Silkie Chicken

Silkie Chickens: Breed Profile

Silkie chickens have to be one of the gentlest, most kid-friendly and urban-friendly backyard breeds that you can get. Silkies are quiet, love to be held, they don’t range far from the coop, they’re beautiful to look at, and they make wonderful mothers.

There’s so much to love about this bantam breed that I’ve often considered phasing out my other breeds and just raising Silkies. They’re that wonderful! So, I thought they deserved an in-depth breed profile so you can decide if you want to add them to your flock (spoiler alert: you will!).

silkie chickens

History of the Silkie Chicken

Silkies are one of the oldest recorded chicken breeds in history.

According to Ohio State University, researchers think that Silkies originated from Asia, or perhaps Japan, while others believe they came from India or Java.

The first written record of Silkies came from Marco Polo, who was traveling through Asia in the 13th century and remarked in his journal that he had come across “furry” chickens. Other early descriptions of the breed called them “wooly hens.”

Sounds like a Silkie to me! reports that today’s “modern” Silkie didn’t make an appearance until the mid-1800s. By 1872, they made their first appearance into the American Standard of Perfection. Their popularity took off, and even Queen Victoria raised bantam silkies.

Today, Silkies are one of the most popular breeds for backyard chicken keepers, with good reason. So, what makes this breed so unique? Let’s take a look.

Characteristics of Silkie Chickens

Feathers and Coloring

A Silkie’s feathering is one of the characteristics that makes them so special.

Silkies don’t have feathers with hard shafts like other chickens do. Their feathers are more like soft, silky fur. Because they don’t have feathers, Silkies cannot fly.

Silkie Chicken

They also sport an adorable “tuft” of fluff on top of their heads, and have a beard below their beak. Some Silkies have a vaulted skull, which allows the top head feathers more space, and thus a more prominent tuft. This is why you see some Silkies with just a bit of fluffy ‘do, and others with an amazing bouffant hairdo that would make Tina Turner envious.

Silkies come in several different colors:

  • White
  • Black
  • Blue
  • Gold
  • Partridge


Silkies have black skin, eyes, beaks, bones, and feet. Even their internal organs are black! This trait is called melanism. While it’s shared with a few other breeds, such as the Sumatra and the Ayam Cemani, researchers have studied this trait most often in Silkies.

They also have turquoise earlobes.


When well cared for, Silkies can live between 7 to 9 years. They’re truly more like a pet than other breeds!

Egg Laying

Silkies are not a “production breed,” so you won’t get an egg a day from them. However, they will lay around 3 cream small to medium sized colored eggs per week.

Body Type

A Silkie’s body type is short and stout.

There are two types of Silkie chickens: large fowl and bantam. But, each country has different standards, and sometimes the Large fowl Silkies are not officially recognized. That’s the case here in the United States, where only bantams are recognized.

Large fowl Silkie roosters weigh in at 4 lbs, while hens weigh 3 lbs.

Silkie bantam roosters weigh 1.2 lbs, while hens will weigh 1.1 lbs.


Another unusual characteristic is that they have five toes, unlike regular chickens which have only four.

Silkie feet five toes
If you count, you can see five distinct toes.

Pros and Cons of Silkie Chickens



Silkie chickens are adorable, and it’s hilarious to watch these walking balls of fluff out in the yard foraging for bugs.

Great Free-Rangers

Silkies do well confined to a run. However, you’ll find that they’re great foragers if you let them out. They’re so industrious…I imagine because it’s so hard for them to see that they have to work twice as hard as other chickens to find food.


If I had to pick just one kid-friendly chicken breed, Silkies would take the top spot.

The reason? They’re so docile. Silkies love to cuddle. They’re gentle and patient and quiet, and don’t have an aggressive bone on their body. And tiny hands love to pet their soft fluffiness. Heck, I’m a mother with two boys and I love to pet their soft fluffiness!

Urban Friendly

If you’re looking for a chicken breed that won’t annoy your neighbors, pick a Silkie. Silkies are so quiet and unobtrusive your neighbors won’t even know that you have chickens.

Very Broody and Excellent Mothers

Silkies are well-known for their broodiness instincts. Despite their small size, they will sit on as many eggs as they can cover, including duck eggs!

Their instinct to sit on the nest is so strong that they will often go without food and water so they don’t have to leave the nest, and do themselves harm. If you have a broody Silkie on your hands, make sure you take steps to take care of her when she’s on the nest.

Once the chicks are born, Silkies make excellent mothers. They’re attentive and watchful over their chicks.


Not Suited for Cold, Wet Climates

Because Silkies have fluff, not feathers, they’re less protected from the elements. Regular chicken feathers have the ability to insulate and shed water. However, a Silkie’s fluff has an entirely different structure. Their down won’t shed water, and is less effective at keeping them warm when they do get wet.

If Silkies do get wet you need to towel them dry, or use a blow dryer (which they love.) This is especially important when it’s cold out.

Silkies can tolerate cold, but cold and wet is very hard on them.

At Risk From Predators

Because of their fluffy crest, Silkies can’t see that well. At all. This puts them at higher risk from predators like hawks or coyotes because they just can’t see them coming. They also can’t escape quickly since they cannot fly.

Bottom of the Pecking Order

Other chickens often bully the Silkies because they’re at the very bottom of the pecking order.

My bigger chickens are always picking on my Silkies. When they were really small, I had to stand guard over them while they ate just so the other birds wouldn’t steal their food and starve them to death.

Even now that they’re close to full grown I still have to keep an eye on them.

Buy Silkie Chickens from a Reputable Breeder

I can’t stress enough how important it is to purchase silkie chicks from a reputable breeder, like Murray McMurray Hatchery.

This year, I purchased my Silkies from a local breeder because I got busy and waited too long, and Murray McMurray was sold out (which is why you need to order your chicks in winter, friends!) So, I found a local Silkie breeder, and my friend and I went in together and bought 5 chicks each.

The breeder was very responsive when I was communicating with her before pick up day. However, I noticed a few red flags once we arrived.

First, I couldn’t see the breeding adults or the coop where they were kept. Second, this woman had A LOT of chicks. But they were kept in professional stacking brooders, and had plenty of heat, so I didn’t worry too much. That said, as I was picking out our chicks I did notice many appeared to be sickly.

The problems really started once we got home. Pasty butt was rampant in those chicks, and I had to clean them off daily for almost two weeks. We lost 3 chicks within 10 days; they just failed to thrive despite me doing everything to nourish and support them.

Since then we’ve noticed other health problems that could be the result of inbreeding: one of my friend’s Silkies is blind, and one of mine is deaf.

So, the lesson here is, go with a breeder who you KNOW has a solid reputation for quality stock.

Last Word

Silkies are one of my favorite chicken breeds because they’re so loveable and unique. They’re quiet, gentle, and would make a great breed for families or those living in an urban environment.

So, let’s talk Silkies. Do you have some? Are you obsessed? Do you have more pictures of your Silkies on your phone than you do your children (no judgement here.) Let me know in the comments!

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  1. Great article! I hope to get Silkies someday. Right now I have 20 farm hens that I love and spoil. I enjoy your emails. Thanks for posting. Always good information.

    1. heatherllevin says:

      Thank you Jen! Hey, farm hens deserve just as much spoiling as Silkies do. 🙂 I hope you can get Silkies one day too…they are a riot. Thanks so much for reading!

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