Now most chicken fanciers are well acquainted with the Chinese Silkie and for those of you, who aren’t, welcome to the wonderful world of keeping these fluffy poultry.
For me: The love affair with the Silkie chicken started with a neighbour appearing one afternoon with a lovely gold/buff coloured silkie in her hands, asking whether or not we’d lost a chook and if not, could we take it anyway.
After asking up down the street with no takers, it appeared she was to become part of the clan. One turned into 6 into 12 into 20. These days I have only around seven, six hens and 1 rooster. I would have more but I think our rooster is umm how do I put it…..not in action. Goodness knows why, old age I suspect.
History: This ancient breed has been recorded in Chinese, Japanese and Indian history for centuries. The distinctive feature of the Silkie is their unusual feathering. They are actually feathers that are incomplete. The feathers lack the barbs that hold each strand together to form the complete feather, which means they just float about like wispy fine threads instead.
Apparently when the Silkie was introduced to Europe several centuries ago, some folk tried to sell them as miraculous crosses between rabbits and chickens. Other features unique to the Chinese Silkie are, five toes, feathering down the legs and onto the feet, dark purple skin and bones and the roosters have an unusual mulberry comb, which looks like a large dark purple walnut on the front of their heads. They also have quite stunning turquoise earlobes. The Chinese are reputed to have eaten this particular chicken hoping to increase their libido They really are not any good for eating as they have very little flesh on them. Well, that’s my opinion.
They come in an array of colours, black, white, ginger, light and dark grey, partridge, which is a black and ginger and chinchilla, which is white and black. All are a beautiful and I always have enjoyed having a mixture of colours in my Silkie team. Though I have to say I am rather fond of the buff (ginger) colouring.
Ins and outs: I have found over the many years of keeping Silkies that the one thing that can cause issues is rain. Mine appeared to have easily succumbed to disease in extended periods of wet. To remedy this they now have a completely weather proof house that is under the cover of the back veranda roof. I can easily let them out to access our back garden and they usually find their way down to the vegetable garden and around the banana clumps. Wet weather aside the Silkie is a very hardy breed of poultry, tolerating a wide range of climates and climatic conditions, from cold to tropical.
Pros and cons:
They are great to keep, if you have children. This is due to their placid and gentle nature and their tolerance of being handled. Because of their small size they are also good to have free ranging around the garden, as they do nowhere near as much damage as some of the larger breeds. This is due to the Silkie’s lightweight and their soft claws.
If you wish to hatch eggs the Silkie will happily oblige. They are natural incubators. Sitting on eggs is one of their favourite past times and they make such wonderful mothers. The flipside of this is that they can go broody all the time, which can be rather annoying, as it will cease egg production. To avoid this make sure you collect your eggs everyday, this is still no guarantee though that your Silkie won’t go broody. Another point of concern is that sometimes their baby chicks can get caught up in their mother’s feathers, possibly leading to injury or even death of the chick. Just keep an eye out for them when allowing the mothers to rear their own chicks.
They will always stay near by, never wandering off or straying too far from home, unlike some of the hybrids which tend to enjoy going on little exploratory adventures, across roads, down gullies and into neighbours yards, six doors up!.
As I mentioned they do have a tendency to go broody and lay only a limited number of eggs per year compared with other breeds. Plus the eggs are of a smaller size. They also have a few maintenance requirements in the fluffly feather department. Due to their large fluffy bonnets their vision can be hindered somewhat and I do not show, so I have no qualms in getting out the scissors and trimming the feathers that are restricting their vision. If you are trying to breed with your Silkies and you are experiencing low egg fertility it is recommended to trim some of the feathers surrounding their derrieres, to make for ease of mating.
Toenails can also get a bit on the long side. These can be easily trimmed just using a pair of dog toenail clippers.
We love our Silkies and would be without them. I could waffle on for pages, sharing dozens and dozens of stories, some sad, some happy and some downright hilarious, but I’ll leave those for another day.
The Silkie breed are great for urban areas and people with small backyards, even townhouse complexes if permissible could squeeze a couple of these delightful chickens in. Their temperament is well suited to people with or without children that want a chook that will make a great pet, garden companion and lay just a few eggs as well.