Silkie Chickens are the teddy bears of the chicken world! Their soft feathers, calm & gentle personalities, and overall adorableness make them a great pick for families with children.
Silkies are probably the most popular breeds for pet chickens, they’re not the best layers but they more than make up for it with their personalities and looks.
Silkie Chicken Appearance
There are a few physical characteristics that make Silkies stand out from other chickens, and unlike a lot of breed characteristics than can be hard to suss out, they’re pretty obvious. Even people that know nothing about chickens will be able to pick out a Silkie in the crowd.
The most obvious is the soft, fluffy feathers that look more like they belong on the trim of a 1940s Hollywood starlets bathrobe than on a chicken.
The maribou-trimmed birds are very common and easy to find if you’re looking to get started with your own flock.
The most common colors, and the ones you’ll likely see if you’re buying your chicks at Tractor Supply, are white, black and buff (a light tan). You can also find Blue, Partridge, Gray, and Splash Silkies but you’ll likely need to look online.
Read more about Ordering Chickens Online
Along with the color variations, you can also find bearded and non-bearded silkies. The bearded varieties have a tuft of fluffy feathers below the beak that looks like a beard.
They have two more physical traits that make them impossible to misidentify, even as chicks. All Silkies (even the white ones) have black skin and an extra toe.
Read more about Identifying Chick Breeds
Silkies have feathered feet so as adults you might have to do some searching to find that extra toe but it’s there under the fluff!
Another trait, and the one that causes them the most issues, is the presence of a head pouf. All of the poufed breeds, including Polish Chickens, Appenzeller Spitzhauben, and of course Silkies have what’s called a ‘vaulted skull’.
Read more about Appenzeller Spitzhauben, the Best Crested Breed
Basically, they have an opening in the top of their skull. It’s not something you can see (it’s covered by skin & the head pouf of feathers) but it does open them up for potential brain damage.
It is possible for brain damage to result in a condition known as wry neck, where the birds head is twisted to the side. Sometimes so severely that the birds head is on the ground.
I have raised many silkies over the years and I’ve only had one case of wry neck in a chick. I highly recommend reading this article on the Causes & Treatment of Wry Neck in Chickens from Pipinchick Silkies.
They’re most at risk when they’re small, so it’s best to keep them with other small chicks in the brooder and make sure they have a lot of room.
The hole can close or get smaller as the birds grow which offers more protection to the brain but it doesn’t always.
Unlike a lot of super cute animals that would gladly rip you to shreds, with silkies the cute teddy bear exterior matches their cute teddy bear interior.
I have mixed feelings about keeping chickens as pets, but I can’t deny that if you’re looking for a sweet flock of birds to love and cuddle this is the breed you want.
Read more about Keeping Chickens as Pets
A few months before the pandemic kicked off I was contacted about taking in a trio of silkies that had been raised as pets, in the house, but could no longer be kept due to town regulations.
The two girls were nice enough but the little rooster, Dash, was such a sweetheart. I kept the three of them in a pen by themselves because there was no way that little boy would have survived living in the barnyard.
He weighed all of a pound, enjoyed watching Lego Frozen with my kids, and loved being carried around. My kids loved him fiercely.
Dash was always up for an adventure and really saved our sanity when the whole world was going nuts. He was always tiny and despite eating chick starter, cat food, and scrambled eggs he never really thrived and when he passed away we were gutted.
It’s been over a year and my girls still talk about him.
I suppose some of his temperament could be related to his health problems, but even my semi-feral (all of my chickens are semi-feral and that’s how I like it!) silkie roosters will relax into a cuddle if you pick them up.
The hens are also sweet and are known for going broody. They are such eager mamas that they are often used to hatch eggs from other birds.
Silkies lay small cream or tinted eggs and you can expect 100-160 eggs per year. Keep in mind that they stop laying when they’re broody so if you have a particularly broody hen you’ll have even fewer eggs.
Read more about Broody Hens
My grandfather loved telling me a story about his little silkie hen that hatched ducklings, apparently, she was a great mom and just about lost her mind the first time they jumped in a puddle!
Silkie Roosters vs Silkie Hens
Thanks to the fluffy feathers it can be harder to sex silkies when they’re young. My favorite thing to look for is the appearance of saddle feathers on young roosters but that’s not always obvious with Silkies.
They also tend to mature slower than other breeds, we got a silkie chick last spring and I’m finally confident that she’s actually a female.
As they mature the roosters developed a knobby, mulberry purple comb that sits below their head pouf.
One more trait is the variation in the feathered crest on their head. Silkie hens will have a nice, neat puff while roosters will have long thin wispy feathers that stick out of the pouf all over the place.
Sexually dimorphic crests are also found in Polish chickens, where the hens have a neat rounded ball and roosters have a more wild feathery explosion going on.
Learn more about Keeping Polish Chickens
Looking for more information? Check out my Chickens page or start here: