The Silkie is a very unusual breed of chicken. Their feathers lack functioning barbicels, and are thus similar to down on other birds. The overall result is a soft fluffy apperance. They are a wonderful breed of chicken for children. They are friendly, calm, and very docile. They also can't fly.
They come in bearded and non-beaded varities. The ABA accepts six standard colors for Silkies. They are black, blue, buff, white, partridge, splash and gray. There are also some other non-standard, but, popular colors. They are red, lavender, porcelain and cuckoo. They have black skin, hair like plumage, and turquoise earlobes. They also have 5 toes, whereas most chickens only have 4, and feathered feet. They have a walnut comb. They lay a lighly tinted, small egg. They are not very good egglayers. They are one of the most broody breeds of chicken. They make wonderful mothers. They are hardy in cold and heat.
Silkies come in bantam and standard size. Silkies are only bantam sized in the United States.
Silkies can not be accurately sexed until around 6 months of age. Hatchery silkies can usually be sexed earlier. Same thing with quality. Quality of the bird can not be determined until at least 6 months of age, some dont finishing blooming until later. So beware of people offering show quality chicks for sale, and show quality eggs for sale. There is no such thing as a show quality egg or chick.
With my silkies I am very particular/picky about which birds I choose to put into my breeding pens. I will never use a 4 toed, 6 toed, or single combed silkie, along with other DQ's such as duck foot, etc. Birds with DQ's or faults are sold locally as pets.
With my silkies, I am doing sort of a pedigree mating. I am keeping track of which hen and rooster produces which chicks. This starts before the eggs are laid. Once I pair up the chickens, I dont start collecting eggs until 3 weeks have passed. This way, I am sure that the chicks I hatch are from that rooster. If I am keeping a trio together, I use food dye inserted into the hens butts. I redo this every 5 or so days. This way, when the hen laying the eggs her eggs come out with food dye on it, so I can be sure which hen laid which egg. Once I gather the eggs, each egg gets the mating written on it in pencil. If the hens band is 55 pink and the roosters band is 63 pink. I write "55pX63p" on the egg, along with the day the egg was laid. Once it comes time to put the eggs in the incubator, I rewrite this info in a fine point sharpie, so I can be sure it wont rub off in the incubator. I have 2 incubators I use as hatchers. This means that I can only incubate eggs from 2 different hens at one time. When they hatch the eggs from one hen go into one hatcher and the other hens eggs in another hatcher. I have tried dividing up the incubator with some hardwire cloth, but the chicks hop right over it.
Once the chicks hatch, they stay in the incubators for around 24 hours so they are all dry when I remove them. I take each chick out and I mark down its back with a sharpie. For example, chicks from one hen will get blue and the other chicks will get red. This lasts until the chicks down turns into feathers. I have never had a problem with chicks pecking at eachothers marking. At 1 week of age, the chicks get permanent numbered wing bands applied. I record the wing band number (and color if there is one), and the parents info, their hatch date, and some notes about the chicks. I apply numbered plastic bandettes once the chicks legs are big enough so they stay on without slipping. I have a binder that I keep all these records in. As the chicks grow, I take notes on each individual chick, and guesses on gender.
Cleaning the Incubator
Once the hatch is finished, the incubator can be quite messy. I clean my incubators outside. First I remove all large pieces of egg shells etc, and throw those out. Then I rinse out the bottom half of the incubator. I take out the plastic tray and the wire sheet. Next I fill up the styrafoam bottom and the plastic tray with hot water and add some plain bleach. More bleach in the plastic tray than the styrafoam. You only want to use a little bit in the styrafoam bottom, since too much can leave it smelling fumey. I let them soak for 5-10 min to loosen up any hatching gunk. Then I take a sponge and scrub all the pieces. Once im done and have gotten all of the goop off, I make sure to rinse it out very well. If its a warm, sunny day I leave the pieces out on the deck to dry off, otherwise I dry them off with a towel or paper towels. Then I clean the top piece of the incubator, the part with the heating elements. I use the Brinsea Incubation Disinfectant for this. I mix some up in a spray bottle and spray down a towel with the solution, so its damp, not soaking wet. Then I wipe down the whole top piece of the incubator, inside and out. Once im done with that, I normally plug the incubator back in cause within a day or two its time to move some more eggs to hatch.
Chickens are omnivores, and willl eat seeds, herbs, grubs, and insects.
I feed my Brahmas 16-17% protein layer pellets in the spring, summer, and fall. During the winter, I start feeding them a 17% protein layer mash. I feed mash during the winter because since there is snow on the ground, the chickens dont want to come out and free range, and it takes a hen half an hour to eat her daily ration of pellets, but it takes her around 3 hours to eat her daily ration in mash. It keeps them busy so they dont get too bored during the winter. They also get some calcium chips to help produce hard shelled eggs, and it also acts as grit.
The Silkies get fed 20% Dumor chick starter when they are in the breeding pens. I also give them fresh greens such as dandelion leaves, etc. I also give them some scratch and BOSS (Black Oil Sunflower Seeds). I also add some calcium chips/grit to the feed. I like to keep the silkies on the 20% since the higher protein keeps their feathers in a nicer condtion.
I feed my chickens treats like wheat, cracked corn, sunflower seeds, garden weeds, and non-salty table scraps. During the morning the chickens get their layer pellets, or mash, and then in the afternoon I throw some wheat or sunflower seeds on the ground and let them scratch for them. It keeps them busy.
My baby chicks get a 18-20% protein chick starter. I use both medicated and non-medicated Purina Start & Grow. It just depends on what I have at the time. The chicks get switched to layer pellets at around 18 weeks of age. The Brahmas get switched over to layer pellets or mash once they hit around 20 weeks or so. I have also just started using the Dumor 20% chick starter. This is what I have been using to raise my silkies with, and so far I am very pleased.
I keep my food in metal storage bins. They keep moisture, rodents, and bugs out, and keep the feed fresh.
I use hanging feeders so that the birds can't scratch the food out, or the litter in. With the silkies I have been using the black rubber bowls for both feed and water.The feeder is as high as the birds backs. For water I use a 3 gallon plastic waterer or black rubber bowls. They get rinsed out and refilled daily. When they get dirty, I disinfect them with a bleach and water solution. Then I let them sit for about 1 hour. Then they get rinsed out very well.