Poultry Profile: Get to Know the Silkie Chicken Breed

The Silkie is a bantam breed with a long history used mainly as an exhibition or pet chicken. Silkies are very broody and make wonderful surrogate hatchers.

by Dani Yokhna
PHOTO: Shutterstock

Venetian explorer Marco Polo (circa 1254-1324) returned from his travels throughout Asia with stories of a “furry” chicken. While the exact origin of the Silkie’s development remains unknown, China and Japan both lay claim to this extraordinary fowl.

Fun Facts About the Silkie

Silkies are named for the long, silk-like feathers that cover their bodies. Their small walnut combs and small to medium-size wattles appear deep mulberry to black.

Silkie plumage looks like fur or down instead of feathers. This is because Silkie plumage lacks barbicels, the hooked projections normally extending from and interlocking the secondary branches of chickens’ feathers. In addition to luxurious, fluffy plumage, the breed has dark-blue legs with abundant feathering, turquoise-blue earlobes, black skin and bones, and grayish-black flesh.

The Silkie has five toes; most chickens have only four.

silkie chickens

Ana HotalingThis breed comes in an assortment of colors, and some varieties are bearded with an extra muff of feathers covering their earlobes. The American Poultry Association recognizes Black, Buff, Gray, Partridge and White, and (bearded only) Splash, Blue and Self Blue varieties.

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Mature males weigh only 36 ounces. Hens weight 32 ounces.

silkie chickens
Ana Hotaling

Other Useful Data

Use: The Silkie is a bantam chicken breed used mainly as exhibition and pet chickens; however, due to Silkie hens’ extreme broodiness, they make wonderful surrogate hatchers, as well.

Additional History: In 1599, Italian naturalist and author Ulisse Aldrovandi wrote about “wool-bearing chickens;” however, today’s Silkie chicken breed, is considerably different than those of the past. It was recognized in the American Poultry Association’s first Standard of Perfection, published in 1874.

silkie chickens
Ana Hotaling

Special Considerations and Notes: Silkies are sweet, ultra-docile chickens. They lay about one tinted egg per week. They are broody hens and are supremely happy to hatch the eggs of other birds. Some poultry fanciers consider them the ideal organic incubator and set them on eggs as diverse as quail and duck. Given the chance, Silkie hens cheerfully brood and raise their unorthodox offspring, too.

Gray-black Silkie chicken meat is in an element in Asian haute cuisine. The breed’s name in Chinese, wu gu jis means “dark-boned chicken.” The chicken occasionally appears in French cuisine, as well.

Urban Uses: Silkie chickens are friendly and make good pets.

Egg Size: Small

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