On Cluck Cluck Doo! one of the most popular varieties of chicken is the Silkie, so it’s surprising that until now, we haven’t done a breed profile on this curious turquoise ear-lobed bird. The Silkie’s feathering is unlike any other. The look is adorably cute yet unusually curious at the same time.
It is believed the Silkie originated somewhere in Asia – China, Japan, or India – and was introduced in Europe around 200 years ago. It’s unusual look is attributed to the wispy, fluffy feathers that cover its body and the frayed look of its tail. It is said that a Silkie’s feathers feel like silk; thus the breed name. Hens and roosters alike have squat bodies with a smallish head. They can be found in both the bearded and non-bearded variety. Silkies come in bantam and standard size, though in the United States, they are only bantam sized. Silkie legs are on the short side and are purple-ish in color with a fifth toe on each foot. Long ago, these puff balls of the chicken yard, were sold in Europe as a hybrid between a chicken and a rabbit! Very well-received at shows and exhibitions, Silkies come in multiple colors: black, blue, gold, white, partridge, triple laced partridge, triple laced silver partridge, grey, cuckoo, red and buff. Underneath all those feathers are black flesh and black bones.
It’s a wonder the breed has survived as long as it has. Hens are not the most prolific layers – only 2 – 3 cream-colored eggs a week on average, or about 100 eggs per year. Because they are prone to broodiness, it’s not unusual for a hen to stop laying completely in the summer months, and start egg production around mid-to-late December. Silkies have poor peripheral vision, making them an easy target for predators. In addition, the Silkie has long been considered a gourmet delicacy in China. The survival of the Silkie is incredible, indeed. They are probably best revered as good mothers, and are commonly used as substitute moms for hatching and nurturing baby chicks of other, less-attentive hens. Some have been know to even sit on duck eggs and hatch them successfully. Silkie hens seem to happily perform this duty.
The Silkie is a quiet, affectionate and gentle chicken. Calm and friendly, they are great with children and may be tamed as pets. The bantam size allows for smaller coops and runs with lower fencing as they are unable to fly. Unlike most breeds, the Silkie’s feathers are not waterproof, so they should be kept as dry as possible. They tolerate both hot and cold climates very well.
Consider Silkies as the next breed to add to your backyard or urban flock. They are on our wish list for next spring, and we will look forward to gathering the first of our Silkie eggs for our Christmas breakfast next year.