How to Care for Silkie Chickens?
Silkie chickens are fascinating birds with several unique qualities that stand out from other breeds. For instance, these chickens have five toes, black bones and skin, and blue earlobes.
Silkie chickens are common in exhibition shows and homesteads. They also come in different colors. Furthermore, these birds are calm, and they have a friendly temperament.
History of Silkie Chickens
Silkie chickens have been around for several centuries. They originate from China, although some of these chickens originate from Japan and India. These birds became popular in Europe about 200 years ago.
According to the existing documentation, however, these Chickens came from China. No wonder they are also known as Chinese chickens. During the 21st century, Silkie chickens became some of the most ubiquitous and popular ornamental birds.
Backyard chickens keepers raise these chickens as pet birds. Others use these chickens to incubate eggs from other chicken breeds and poultry birds like geese and ducks.
Silkie Chickens Characteristics
Silkie chickens have crested heads and walnut-shaped combs. Their combs can either be dark mulberry or black. These birds have dark wattles and blue earlobes. They have short, broad, and hard beaks, which can either be blue or gray. Their eyes are black, while their stouts are broad.
Unlike other poultry birds, these chickens have five toes. Their outer two toes have feathers, although their legs are remarkably short. Silkie chickens have black bones and skins, and their meat has an authentic sweet taste.
Silkie chickens come in two distinct varieties, namely non-bearded and bearded Silkies. These chickens have a heavy feathering around their beak areas, extending to their ear lobes. Silkie chickens can either be white, partridge, buff, black buff, or blue.
– Size & Weight
Silkie chickens are relatively small birds compared to the average chicken breeds. Silkie roosters weigh 4 pounds on average. Silkie hens weigh around 3 pounds.
Silkie chickens are charming and good-natured birds, making these tiny chickens perfect pets, particularly for kids. They are pretty docile, and their docility prompts other aggressive birds to bully these little chickens.
Handling these chickens can be pretty straightforward since they have poor flying skills. Silkie chickens are popular owing to their friendly and calm nature. These chickens are excellent for confinement, and they interact quite well with their keepers.
Silkie hens are awesome sitters, and they are also good mothers. Hens can comfortably adopt chicks from other hens as their own. Overall, Silkie chickens are great foragers, especially when kept outdoors.
Silkie chickens are some of the longest-living chicken breeds. On average, these tiny birds can live between 7 and 9 years. However, these birds can live for over a decade with good care.
However, predation can dramatically shorten their lifespan since Silkie chickens residing in places with roaming predators are vulnerable to attacks by such predators. Besides predators, Silkie chickens can also live much shorter than their average lifespan due to several health conditions. Diseases such as Salmonella and Avian Cholera can hinder your Silkie chickens from living long.
– Egg Production
Although Silkie chickens are relatively smaller than the average chicken breeds, they still make great egg-laying birds. These chickens can lay between 100 and 160 eggs annually. However, egg production in these birds can slow down in the summer months.
Although these chickens lay small eggs, their eggs aren’t short of nutrients. Furthermore, their eggs are equally tasty, just like those of other larger egg-laying breeds. Silkie hens start laying between 7 and 9 months. Some hens can, however, start laying when they are quite older.
– Meat Production
Silkie chickens aren’t dependable meat producers owing to their tiny size. On average, roosters produce around four pounds of meat. However, these chickens boast gourmet dark meat, which is wonderfully tasty. Their meat is also amazingly nutritious, and it is among the popular meats in most restaurant menus.
Silkie Chickens Care
Silkie chickens are among the easiest chicken breeds to look after. Due to their small size, these chickens require smaller cages than other breeds. However, these birds need plenty of high-quality food and water.
Silkie chickens have fewer requirements than other larger breeds. Your Silkie chickens can still live for over seven years if you keep them healthy and clean.
– Feeding & Nutrition
Silkie chickens don’t eat special foods. These chickens eat the same diet as other backyard chickens do. Therefore, your Silkie chickens can thrive on a high-quality chicken feed. However, you can supplement your chickens’ feed with various food items, including whole grains, wheat, oats, and barley.
Furthermore, Silkie chickens also need a combination of fruits and vegetables, including carrots, collard greens, and apples.
The best diet for Silkie chickens should be a quality feed that is appropriate for your chickens’ age and development. For instance, baby Silkie chicks need a formulated baby chick feed starter feed. The feed should contain a high percentage of protein to help support muscle development and weight gain.
The benefit of feeding your Silkie baby chicks with a starter feed is that this feed has small crumbles, which is easy on chicks’ tiny beaks. Furthermore, the starter feed you give to your chicks should also have medication to prevent the chicks from getting coccidiosis and other poultry diseases.
Most importantly, the starter feed you introduce to your baby chicks should have a formulation featuring multiple vitamins and minerals.
When your Silkie chickens start laying, it is time to switch the birds onto a high-quality layer feed. Layer feeds are relatively lower in protein since most feeds contain about 16% of protein.
Layer feeds also contain minerals and vitamins, which dramatically boost your Silkie hens’ egg production capabilities. Most importantly, layer feeds have a high percentage of calcium, which plays a critical role in enhancing your hens’ eggshell quality.
Backyard Silkie hens don’t need a special diet. These chickens forage on different food items. For instance, backyard Silkie chickens can survive on plant materials and bugs.
Some backyard Silkie chicken keepers also feed their Silkies with leftovers and table scraps from the foods they consume each day. However, Silkies need supplements to compensate for the minerals and vitamins they don’t get in their everyday food.
Give your Silkies food in moderation, although these chickens tend to eat plenty of food. Consider feeding these birds when they direly need to eat. Leftover feeds can be a haven for bacterial growth, which is responsible for common poultry diseases, including Salmonella and Avian cholera.
Also, water is crucial for Silkie chickens as it is with other breeds. Silkies are quite vulnerable to dehydration, and therefore water is essential for helping your birds beat dehydration.
The advantage of keeping Silkies in your flock is that these chickens don’t require large coops. Small-sized coops are ideal for these tiny chickens, although each Silkie in your flock needs approximately 8 inches square space. You can build a cage for your chickens or order a premade cage online.
A good cage for your Silkie chickens should come with a durable mesh ventilation window, preferably at the top of the cage. Have somewhere in the cage where your Silkies can nest and roost. Furthermore, spread hay or sawdust in the cage to provide your Silkies with bedding. In addition, the cage should have ample nest boxes for your egg-laying Silkie hens.
Ensure that potential predators can’t easily break into the cage. Owls, dogs, hawks, and coyotes usually attack Silkies. Ensure your Silkies live in a predator-proof cage to keep them safe from potential predators.
Keep your Silkies in a cage with a strong solid floor to prevent burrowing predators such as rodents from breaking into the coop. Cover all the top openings and windows with mesh and check for gaps and holes in the cage.
You need to have a chicken run in your backyard if you keep backyard Silkie chickens. A chicken run is simply an enclosed area in your backyard where your Silkie chickens can roam freely during the day.
Ensure your chicken run has a cover at the top to prevent hawks from swooping at your Silkies. A chicken run will also help protect your birds from rain since Silkie chickens don’t thrive in wet weather.
– Health Problems
Silkie chickens lead happy and normal lives like other chicken breeds. However, a couple of health concerns affect these chickens in different stages of their lives. Below are some health problems that affect Silkie chickens.
- Colibacillosis – E.Coli bacteria causes this poultry disease. Colibacillosis causes one of the highest mortality rates in Silkie chickens. The disease affects Silkies’ gastrointestinal tract and their respiratory system. Symptoms of this condition include nasal congestion, dehydration, and lesions.
- Fowl cholera-This disease affects all types of poultry birds, including Silkie chickens. A contagious organism by the name Pasteurella multocida causes this disease. The organism can live in chicken droppings for a month. The key symptoms of this disease include loss of appetite, lameness, swollen wattles, and difficulty breathing.
- Necrotic Enteritis-This acute disease destroys the intestinal lining of your Silkie chickens. A rod-shaped bacterium known as Clostridium perfringens causes this condition. The bacterium lives in chicken droppings, and it spreads through oral contact with chicken droppings from infected Silkies. Symptoms of Necrotic Enteritis include reduced growth, loss of appetite, and diarrhea.
- Ulcerative Enteritis– The Quail disease also affects turkeys, game birds, and chickens, including Silkie chickens. The condition causes a chronic infection that can kill 3 out of every 10 Silkies. The disease affects both the intestinal and respiratory tracts of Silkie chickens, making them weak and vulnerable to death.
Apart from these health concerns above, multiple Silkie problems affect Silkie chickens. For instance, some Silkie chickens can develop split wings, which is a fault these chickens experience when they lack axial feathers. Axial feathers stand between the Silkie’s secondary and primary feathers.
Silkie chickens can also develop vaulted skulls, a common problem with Polish and Silkie chickens. Initially, this problem begins in the form of a mutation. Later, the condition leaves the Silkies with openings at the top of their skulls. The openings then become hard and turn into holes over time.
Silkie chickens can also get wounds and severe injuries from aggressive chicken breeds. Some of these injuries can be severe and life-threatening. Avoid keeping your Silkies together with aggressive breeds to save your chickens from injuries.
Can Silkie Chickens Fly?
No, Silkie chickens can’t fly thanks to their fluffy plumage, which makes their wings too heavy for these birds to fly. Because these chickens can’t fly, they are some of the finest chickens to rear as pets since they are quite easy to contain. Besides their inability to fly, Silkie chickens also have a friendly and calm temperament, making them exceptionally good pets for parents with kids.
Can Silkie Chickens Get Wet?
Yes, Silkie chickens can get wet. Silkies and Polish chickens have loose feathers. As a result, these chickens get wet quite easily in the rain. Worse still, wetness can expose Silkie chickens to the risk of getting hypothermia.
How Much Do Silkie Chickens Cost?
Silkie chickens aren’t only easy to keep, but they are also relatively cheaper than other breeds. Silkie baby chicks cost anywhere between $3 and $10 per chick. Adult roosters and hens cost between $20 and $30. The pricing of Silkie chickens depends on factors such as the quality of the chicken breeder and the lineage of the Silkie chickens.
Where to Buy Silkie Chickens?
You can purchase Silkie chickens from many sources. For instance, you can buy Silkies at a poultry farm. Alternatively, you can buy your Silkie chicken from a reputable chicken breeder online.
Breeders offer a mix of various Silkie varieties, both non-bearded and non-bearded. However, thanks to shipping schedules, it will take longer to have your Silkies delivered to your place if you buy them online.
Are Silkie Chickens Loud?
Silkie chickens are among the quietest chicken breeds since they aren’t loud. Silkie hens aren’t any louder. However, roosters like crowing at odd times of the day, although they don’t frequently crow like roosters from most chicken species.
Silkie chickens are calm and nice birds to keep, especially if you are looking for great bird pets. Their unique qualities and pleasant personalities make the chickens pretty fantastic. Furthermore, Silkie chickens are easy to maintain because they don’t require plenty of care to thrive in any environment.