Facts About the Furry Silkie Chicken

Updated on March 4, 2017
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Cindy was raised on a farm and has an intense fascination and love of animals, nature, and the great outdoors.

White Silkie
White Silkie | Source

The Silkie, sometimes spelled “Silky," is a very small (usually 1.5 to 3.5 pounds) and unusually unique chicken. It is named for its fluffy, or should I say, furry or hairy-like plumage that is sometimes described as feeling like silk.

Silkies are so unusual that they have been described as the "poodles of the chicken world." The scientific name for the Silkie is Gallus domesticus. Other names for the Silkie are Chinese Silkie chicken, Bearded Silkie, or Bantam Silkie.

The Silkie's Origins

The Silkie chicken is thought to have originated from Southeast Asia before the 1200s. In the 13th century, Marco Polo made mention of a chicken with fur-like feathers and black skin, obviously referring to these unusual birds.

This breed of chicken gradually made its way to North America and, in 1874, was officially accepted into the North American Standard of Perfection. There are 6 standard (acceptable) colors accepted by the American Bantam Association: black, blue, buff, white, partridge, splash, and gray. Other Silkie colors that are also popular (although not accepted as standard) are red, lavender, porcelain, and cuckoo. Because of their many unique characteristics, Silkies are considered to be an ornamental breed.

Silkie Bantam chickens are an incredibly unique breed of chicken, adorned with more fancy features than any other breed.

Silkie Feet
Silkie Feet | Source

All About Their Feathers

Their feathers do not have barbs holding the strands together, so they form many individual silky strands. This gives them their fluffy appearance and their silky softness. Some people say that the Silkie's feathers "feel just like angora fur."

Silkies also have quite a few feathers growing down their legs and over their middle toe. Unfortunately, their plumage can easily become waterlogged because the water doesn’t run off their feathers, therefore, they cannot swim.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Non-bearded and Bearded SilkieA typical chicken with a wattle and comb.
Non-bearded and Bearded Silkie
Non-bearded and Bearded Silkie | Source
A typical chicken with a wattle and comb.
A typical chicken with a wattle and comb.

More Unique Physical Characteristics

The non-bearded Silkies have larger wattles than the bearded ones, and the cock’s wattles are larger than the hen’s. (The wattle is the fleshy appendage below the beak at the throat.) The bearded Silkie, both cock and hen, have very small wattles. They are called bearded because they have a full and fluffy beard of feathers around the bottom of their beak. This beard also hides their distinctive blue earlobes.

Bearded and non-bearded Silkies have a feathery crest, or topknot, on the top of their head. They also have a comb (a fleshy area on top of head). The Silkie's comb is different from most other chickens in that it resembles a wart-like lump on its forehead, rather than the spiky one that most chickens sport.

Silkies also have dark blue/black skin, meat, and bones. And unlike most chickens, they have 5 toes on each foot (most chickens only have 4).

This white Show-Me Silkie displays the blue/black skin typical of Silkies.
This white Show-Me Silkie displays the blue/black skin typical of Silkies. | Source

Interesting Facts About the Silkie

They produce fewer eggs than most other breeds, averaging 90-120 per year. Their eggs range in color from white to light brown. Because they are so broody, they make excellent setters, and are often used to hatch other breeds’ eggs.

Silkies are calm, trusting, friendly, and docile. Because of their temperament and because they’re flightless, they are often kept as family pets. Silkies can become quite affectionate, but do require frequent, gentle handling at first to socialize them to their “humans."

5 Toes? That's right! Count them!
5 Toes? That's right! Count them! | Source

An Enchanting Breed of Chicken

Despite their fragile appearance, Silkies are a very hardy breed of chicken and generally have a lifespan of about 9 years.

Silkie meat is considered a delicacy in China. It has also been coveted for its medicinal value since the seventh or eighth century. Chinese women who have just given birth believe that eating it will give them energy. The Chinese also believe that ground-up Silkie bones have special healing powers.

Magical powers or not, the Silkie certainly has the ability to enchant.

Ornately colored and covered in fluffy, silk-like feathers, Silkie chickens are among the most beautiful of the chicken breeds and provide companionship, top-quality eggs, and the opportunity to show them at poultry shows.

Questions & Answers

    © 2011 Cindy Murdoch

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      • profile image

        Reagan 

        18 months ago

        I live in Singapore. Is there anyway that i can buy some silkie chickens as pets?

      • profile image

        Summer 

        18 months ago

        I used to have two Silkie chickens but they had natural blue fur around their face!!! Soo cute!

      • profile image

        ken myles 

        19 months ago

        silkies are awesome :) ;)

      • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

        Cindy Murdoch 

        5 years ago from Texas

        Must have been quite a handsome visitor!

      • profile image

        EW 

        5 years ago

        We have a small backyard flock with 15 hens and some chicks that were just hatched by one of hens a month ago we had a visiting rooster for a couple days. Then we had a broody hen who we just let sit we ended up with five chicks. Well today my kids were going crazy outback and came in and got me because we had a mutant chicken in our backyard. Thanks to this site I now know about silkies and a little more about our visitor.

      • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

        Cindy Murdoch 

        5 years ago from Texas

        don M - I am not sure if he would have spurs or not, but I would think that he should be looking like a rooster by now. You might want to contact the seller.

      • profile image

        don M 

        5 years ago

        I have three white silkies hatched feb.11 One is bearded and the seller said the bearded one h is a cock. He is a little the largest ybut has no characteristics of a cock.Snould he have spurs or any way to tell?

      • profile image

        holly 

        5 years ago

        good facts but what do you feed there chicks.

      • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

        Cindy Murdoch 

        6 years ago from Texas

        Angela Rae - they are very good brooders, and they will accept any egg they can sit on. Thanks so much for stopping by!

      • profile image

        Angela Rae 

        6 years ago

        I love all my chickens, but my silkies have a special place in my heart. They are great brooders and have hatched several eggs that weren't even theirs. They are also good mothers;)

      • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

        Cindy Murdoch 

        6 years ago from Texas

        erinanderson777 - many chickens have problems with heat. One of the chickens best suited for heat is the turkin. It actually has a lot less feathers than most chickens. I wrote a hub about them as well. But as cute as the silkie chickens are, the turkins are pretty ugly. There is a cross of the two called a show-me silkie which is pictured in this article. Towards the bottom of this hub, https://hubpages.com/animals/10HomesteadChickenBre... , is a breed selection tool that might help you find the perfect chicken for you.

      • profile image

        erinanderson777 

        6 years ago

        QUESTION- I really want to get some of these amazing chickens in the future- I wanted to see if anyone knew how well they do in warmer climates? We will be moving to Bermuda where the weather in the summer can be pretty hot and humid... but the winters are nice and cool..

        Thank you very much!

      • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

        Cindy Murdoch 

        6 years ago from Texas

        AudreyHowitt - I have to agree with you. They really are. Thanks so much for stopping by!

      • AudreyHowitt profile image

        Audrey Howitt 

        6 years ago from California

        They are so cute!

      • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

        Cindy Murdoch 

        6 years ago from Texas

        Eddy - thanks so much for stopping by! These chickens are really unusual, but I still have not talked my husband into letting me have one. Best to you!

      • Eiddwen profile image

        Eiddwen 

        6 years ago from Wales

        I have seen many of these but didn't know too much about them.

        This hub is great and I award it an up up and away.

        Take care my friend.

        Eddy.

      • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

        Cindy Murdoch 

        7 years ago from Texas

        ktrapp - yep! Sent him through just for you! I did enjoy writing that one, and taunting my husband!

      • ktrapp profile image

        Kristin Trapp 

        7 years ago from Illinois

        Oops. Sorry I just saw that cute guy on my feed again. He goes with the saga of the silkie chicken - quite a funny hub!

      • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

        Cindy Murdoch 

        7 years ago from Texas

        I think you're thinking of a different silkie article. I'll send it through in a minute. I haven't changed any of the pics.

      • ktrapp profile image

        Kristin Trapp 

        7 years ago from Illinois

        You changed your first picture. I liked seeing that white silky guy on my feed everyday. He made me smile, but the feathers do remind me of him :)

      • davenmidtown profile image

        David Stillwell 

        7 years ago from Sacramento, California

        a pooperatzi

      • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

        Cindy Murdoch 

        7 years ago from Texas

        I really don't know .... and .... I'm almost scared to ask!

      • davenmidtown profile image

        David Stillwell 

        7 years ago from Sacramento, California

        What do you call a silkie chicken with a camera?

      • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

        Cindy Murdoch 

        7 years ago from Texas

        Cute! (smiling)

      • davenmidtown profile image

        David Stillwell 

        7 years ago from Sacramento, California

        It was not HENtentional!

      • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

        Cindy Murdoch 

        7 years ago from Texas

        davenmidtown - don't get so cocky!

      • davenmidtown profile image

        David Stillwell 

        7 years ago from Sacramento, California

        ROFL... not the silky's... the Bantums

      • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

        Cindy Murdoch 

        7 years ago from Texas

        davenmidtown - I'm thinking these chickens are too prissy to swagger.

      • davenmidtown profile image

        David Stillwell 

        7 years ago from Sacramento, California

        Banty's are pretty good too... lots of swagger in those chickens.

      • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

        Cindy Murdoch 

        7 years ago from Texas

        @thisspice - thanks for the comment. I'm still trying to talk my husband into letting me get one. He thinks that they are just to ornamental - in his lingo - not a logical choice for a chicken. But I'll keep trying...

        @cloverleaf - They are really cute! I'll just keep working on the hubby! Don't stress too much about the chicken, I try not to think about it.

      • Cloverleaf profile image

        Cloverleaf 

        7 years ago from Calgary, AB, Canada

        Hi homesteadbound, I have never heard of Silkie Chickens before! You have taught me something new. The fluffy White Silkie in your first picture looks so cute I'm almost feeling guilty that I ate chicken for lunch :(

        Cloverleaf

      • thisspice profile image

        thisspice 

        7 years ago from Asheville, NC

        I owned silkies for many years. They actually make wonderful pets and got along great with my dog too. They laid eggs which were great to eat, and also picked through the yard for bugs and such. They were also very docile and I was able to hold them and pick them up and put them in my lap to pet, like any other domestic animal. Great article!

      • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

        Cindy Murdoch 

        7 years ago from Texas

        Samhirata-I have been trying to talk my husband into letting me get one too, because I think they are so cute. You can read those conversations in two other hubs:

        https://hubpages.com/animals/What-is-a-Silkie...

        https://hubpages.com/animals/Silkie-Chicken-Saga-C...

        I'm glad you enjoyed the hub.

      • samhirata profile image

        samhirata 

        7 years ago

        I never knew there were any other types of chicken out there! Would love to learn about others now. My goal in life is to have my own farm- might have to buy a Silkie or two...Although I prefer to eat my chickens.

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