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  • Writer's pictureBrowns' Family Farmstead

Silkie Chicken Breed 101: A Comprehensive Guide to Their Care and Keeping

Silkie Chickens (Silkies for short) are best known for their unique appearance and docile temperament. For these reasons and much more Silkies can be found in backyards all around the world.

Broad Side White Silkie Chicken

Table of Contents

History

Silkie Chickens originated in Asia, most likely China, Japan, and possibly even India.


The exact origin of this breed is unknown as they are said to have been around since 770 AD. However, they were documented in the notes of Marco Polo in the 1300s.



Heritage or Hybrid?

Silkies are one of the oldest heritage breeds from Asia.


While much about the origin of this breed remains a mystery. We do know that this breed was documented in historic Chinese writings. Several cultures believed that Silkies possessed medical powers.


Appearance

Silkies can come in a variety of colors of colors including Buff, Blue, White, Black, Splash and Partridge. There are also two main types within this breed, bearded and non-bearded. The beard refers to the feathers that surround the entire head and earlobes.


While their appearance varies, they do all have common features that unite the breed.


A few common features of this breed include:

  • Walnut comb

  • Comb is black

  • Black/dark wattles

  • Blue earlobes

  • Feathered Legs

  • 5 (Five) Toes

Silkie chicken with ducks and Jersey Giants

Weight

Roosters weigh around 4 pounds on average, hens are closer to 3 pounds on average. This makes them smaller than the average sized chicken. On average roosters weigh 6 pounds and hens weigh 5.7 pounds.


Lifespan

Silkies chickens have an average lifespan of 7 to 9 years in backyard confinement, which is above average as most chickens live between 3 and 7 years.


In optimal conditions some homesteaders report that their Silkies live closer to 12 to 13 years.


Egg Color & Production

Egg production starts between 28 weeks and 36 weeks (7 to 9 months), which is later than most breeds.


Similar to Jersey Giants, Silkies take longer than most breeds to mature and start laying eggs.


You can expect 2+ small white eggs a week and are considered to be poor layers. In their first year, they can produce up to 120 eggs with proper diet and care.


Note that egg production does decrease by 10 to 15% per year as chickens age until they stop laying altogether.


Breeding

Silkie Chickens are famously known for their broodiness and instinct to sit on a nest.


Roosters and hens are able to and breed naturally without human intervention or insemination.


The general rule of thumb is that heritage breeds are able to breed naturally, whereas hybrid breeds are not always able to do so.

White Silkie Broad Side

Hardiness

Silkies are well known for being a cold hardy breed as well as heat tolerant in moderate cases.


While they are tolerant to the heat, they do need access to shade in hot and sunny weather. It is important to know how to keep your chickens cool in hot weather, view our complete guide for more tips and tricks.


In the winter it is important to ensure they are warm, have access to clean water, and are not showing signs of frostbite on their combs, wattles, or feet. They likely will not require accommodations such as a heater or brooder in the winter unless there is extreme cold.


Health Risks

Silkies are highly susceptible to Marek's Disease. This devastating disease can be fatal for up to 50% of a flock of this breed. That is significantly more so than the average chicken breed.


We provide our chickens with vitamins in their water as a precaution to ensure they do not have any deficiencies. This is especially important for younger birds still integrating into the flock


We also offer free choice oyster shells as a source of grit and to strengthen the shells of eggs. If a chicken (especially a strong layer) is deficient in calcium, it can lead to severe health complications and a shortened lifespan.


Of course, it is still possible for them to get parasites and other general illnesses, so it is always good to keep a watchful eye on your flock.


Meat Production

As smaller than average sized chickens they are not considered good for an abundance meat production.


Noise Level

Silkies are considered a quiet breed as far as noise is concerned. This makes them a good candidate for more urban farms in populated neighborhoods.


While the hen doesn't make an abundance of noise, roosters will crow and can be generally noisy. We would definitely not recommend this breed of rooster for densely populated areas.


In our experience they make noise from time to time, but compared to more vocal chickens they are quiet.

White Silkie Broad Side

Temperament

Friendly and docile are words often used to describe Silkie chickens.


In our experience, Silkie hens have never been aggressive towards us. In fact they are a more affectionate breed that enjoys being held and cuddles and is known for their affection similar to Orpingtons.


With their calm disposition, they would do well around children.


While by nature the roosters are rarely aggressive, if the ratio of hens to roosters is not appropriate, they can be aggressive with each other roosters. An ideal rooster to hen ratio for this breed is 1 rooster to every 12 hens.


Housing Requirements

As a smaller than average sized breed Silkies require 2 square feet per bird in the coop. It is important to ensure your coop has adequate space and height to ensure your birds are comfortable.


Our coop is secure from predator's and limited drafts, but still is unheated. Silkies in our area did not have any issues during the winter, even on days it dipped to -22 (negative twenty-two) with wind-chill.

In an enclosed run, 8 to 10 square feet per bird is recommended for happy and healthy birds.


During hot sunny weather we keep our chickens in a roofed run with lots of airflow and free access to the coop which tends to be shady and cooler. This was sufficient for days that got upwards of 90 degrees and sunny.


Are They Right For You?

Silkies can be a suitable option for beginners due to their docile temperament, cold tolerance, gentle personality.

Ultimately the purpose of the chicken is a key factor in this decision. Silkies produces less than the average eggs per year, they take longer than most breeds to mature and start laying, and they are not optimal for meat production.


If you are looking to add a unique chicken with a gentle temperament, then Silkies may be for you!


On the other hand, if you are looking for a meat chicken or high egg production, it may be worth considering other breeds.


Learn More

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