Thank you very much
    Ida

  12. Sandford says

    Are these chickens able to stand the weather condition in Southern Africa?
    If yes, how can we get them or the eggs?

    • Jennifer Kirkwood says

      I had a Silkie for many years in Paarl, Western Cape, RSA. Gets very hot in the summer there. She didn’t seem to mind the winters much either but did have a shelter to retire to if needed and plenty of shrubs in the garden to hide under if it poured. Loved pottering around eating spiders and bugs. Got on well with a muscovie duck, rabbits, guinea pigs and homing pigeons.

  13. Leslie Webb says

    I have 3 silkie hens that I love. They are not great egg layers, but they are adorable. We have a 6×8 house with shavings on the floor, and a 2×3 raised nesting house inside. They love to go up the ladder and snuggle in here for the night. This is also where they lay their eggs. We have a little electric heater and thermostat that keeps the temperature at 0 so they are very comfortable.

  14. RT says

    I got 4 young silkies couple days old. Now they’re around 6 months. 1 Had a cross Peak and Died. One obviously was a rooster crowing and attack my wife. We sent him off to a happy 4-H family. Since then the other two that had been very quiet are now crowing. Does that mean that they’re boys. Is there any way to tell?

  15. Rebecca says

    Last month I lost the biggest little silkie rooster Ernie. He gave his life defending his two big hens. Lost to the neighbor dog. He was 3 months short of 10 years old. The hens were so sad I got them a 5 month old silkie rooster to keep them company. Everyone is now doing better. I love silkies. They are great roosters with standard size hens.

    • Lorna says

      Wow 10 yrs. old didn’t know they lived that long , what a sweet story, bless his heart . I’ve had them before they are much more personable than reg. Chickens , I really love them .

  16. Natasha says

    Hi I’m thinking of getting Silkies, I would ideally just like one hen, would this be ok?
    I could possibly get two if this isn’t.
    I have quite a large shed I can convert and keep them in during winter (I live in the UK) but would also would like to keep them in the house.

  17. Judy Pinkman says

    I have 2 silkies, Sally is a beautiful little buff, and Sissy, a little white snowball. They are so sweet and are house chickens.

  18. Melanie says

    I just bought 2 little silkie chicks. Thet are absolutely adorable. I look forward to bonding with them and cuddling these little sweeties. Thanks for all of your tips.

  19. Debbie A. says

    I would love to get several silkies but a friend said they’re high maintenance and get poop all in their feathers. How do I prevent this? Do I build a coop with some kind of raised floor? I was planning on building a pallet coop. I’m concerned about them getting wet too.

  20. Gabby says

    hi my Plymouth Rock jest died yesterday March 4 2018.i was so upset that my dad said i could get some more chicks and i want a silkie bantam! but my question is how many eggs do they lay a week? some say they lay okay some say there getting like 5 eggs a week! what i need is the truth i’m getting the chicks this week so i need an answer soon! thank you

  21. Elizabeth says

    Hello I asking the same question about? which color of the s Slkies are the best layers in eggs, The Blue , white , gray ??

  22. Zara says

    I just got my silkie yesterday and it already loves me.
    Everything you said is true.
    I also have a silkie rooster and I would like to tame it. Do you have any ideas on how I can do it? I am a 9 year old girl who is tough enough to handle a rooster.

  23. Eileen says

    My 2 silkie hens have been laying since

    dec 2018 I get an egg a day some times one will lay every day then rest for a day. Mine are good layers

  24. Lynn says

    Hello, My school is considering getting chickens next year and I was wondering how sensible it would be to get a silkie. They seem like such adorable and friendly chickens but they would mostly be with elementary schoolers. just wanted to know how they acted around small children and if this would be a safe choice. Thank you!

  25. Rebecca Bieck says

    Can someone settle a good natured “argument”? Do we need a rooster for our chickens to lay?

    We’re just got our first batch of silkies today and we already love them! They are ridiculously adorable and have already proven to be friendly, mellow chicks. More to come as our run new journey continues!

  26. nirbhay says

    Hello , I also have a pair of silkie among the breeds of chicken in my small farm. But i am worried about them as the female is still not laying eggs although they are already a year old and the female is not showing quite usual behavior which is making me a lot worried . so, can i get some suggestions , please ?

  27. Tonya says

    Hello. How can we really tell if our silkie has laid a fertilized egg? She will occasionally sit on the egg for an hour or 2 each day but that is it. Don’t they need to sit on the eggs a little longer than that in order for them to be viable?

  28. Terra says

    Hello, i got my two silkies april of this year. They are both about 18 weeks old now. One is definitely a rooster..he started to crow about a week ago. Little pathetic crows that i look forward to every morning! And since the other hasnt crowed and the comb isnt anything near the roosters comb, im pretty sure shes a..she. Now im just wondering should she start laying soon? And also…theres a pretty good chance they are siblings. Is this an issue to have them together? I don’t have other chickens just these two.

  29. Robbie Hughes says

    We have been raising Silkies for quite a few yesrs.we have several color variaties.The silkie is a joy to have around.They are little fuzz balls We wouldn’t take nothing for oour silkies.Try them out.

  30. Gail Sprangers says

    I had gotten two silkies. I have a mixed flock of larger chicken and two polish. I was hoping if I had two silkies they would hang out together. Sadly, one was a roo and I can’t keep roos where I live, so gave him away. The silkie bonded with a salmon favorelle I got around the same time. I haven’t introduced them to the rest of the flock yet. They are about 10 weeks old. Still too young. Am worried the silkie, being so small by herself might be at too much risk. She loves to sit in my lap and have long talks😊. Do you recommend that I keep the salmon favorelle and the silkie seperate altogether or when they’re bigger try introducing them. Should I get a couple more silkies so she isn’t the only small bird?

  31. Jayne says

    The thing about not getting wet is greatly overblown. I’ve had silkies for 9 years and currently have a dozen. We live in a wet climate and it’s as likely to rain as to snow in January. The girls have a warm dry coop and a partially covered yard but range outdoors as much as they like . They are frequently soaked but it has never been an issue. I’ve only lost 2 silkies in 9 years and neither had to do with the weather. They are lovely pets and good egg layers if not broody. Mine lay much of the winter. However they are broody half the summer.

  32. Paul says

    Hi,
    I have a question, although, I suspect I already know the answer.
    Among my young White Silkies, (five months old, now) i have one rooster that is Silkie in every aspect, except one. I believe he may be a hybrid. He has the conformation of a Silkie, i.e. black skin, turquoise earlobes, five toes, beautiful silky feathers, and, is of the bearded variety. However; here comes the part that makes me question his purity; his comb, although black, is single. Kind of like that of a Cochin bantam.
    He is a beautiful bird and one of the sweetest tempered of my “White tribe”. I, also, have a “Buff tribe” and Black and Blue Australorps. He is one of two that need a time out with me every day, flying onto my lap to be petted and take a nap. I would like to keep my Silkies within the correct conformation standards, and, I would guess that I should keep him off a breeding program.
    Can someone confirm my suspicions? Any help will be greatly appreciated. I don’t want to outsource him just because of this.
    Thanks

    • HappyChicken says

      Silkies can have one comb however not as favored in breeding so if you want to reduce the chances of creating another I would keep it from the breeding program.

      Claire

  33. Shelise says

    I have a black silkie rooster. He was supposed to be a hen and then one day started crowing. He is not calm or docile, he is on the aggressive side and my kids are afraid of him as he has gone after them and myself. Can anything be done?

  34. Cecilie says

    I have white silkies.
    Years ago my first silkie was an adoption. He was a bright white, bright rooster. Already mature, he quickly became buddies with Rufus my very large standard boy.
    I noticed they got along very well every day.
    One evening arriving home in my truck, I noticed a goshawk standing in the middle of our long drive near the coop. It looked strange just standing there. To my horror I noticed white feathers floating around his feet. I only had one white chicken and quickly got the hawk shooed away and ran to the chicken yard & coop. There he was. Motionless laying just outside the safety of the run. Oh my, how the feathers flew in the breeze! I gently picked him up while looking for his injuries. Not a speck of blood was present! He actually came back to an obviously live state. We returned to the coop with me in amazement!
    No one saw the attack. This is my best guess as ti how it went down…
    The hawk cased the joint, alerted the roosters in some way, and began his killer dive for the most visible chicken.
    My little fluff ball got picked up by his feathers falling from the hawk’s clutches and landed stunned where I found him.
    The hawk was equally stunned, possibly hitting the chicken house as he juggled about trying to get a talon on something besides feathers!
    After this, I began paying more attention to the chicken yard.
    Whenever an alarm was raised, the big rooster went out to herd the girls into their coop. Silkie would stand guard at the door flap encouraging them loudly to get under cover. I saw this several times and was amazed how the two roosters worked in tandem like tagging wrestlers. Sometimes Silkie would do the round up, but whatever the situation, they worked together.
    Never saw another goshawk on my 50 acres again!

    • HappyChicken says

      Wow what an amazing story. Chickens are very smart and I’m glad to hear the roosters are taking charge.

      Claire

    • TheFluffinator says

      I love how your roosters work as a team! I had a possible bird of prey near the coop once, but all the girls hid and only one was missing, but she was ok, just outside the coop camouflaged against a white sack. Hasn’t happened again since. I’m hopefully getting a rooster soon.

  35. Tammy says

    You helped me decide on silkie,this past weekend I went lawn sales this women is shredder she was selling some dollies I wanted them but I wanted more information about them,I have muscovy and call ducks there my babies they sound they will get along so I’m happy I read up on them heard about them on this site thank you I will check in with you when I get them

  36. Kathy Slates says

    I have had chickens fro about 10 years now and have always wanted some silkies to add to the flock. I ordered some over this past winter. I ordered 2 white, 1 black and 1 buff alone with 2 frizzles. I was so excited when we received them in July. The babies were just too cute. They ate well and got bigger. when they were 2 months old I introduced them to my other chickens. I kept them in a different cage so the bigger birds that I already had can see them and get used to them with out hurting the 2 month olds. After a week of doing that I let them all be together. (This is how I have done it in the past many times and all were smoothly transitioned) They all seemed fine for a few weeks. All were fine one day then the next our buff was dead. There was no signs of any one picking on her so I was confused. Then a few days later my son said our black one would not stand up, but later was ok. The next day I went to make sure the black one was ok and she was, but one of the white ones was laying out in our run out area of our coop. I thought she was dead, but she was moving. I scooped her up and made a bin with shaving in it for her to be separate in. I took the other black silkie, white silkie and 2 frizzles out and put them in another area separated from the others. They all looked fine and were running all over. Then the one white silkie when in the corner and laid down. The others huddled around her. I left for a few hours and came back to the white one not moving much. What is going on with the silkies?? I had some electrolytes and picked up the white one that was ok a few hours ago and was not moving much. I tried to give her the electrolytes but she died in my hands. The other white on that I found in the coop on the ground was still alive and i tried the same, but later that day she died. My daughter went to a sleepover at a friends house and told me not to bury her silkie if it dies. That she wanted to bury her. Since the silkies body was cold the next day my daughter noticed black bugs all over her white feathers. I looked this up online and saw that they were mites. I purchased a bag of diatomaceous earth and dusted all the flock with it. I sprayed a mixture of oil, water soap in the coop and on the roosts. I cleaned out the old bedding. I change it on a weekly basis anyways. It this what could have caused the 3 chicks to die? Could it have been anemia or something from the mites that caused their deaths? I called the business that I purchased the chicks from to see if they had other issues like mine and she was asking me what food that I feed them as they were underweight. I was feeding them the same as my older bird which is an egg layer crumble. In the past with other younger birds when they were 2 months old being introduced into the coop I switched their feed from the chic start to what the other chickens were eating and all always was fine. The rep said that the egg layer has too much calcium and can cause kidney failure. She said to keep both types of feed in the coop.I got some regular chicken feed with out being an egg layer product. Is egg layer feed a poison to 2- 3 month old silkies? Are silkies more susceptible to any developmental growth or illness problems? What did I do wrong? I feel so bad. I have 1 black silkie that is very quite this am and the 2 frizzles look great. I feel that I’m going to loose my last silkie.

  37. Mason says

    Silkies are so cool as I’m doing a project right now on them just learning about them, I’m suppose to create a facebook page pretending I’m the chicken so will see how it goes.

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