Silkie Bantam

The Silkie (sometimes incorrectly spelled Silky) is a breed of chicken named for its a typically fluffy plumage, which is said to feel like silk. The breed has several other unusual qualities, such as dark blue flesh and bones, blue earlobes, and five toes on each foot (most chickens only have four). They are often exhibited in poultry shows, and come in several colors (red, gold, blue, black, white, and partridge). In addition to their distinctive physical characteristics, Silkies are well known for their calm, friendly temperament. Among the most docile of poultry, Silkies are considered an ideal pet. Hens are also exceptionally broody, and make good mothers.
Though they are fair layers themselves, laying about three eggs a week, they are commonly used to hatch eggs from other breeds and bird species. Silkies most likely originated in China, but Southeast Asia is also sometimes proposed. The first western account of the breed comes from Marco Polo, who mentioned chickens with fur-like plumage in his Asian travelogues in the 13th century. The Renaissance author Ulisse Aldrovandi also spoke of chickens akin to Silkies. Today, the breed is recognized for exhibition, and is fairly common in the poultry world.

Silkies are often mistakenly called a bantam breed, and although some countries do consider them a bantam, this varies according to region and many breed standards class them officially as large fowl. The bantam Silkie is actually a separate variety. Almost all North American strains of the breed are bantam sized, but in Europe the large is the original version. However, even "large" Silkies are relatively small chickens, with standard bantam size males weighing only four pounds (1.8 kilos), and females weigh three pounds (1.36 kilos). The American Standard of Perfection calls for males that are 36 ounces (1 kilo), and females that are 32 ounces (910 grams). Silkie plumage is unique among chicken breeds; Silkie-like feathering may appearas a recessive mutation in individuals of other varieties, but no other true breed has it. It has been compared to silk, and to fur. Their feathers lack functioning barbicels, and are thus similar to down on other birds and leave Silkies unable to fly. The overall result is a soft, fluffy appearance.Silkies appear in two distinct varieties: Bearded and Non-bearded. Bearded Silkies have an extra muff of feathers under the beak area that covers the earlobes. They also are separated according to color. Colors of Silkie recognized for competitive showing include Black, Blue, Buff, Gray, Partridge, Splash and White. Alternative hues, such as Cuckoo, Red, and Lavender, also exist. All Silkies have a small Walnut-type comb, dark wattles, and turquoise blue earlobes. In addition these defining characteristics, Silkies have five toes on each foot. Other breeds which exhibit this rare trait include the Dorking, Faverolles, and Sultan.
All Silkies have black skin, bones and grayish-black meat; their Chinese language name is wu gu ji literally "dark boned chicken"), meaning "black-boned chicken". Melanism which extends beyond the skin into an animal's connective tissue is a rare trait, and the Silkie is one of only a handful of chickens to exhibit it. Disregarding color, the breed does not generally produce as much as the more common meat breeds of chicken. Silkies lay a fair number of cream-colored eggs, but production is often interrupted due to their extreme tendency to go broody; a hen will produce 100 eggs in an ideal year. Their capacity for incubation, which has been selectively bred out of most egg-laying fowl, is often exploited by poultry keepers by allowing Silkies to raise the offspring of other birds. In addition to being good mothers, Silkies are universally renowned for their calm, friendly temperament. They do well in confinement, and interact very well with children. This docility can cause Silkies to be bullied by more active or aggressive birds when kept in mixed flocks.

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