At Olsen Farm we know all chickens are special, but there is something particularly magical about the silkie breed. We were gifted a few silkie eggs to incubate when we first started raising chickens and once those tiny fluff balls hatched we fell instantly in love.
So, what makes these mini fluffy muppet-look-alike birds so special? Here are some unique traits of these sweet little birds:
Silkies are fibromelanistic, which means they have black skin, black meat and black bones (it is truly a deep purple/ grey color). They were originally bred in Asia and some believe eating their black meat will cure what ails you. While silkies are bred to be both show birds and meat birds, we have yet to eat a silkie because they are just so cute!
They have feathered feet, and their feet have five toes- rather than the usual three of standard chickens. Silkie feathers remain light and fluffy into adulthood, because of this trait they can become sick or die if they get wet during cold weather. Be sure to keep your silkies dry and warm- they LOVE baths and getting their feathers blow dried! These little fluffs do amazingly well at staying warm during cold weather if their feathers remain dry. They are a winter-hearty breed.
Silkie feathers come in many color variations including black, white, buff (brown/tan), splash (light grey/ black and white mix), blue (dark grey) and partridge (brown mix).
Pure bred silkies have vaulted skulls, meaning the top of their skull has what looks like a bubble, or air pocket on top. This can make them more susceptible to head injury but we have not had any injury issues with our flock. (We do sometimes need to trim the feather head puffs away from their eyes to make it easier for our silkies to see).
Silkie hens lay three to four eggs a week. Their eggs are about half the size of a standard chicken egg, but equally as delicious! Roosters, like most roosters, have larger combs and wattles than hens. They develop these later than standard breeds, and it can be difficult to distinguish a hen from a rooster by looks until they are over six months old and start either laying or crowing.
Silkies have a wonderfully gentle temperament and are great for first time chicken keepers. They are calm, tame and very fun to observe. A perfect breed for those with children, or anyone looking for a great 'pet' chicken. Silkies are also great mothers and will hatch and raise ducks, turkeys, standard chickens- you name it! Silkie hens go ‘broody’- meaning they want to sit on and hatch eggs- very frequently. Our silkie hens have hatched about a dozen clutches of chicks in the five years we have been raising them.
We have been bringing Maple, our sweetest black silkie hen, to the local farmer’s market for a few seasons. Our original thought was that children would love to pet a cute chicken, and it would be a great educational experience for them. What we did not expect was the intense joy and peace meeting a silkie had on the adults at the market. Many residents came to visit Maple each week, bringing her treats, taking photos and snuggling her. Maple became a therapy chicken simply by being her adorable fluffy, magical self.
We are so glad to have been able to share our sweet birds with people who needed a little nature medicine. If you have the chance, introduce some silkies to your flock- I guarantee they will bring joy and entertainment.
Kristen Tool is co-owner of Olsen Farm in Lanesborough, Mass., where she works with her husband to revive 28 acres of a four-generation family farm by keeping bees, growing fruit, vegetables and herbs without the use of pesticides, raising poultry, cultivating mushrooms, leading workshops, and preparing plant remedies. She is the Secretary of the Northern Berkshire Beekeepers Association and manages a crew of incredible teens who run the local farmers market through a nonprofit program, Roots Rising. Connect with Kristen at Olsen Farm on Facebook, on Instagram @olsen_farm, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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