Silkie Chicken: Getting to Know the Breed

The Silkie chicken name is appropriate. This breed of chicken is characterized by luxurious plumage, which feels like silk or satin when pet.

Silkies have notable characteristics, including black meat, fur-like feathers, and tufts on their heads.

These chickens are bantams, and they lay small eggs. Silkie hens are excellent brooders as well.

Many people choose to keep Silkie chickens as an ornamental fowl rather than a producer of eggs. In addition, because they are excellent brooders, they can be a resource for other non-brooding hens you own.

Silkie Chickens

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 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, though, farmers have noted an even better use for it.

Appearance

The appearance of a Silkie can vary. These chickens can be classified as bantams or by many breed standards, large fowl.

Bantams weigh up to 32 oz  and the large fowl being between three and four pounds.

Silkies can have white, black, gray, brown, and golden feathers. Others may appear blue as in the blue splash bearded Silkie chicken.

Although both sizes are available, the European and American Standards of Perfection call all Silkies bantams regardless of their actual appearance.

The Silkie plumage is its most notable characteristic, but 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.

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.

Nature

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, its calm nature often results in Silkies being bullied by more active and aggressive breeds when there are mixed flocks.

The males, meanwhile, are incredibly docile and quiet compared to other male chickens.

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.

Varieties

The average Silkie can appear as one of two distinct varieties: bearded and non-bearded.

The Bearded Silkie has an extra muff on its head and feathers, which extend under the beak to cover the earlobes.

On the other hand, 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.

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

Here are some examples:

Bearded Silkies:

  • Black
  • Blue Splash
  • Buff 
  • Gold
  • Lavender
  • Lemon Meringue
  • Porcelain 
  • Red
  • Silver Partridge
  • True Blue 
  • White 
  • White Gold Splash 

Non-Bearded Silkies:

  • Black
  • Blue
  • Buff
  • Gray
  • Partridge

What Are Silkie Chickens Good For?

Silkies do not produce a lot of meat and are thus not used primarily for their flesh.

When it comes to eggs, the Silkie can lay cream-colored eggs throughout the year, even through the winter in some cases.

The average Silkie produces between three and five eggs a week, but it often goes broody and will stop producing.

Their eggs have rich and large yolks and a relatively small white.

In addition to producing eggs, the Silkie hens are very broody and can be used to raise the chicks of other fowl.

They are excellent at mothering and teaching proper behavior.

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.

silkie chicken
Silkie chickens are docile

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.

They are 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.

1. Housing

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 is smaller in size compared to other common chicken breeds, so they do not require as much space.

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

Bedding

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 your Silkies.

Feeds

The total amount of feed 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.

You can give chicks a regular chick starter for overall health and wellness. Best chicken feeder to prevent waste

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.

Water 

Finally, make sure your Silkie has an adequate amount of fresh and clean water. How long can chickens go without water

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.

Health

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.

Heating

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.

What Are Silkies Good For?

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.

While they do lay eggs, the eggs are smaller. 

Silkie Chicken

The Silkie 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. They also have great mothering skills.

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.

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