Lifespan: 9 years
The Silkie’s feathers lack barbs which would otherwise hold the strands together, thus the individual
strands sit free of each other. Each of these strands are approximately 50mm to 75mm long and give
the bird a soft and, well, silky appearance.
Both bearded and non-bearded Silkies have a feathery crest, like a powder puff, and a fleshy comb
on top of the head. The cock’s comb is much, much larger than the hens. However the comb doesn’t
look like what you might see on other types of fowl.
A Silkie’s comb (called a rose or cushion comb) resembles a wart-like lump on the bird’s forehead
(see pic) rather than the spiky appendage one would normally imagine. Striking blue coloured lobes
also adorn the ears. Silkies differ from other fowls in that they have dark flesh and five toes.
Standard Silkies are mid-sized chickens and weigh around 1.5kg to 2kg. Cocks are larger than hens.
Smaller varieties of chicken (called bantams) like the Pekin bantam can weigh as little as 500g.
Silkies are one of the most compliant and docile animals ever born and despite their soft delicate
appearance are reasonably robust. The birds can be tamed and are often regarded by their owners
as a real pet
Health and lifespan
The warmer seasons usually bring with them a greater incidence of lice infestation.
Broody hens (those sitting on eggs) will become most susceptible to mite infections as they dont
preen or bath itself well.
All birds should be checked regularly for lice and should have access to a dust bath. Silkies, their pens
and nest boxes can be treated for lice each month during the warmer seasons and every two months
during the cooler seasons with a mite product or spot on.
Scaly leg, caused by a mite which burrows under the skin, is best treated with an appropriate
worming product. Chooks can be wormed every three months. Silkies have an average lifespan of 8
to 9 years.
Grooming and maintenance
Silkies don’t require much extra care compared to other varieties of fowl. It is not uncommon for
breeders to trim the ‘undercarriage’ of their broody hens as knotted feather strands can strangle
chicks. Regular trimming of the nails is recommended.
Most pelleted food is too coarse for these small fowl. Silkies should be fed on chick starter or chick
grower, depending on their age. Greens (grasses) are essential and if the fowl cannot run on grass,
acceptable alternatives include cabbage or a little lettuce.
Breeding and cost
Silkies are not repeat layers and will stop laying through winter.
Space and exercise
Allow 2 to 3 square metres of coop space per pair. The Silkie’s feather structure prevents the bird
from being able to fly, so perches and nesting boxes should be low and easy to reach.
The fowls can be housed on bare earth although shavings and deep litter is preferable to prevent
damage to the feathers from rough, muddy conditions. Care should be taken that the Silkies don’t
fall into backyard pools and spas. The water easily weighs down the plumage and the bird may
drown. Be mindful that predators such as dogs, cats and foxes would also find these birds easy
Silkies are an ideal bird to introduce the first time owner to poultry keeping and pet care. They are
suitable for children aged from around 6 years, though don’t let the kids chase the birds around too
much, it stresses the chooks and they can be easily hurt if trodden on.