The Silkie Chicken is unlike any other and will add an eclectic flair to your backyard chicken coop. Known for its silky, fluffy feathers, the Silkie Chicken comes in full-sized and bantam varieties and is among the most docile of chicken breeds. Interesting to look at, famously friendly, and soft to the touch, this breed makes a great pet as well as a decent layer.
History of the Silkie Chicken
While no one knows exactly when or how this breed was developed, the Silkie Chicken has been around for centuries. Most notably, it was mentioned in Marco Polo’s travel journals in the 13th century. The Silk Route brought the breed out of Asia and into the west and with them came a lot of myths and stories about this strange looking bird. For a time, Dutch breeders claimed that the Silkie Chicken was a cross between rabbits and chickens. There was, of course, no truth to these claims. The American Standard of Perfection accepted the breed in 1874 and by the 21st century the breed was a popular ornamental chicken breed for backyard farmers.
A small chicken, even a full size male Silkie Chicken weighs only 4 lbs. It is soft and fluffy and unable to fly. The Silkie Chicken has black skin and comes in a wide variety of feather colors, including black, white, blue, gray, partridge, and buff. Some Silkie Chickens are bearded and others are not. All have feathered legs and five toes. They are known for their friendly personalities, making them particularly good pets and great chickens for children to help raise. Laying about 100 eggs annually, they’re certainly not the best layers among chicken breeds. They are extremely broody, though, and even raise offspring of other birds if given the chance to do so. Their broodiness is a big reason for their relatively low egg production. To increase egg production, collect eggs as soon as possible each day before your Silkie Chicken has the chance to sit on them and attempt to hatch her
Silkie Chickens are not generally raised for meat in the West, as their black meat is considered unpalatable. In some Asian cultures, however, it is a prized delicacy. Silkie Chickens are also used in Chinese medicine.
Acquiring Silkie Chicks
Silkie Chicks can be purchased online from a variety of companies. They may be available occasionally from your local farm supply store as well. Silkie Chicken breeders can easily be found online, offering carefully bred show chickens for a premium price. No matter how you acquire them, your new chicks must be kept warm in a box for the first few weeks of their lives. They’ll need a constant supply of feed and water. Silkie chicks are late to mature. This means it will be hard to tell the male from the female chicks for some time. Your first clue may be when they either start to crow or lay eggs, which can take eight months or even longer! This is unique among chicken breeds.
As your chicks grow up, provide them with plenty of living space and a secure place to roam, safe from predators. Keep your chicken coop clean, feed your chickens quality food, and they’ll live a long and productive life. With good care, a Silkie Chicken can easily live 7-9 years.
Silkie Chickens are great for novices and experienced backyard farmers alike. Their friendly personality, unique looks, and soft feathers make them a great addition to any flock.
Photo by Anne White