History of Silkies
Silkies are one of the oldest chicken breeds believed to have originated in Asia, though the exact location remains uncertain. Marco Polo introduced them to Europe around 700 years ago, marketing them as “bird-mammals” due to their furry appearance, tricking unsuspecting buyers into believing they were a cross between a chicken and a rabbit.
Classification of Silkies
Silkies are classified as an Asiatic breed. They were officially recognized by the British Poultry Standard of Perfection in 1865 and by the American Poultry Association in 1874. The Australian Poultry Standard acknowledged Silkies in 1998.
Varieties of Silkies
Silkies come in both bantam and non-bantam types. In North America, all Silkies are classified as bantams. They can be either bearded or non-bearded. Bearded Silkies have a fluffy beard around their face and small wattles, while non-bearded Silkies have large wattles.
Colors of Silkies
Silkies exhibit a variety of colors, with some officially recognized varieties including black, blue, grey, white, buff, partridge, and splash. In addition to these, there are also unofficial colors such as lavender, gold, red, and cuckoo.
Appearance of Silkies
Silkies are most recognizable by their fluffy feathers, which lack barbicels, giving them a furry appearance. They have broad bodies, five toes (unlike the typical four found in most chickens), and black skin and bones. Their beaks are short, and they have a walnut-shaped comb, with a comb and wattles that can be black or mulberry-colored.
Size of Silkies
Silkies are relatively lightweight chickens, with males weighing around 1.8 kg and females weighing 1.3 kg. Bantam males weigh approximately 600g, and females weigh around 500g.
Temperament of Silkies
Silkies, including males, are known for their docile and friendly nature, making them easy to approach. However, due to their gentle disposition, they may be prone to bullying by other chicken breeds, so it’s best to keep them with similar breeds.
Health of Silkies
Silkies are generally healthy chickens and can live 4-9 years if well taken care of and fed properly. They are prone to Marek’s Disease, which can cause balance loss and paralysis, but some owners choose to vaccinate their chickens against it.
Silkies as Pets
Silkies make great backyard pets. They enjoy sitting on laps, following their owners around the yard, and bonding with them. They are tolerant of being picked up and are known for their calm demeanor, making them suitable for families with young children or seniors.
Egg Laying of Silkies
Unfortunately, Silkies are relatively poor egg layers, producing around 3 eggs per week. Some Silkies may not lay eggs at all during the summer. Their eggs are small to medium in size and can be cream or white in color.
Silkies are a common breed of chickens and can be found through websites like Gumtree, local community sellers, or breeders. It’s essential to purchase from reputable breeders or sellers to ensure you get healthy and well-cared-for chickens.
Silkies as Mothers and Egg Layers
Silkies can lay a fair number of eggs in a year, but their laying is often interrupted due to their tendency to go broody. In an ideal year, a Silkie hen might produce 100 to 120 eggs.
Silkies have a tendency for broodiness, which has been selectively bred out of most fowl produced for egg production. However, this broodiness is often exploited by poultry keepers who allow Silkies to raise the offspring of other poultry types.
Silkies are known for their calm and friendly temperament, making them good mothers and suitable for backyard or garden environments. They interact well with children but may be bullied by more active or aggressive birds when kept in mixed flocks.
Silkie chicken eggs are generally a porcelain white to cream color. However, Silkie eggs can vary and may be light brown or even pinkish.
Silkie eggs are edible and enjoyable. Silkies’ free-range diet of greenery and insects contributes to the quality of their eggs, especially the bright yellow yolks. While they are a little smaller, this makes them ideal for kids.
Silkies lay small eggs with big deep yellow yolks and relatively less white, averaging 3 to 5 eggs per week.
Silkies lay between 80 and 120 eggs per year and can be encouraged to lay frequently. They typically start laying at around 7 to 9 months of age, but some may not lay until they are older.
Silkie eggs may hatch early, with an average of 18 to 24 hours ahead of schedule. This is common among bantams, as smaller egg breeds tend to hatch earlier than their larger counterparts.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) About Silkie Chickens
1. Are Silkies good for beginners?
Yes, Silkies are an excellent choice for beginners due to their calm and friendly temperament. They are easy to handle and make great pets for families with children or seniors.
2. Do Silkies make good mothers?
Absolutely! Silkies are known for their nurturing instincts and make excellent mothers. They will diligently care for their chicks, making them ideal for breeding or raising other poultry’s offspring.
3. How many eggs do Silkies lay?
Silkies are not prolific layers compared to some other chicken breeds. On average, they produce around 3 eggs per week, with some variations depending on the individual bird.
4. Can Silkies be kept in mixed flocks with other chicken breeds?
While Silkies are generally docile, they can be bullied by more active or aggressive chicken breeds. It’s best to keep them with similar, gentle breeds to ensure a harmonious flock.
5. Are Silkie eggs different from regular chicken eggs?
Silkie eggs are smaller than eggs from standard chicken breeds. However, they have larger, deep yellow yolks and relatively less egg white. Despite their size, Silkie eggs are considered a delicacy and are enjoyed by many.
6. How long do Silkies live on average?
With proper care, Silkies can live for 4 to 9 years, making them a long-term backyard companion.
7. Can I find Silkies for sale easily?
Yes, Silkies are a common breed, and you can find them through various channels such as online platforms, local community sellers, or reputable breeders.
Silkie chickens are fascinating and unique creatures that have captured the hearts of poultry enthusiasts around the world. With their fluffy appearance, friendly nature, and ability to bond with their owners, they make fantastic backyard pets. While they may not be the most prolific egg layers, the quality of their eggs and their motherly instincts more than compensate for it.
As you consider adding Silkies to your flock or starting a new adventure with these charming birds, remember to provide them with proper care, a suitable living environment, and nutritious food. Whether you are a seasoned chicken keeper or a first-time poultry enthusiast, the joy of raising Silkies will undoubtedly enrich your life and bring delight to your home. So, embrace the allure of the Silkie breed and embark on a rewarding journey with these captivating chickens!