Silkie Chicken: The Ultimate Care Guide

 The Incredible Silky Chicken! One glance and the average person is wowed by the beautiful and unique appearance of the Silkie Chicken. There really is nothing more fascinating than a flock of snow-white Silkie chickens roaming your backyard!

Silkie Chicken: The Ultimate Care Guide
Silkie Chicken: The Ultimate Care Guide

 Nevertheless, you don't have to stick with white! This breed comes in a full rainbow of colors, 3 different types of feathers, and even a featherless variety on the neck.

The origins and characteristics of Silkie chickens

 Believe it or not, Silkies have been around for centuries. There are descriptions of scholars and adventurers who may have depicted these glorious birds as early as the 13th century, and possibly even earlier.

 Some believe that Aristotle described them in some of his texts when he mentioned "hairy birds like cats", but a commonly cited source is the writings and descriptions of Marco Polo during his travels through China. And, indeed, that is where the bird is thought to have originated.

 While the silky feathers and slate-black skin, meat, and bone remained a defining characteristic of the bird, other things such as the colors available, the shape of the comb, and the size of the crest definitely evolved and changed over the centuries, especially as the bird grew in popularity.

 Here in the United States, the Silkie is a bantam breed and according to the 14th edition (2020) of the American Bantam Association (ABA), they are the 4th most popular.

What Does a Silkie Chicken Look Like?

 In general, a well-bred Silkie should have a walnut-shaped comb, a soft, full, medium-sized crest that is more globose in the female, and a little straighter in the male with streamer feathers sticking out from the back.

 The eyes should be large, shiny, and very dark in color, and the beak should be black to slate blue, short, wide, and well curved.

The neck is short and well-proportioned, and the earlobes are turquoise blue.

 The back should be short and wide, and the bird should have profuse, soft, well-curved tail feathers with prominent shredding at the tips.

 The wings are medium in size and should be held close together and nearly horizontal. It should have a deep maroon hue on the comb, face, and wattles.

 The hocks and toes should be black or slate blue, depending on the color of the feathers, and the bird should have 5 toes.

 These characteristics, along with a list of finer details and the absence of any DQs or flaws, would be your perfect bird - one that every serious breeder hopes to produce.

 Although there are many new colors and different types of feathers being bred, the ABA currently only recognizes birds with silky type feathers in black, blue, buff, gray, paint, partridge, auto blue, spatter, and white in bearded and unbearded varieties; except for Paint, which is recognized as bearded only.

Here are the types of feathers currently found in Silkie chickens:

  • The standard silky type of feather, for which the bird is named and so widely known, results from the absence of tiny hooks that firmly hold individual barbs together. Since a Silkie lacks these little fangs, the beards float freely creating their fur-like plumage.
  • Satin type feathers (technically not Silkie and known as Satins) are becoming very popular, and these birds look more like traditional chicken feathers.
  • Feather-type Frizzle (also known as Satin Frizzles and Silkie Frizzles), which demonstrates full fluffy plumage created by the introduction of a gene that causes feathers to curl.

Why Do People Keep Silkie Chickens?

 The majority of owners of Silkies keep them as pets. Their extremely docile and gentle nature makes them excellent companion chickens for families with children. Silkies are quite confident and very easy to tame. Many will even learn to love sitting on your lap.

Your Silkies pet may live for 7-9 years if given the right care and health management.

 Silkies lay delicious, medium-sized eggs that are white to tan in color, but they aren't known to be epic producers, so most don't rely on them as their sole source of eggs.

 Their persistent broodiness has a big impact on this. I truly do mean it when I say I'm insistent. They REALLY like to sit on eggs! Some even brood without eggs under them! This makes them wonderful incubators and many people will use them to hatch other breeds of birds.

Are silkies difficult to maintain?

 Silkies can present unique challenges, but with a few tweaks to your typical chicken routine, they're quite easy to maintain.

General Health

 Silkies are just as susceptible to developing poultry disease as any other chicken. As with other members of your herd, steps should be taken to keep their environment clean and dry, ensuring they have fresh water and food available at all times.

 High stress situations and poor living conditions severely compromise any animal's immune system and can leave your birds defenseless against lurking diseases and parasites.

 Silkies may be more prone to external parasites due to the very composition of their feathers and their inherent brooding. It's important to check them often for lice and mites, so you can deal with them quickly if necessary.

Housing and environmental tolerance

 Silkies can (and should) be kept outdoors like any other chicken. However, there are some special considerations.

 More importantly, their down feathers get soaked very quickly in the rain, so it is imperative that they have a dry area sheltered from the driving rain and cold wind.

 They can tolerate moderately cool temperatures as long as they have a nice, warm, dry coop with plenty of deep bedding to snuggle up on chilly nights.

 Individuals who live in regions where the average monthly low falls below 40 degrees Fahrenheit should think about taking further precautions, such as adding detachable windscreens to the sides of their run or keeping their animals inside a barn during the colder months. On chilly, snowy, or wet days, this will offer them additional protection.

Although they need a draft-free area in the enclosure, it is also important to provide some ventilation.

 I should also note here that curly silkies will have a harder time maintaining their body temperature in cold weather because the feathers curl away from the body, limiting their insulating ability.


 Due to their inability to fly, Silkies do not usually perch high like other birds. A perch built about 6 to 9 inches off the ground should appeal to them, or you can try teaching them to use a short ramp.

If an accessible perch is not provided, they will most likely congregate in groups on the ground.


 If you have a Silkie with an extra large crest, be sure to check to see if the bird can see well enough to find food and water and avoid hazards. If you decide to trim part of the crest, a slight trim of any feathers that directly interfere with vision will suffice.

 Remember that your Great Crested Silkie has adapted to have a 'visor' that protects its eyes from sunlight, so you don't want to remove a large amount of feathers and you certainly shouldn't cut near the skin.

 Your Silkie's nails may need trimming several times a year, especially if they don't walk on surfaces that help keep them short. Feathered feet are another area to watch out for as they can accumulate mud or feces that have hardened and need to be rinsed off.


 Silkie chicks will need a little crumble for the first two weeks of life. Many crumbled chicks are too big for their little beaks, but a quick run through a food processor will bring them down to edible size.

 As they age a little, this will not be necessary. A well-balanced adult crumble works well for these dwarf sized birds once they are of laying age, However, you might want to seek for a mini pellet if you live in a region with a lot of rain or high humidity. It is important to feed your adult birds good quality adult chicken food.

 Laying females should have free choice calcium supplements such as oyster shells and free choice gravel should be considered if your birds do not have access to soil. They are very fond of protein-rich treats such as larvae or mealworms as well as the occasional fresh fruit and vegetable.

 You should limit scratches and other treats to moderation, so they get enough food to meet their daily food needs.

 I also encourage you to talk to your breeder to see if they recommend any particular food brands or additional vitamin/mineral supplements for your area.

Free Ranging & Mingling with Other Birds

 Silkies love to scratch around the yard and chase insects just like any other chicken, but the unique size and shape of the Silkie Crest puts them at a definite disadvantage when it comes to freedom. Although many people do this successfully, it is important to remember the membership risk you take when allowing a bird with a limited view of aerial predators and the inability to fly to roam freely.

 Being in a mixed herd will provide some help, as other breeds can help alert them to danger and give them time to get to a safe area.

 However, mixing this docile breed with other larger breeds will come with its own risks. In the United States, Silkies are bantam (small) in size, so it is important to watch out for bullying from larger breeds. Please also keep in mind that a hen is a hen when a rooster reaches adulthood - the size and weight of a large breed rooster compared to a small Silkie hen could seriously injure her.

Where can I buy quality Silkie chicken?

 If it's a real cuddly and lovable Silkie you're looking to have in your backyard, your best source will be a Silkie breeder. Too often I see disappointed owners, who have raised chicks with tender, loving care, only to end up with a chicken that vaguely resembles the adorable poofs they saw when they fell in love with the breed. Buying from your local feed store or a large mail-order hatchery can leave you with a bird that you are not happy with.

 Find local breeders and discuss your objectives with them. Ask them about their chickens. For example: do they show? If not, do they raise their chicks to the Standard of Perfection? (SOP.) If not, do they raise their chickens to the standard of Perfection (SOP)?

 A breeder who raises their birds according to the SOP will almost always have pet-grade birds available from their hatches. These will be chicks or young adults that have specific imperfections or traits that the breeder does not want in their flocks. It could be an inappropriate number of toes, too few or incorrect color markings, a lack of beard, light colored eyes, or even a wing that doesn't sit properly. . There are a lot of things a breeder will "knock out" and many of them will be completely unnoticeable to a novice. They will be reasonably priced, well cared for, and overall beautiful quality birds.

 If you plan to get serious about breeding in the future, talk it over with your breeder so they can help you choose the starter birds that best suit your future goals. While you'll probably struggle to get a true show-quality bird, they may have adults or juveniles that were very close, but just didn't make the cut for one reason or another.

How much does a Silkie chicken cost?

 However, keep in mind that these birds will be priced correspondingly because the breeder has spent a lot of time and money on them. For young chicks, a typical price range will be between $10 and $30, and for adult birds, between $40 and $100+, ranging from those clearly intended as pets to those closer to SOP. Of fact, these numbers may be lower or greater depending on the breeder's experience, time and financial commitments, the location of the bird, its color, quality, and age.

 While we discuss purchasing high-quality birds (and the rising craze for Silkies in general), I'd like to bring up a "buyer beware" scenario to take into account. Please do some research on the breeder before buying hatching eggs, chicks, or adult birds from anyone claiming to sell "show quality" birds. If they promote "show quality," they ought to really exhibit it or at the very least have done so recently.

 It is not always a show quality purchase on your part to purchase eggs or birds from someone who only purchased breeding birds of show grade from someone else. To produce a single specimen deserving of being displayed on the exhibition floor, a breeding program must go through endless hours of record keeping, numerous hatches, and numerous adjustments.

 With that being said, at the absolute least, how can anyone assert that they have high-quality birds if the ones they raise have never been subjected to a critical evaluation? Be extremely careful when purchasing.

 The hobby of keeping Silkies is one that is always evolving and growing. There are many options to consider, whether you're searching for a few garden pets or thinking about the potential to one day steal the show. Enjoy the experience and have fun!

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Islam Khennoucha

Islam Khennoucha is an Australian author and chicken farmer who has dedicated his life to the study and care of these fascinating creatures. He was born and raised in Algeria, where he developed a love for nature and animals, especially chickens. After moving to Australia, Islam purchased a farm where he could fulfill his passion for raising chickens.
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