Thursday, January 21, 2010

What's a silkie?

I keep getting the same question from people when they see the chicks... what's a silkie? I usually answer: a super cute, fluffy chicken. That's not a very good technical answer. Maybe this will help!

10. Is it a chicken?

Answer: Yes, a Silkie is a chicken. It is a true bantam, meaning that it was not selectively bred from larger birds to gain its small stature. It is not known where the Silkie originated, but Marco Polo wrote about them in the records of his travels of China during the 13th century.

9. Can you eat them?

Answer: Yes you can eat them. Although they are not commonly used as meat birds in the US very often, they are sometimes considered delicacies in Asian cuisines. It is thought that the black skin/bones has healing properties and health benefits.

8. Do Silkies make good pets?

Answer: Silkies make great pets. They are a very docile breed, and with regular human interaction will sometimes learn to follow their human owners like puppies.

7. Why are Silkies fuzzy?

Answer: Silkies are fuzzy because they lack the cartilage material found between the individual strands of "hair" on the feathers shaft. This cartliage material is called Barbicels, and acts as microscopic "hooks" holding each hair together. These barbicels are what give a "hard feather" their shape. Because Silkies lack these barbicels, the individual hairs on their feathers fly free, and thus appear as fur.

6. Can Silkies fly?

Answer: No. Silkies cannot fly because of the structure of their feathers. Their wings will not hold air to carry them.

5. Do Silkies make good free ranging birds?

Answer: No. Because Silkies cannot fly, they are often the target of prey animals such as dogs, rodents, and hawks. They are not able to effectively escape from other prey animals.

4. Can Silkies see?

Answer: Yes. Silkies can see, although not very well. Silkies have large crests called "top knots" that sometimes impair their vision. Birds with smaller top knots will see better than those with larger ones. (This is another reason that Silkies often fall victim to prey animals such as hawks.)

3. How do Silkies fair in winter?

Answer: Silkies tolerate winter as well as any other hard feathered breeds. They do not require any special accomodations other than what you would normally provide to other birds. Even though their feathers are shaped differently than other birds, they still have down to keep them warm.

2. Are Silkies good mothers?

Answer: YES! Silkies are some of the best poultry mothers around. Its been said that a Silkie would try to hatch a door knob if given the chance. They are often used to naturally hatch out game birds such as quail, and other non-broody poultry breeds.

And for the number ONE Silkie question of all time......

1. At what age can you sex a Silkie?

Answer: This is the million dollar question. Silkies are one of the hardest breeds to sex until they are nearing six months old or better. Even at six months of age, it is sometimes still an educated guess. Breeders who have raised Silkies for 10, 15, even 20 or more years, will tell you that it is nearly impossible to accurately sex a Silkie until they are at least 6 months old.
It's important to know which is a boy and which is a girl because it's not recommended to keep more than one rooster, unless you have a lot of hens. I'm really hoping we have mostly girls because it will be hard to part with any of them!


  1. The easiest way to sex a silkie is to wait till it crows or lays an egg. LOL. I sold a young Rooster once and got a call a couple months later. The little "man" laid an egg, oops.

    Silkies are addictive. They will take over and rule your world and you will be happier for it.


  2. So I guess we have awhile before we know girls from boys! How many roosters do you have and how many hens? It's going to be hard to part with any of them!


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