Silkie chickens have luxurious plumage, which feels like silk or satin when pet. Their notable characteristics include black meat, fur-like feathers, and tufts on their heads.
They are bantams, and they lay small eggs. Silkie hens were bred to be broody. They are excellent mothers and can rear the offspring of other birds as well. You can eat their eggs and meat. Yet, many people choose to keep Silkie chickens as ornamental fowl rather than a producer of eggs or meat.
Raise these mild-mannered chickens with mild-mannered breeds. While they will still do a good job protecting their flock, Silkie roosters are not as aggressive as other breeds.
The first mention of a Silkie appears in a 13th-century account written by Marco Polo about his travels in Asia. He describes it as a “furry chicken” and noted they were prized for their feathers.
Agricultural historians think the Silkie chicken breed originated in ancient China, Japan, or India. It made its way to Europe through the Silk Road and eventually came to North America in the 19th century, where the Standard of Perfection accepted it.
Since then, the Silkie has been a pet or ornamental fowl. It is considered productive in that they will produce a few eggs per week. In addition, farmers have noted an even better use for them. Silkie hens go broody and make excellent mothers. They will sit well and hatch eggs from less broody chicken breeds. This makes them ideal if you want to hatch chicks.
They also lay fairly reliably throughout the year, even as natural daylight decreases in the colder, winter months.
The appearance of a Silkie can vary. These chickens can be classified as bantams or by many breed standards, large fowl.
Silkies can be a variety of colors. They may have white, black, gray, brown, or golden feathers. Others may appear blue as in the blue splash bearded Silkie chicken. They have a dark skin color. It can be black or bluish skin.
As a fluffy chicken, the Silkie plumage is its most notable characteristic. However, other crossbreeding has made Silkie feathering a possibility in other breeds like the Chabo, which is found in Europe but not in North America.
Some people compare the plumage of the Silkie to silk or satin, while others call it fur. Overall, these birds have a soft and fluffy appearance, which makes them fun to pet and maintain.
Their feathers lack functional barbicels, which means the Silkie cannot fly or leave the ground.
Their poofy, pom pom crested head looks similar to the Polish chicken.
- Silkie roosters weighs up to 4 pounds / 48 oz
- Females weigh approximately 2 – 2.5 pounds / 32 – 40 oz
The European and American Standards of Perfection call all Silkies bantams, regardless of their actual appearance.
The standards of perfection also require a Silkie to have a small walnut-shaped comb, dark wattles, and turquoise or blue earlobes, which can be hidden by the tufts on the head.
All Silkies have five toes, which is an unusual trait for chickens. They share this characteristic with other exotic breeds like the Dorking, Faverolles, and Sultan.
Besides these basics, all Silkies have bluish or black skin underneath their plumage and will also have grayish-black meat and even black or bluish bones.
Temperament and Personality
The female Silkie’s friendly and gentle temperament makes it an excellent mother, and for it to do well in confinement or when interacting with children.
As a downside, they are low in the pecking order. Their calm nature often results in Silkies being bullied by more active and aggressive breeds when there are mixed flocks.
The males are incredibly docile and quiet compared to other male chickens. Silkie roosters will work to protect their flock but will not be dominant in a mixed breed. Keep a minimum of eight hens per rooster.
These chickens do not tear up grass or gardens and are small and easy to manage. Both beginners and experienced farmers can raise this breed of chicken without hassles.
Silkie Chicken Egg Production
Technically, a dual purpose breed, you wouldn’t want to rely on them for a steady source of eggs. On average, silkies lay 100 eggs per year. This is averages to 1 – 2 eggs per week. Their eggs are small and either white or cream colored.
Other Purpose for Raising
While they are smaller birds, you can eat their meat as well. It is black. They do make fantastic mothers as they are broody. You can use them to hatch baby chicks.
They are friendly, docile chickens and fun to own as pets but there are other chicken breeds to consider if you want them as a food source.
They will not do well in cold climates or wet climates. Silkies aren’t cold hardy birds. They will thrive in moderate climates.
The average Silkie can appear as one of two distinct varieties:
The Bearded Silkie has an extra muff on its head and feathers, which extend under the beak to cover the earlobes.
In comparison, the non-bearded variety is missing the tuft and has a more noticeable beak and face.
When it comes to competitive showing and sale, Silkies are divided by color. There are many color varieties. At present, the recognized colors include black, blue, buff, grey, partridge, and white.
Alternative hues are available but lack official recognition. Some of these strange and unusual colors include the non-descriptive cuckoo, lavender, red, and splash.
Silkie Chicken Varieties
- Blue Splash
- Lemon Meringue
- Silver Partridge
- True Blue
- White Silkie
- White Gold Splash
What are Silkie Chickens Good For?
Before choosing chicken breeds, it’s important to consider why you want to raise them. Silkies do not produce a lot of meat and are thus not considered good meat chickens like other chicken breeds. While you can slaughter the males or when the hens stop laying eggs, you shouldn’t choose to raise Silkie chickens if you want meat birds.
When it comes to eggs, the Silkie can lay cream-colored eggs throughout the year, even through the winter in some cases. Some of their eggs will look white and some will appear cream or light tan.
Egg production for the average Silkie is between 3 – 5 eggs a week, but it often goes broody and will stop producing. Their eggs have rich and large yolks and a relatively small white. The eggs are smaller than eggs from larger breeds.
In addition to producing eggs, Silkie hens are known for their broodiness. Because of their broody nature, they can raise the chicks of other fowl. They are excellent mothers and teach proper behavior with their maternal instincts.
While Silkies are good for eggs, they are considered ornamental. Silkie chickens make great pets. They are Bantam, a smaller breed, and docile. Their best use is to hatch eggs from other hens as they often are broody.
Are Silkie Chickens Good to Eat?
The Silkie can be eaten but not often used for cuisine in Europe or North America because the color of the meat often puts off individuals used to pink or white flesh.
At the same time, as mentioned, Silkies produce little meat compared to other chickens, so it does not make sense to breed them for meat.
That said, most Asians, like Chinese, Japanese, Cambodians, Vietnamese, and Koreans, consume Silkie meat.
Some of the usual cooking methods include using Silkie to make broth, braising, and in curries.
In ancient Chinese medicine, chicken soup made from Silkie meat was considered a curative and great for restoring health.
Why Is Silkie Chicken Meat Black?
It should be mentioned that the Chinese language name for these chickens is wu gu ji, which means “black boned chicken”.
The meat of a Silkie chicken is black because of a condition called fibromelanosis, which is a mutation in domestic chickens believed to originate in Asia.
It allows melanism to extend beyond the skin and into an animal’s connective tissue.
There are several other breeds of chicken that also have black meat. Despite the unusual color, it is perfectly fine to eat a Silkie chicken, and you will not experience any side effects.
What Does a Silkie Chicken Taste Like?
The meat of a Silkie has the same excellent chicken taste but tends to be stronger and leaner. That is why it is often incorporated in soups and sauces and not eaten outright as a breast or fried in large pieces.
Plus, the meat is rich in amino acids, protein, and vitamin B. It is also far less greasy than traditional chicken and works well with stronger seasonings.
FAQ’s about Silkie Chickens
Do Silkie Chickens Lay Eggs to Eat?
Yes, silkies lay eggs you can eat. Hens lay 3 – 5 eggs each week.
How Long Do Silkie Chickens Live?
With proper care and shelter, silkie chickens can live 7 – 9 years. They aren’t cold tolerant; choose them if you live in a temperate area.
How Cold Is Too Cold For Silkie Chickens?
Not being cold hardy, they will need to stay dry and warm in cold months. They should not get wet during this time. Above freezing (32 degrees F) is ideal.
How to Take Care of Silkie Chickens
In the USA, it’s one of the most popular breeds of chicken. It’s important to remember that many people in the Western world raise and care for Silkies as pets rather than as a source of food.
They do not produce many eggs compared to other breeds and enjoy affectionate owners. This breed is docile and great for gardens as a form of natural pest control.
Raising and caring for one is not difficult, but it’s important to keep your Silkie comfortable and healthy so that it lives a long, fulfilling life.
Appropriate housing is essential for raising all chicken breeds, including the Silkie. It is important to have a house or coop prepared before you bring a chicken home so that it has a private place to rest and recuperate.
The Silkie chicken is smaller in size compared to other common chicken breeds, so they do not require as much space. How Much Space Do Chickens Need
That said, they will be happier if you give them plenty of room in a simple chicken coop with secure walls and adequate bedding.
You can usually build or buy a chicken coop that will be spacious enough for the Silkie. Remember, chickens need room to roam, lay eggs, and stretch their legs when it rains or is cold outside.
While you can raise Silkies indoors, they appreciate being let out during the day.
They do not eat common garden plants and are excellent for pest control since they eat caterpillars and small insects.
If you want your Silkie to live both indoors and outdoors, the coop can be smaller than one meant for a completely indoor lifestyle. Best chicken wire for chicken coops
Silkies need comfortable bedding. There is a broad range of bedding materials available, so choose one which will be pleasant to roost upon.
- Wood Shavings: These are considered one of the best bedding materials because they are soft, absorbent, and easy to clean.
- Sawdust, Straw, Newspaper Shredding: These are also good choices.
- Pine Needles: These are also a good medium choice but have the risk of once again irritating your Silkie by poking their sensitive skin.
Avoid sand because it is uncomfortable and can irritate your chicken’s skin. Hay is okay but is not absorbent.
Make sure there is adequate bedding for all of your chickens and that there is space for eggs. Likewise, you will need to clean the bedding regularly.
2. Feeding and Watering
Finally, you need to maintain proper and adequate feeding and watering facilities to care for a Silkie chicken.
While there are many chicken feed options, the total amount you need will depend on the type you are using as well as the overall size of your flock. You can find specialized feeds depending on your purpose of keeping a Silkie.
For example, there are layer pellets for chickens kept for eggs, and finisher feeds for those who will be used for meat. Breeding chickens should be given a well-balanced diet.
If you are keeping Silkies as a simple pet, though, you should be fine with layer pellets or standard chicken feed.
Silkies benefit from added grit for better digestion since they do not consume as much random material as other free-range chickens.
Silkie Chicken Treats
Besides these feeding basics, you can give your Silkies a limited amount of treats. They love table scraps, bugs, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.
If your Silkies are pets, you can give them just about anything, and they will be happy.
They enjoy a broad range of fruits and vegetables like cucumber, watermelon, strawberries, and broccoli, and can also eat fish, cooked eggs, meal works, pasta, rice, and even bread. Cooked potato is another good choice.
Finally, make sure your Silkie has an adequate amount of fresh and clean water. How long can chickens go without water Be sure to refill containers daily, and be sure to clean them once a week.
Since Silkie chicks are small and can drown, having an automatic waterer is ideal. Water your backyard chickens ideas
3. Other Tips and Tricks
Besides the basics of housing and feeding, there are a couple of other ways you can better take care of your Silkie. In particular, you want to pay attention to their health, social behavior, and comfort when they’re in their coop.
It’s important to ensure you are keeping your chickens healthy and strong. That means calling a veterinarian if your Silkie begins to exhibit signs of illness such as depression, sneezing, a loss of appetite, or discolored stool.
Chickens can pass diseases and bacteria to one another, so ensure the conditions are sanitary and any unhealthy Silkies are isolated in a comfortable area until they become well.
Dominance and Aggression
As mentioned earlier, the Silkie’s calm temperament makes it a prime target for bullying from more active and aggressive breeds. If you notice aggressive behavior among your flock, separate the chickens getting into fights.
They might be experiencing dominance issues and can severely injure or even kill one another. Having separate chicken coops is an option to keep both chickens happy and healthy.
Raise this docile breed alongside other less aggressive and dominant chicken breeds.
Heating for Silkie Chickens
While they are hardy for the winter, you will need to give them appropriate shelter from the cold. If you live in a cold climate, consider purchasing a heat lamp for the winter months.
For safety, keep the heat lamp away from cobwebs and debris. Remove potential obstructions as often as possible to reduce the risk of fire.
At the same time, keep the coop well-ventilated. Silkies can overheat easily and should have adequate access to fresh air and water to avoid overheating and dehydration.
In addition, to ensure their water doesn’t freeze, you may to consider a chicken water heater.
The Silkie chicken name is appropriate. This chicken is prized around the world for its unique fluffy plumage, unusual black skin and bones, and docile temperament.
They are excellent pets and starter chickens for individuals to enjoy their calm personalities. The hens have great mothering skills. Because they are excellent brooders and go broody multiple times each season, they can be a resource to hatch eggs from other chicken breeds, ducks, etc.
While it isn’t eaten often in Europe or North America, it is possible to find traditional dishes throughout Asia which utilize Silkie meat and bones for the chicken’s unique taste and nutrition.
If you plan to raise them, make sure you do not house Silkies with more aggressive chicken breeds. Pay special attention to bedding and avoid overheating or dehydration.
You can raise Silkies alone or in small groups. They integrate nicely into backyard gardens and hobby farms and make ideal pet chickens with reliable egg production.