The Silkie is a very unusual breed of chicken. Their feathers lack functioning barbicels, and are thus similar to down on other birds. The overall result is a soft fluffy apperance. They are a wonderful breed of chicken for children. They are friendly, calm, and very docile. They also can't fly.
They come in bearded and non-beaded varities. The ABA accepts six standard colors for Silkies. They are black, blue, buff, white, partridge, splash, gray and the recently accepted lavender. There are also some other non-standard, but, popular colors. They are red, porcelain and cuckoo. They have black skin, hair like plumage, and turquoise earlobes. They also have 5 toes, whereas most chickens only have 4, and feathered feet. They have a walnut comb. They lay a lighly tinted, small egg. They are not very good egglayers. They are one of the most broody breeds of chicken. They make wonderful mothers. They are hardy in cold and heat.
Silkies come in bantam and standard size. Silkies are only bantam sized in the United States.
Silkies can not be accurately sexed until around 6 months of age. Hatchery silkies can usually be sexed earlier. Same thing with quality. Quality of the bird can not be determined until at least 6 months of age, some dont finishing blooming until later. So beware of people offering show quality chicks for sale, and show quality eggs for sale. There is no such thing as a show quality egg or chick.
With my silkies I am very particular/picky about which birds I choose to put into my breeding pens. I will never use a 4 toed, 6 toed, or single combed silkie, along with other DQ's such as duck foot, etc. Birds with DQ's or faults are sold locally as pets.
With my silkies, I am doing sort of a pedigree mating. I am keeping track of which hen and rooster produces which chicks. This starts before the eggs are laid. Once I pair up the chickens, I dont start collecting eggs until 3 weeks have passed. This way, I am sure that the chicks I hatch are from that rooster. If I am keeping a trio together, I use food dye inserted into the hens butts. I redo this every 5 or so days. This way, when the hen laying the eggs her eggs come out with food dye on it, so I can be sure which hen laid which egg. Once I gather the eggs, each egg gets the mating written on it in pencil. If the hens band is 55 pink and the roosters band is 63 pink. I write "55pX63p" on the egg, along with the day the egg was laid. Once it comes time to put the eggs in the incubator, I rewrite this info in a fine point sharpie, so I can be sure it wont rub off in the incubator. I have 2 incubators I use as hatchers. This means that I can only incubate eggs from 2 different hens at one time. When they hatch the eggs from one hen go into one hatcher and the other hens eggs in another hatcher. I have tried dividing up the incubator with some hardwire cloth, but the chicks hop right over it.
Once the chicks hatch, they stay in the incubators for around 24 hours so they are all dry when I remove them. I take each chick out and I mark down its back with a sharpie. For example, chicks from one hen will get blue and the other chicks will get red. This lasts until the chicks down turns into feathers. I have never had a problem with chicks pecking at eachothers marking. At 1 week of age, the chicks get permanent numbered wing bands applied. I record the wing band number (and color if there is one), and the parents info, their hatch date, and some notes about the chicks. I apply numbered plastic bandettes once the chicks legs are big enough so they stay on without slipping. I have a binder that I keep all these records in. As the chicks grow, I take notes on each individual chick, and guesses on gender.
This is not the best picture, but you can see how the food coloring looks on the eggs. This hen was a pullet that I seperated with another girl to check who was laying. I dyed her 3 days before this egg was laid.
Once the hatch is finished, the incubator can be quite messy. I clean my incubators outside. First I remove all large pieces of egg shells etc, and throw those out. Then I rinse out the bottom half of the incubator. I take out the plastic tray and the wire sheet. Next I fill up the styrafoam bottom and the plastic tray with hot water and add some plain bleach. More bleach in the plastic tray than the styrafoam. You only want to use a little bit in the styrafoam bottom, since too much can leave it smelling fumey. I let them soak for 5-10 min to loosen up any hatching gunk. Then I take a sponge and scrub all the pieces. Once im done and have gotten all of the goop off, I make sure to rinse it out very well. If its a warm, sunny day I leave the pieces out on the deck to dry off, otherwise I dry them off with a towel or paper towels. Then I clean the top piece of the incubator, the part with the heating elements. I use the Brinsea Incubation Disinfectant for this. I mix some up in a spray bottle and spray down a towel with the solution, so its damp, not soaking wet. Then I wipe down the whole top piece of the incubator, inside and out. Once im done with that, I normally plug the incubator back in cause within a day or two its time to move some more eggs to hatch.
Chickens are omnivores, and will eat seeds, herbs, grubs, and insects.
My Silkies get fed 20% Dumor chick starter when they are in the breeding pens. I also give them fresh greens such as dandelion leaves, etc. I also give them some scratch/corn and BOSS (Black Oil Sunflower Seeds). I also add some calcium chips/grit to the feed. I like to keep the Silkies on the 20% since the higher protein keeps their feathers in a nicer condtion.
I feed my chickens treats like wheat, cracked corn, sunflower seeds, garden weeds, and non-salty table scraps. The birds have their feed & water out 24/7.
My baby chicks get a 20% protein chick starter. I have been using Dumor 20% chick starter, which is non-medicated. It just depends on what I have at the time. The chicks get switched to layer pellets at around 18 weeks of age. I have been using the Dumor 20% chick starter for the past 2 years or so and I am very pleased with the food. I keep my food in metal storage bins. They keep moisture, rodents, and bugs out, and keep the feed fresh.
I use hanging feeders so that the birds can't scratch the food out, or the litter in. With the silkies I have been using the black rubber bowls for both feed and water.The feeder is as high as the birds backs. For water I use a 3 gallon plastic waterer or black rubber bowls. They get rinsed out and refilled daily. When they get dirty, I disinfect them with a bleach and water solution. Then I let them sit for about 1 hour. Then they get rinsed out very well.
For prevention of mites, lice, etc. I use permethrin 10% livestock and premise spray. It can be found at your local Tractor Supply. Permethrin Kills darkling beetles, poultry lice, fowl mites, horn flies, house flies and face flies. Plus controls fleas, ticks, lice and mange mites. Permethrin is highly toxic to the insecst with a very low toxicity to humans and animals. (Be careful with use around cats as it can be toxic. I have 3 and have not had any problems.) The residue will last up to 30 days, so I repeat it every month. I use it directly on the birds and also in the coops on the roosts etc. I mix up the Permethrin 10% in a pump spray. For me, itís a lot easier than individually dusting each bird. I dilute it 1.28 ounces per gallon of water. If you have an active infestation you can dilute the Permethrin 10% to 3.2 ounces per gallon for normal infestations or 6.4 ounces per gallon for servere infestations, but this must NOT be used on the birds only inside the coop, on roosts/walls/etc. Close doors and windows before spraying and keep door closed for 10-15 minutes after you spray. I would suggest wearing a face mask everytime you spray.
In 2011 I plan to use Ivermectin Pour On and do the birds, and rotate with the Permethrin. I've been told that the Ivermectin Pour On lasts up to 6 weeks on the birds and it treats lice & mites as well as deworms. I have heard that Ivermectin can have an effect on males fertilty for a couple weeks (2-3), therefor I plan to only treat when I am not hatching, or the younger birds who I do not have in breeding pens yet.
I also use 5% Sevin dust which I will sprinkle around the runs, on the shavings after I clean the coops out etc.
Conditioning Silkies for shows starts months before the day of the show. I will go through the pens and pick the hens out about 3 months before the show. Any broken feathers get plucked, to allow enough time for them to grow back. The birds will get put up into wire pens that are outside. The birds will get sprayed down with a Permethrin 10% livestock and premise spray to prevent any lice/mites. They will get sprayed down monthly and then the week before the show. They will get their toe nails clipped and feet washed, if they are dirty. I switch the birds over to a 24% protein feed, and supplement that with Manna Pro Calf Manna pellets and some black oil sunflower seeds. If I have to condition birds for a winter show, they are moved into the garage in deep shavings once the weather gets too cool for them to be up on wire outside.
The day before I am going to wash the birds I clip their toe nails and clip and file their beaks. Donít clip their nails right before you bathe them. If you clip the quick by accident, the nail will bleed and could end up staining the feathers. 2 days before the show I wash the colored birds. If they have any stains on their feet I use some Shout stain remover and let it sit a bit then wash it off. I use any shampoo I have on hand. I do like using a cat flea and tick shampoo. Be very careful to not get the water into the birdís nose/lungs. To wash the crest, I do it very carefully with a wet washcloth. Iím paranoid about getting water into their nose/lungs. After the birds are all rinsed off and all the soap is off. I use a rinse of water and liquid glycerin. Then I wrap the birds in a towel and let them sit for a bit so all the water comes off. Then the birds go outside and get put under heat lamps until the show. The heat lamps dry off the birds pretty quick. Make sure the heat lamps are high enough so the birds can burn their crest. The day before the show I bathe the white birds, same way as I bathe the colored birds, only before I apply the liquid glycerin rinse, the birds get dunked in some water with liquid bluing. This helps make the birds a brighter white. Be VERY careful not to use too much bluing otherwise the bird will turn blue. I mix it up so the water is a light sky blue color. I will also use the bluing on the splash birds. Thatís it. Then youíre ready to pack the birds up the next morning and head to the show.
After the show is over all the birds go into qurantine for at least 3-4 weeks. During that time I treat the birds with a lice/mite spray twice. I spray once and then repeat in 7-10 days, just incase they did pick up mites or lice.
I recently started using Oxine to spray down coops, birds, etc. I plan on using that at the shows. Spraying down the crate before I put the birds down, misting the birds before I put them in the crate, and misting several times during quarantine. I got it from Revival Animal Health. 6.5 ounces to a gallon or 1.5 ounces to a quart. I don't use the activator.