1. If this is your first time on BYC, we suggest you start with one of these three options:
    Raising Chickens Chicken Coops Join BYC
    If you're already a member of our community, click here to login & click here to learn what's new!

WHY do Silkies have 5 toes?? And other questions!

Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by MESOFRUFFEH, Oct 29, 2015.


    MESOFRUFFEH Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 15, 2015
    East Texas
    I'm one of those people who are not just satisfied with a "Because they just do" sort of answer. I want details! It has really been bugging me since I got my silkies. WHY do these guys have 5 toes? What purpose does that extra toe serve? Why is it still hanging around down there? Where did it come from? Why do the rest of the chickens only have 4 toes? Did silkies come from a different species of bird in china that no longer exists, or is it still descended from the red jungle fowl like everyone else? Why do they have black skin? is that associated with their 5 toes? Evolutionarily speaking, WHY?! is it sort of like a polydactly cat? Someone just saw it and was like.... "Hmmm... I like it. It's weird. it's wonderful. Lets make more of these!" I have done a lot of casual searching, always come up empty handed.

    I have been around chickens my whole life, but sadly i am not very educated about them. The only information I have acquired over the years was good ol fashioned country know-how. And as I'm sure you are all aware, a lot of that information is usually inaccurate or outdated. This is my first time to have chickens AND the internet. And I love to learn new things. So anyone who has any answers, lay them on me, I am ready for some knowledge!
  2. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    I don't know the particulars of silkie traits, but to my understanding pretty much all the "bells and whistles" a breed of animal gets usually started as some sort of spontaneous mutation. The first silkies must have been a labor of love for someone. Someone high up the food chain must have been taken with the traits of the bird and made it worth someone else's effort to breed for those traits and stabilize the breed. Not very specific, I know.....
  3. Sonoran Silkies

    Sonoran Silkies Flock Mistress

    Jan 4, 2009
    Tempe, Arizona
    There are a few other 5-toed breeds in addition to silkies: dorkings, faverolles, houdans and sultans.

    Yes, silkies, like all chickens, are descended from jungle fowl. Silkies, like dorkings are some of the oldest breeds in the world. Silkies are referenced in Chinese mythology from 1200 years ago, and over 2300 years ago they were documented by Aristotle in his Historia Animalum.

    There are two separate genes that cause polydactyly. The normal one is incompletely dominant. There is also a relatively rare recessive polydactyly gene.

    MESOFRUFFEH Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 15, 2015
    East Texas
    This is really interesting about the chinese mythology, I did not know that. I really think that silkies are quite an amazing and interesting breed. For some reason, they really do seem like what Donrae said... a labor of love for someone a long time ago. I just think it is so amazing how genetics work. How you get all the different breeds of dog from the wolf, and all the different breeds of chicken from the jungle fowl. There are so many little hidden parts and pieces in genetics. Amazing how that much information can be stored in such tiny cells. One day, once I actually have more time, I would love to get into breeding silkies and a few other breeds that for some reason really interest me.

    If anyone else has any really interesting or unusual Silkie facts, or facts about any of the other 5 toed wonders, I would love to hear them!

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by