7 Weird Features of Silkie Chickens

3 black Silkie chickens on a table

Silkies are by far the most unusual looking chicken in existence. They go by many names – the wooly hen, the silk fowl, the rabbit chicken, fluff balls, teddy bears, and even aliens by some people who are obviously joking. This breed of chicken has a strange appearance and possesses a friendliness that endears them to the hearts of most people. This article is going to dive deeper into the history of this unique bird.

Origins of the Silkie Chicken

This is a very old breed of chicken that likely comes from China, although no one knows for sure. Many people believe that the Silkie goes back all the way back to the Chinese Han Dynasty in 206 BC. Due to this fact, some people refer to the Silkie as the “Chinese Silk Chicken.” 

Marco Polo was the first notable figure to mention the silkie chicken. He wrote about it while he was on his journey through Europe and the Far East. Marco Polo never actually saw the bird with his own eyes, but a fellow traveler described it to him as they exchanged stories. 

If the Silkie chicken did originate from China, it likely made its way westward by the Silk Road or maritime routes. This ancient road stretched from China to Iraq so it’s believed that the birds spread from there. 

Silkies were next mentioned by Ulisse Aldrovandi (a famous Italian naturalist), who spoke of a chicken that had “fur like a black cat.” When first introduced to the people of Europe, it was described as being the offspring of a chicken and a rabbit. They became a prized commodity due to this fact as people believed they were a mutation between those two incompatible species. 

What do Silkie Chickens Look Like?

Silkie chicken
Silkie chicken

Silkies have their own unique look and stand out like a sore thumb. Their heads are crested in a way that resembles a pom-pom. There is usually a comb present that is a very dark color. If it’s not black or dark mulberry, then the chicken is not a pure Silkie. 

Their bodies are broad while their back remains short. Silkies also have a full breast. They have five toes rather than the usual four found on other breeds of chicken. Their fifth toe is also feathered. 

Silkie feathers do not have that hook feature that holds their feathers together. Their main feathering actually looks like the underside of a regular chicken. Since their feathers are not held together, Silkies cannot fly. Learn why chickens can’t fly. Their feathering is also not waterproof so a watered down Silkie will be miserable. 

All Silkies within the United States and Canada are categorized as a bantam, regardless of their size. Those are the only two countries that do not recognize both bantam and Silkies as separate breeds. Either way, these birds can weigh up to 3 pounds. 

Silkie Egg Production and Overall Temperament

Clever Silkie chicken riding a turtle
The Silkie chicken is quite a clever bird – here we see him hitching a “free” ride from the neighborhood tortoise!

Silkies are not exactly high performers when it comes to laying eggs. Owners are lucky to get 100 eggs per year out of them. That’s less than 3 eggs per week. But silkies do start laying eggs earlier in the year that most other chickens. 

Now let’s look at their temperament. Silkies are calm and friendly, including males. This in itself sets them apart because male chickens are usually aggressive. However, this docile behavior comes at a price. They can be picked on by other birds so you should only pair them with chickens that have a similar nature. 

Even though these birds are fluffy, they are not able to handle the cold weather like other chickens. Their fluff soaks up rain water and causes them to get even colder. If you plan to raise silkies in an extremely cold climate, then you will need to add heating to their coop. 

Silkies are also content when they are confined but if you let them free range, then they are great foragers. Just be sure you take extra precautions to protect them from predators since they cannot fly. 

Most people keep silkies as pets rather than for a practical purpose. So the way they are raised is usually very different from other chickens. Furthermore, silkies can live up to 9 years which is another reason they make great pets. 

Known Health Issues with Silkies 

Marek’s disease is a really devastating and common disease among chickens and silkies are no exception. There are certain types that have been bred with a boosted natural immunity but those breeds are more expensive. Since you are not planning to eat the meat or eggs that come from silkies, then you should just have them vaccinated for Marek’s. 

Mites and lice are also a common threat to silkies due to their fluffy nature. You can take extra precautions to prevent these nasty infestations. 

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Sometimes you will also need to trim the hair from around their eyes so they can see more clearly. 

Scaly leg mites are another common parasite that silkies can contract. Their unique leg feathering makes them appealing to these parasites. Microscopic mites will burrow into the skin of the chicken, which will cause a scaly crust to appear. Fortunately, it’s easy to treat these mites. Just rub petroleum jelly on the scaly deposits to loosen these deposits. Make sure that you do not scrub so hard that blood appears.

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Scaly leg mites can be prevented by applying mite powder to the chicken’s living area. 

Are Silkies the Right Choice for You?

A Silkie chicken is a great choice for children since they are so tolerant and love to cuddle in your lap. They are extremely friendly animals and tend to interact with people in a unique way. For instance, they have been known to follow around their owners while “talking” to them. But as I said before, other birds will pick on them so make sure you do not mix them with other chickens.

Silkies are probably the best brooding chicken on the planet. They do not discriminate against eggs either. They’ll accept all eggs, including those from other birds! 

If you live in an apartment and want some form of bird as a pet, then a silkie is a great choice. They are a quiet pet too.

If you live in an area that is wet and muddy, then keep in mind that silkies hate that sort of climate. You can own them, but you’ll have to take extra precautions. 

A Look at the Silkie Chicken’s 7 Best Features

Two white silkies

Silkies are one of the best chicken pets you will find. They seem to spread happiness everywhere they go. They are not a good choice for purposes like laying eggs, but they are great for cuddles and cheering you up on those bad days. They are definitely a unique breed so let’s wrap up this post with some of their coolest features. 

1. Their Feathers are Cuddly

Silkie feathers are nice and fluffy, making them extra cuddly. They are quite similar to the fluff you find on chicks. This feature is unique to silkies and is probably one of the biggest reasons why people love keeping them as pets. 

2. Silkie Chickens Have a Unique Crest

Another cool feature of silkies is that they have a puff of feathers on top of their head. It’s a unique feature that distinctly defines this breed of chicken. They also have a vaulted skull with a prominent upward arch, providing more area for the crest. This makes it stand out even more. 

3. Silkie Chickens Have Earlobes that Stand Out

Silkies have blue earlobes. This feature is not uncommon with chickens since other breeds display this feature. It’s the turquoise tint that makes them unique. It’s not clear what makes their earlobes turn this color but what is clear is that it’s adorable! 

4. Silkie Chickens Have Feathered Legs

Most chickens tend to have bare legs but silkies have fluffy feathers that grow along the shanks and on their toes. This feature is only shared with a handful of other breeds. 

5. Silkie Chickens Have 5 Toes

Other breeds of chickens have four toes but silkies have five. Their fifth is located just above the hind toe and it never touches the ground. IT curves upward, serving only one purpose – to look adorable. There are other chickens that have five toes but it is not the norm. 

6. Silkie Chickens Have Black Skin

Silkies are one of the few chicken breeds that have black skin, black muscles, and black bones. Their beaks are even dark. While this feature is found in a handful of other chickens, none of them have the fluffiness and personality to match that of the silkie. 

7. Silkies are Persistent Brooders

Silkies are also known for their broodiness and they are used to hatch eggs that are considered valuable but come from less reliable breeds. Silkies have a very low egg production due to this brooding nature. Silkies would rather spend their time brooding than laying eggs, but they are the best brood breed available. 

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Conclusion

There are other breeds of chickens that share some of the same features as silkies. But there is something about the combination of distinct features that makes this bird one of the most amazing chickens in the world.

Charles Joseph

I've been raising chickens since 2012 -- initially for their eggs and to keep our yard clear of bugs and now as pets. If you're interested, you can read my story here.

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