How do I tell the difference between a hen & a rooster silkie chicken?

Written by melissa voelker
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Silkie chickens are easily distinguishable from other breeds of chickens due to their fluffy, hairlike feathers. Unlike most chicken breeds, the feathers on a Silkie chicken do not have barbicels to hold the segments of their feathers together so the feathers appear more like "poofy" hair. They also have five toes instead of the normal four and black skin instead of pink, as well as tame temperaments that make them popular as pets. As chicks it can be difficult to tell the difference between a male or female Silkie, though as they grow and their features become more pronounced, the difference will become more discernible, though even then it is important to know what to look for.

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General Features

Silkie and Silkie Bantam chickens come in a variety of colours including black, white, grey, blue, buff, lavender, paint, and partridge. They have a feathery crest on their heads that can often resemble a puff ball or cotton ball, as well as turquoise ear lobes. Unlike other breeds of chicken, Silkies cannot fly due to the nature of their feathers. They are not known to "perch" on things such as fences, handrails, or roof eaves, as other chickens are known to do either.

Unique Features

The most notable feature of the Silkie chicken is the fluffy, hairlike feathers that cover its body. They are found all over its body and appear as tufts on the head, rear, and feet. Silkies also have dark skin and ear lobes, which are features not found in most chicken breeds, as well as a fifth toe, which is also not common in most chickens.

Male Characteristics

As adults, one of the most obvious signs that a Silkie is a rooster (male) instead of a hen (female) is his size. Regular male Silkies can weigh between 3.5 and 4.4lbs., while the Bantam Silkies are smaller at 1.26 to 1.5lbs. They have a broad, circular comb as well as a medium-sized, upright crest. The wattle is usually medium-sized and fine in texture on non-bearded Silkies, while bearded Silkies will have small wattles that are most often concealed by their beards. This can be the case with ear lobes as well - where non-bearded Silkie roosters will have small, oval ear lobes, the bearded variety will have very small ear lobes that are mostly concealed by feathers. While Silkie roosters are not often as aggressive as other chicken males, they are still active and bold and will not necessarily run and hide from something that they feel is threatening them or their females.

Female Characteristics

Smaller than their male counterparts, Silkie hens usually weigh between 2.5 and 3.5lbs, with Silkie Bantams reaching maturity at an even smaller size of one to 57.2kg. They have very small combs and medium-sized, globular crests. On the non-bearded Silkie hens the wattles are small and fine textured, while on the bearded hens the wattles are very small or non-existent and usually concealed by their beards. Their ear lobes are similar - being very small on the non-bearded hens and minuscule to non-existent and hidden on the bearded hens. Silkie hens are active but in a more sedate manner than the roosters. They are broody and "clutchy" and spend most of their time sitting on nests. Many breeders use them to incubate their own eggs as well as abandoned or extra eggs because of this.

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