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You don’t often hear the words ‘best family pet ever’ and ‘chicken’ in the same sentence. But I’m here to tell you that the humble (and very fluffy) silkie chicken could be the one for your household!
I mean if you want a soft, friendly, outdoor only (keeping the house clean is hard enough with just kids, let alone pets inside as well!) pet that actually contributes to it’s own upkeep costs (EGGS!!! Fresh, delicious, healthy eggs!) then the silkie chicken might be perfect for your family
Read on to find out more and learn all the silke chicken facts you would need as a pet owner.
But first, have a look at this video showing just how cute silkies are!
Where Silkies Came From
Legend has it that the breed originated somewhere in Asia; apparently Marco Polo spotted some in China back in the 13th century.
But the silkie wasn’t officially recognized in North America until 1874 and even then breeders were telling people the silkie was a cross between a chicken and a rabbit!
Unfortunately egg laying isn’t a silkie’s strong point, they are considered more of an ornamental chicken breed. Hens will produce around 100 eggs per year and mainly in the warmer months. So if you are getting chickens just for their egg laying skills then a silkie is not the one for you.
Saying that there is no reason why you can’t mix and match a little, have a couple of silkies for their cuteness and delightful nature, and a couple of hybrids for all the eggs your family could want!
But like all homegrown eggs, hybrid or silkie chicken eggs are absolutely delicious and potentially healthier for you (assuming you feed your chooks a healthy diet and don’t’ routinely use things like hormones on them that can be common farming practice in some countries).
These sweet little birds have a similar life span to any other chicken, around nine to ten years.
I think we can all see that the fluffy feathering is the most striking part of this breed’s appearance, which is caused by their feathers having a lack of barbicels (in fact this is a recessive gene so if a silkie is bred with a chicken with ‘normal feathering’ the offspring will nearly always have mainly normal feathering too, it kind of makes the silkie feathering even more special).
But did you also know that:
- Silkies have highly pigmented black/blue skin, muscle (meat) and even bones. This black skin and bones made them very popular for Chinese medicine as it was said that the pigmentation contained healing properties.
- Silkies also have an extra toe on each foot, five toes instead of four.
- They can have turquoise blue earlobes.
- They come as both bearded and non bearded (some have their wattle showing, and others have their fluffy feathers forming a sort of beard covering their wattle)
- You can get them in both large fowl size and as a bantam breed in the UK. But in America only silkie bantams are a recognized breed.
There are a variety of different silkie chicken colors with perhaps the most well know being white silkies.
In the USA you can officially get non-bearded silkie bantams in white, black, gray, partridge and buff and bearded silkie bantams in white, black, gray, partridge, buff, blue, splash and self blue. So plenty to choose from!
While the first thing you notice about silkie’s is their fluffy feathering, I think everyone agrees that it’s their friendly and affectionate nature that creates a lasting impression.
It has often been said that they make the perfect birds for children and beginners because they are not flighty in the slightest. In fact they cannot fly full stop, which makes keeping them out of the flower beds even easier!
They are also wonderful mothers so much so that they will happily adopt baby ducks and chicks alike. Of course being such wonderful mothers is both a blessing and a curse, because it means that they will often spend a lot of Spring and Summer attempting to go broody (this is when hens sit on eggs and try and hatch them).
If you want to give hatching chicks a try then Silkie’s are perfect because they will virtually do all the work for you. But if you don’t plan to hatch I would advise you get a coop where you can close the door to the nest boxes at night to discourage broodiness.
So is the Silkie the perfect pet for your family (and garden)?
Let’s look at some pros and cons!
- Very friendly so great for kids
- Very calm, an excellent bird for people who have never kept chickens before as they are easy to handle
- They’re fluffy, so much cuteness you could watch them all day!
- They can’t fly so they’re easier to keep contained
- They have fluffy feet so don’t damage garden as much
- Silkie’s make excellent Mothers, great if you want to hatch chicks
- They go broody a lot, not so great if you definitely don’t want to hatch chicks
- They aren’t as hardy as other breeds, mainly because they can’t tolerate getting wet
- With their fluffy feathers it’s important to check them for lice and mites regularly (although you should be doing this with any chickens)
- They don’t lay as many eggs as other breads (but like I said you can always have a couple of silkies and a couple of other chickens that lay plenty of eggs to even things up)
Honestly, if your family is thinking of keeping chickens as pets, then you can’t go too far wrong with silkies!
What Do Silkies Need
Pretty much the same as any chicken, a secure, fox proof coop and run (there is only one chicken coop I recommend, the eglu) and appropriate food, water and care everyday.
As silkies can’t tolerate getting wetting your chicken run will need some form of shelter, a covered, walk in run would be ideal.
They also need checking regularly for any lice or mites, but you should be doing this with any chicken breed.
Due to silkie’s lack of flying ability, a coop with high roosting bars is no good. You really need a coop with low roosting bars or they will just sleep on the floor. (You can see how the roosting bars of an eglu are at floor level, perfect for silkies!)
Getting Your Very Own Silkie Chickens
If you feel silkies are the perfect breed for your family then ensure you buy your birds from a reputable breeder. The American Silkie Bantam Club can help you out if you are in the USA, or The Silkie Club of Great Britain can point you in the right direction if you’re based in the UK.
Beware of any adverts on places like craigslist for silkie chicken for sale, and especially if they are for free. Silkies are quite difficult to sex, especially if you are an inexperienced poultry keeper, and you could end up with a silkie rooster (or three) without realizing!
Any information not linked to can be referenced to The Complete Encyclopedia of Chickens by Ester Verhoff and Aad Rijs an excellent book if you are interest in poultry care and different poultry breeds!
I hope that has given you a fab introduction to the sweet silkie chicken, they really do make the most wonderful pets, and their nature is as docile and calm as everyone says (I know as I use to keep them).
If you have any questions please ask away in the comments below, or send an email to Sammy@petchickenkeeper.com.
Plus if this post has helped you I would love for you to share this post to Pinterest, it would really help me out!