› Silkies

Silkie chickens :
the cuddly teddy bears of the poultry world.

If you're looking for a friendly, chatty, sweet-natured breed of poultry as a first bird for your children or a companion for yourself, you may just have found your ideal.

Silkie chickens are exactly as they look - funny, cuddly and very kind. Our 'at-a-glance' guide describes this loveable breed and what you need to provide if you're going to live together in harmony.

Silkie chicken pair

Silkie chickens : physical appearance.

  • Characteristic downy feathers which can be white, black, grey or gold.
  • Silkies come in standard or 'Bearded' - the Bearded Silkie has a beard and muffs.
  • All Silkies have a black face, bones and skin; the flesh is a very dark grey-blue.
  • A Silkie's beak should be grey or grey-blue.
  • Legs are feathered and underneath are grey.

Look for these features even in very young birds.

Features of a Silkie chicken
  • Feet are also grey, and a real Silkie has five toes!
  • Earlobes are a beautiful shade of turquoise blue.
  • The wattles and comb are black or a dark, mulberry shade and
  • The 'walnut' (also known as 'cushion') comb is a feature.

Black face, wattles and walnut comb, turquoise earlobes - this is a Silkie!  Courtesy of Maria at Va Va Zoom photography.

Silkie chicken face

More about their physical appearance.

  • The Silkie's characteristic 'silky' feathers look that way because they don't have the 'barbs' other chickens do.  The fluffiness makes them look much bigger than they actually are - and makes them feel very soft to the touch.
A beautiful brown Silkie chicken

A standard Silkie will weigh as little as three to four pounds, with the males being the heavier.  In America, they're classed as a 'bantam' breed and can weigh as little as 18 ounces.

The personality of Silkie chickens.

All Silkies really want to do is be a 'mother hen'!

Silkie chicken mother nad baby
  • Silkies are gentle birds who love company.
  • They tend to chatter away as they follow you around, which they will do once they're about six months old.
  • They make wonderful mothers, in fact it sometimes seems their sole purpose in life is to be a mum!  
  • They love nothing more than raising a clutch of eggs - and they're not fussy about whose the eggs are.
  • Silkies have been known to raise other types of poultry including ducklings and goslings.  They do tend to get a little worried when their 'offspring' take to the water!

What do we know about their history?

Silkie chick - the early days!

Is it any wonder Marco Polo fell in love with Silkie chicks?!

  • There's a massive amount of information about the Silkie in ancient Chinese writings.  Eastern cultures have always believed the Silkie to have medicinal powers beyond any other chicken breed.
  • Recent studies have actually discovered that the Silkie produces more carnosine, an important anti-oxidant, than other poultry so the Silkie is still used widely today in Chinese medicines.
  • The first western recording of a Silkie sighting was by Marco Polo, in 1298.  He marvelled about seeing a bird with black skin and "hair like a cat" on his travels to China.
  • It's thought that it was Marco Polo who introduced the first Silkies to the western world.

Circus banner from the 1920s featuring Silkie chickens.

Side show banner featuring 'freak chickens'
  • In the early 1900s, Silkies were exploited in travelling circuses and side-shows as 'freaks', described as "Chickens with fur instead of feathers".

Are they good egg-layers?

Silkie chicken eggs
  • Not as good as some other chicken breeds.
  • They will lay about 100 to 120 eggs each year.  
  • They can stop laying altogether during the summer months.
  • Their eggs are a creamy-brown colour.

Silkie chickens : the good.

  • They are one of the friendliest chicken breeds and will appreciate attention and company.
  • Silkies are very happy to be contained in a run, as long as it's dry and mud-free.
  • They are one of the few chickens who would be happy to be kept in an apartment - they love a little luxury!
  • They tolerate heat reasonably well.
  • Their downy feathers mean they can't fly which is often an advantage.
Silkie chicken fluff ball!

Silkie chickens : things which may be problematic.

  • Because they're so gentle and trusting by nature, they can often be bullied in a flock of other breeds.  If you intend to place them with others, you need to keep an eye out to make sure that doesn't happen.
  • Because their feathers are more like fur, they're not waterproof so Silkies don't do well in a wet climate, unless they can be sheltered properly.
  • For the same reason, they don't like snow.
  • Their feathers may look thick but actually they don't do a good job of keeping Silkies warm, so very cold climates aren't good - unless, again, they can be kept warm and sheltered.

A true Silkie, showing the mulberry-coloured comb and wattles.

Silkie chicken with mulberry comb

What that all means - Silkie chickens are for you if :

  • You're just starting out with chickens and you're prepared to take good care that they don't get cold or wet.
  • You want a first chicken for your children or a companion for yourself.
  • You have a fairly small area, or you can't let your girls free range at all and need to keep them in a coop.
  • You're thinking of keeping a chicken (or two) in an apartment.
  • You want a bird who will be a 'mother hen' to lots of little chickens - no matter whose they are!

The adolescent stage!  Photo courtesy of Va Va Zoom photography.

An adolescent Silkie chick!

... And you shouldn't buy Silkies if :

  • You live somewhere cold, wet and muddy.
  • You want a hen who will lay eggs but not go broody over them (although there are ways to stop a hen who's 'gone broody').
  • You're thinking of keeping chickens for meat.

Want to know what a baby Silkie looks like? 

Here's a video of day-old chicks.  Notice the already feathered legs.  So cute!

Silkie chickens : where to buy them.

When is a Silkie not a Silkie?  Note the red comb and wattles. These birds have Silkie feathering but are not true bred Silkies and should not be bred from.

Not Silkies, but hybrid chickens
  • As with any poultry, you need to make sure you buy from a reputable breeder.  There are a lot of chickens out there described as a specific breed when they're actually a hybrid.
  • If you want chickens true to the breed, look out for the characteristics described above in the flock of the person you're buying from.
  • Make a judgement about the breeder.  Someone who is producing good, healthy birds will talk enthusiastically - even passionately - about them.
  • Never buy from websites such as e-bay or Craigslist.  There are some genuine sellers there, but more who will sell you infertile eggs or birds which are not the breed they're supposed to be.
  • The links below are a good start to contact breeders in America. 
  • Outside America, look in poultry magazines for breeders local to you.

Who could resist a cuddly chicken?  Courtesy of Va Va Zoom photography.

A group of grey Silkie chickens

The Silkie Club of North America is a great resource for breed standard definitions should you want to show your Silkies.  They will also have a list of reputable breeders if you want to buy a pure bred chicken.

In the UK, there is a Facebook group specifically for buying and selling Silkies.  Following this link will take you there.

Here's what Claudia has to say about Silkie chickens.

Claudia chicken says ...

"Silkie chickens are one of the loveliest breeds in the chicken world.  They're fluffy (like me) and chatty (like me) and they love to be cuddled (hmm, maybe not so much like me).

You just need to be careful they don't get bullied by other chickens out there.  That is definitely not like me.  I don't put up with that kind of behaviour from any chicken".

Please note :     Although the characteristics above are common across the breed, not every chicken will conform to them. Chickens, like people, are individuals.  You need to check with whoever you buy from - just ask about the kinds of physical and personality traits their flock has.

Silkie chicken gifts.

Click here to read about a book where a Silkie plays a major part. You'll love it!

Are you someone who loves Silkies?  Or maybe you'd like to own a Silkie but for some reason you can't?

I've recently found the most lovely book, in which a Silkie plays a major part.

What is it?  If you click on the picture or this link you'll be taken to my review of this stunning book, together with information about where to find it.  It makes a wonderful gift at Christmas.

Here's my guarantee - you'll love it!

Silkie chickens mug - link to gift site.

"My Silkies - My World"  Silkie Chickens mug. 

The ideal gift for the Silkie lover in your life!  Designed using a watercolour image of a real white Silkie wandering through a field of bluebells, this mug is available for sale in my 'print on demand' store on mugs and aprons. 

Clicking on the picture or on this link will open a new page where you can look in more detail.

If you've found this page helpful, I'd really appreciate your sharing it by clicking one (or more!) of these little buttons - thank you!

Looking for a family-friendly chicken but the Silkie doesn't quite fit?

Try having a look at either of the two breeds below.  The Speckled Sussex is particularly calm and quiet, while the Red Star is a sweet-natured chicken and the best egg layer ever.  Just click on the pics to find out more.

Speckled Sussex fact sheet link
Red Star chicken facts

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Some chickeny things you may like!

Link to Raising Happy Chickens home page.

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