You may have seen a really fluffy chicken and thought “What kind of chicken is that?!” Silkie chickens are a fun little chicken breed that have many unique and interesting traits. Here at Merry Meadows Farm in Kingston, Oklahoma, we breed and raise silkie chickens. If you’re nearby and interested in purchasing a silkie or multiple for your own chicken flock, you can send us a message here and we will let you know what we have available!
A Little History of the Silkie Chicken
Silkie Chickens are believed to have originated in Asia near China. Some of the earliest records in history indicate that silkie chickens have been around since ancient times (200BCE). Marco Polo even saw them on his travels through Asia in the 13th Century! The Silkie chicken is even often referred to as the “Chinese Chicken” or “Chinese Silkie Chicken”. In Mandarin Chinese the word for silkie chickens translates to “Black bones chicken”. This is because silkie chickens have black bones, black meat and even black skin!
Why Are They So Fluffy and Soft?
Silkies don’t have feathers like other chickens, they have soft, fluffy feathers. That’s why they are called silkie chickens, they feel as soft as silk! These fluffy feathers are caused by the absence of “barbicels”. These are what keep feathers in a feather shape. Have you ever found a feather and run it between your fingers? Sometimes the feather will separate because of this and it will create a little gap in the feather. There are tons of these individual strands that seem to be glued together to form each side of a feather. Barbicels are what keep these feather strands together. So, Silkie feathers are regular feathers that have each strand separated.
That’s why silkies feel so soft, they basically have down feathers their whole life! Because of their feathers lacking the barbicels, they can’t fly either. Now, most chickens can’t fly long distances. But, silkie chickens really can’t fly.. They can jump and flap their wings but it rarely gets them more than a foot off the ground. This does make it very easy to house and fence them though! We keep our silkies in a pen with a 4 foot tall fence. That size fence will definitely keep the silkies and and it helps keep our goats and other critters out.
Keep Your Silkies Dry and Safe
Since they have these soft and fluffy feathers it important to keep them out of the rain as much as possible. You’ll want to make sure your silkies always have a place of cove where they can get out of the rain or other inclement weather. If your silkies do get wet you can dry them with a blow dyer set on warm and low. You won’t want to use a towel when drying them as this will pull they feathers out and get very sick. If you live in a climate where it gets below freezing you’ll want to make sure they don’t have to stick their head down into water as this will freeze their feathers together and could cause a lot of problems.
Using Silkies To Hatch Other Bird Eggs
Silkies are known to be a very broody breed. When a chicken is broody this means that she is ready to lay on he clutch of eggs and hatch them. Silkies are very good at taking care of their young and can even be used to hatch other eggs than their own. We have used our silkies to hatch other chickens eggs if they wouldn’t take care of their own. They can even be used to hatch duck eggs! They are little walking incubators and a great addition to a flock that isn’t very broody and you want to hatch som eggs.
Blue Ears & More Toes than Most!
Silkie chickens have turquoise shimmery “ear lobes”. These are a unique trait found in the silkie chicken breed. It’s one of those things that make silkies so unique. They also have a “walnut” comb on the top of their head. The combs are more distinct in roosters too, but both hens and roosters have this comb. It looks a lot different than the traditional spiked comb you see on many chicken breeds. It’s shaped a lot like a walnut or brain. It has many folds and it closer to the head than an upright or spiked comb.
Silkies also have a trait called polydactyly, this means that have have extra toes! Your average backyard chicken will have three toes pointed forward and one toe in the back. But silkie chickens have five toes in the front and one in the back. It really looks like their toes are in a wider shape with two extra little toes in the front. Because of having these extra toes it can be harder for a silkie chicken to grab onto a branch or pole like other chickens can. We have found that they like having a more flat surface like a 2×4 board or similar to stand or perch on in their coop. Of course you can’t put the perch up too high because they can’t fly with their fluffy feathers.
The Black Meat Chicken
That’s right, silkie chickens have all black meat! Not only do they have black meat but they also have black skin and bones too. The black coloring found throughout the silkie chicken is because they have a rare genetic trait “melanism”. The coloring has no effect of the quality of the meat, or the taste either. It’s just a unique coloring that is found is some more rare chicken breeds.
In American culture the black meat and bones are not taken too fondly.. But in asian cultures the black meat chickens can be seen as gourmet or even medicinal. We do raise silkies at our farm but being in Oklahoma it can be hard to find a good size customer base for using our silkie chickens for meat. They are also a bantam breed of chicken meaning they are smaller than your average chicken and much smaller the your average meat bird.
The Different Colors of Silkies
Silkie chickens can be a wide variety of different colors. The most traditional color of a silkie is all white. But they can also be black, buff, lavender, partridge, splash. You can even get some really unique coloring with silkies if you experiment with breeding. Here at Merry Meadows we have many different color patterns. And this year we had a hen born that was white with brownish red tips at the ends of her feathers. Making her look like a perfectly roasted marshmallow.