The Silkie Chicken – A Complete Guide!

If you’re looking for a cute, fluffy and affectionate breed of chicken for yourself or your kids then you have found an ideal choice in a Silkie!

silkie chicken
A Silkie Chicken – so cute and fluffy!

Silkie chickens make ideal pets due to their friendly nature and cute looks.

Our comprehensive and detailed overview of this breed will inform you of the characteristics of Silkie chickens and enable you to decide whether they are the perfect chicken for your home environment.

What this article covers

This is a long article, so below are some quick links. Click any of them to go straight to that section – or just carry on reading for the full guide!

Overview of Silkie chicken characteristics

Lifespan7-9 years
Egg Production3-4 per week
Egg ColorCream to tinted
Feather ColorBlack, blue, grey, white, buff, partridge, splash
WeightStandard fowl: 3lb (Female) 4lb (Male)
Bantam: 1.2lb (Male) 1.1lb (Female)
Child friendlyYes
BroodyYes
NoisyNo
Suitable for hot environmentsYes
Suitable for cold environmentsCan tolerate especially with supplementary heat
Suitable for wet environmentsNo
Purchase price (USD approx)Chicks: $5 Hens/Roosters: $20/$15

Where do Silkie chickens originate?

The Silkie chicken originates from Asia, most believe China or Japan while others favor India. The exact location where they were found is not known, however, Marco Polo recorded in his journal about a ‘furry chicken’ on his travels through China in the 13th century.

In the early 1900s, Silkies were used in traveling circuses and freak shows’ due to their unique appearance and having a fur-like appearance rather than feathers. They were also sold to people as ‘bird-mammals’, fooling unsuspecting customers by claiming they were a cross between a chicken and a rabbit.

Use of Silkie chickens in Eastern medicine

Silkies have been described in ancient eastern cultures to have medicinal properties. The black-bone chicken—known as the “silkie chicken”—has a long history in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Western research reveals that the small, silky birds with black flesh and bones are particularly high in carnosine, a naturally occurring peptide sometimes taken as a supplement to increase muscle strength. Traditional Chinese Medicine regards black-bone chickens as having unique energetic properties that make them particularly beneficial in building constitutional strength. 

While traditional poultry has a warming energy, black-bone chicken is considered to be more neutral. Consuming black-bone chicken broth is a popular way to utilize the medicinal properties of Silkie chickens and is thought to balance moisture in the body and support the body’s essential energy.

The chicken is believed to be especially helpful for women. Eating a Silkie is thought to help increase female fertility, nourish a pregnant woman’s developing child, and help to restore vitality in women who find they can’t quite get in the mood for intimacy after childbirth.

Personality of Silkie chickens

Silkies  – both male and female are calm, gentle, and friendly birds who love company and attention. The females adore playing mother to their own offspring as well as mothering any other poultry breed and are not fussy about which eggs they brood over.

Their docile nature can result in them being picked on by other breeds and therefore they are best suited to being cooped with breeds of a similar nature such as Polish hens.

A unique appearance

The unique and fluffy feathers of the Silkie come in a range of different colors including white, black, blue, grey, gold and porcelain.

Their feathers lack barbicels (the hooks that hold the feathers together), hence why they have a fluffy appearance. Their main feathering looks just like the under-down of other chicken breeds. Due to this feather structure, this means they cannot fly and their feathers are not waterproof!

Silkies come in standard or ‘Bearded’ – the Bearded Silkie has a beard and muffs. All Silkies have a black face, bones and skin and their flesh is a very dark grey-blue

Their head looks somewhat like a ‘pom-pom’ (very similar to a polish chicken). If a comb is present, it should look like a ‘walnut,’ being almost circular in appearance.

They have oval-shaped turquoise blue earlobes and the true Silkies have dark-colored wattles. Their beak is short and broad underneath, and a grey blue color. Their bodies are broad and stout, with the back short and the chest looking full.

Another unique feature is that they have five toes instead of the usual four found in other chicken breeds. The outer two toes should be feathered. The legs are short and wide-set and grey in color.

Silkies are a small breed and 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.

A Silkie rooster with a ‘walnut’ comb and darker skin colouring which is typical of this breed.

Are Silkie chickens good egg-layers?

Silkies lay approximately 100 to 120 eggs each year per individual. This equates to 2-3 eggs per week.

If you want a productive egg laying breed then a Silkie chicken is probably not for you!

Health issues to be aware of

Eyes – trouble seeing due to fluff

Worse on the bearded silkies since their beards tend to fluff up on the sides underneath the eyes. The most practical solution is to trim their feathers in front of their eyes so they can see clearly.

Ice on crests

Silkies can get wet head feathers as they drink water. This can turn into an issue in winter if the wet feathers freeze. Again the most practical solution is to give them haircuts just before the winter weather sets in

Dirty feet

Foot feathers tend to get dirt stuck in them which can cause matting and in turn, discomfort for the chicken. If clumps of dirt are not removed by trimming or soaking they can cause the feather follicles to pull out which can result in infection requiring further medical treatment. Try to keep your Silkies in dry conditions to prevent this for happening.

Lice and mites

Silkies seem to be particularly susceptible to lice and mites. Providing a dust bath mixture helps prevent these parasite problems.

Poop butt

Fecal matter sticking to the butt feathers is an attractant for flies which can lead to deadly flystrike. Washing or trimming dirty butt feathers will be required to prevent flystrike.

Vaulted skull

The term vaulted skull refers to the bulge on the top of the skull that many Silkies have. It’s a skull malformation known as a cerebral hernia and results in a softer section on the skull. A hard peck to this soft spot of the skull from another bird can cause potentially severe damage.

Wry neck

Silkies have a few genetic tendencies and wry neck is one of them. Success can be obtained by treating wry neck with vitamin E and selenium supplements in consultation with your vet.

Marek’s disease

Silkies are more susceptible to Marek’s disease than most other chicken breeds. The good news is this severe and fatal disease is completely preventable. Most breeders and hatcheries offer this vaccine for chicks, so make sure you enquire to check if their chicks are vaccinated. Another plus is the vaccine is quite affordable. 

Broody

If you try to take Silkies eggs and prevent them from going broody, they will sit in an empty nest box and attempt to hatch nothing! They are harder to break from being broody than the usual hen. If you have a repeat broody or a hen, she runs the risk of becoming malnourished. As hens only eat once a day when broody, they will lose weight. Lose too much weight and the hen will die.

Pros and Cons of Silkie chickens

Pros 👍Cons 👎
✔ Affectionate❌ Susceptible to disease and parasites
✔ Great pet for kids❌ Unsuitable for very cold environments
✔ Long lifespan❌ Unsuitable for wet environments
✔ Friendly with other chickens❌ Unproductive egg layers
✔ Make maternal mothers❌ Can brood over theirs and other breeds eggs
✔ Don’t need much space❌ Unsuitable as typical meat chickens
✔ Unique appearance❌ Prone to being bullied by other breeds
A red Silkie chicken

Buying a Silkie chicken

Make sure you do your research, read reviews and buy from a reputable breeder

If you want a true Silkie chicken look out for the characteristics described above in the flock you are viewing.

If you visit or talk to the breeder, get a feel for whether they genuinely care about their flock and observe the health of the chickens if you visit the premises.

Exercise great care if buying from marketplace websites or social media platforms. The sellers may be genuine but there can also be rouge dealers selling hybrid or sickly poultry.

Another option is to call your national breed association to get a recommendation for a reputable breeder in your local area.

Shopping list of items needed to look after a Silkie chicken

We have put together a shopping list below to help ensure your chickens are kept in an optimal health condition. Check out our list here:

Photo of author

AUTHOR

The team at My Chicken Guide are chicken enthusiasts! We grew up tending to our family chickens and still maintain our passion for chicken care to this day! Our head writer is a qualified Environmental Scientist and our team has over 20 years experience in raising and caring for chickens.