Below are some of the most commonly asked questions in regards to Silkies. The answers are based on my personal knowledge and experience, and are by no means concrete. For more information on Silkies, I encourage you to complete your own research, speak to a professional Silkie breeder in your area, or visit the American Silkie Bantam Club at www.americansilkiebantamclub.com
Q. Where do Silkies come from?
A. Silkies are an ancient Asian breed of chickens. Records dating back to the 1500's, show that Marco Polo wrote about them during his travels.
Q. Why are Silkies fluffy?
A. Silkies lack barbicels, which are tiny cartilage hooks found on each hair on the shaft of a feather. Because there are no barbicels to hold the hairs together, they are allowed to fly free causing the appearance of fur. They are in fact true feathers, and function just as "normal" feathers do on any other breed.
Q. Are Silkies extra insulated, and tolerate colder temperatures better?
A. As explained above, Silkie feathers function just like normal feathers and do not provide any extra insulation. Provide warmth in extremely cold temperatures just like you would any other breed.
Q. How do you sex day old Silkies?
A. The answer is simply, "you dont." Silkies cannot be sexed until they are nearing 6 months of age, sometimes later. Professional breeders can sometimes make educated guesses earlier in the birds life, however it is still not 100% accurate. Do not be fooled by hatcheries who claim to be able to sex day old Silkie chicks.
Q. Are Silkies good for kids?
A. In fact, Silkies are usually one of the most recommended breeds for kids, and beginners. Silkies tend to be less "flighty" than other breeds, and develop a close relationship with their owners through regular care and handling. They've been called the 'puppy dogs' of the chicken world, as they will often follow their owners just as a puppy would.
Q. Can you eat Silkies?
A. Silkies can be eaten for meat just as any other breed, however they do tend to be a 'scrawny' bird with not much weight. Silkies are commonly found in Asian cuisine, and the black skin and black bones are thought to have healing properties for ailments such as arthritis etc.
Q. Do Silkies make good layers?
A. This depends on what your definition of 'good layers' is. Silkies are a bantam breed and lay a small sized egg. During peak production months, Silkies will usually lay an egg a day, however they are rarely kept for their laying abilities. Don't rely on Silkies to provide eggs for sustenance year round.
Q. Are Silkies good mothers?
A. YES! YES! YES! Silkies are one of the best broody birds in the chicken world. In fact, many game bird breeders will commonly use Silkies to naturally incubate eggs from birds such as quails and pheasants. It's been said that Silkies will try to incubate a tennis ball if given the chance. Some have even seen it happen!
Q. Can Silkies see?
A. Silkies do have eyes and they can see very well, when their vision is not obstructed by their top knots. The large crests on top of some Silkies heads will reduce their vision somewhat, but can be trimmed as necessary.
Q. What colors do Silkies come in?
A. There are 7 approved colors between the APA and ABA. They are white, black, blue, buff, splash, gray, and partridge. Other colors such as Lavender, and Cuckoo are developmental varieties which are not yet accepted as 'standard.' Many people market Silkies with other names such as 'calico', but the above are the only true colors available at this time. There are also many other 'varieties' created from cross breeding standard colors, but these birds will not ever reproduce offspring with the same markings. DO YOUR RESEARCH WHEN BUYING A CHOSEN VARIETY! Another interesting fact is that white is the only 'naturally' occuring color of the Silkie bird. All of the other colors were produced by man, through selective and strategic breeding.
Q. Can Silkies Fly?
A. No Silkies cannot fly. Because they do not have any barbicels to hold their feathers together, their wings will not hold air. They can sometimes partially jump & fly for a few feet with the aid of what wing feathers they do have, but they cannot fly for extended lengths like some other breeds.
Q. Are Silkies prone to predators?
A. Yes. Unfortunately due to their decreased vision, and inability to fly, Silkies are very prone to prey birds such as hawks and owls. This is however remedied, with proper SAFE housing.
Q. Do Silkies roost?
A. Some do, and some dont. Because Silkies cannot fly up to very high areas, they tend to sleep in a pile in the corner of a coop. However, some owners have had success by providing 'chicken ladders' or ramps that lead to roosts that are several feet off the ground. Most Silkie roosts however, are usually only 12 to 18 inches off the ground.
Q. Do Silkies requre any special grooming?
A. That depends on which kind of owner you plan to be. If you are only wanting Silkies for the shear enjoyment of them, only regular care is necessary; feed, water, housing, and parasite control. However, if you are wanting to exhibit Silkies in poultry shows and competitions, this breed does require some special grooming tools and techniques. Things such as baby powder (used to keep droppings from sticking), and flea combs (used to create more 'shredding') are very unique to the Silkie breed and exhibitor.
Q. What color eggs do Silkies lay?
A. Generally, Silkies lay a white to cream colored egg. The color is highly dependant on the variety however. For example my buffs will lay a darker cream colored egg, than my blues. Your's may be slightly lighter or darker, depending on the individual bird.
Q. What colors do I cross to make a certain color?
A. NONE! No two colors of Silkies should ever be crossed, with the exception of black, blue, or splash. These three colors are the only varieties that can be interbred and successfully produce the same offspring genetically. By crossing any other colors, you are contaminating your genetic lines and the resulting offspring will either NOT be colored the same as the parents, and/or will not reproduce other offspring with expected results. There is a common misconception that crossing a white bird with a black bird will produce a splash or gray bird. Unfortunately it isn't as easy as mixing paint colors, and 'creating' a new color involves advanced skills in poultry genetics and a very detailed and strategic breeding plan.
Q. Why does my Silkie have an extra toe?
A. All Silkies have 5 toes, and it is completely normal. In fact, if they do not have 5 toes it is considered a fault, and a disqualification in poultry exhibitions. The genetic condition is called 'polydactylism.'
Q. Do male Silkies crow?
A. Yes, male Silkies crow just as much as any other breed. They are sometimes not as loud as their standard sized counterparts, but this depends on the individual birds.
Q. Can I have more than one male Silkie?
A. Because of the docile nature of Silkies, multiple males are commonly found within some owners flocks. However, depending on your individual birds, they may still fight as much as other breeds.
Q. I've heard that Silkies have to be artificially inseminated, is this true?
A. This can sometimes be true depending on the origin, and use of your birds. Breeders who exhibit their birds will sometimes AI in order to prevent trimming the vent area. However all Silkies should be able to breed naturally when proper contact can be made between the male and female birds. Trimming may be necessary if your birds are exceptionally fluffy.