Silkies are a breed of chicken named for its unusual soft, fluffy silky plumage. Silkie chickens have several unique genetic and behavioral traits that make them stand out from other chicken breeds.
The Silkie chicken is one of the most popular chicken breeds today. Silkies are a cute, fluffy, small breed chicken with a calm personality. These traits make them ideal as pets that enjoy attention and frequent handling.
It is believed that Silkies originated somewhere in ancient Asia with an early documented account from Marco Polo during his travels in Asia in the 13th century. In his writings, he described chickens with black fur:
“… I have been told, but did not myself see the animal, that there are found at this place a species of domestic fowls which have no feathers, their skins being clothed with black hair, resembling the fur of cats. Such a sight must be extraordinary. They lay eggs like other fowls, and they are good to eat.” – Marco Polo, The Travels of Marco Polo the Venetian
Silkies are incredibly strange birds. I don’t even know if you could call them birds. They look more like bunnies with chicken legs. In fact… there are some tales that people in the Netherlands tried to market them to tourists as the first ever bird mixed with bunny. If someone told me this was a bird mixed with a bunny, I would totally fall for that. I’d probably pay good money for one too.
7 Interesting Facts About Silkie Chickens
Here are 7 features that make Silkies different from other chicken breeds.
1. Silkie Chickens are Fluffy
The feathers on these birds are furry and fluffy because they don’t have barbs to hold them down. Instead each individual Silkie feather flutters and flies around her like a walking feather duster. This can cause Silkies to get extra cold in the winter, but our Mokey has never had a problem, even in -5˚F without heat in the coop.
2. Silkie Chickens have Black Skin and Bones
Besides the silly fur-like feathers that make a Silkie look like a Muppet, these birds have several other weirdo traits that make them stand out. Silkie’s skin is black or dark blue instead of white. They also have black bones. These are two very strange traits that they share with a few other chicken breeds, the Ayam Cemani among them.
3. Silkies have Extra Toes
Silkies have five toes on their feet instead of the usual four. The fifth toe is very small and pokes out between two others, like it just mistakenly sprouted there one day and decided to hang around. Even with the extra toe (or perhaps because of it) our Silkie, Mokey is a clumsy lady. Whenever another chicken chases her she does this hysterical hop sprint while flapping her wings and trying to stay upright. I laugh every time I see it.
4. Silkie Chickens’ Ears are Turquoise
The earlobes of these birds are what truly make them stand out. We thought something was wrong with our Silkie rooster when we noticed his ears were turning blue. In fact, they were bright turquoise! “How interesting!” we said. “How creepy!” we thought. When his comb and wattles started coming in purplish maroon, I was sure we had some kind of circus freak on our hands. Turns out, that’s just Silkies for ya.
5. Silkies Make Good Pets
Because of the docile nature of these birds and the fact that they don’t make much noise and can barely fly, many people keep them as pets. They are very sweet and love to be held and pet. I’ve seen Silkies that crave the attention of their owners and will sit on their lap all day long. Because of these qualities, they are also the most recommended chicken breed for children.
6. Silkie Chickens are a Delicacy
Many people consider Silkie chicken meat to be a delicacy, and restaurants like to charge a pretty penny because of it. Many cultures also believe Silkie meat to have healing properties and contain more nutrients than traditional chicken meat. In China, where Silkies were first bred, women eat these birds after giving birth to get their strength back.
7. Silkies are the Best Mothers in the Chicken World
It’s no secret that Silkies make wonderful mothers. Their tendency to go broody (have the urge to sit on eggs) is much higher than any other breed. They will patiently incubate those eggs and lovingly care for whatever comes out of them. They will proudly raise the babies of uninterested flock mates. Even baby ducks and turkeys!
I can’t even imagine our one pound bird raising a bunch of turkeys. They would tower over her in just a few weeks! We have high hopes for Mokey going broody this spring. Since our rooster is a cross breed, and we have such variety of breeds in our hens, whatever comes out of those eggs is going to be quite a surprise. I can’t even imagine the hilarity of that fluffy Silkie butt parading around with a brood of weirdo mixed up chicks.
Other chicken breeds may share one or two of these features, but only the Silkie shares such a unique combination of genetic and behavioral traits.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about our adventures with these delightful creatures, and I hope you learned a little something too!