The Paint Silkie

A lovely pair of paint Silkie hens

There have been paint feathered chickens around for quite some time and paint Silkies have been shown in the UK and in Europe for a few years now.

The paint Silkie was added to the ABA (American Bantam Association) approved list of Silkie varieties for showing in 2018 and there is now a written standard for their variety.

What is a paint Silkie?

Paint Silkies are a black chicken that carries one dominant white gene. Paint feathering looks a little like a dalmatian dog with black patches in white feathers. A few spots of black will “leak through” the white as the dominant white gene does not always cover up all of the black. The amount of black spots can vary both in number and size.

Most people who have paints for the first time will breed a paint to a true dark black Silkie. This will result in blacks that are split to paint. They then breed the black to the original paints.

The spotted paint gene is not easily understood and does not always follow a set of prescribed rules.

Below: A Paint Silkie pullet.

Split, when talking about chicken genetics means that the bird only carries one copy of a gene. A chicken that is "split to paint", means it has one copy of paint gene (dominant white) and one of black.

The spots or individual black feathers are black all the way to the shaft of the feather and larger the black spots are more desirable than small ones.

Silkies are known for their completely black skin but paint Silkies sometimes hatch with pink or lighter coloured skin.

What is the difference between paint and splash?

Paints may look similar to splashes but their spots are larger.

Splash is blue based and blue is a corrupted black gene and paints are black based with a white background. Don't try to breed your blue splashes into your paints.

How to breed paint Silkies:

Paint Silkies are produced by breeding a dominant white Silkie to a black Silkie. After that the genetics get complicated as they do not breed 100% true in future matings. Paint Silkies can produce chicks that are paint, white or black.

  • Paint to paint = 50% paint, 25% white, 25% black.
  • Black to paint = 50% paint and 50% black.
  • White to paint = 50% paint and 50% white.
  • Dominant white to black = 100% paint.

White is two copies of dominate white while Paint is one copy of dominant white and black is no copy of the white gene.

Below: The size and number of the black patches vary a lot.

A paint rooster over dominate white hens would only give you 50% paints and 50% whites and to get 100% paint feathers you need dominate white over black.

The genetics of Paint feathering:

The Paint colour pattern in Silkies is based on the known "Erminette" pattern, that is an Extended Black diluted by heterozygous Dominant White, the genotype is E/E, Ml/Ml, I/i+ and they don't breed true.

If you cross two Paint or Erminette patterned breeds you get 50% Paint/Erminette, 25% all black and 25% all white.

Confusion sometimes happens because some birds that are genetically paint, with one copy of dominant white and one copy of black, are very poorly marked and may appear completely white.

They are mistakenly called white splits and if bred to a black then you can get black and paint from that breeding, and when breeding to a white split you could get some paint offspring.