Fun facts and information about the Silkie chicken.
Silkies are very different from nearly all other chicken breeds and share a combination of behavioural and genetic traits that make them easy to keep and look after.
1. One of the oldest known breeds:
They are one of, if not the oldest known domesticated breeds of chicken. Silkies have been known about for many hundreds of years and we could safely assume they have a history of at least 1000 years.
During his 13th-century travels in Asia, explorer Marco Polo documented some amazing sights. For chicken keepers one in particular stands out: furry chickens with black skin. For more on the origin and history of the Silkie chicken.
2. Silkie feathers:
The feathers are perhaps the most noticeable characteristic of the Silkie, being soft and fluffy and more like fur. They lack the barbs necessary to make normal feathers and as a result can't fly at all. This makes the feathers wonderfully soft and fluffy and helps give these delightful little birds their unique appearance.
Below: The classic fluffy fur like plumage of a Silkie chicken.
These wonderful soft fluffy feathers have some drawbacks, Silkies don't do well in wet and muddy environments and the birds are not as waterproof as other types.
3. Not big layers:
They are a bit lacking in the egg production department, only producing around 120 quite small eggs in their first year. Silkies are not big layers although they do make up for it with quality eggs and solid shells.
4. Long lived chickens:
They are relatively long lived as far as chickens are concerned with an average life expectancy of around 8 or 9 years and remain productive long after other breeds have stopped laying eggs. This is most likely due to their laid back happy nature and low productivity rates.
5. Extra toes:
Silkies have extra toes, a genetic condition called polydactylly. Chickens normally have four toes although a few breeds have five, Silkies among them.
Below: A silkies feathery 5 toed feet.
The extra toe grows above the hind toe and curves upward and in most cases it never touches the ground. Over the years I have even seen Silkies with 6 toes but these can't be shown and shouldn't be bred from.
6. Turquoise Earlobes:
Pale blue earlobes are quite common, particularly in Mediterranean chicken breeds, but the Silkies’ turquoise earlobes are unique amongst chickens.
Below: A Silkie showing off his brightly coloured turquoise earlobes.
7. Black Skin:
Silkies have black skin, along with black muscles and bones, and dark beaks, combs, and wattles.
8. Regular and Persistent Broodiness:
Silkie hens are well known for their broodiness and I used them more often than any other breed to hatch eggs of less reliable sitters. I have some that will raise three clutches a year without batting an eyelid.
I even once in desperation used a Silkie hen to hatch 2 goose eggs which she did with no trouble at all. She sat like a limpet for 32 days and the babies were nearly as big as she was in a few days.
Silkies will seemingly undertake just about any mothering task you ask of them and over the years mine have raised ducks, turkeys, Guinea fowl and geese as well as chicken babies.
9. Docile and good natured:
Silkie roosters are more tolerant of other males and I don't think I have ever seen mine even squabble let alone fight.
Below: Silkies are good with people and other breeds, even if other breeds are not always good to Silkies.
The good nature is probably the reason that Silkies make such good pets and most people choose them because they are so good with kids and easy to look after.
There are other breeds of bantams that have good temperaments but Silkies take it to the extreme even to the extent of liking being around people.
10. The crests and muffs or beards:
Silkie crests are bigger than most and some have beards as well. The unique feathering extenuates the crests and muff making them look much bigger and fluffier than with other chickens.
Bearded of muffed birds have smaller combs and wattles then those without beards.
11. They are a delicacy:
Silkie meat is a delicacy in some parts of the world and have been used on "I'm a celebrity, get me out of here" as one of the weird meats provided to the camp mates for dinner.
They are raised for meat in parts of the east and are prised and expensive.