Silkies or silkens or "Black Boned Chickens" are one of the most popular breeds despite not being acceptable meat or egg laying chickens in the United States. Observing them one can see why as they are one of the most strikingly beautiful and unique looking breeds. Records on silkies date back before the first century but the most famous one was made in 1200 AD when Marco polo wrote about white fur covered fowl in the orient. Like most fowl the silkies of old do not look exactly like their modern counterparts. Modern silkies are bigger, have more colors (white was once the only color of silkie), have more leg feathers, and (quite recently) some have been bred with single combs and clearer skin. Silkies now come in many colors like White, Black, Buff, Partridge, Grey, Silver, Red, Cuckoo (barred), Blue, and even Lavender (!?). Black and whites have better body development then most of the colored.
Silkies are used as broodies and surrogate mothers in the United States. The Chinese believe silkies have healing powers and is claimed to have "peculiar effectiveness in treating women's sickness, sterility, menoxenia (abnormal menstruation), habitual abortion, blood leucorrhoea, metrorrhagia, and sickness after parturition, and also aids in curing pulmonary problems - tuberculosis (TB), heart diseases, neurasthenia, and chidren's osteomalacia." Eggs are said to have less cholesterol content and are able to treat "severe headaches, headache after parturition, faintness, asthma and nephritis." I'm quite surprised they weren't given the effectiveness of viagra and I have my doubts about the medical benefits of silkies. Silkies lay between 50 and 120 cream to brown colored eggs (there is some work done to breed silkies that lay blue colored eggs) a year. Silkie get broody often (which is the main reason for poor egg production) and make great mothers. Silkie Roosters are even said to make good mothers (as chickens have little use for a father).
Silkies have walnut combs although I've seen single and pea combs on them. Walnut combs are the most desired and any other type would probably get the bird disqualified as a show bird. Silkies have many qualities that make them unique in the poultry world. Most notably their feathers lack webs making the feathers look like down or silkie fur. Their earlobes are a blue/turquoise color and they have black skin and bones. They have feathered legs, crests, bearded and non-bearded, and they have 5 toes. Silkies do not fly very well and wing clipping will probably not be needed. In the US silkies are seen as banties but they mostly are an intermediate size between large fowl and bantam. The UK and other countries list them as large fowl and banties.
Silkies are not the most hardy of birds and their lack of flying ability along with docile nature are more susceptible to predators. They make decent foragers and handle confinement quite well. Silkies do not like high roosts and prefer them no more then 4 feet off the ground. Given the choice of sleeping in a corner and roosting in a tree, silkies will take the corner. Silkies are friendly, quiet, tame birds that make great pets for just about everyone and have turned more then one person into a chicken lover.
-- Daniel M. Garcia
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