Since getting started with chickens in 2010 we have always had Silkies. I selected this breed because of their gentleness, small size, ease of handling, and their undying desire to mother. The breed lived up to all of its promises and more. I have to say I love Silkies.
We keep a mixed flock. We have standard sized hens and bantams. Silkie Bantams to be exact, as we like to call them-our Chinese chickens. The standard girls are big and bossy. They are always the ones jockeying their position for food, treats and human attention. The little Silkies, all four of them, tend to keep a bit back. They don’t mind. They are completely content not taking center stage in our menagerie of chickens. It is almost as if they are a mini-flock within the larger flock. Sometimes, with all the brouhaha of Oyster Cracker continually jumping into my lap with an insatiable appetite for attention, Tilly chatting up a storm, and the chaos of treat time the Silkies are easy to overlook.
Our three year old Silkie Hen, Dolly, has long time been one of my favorite girls. I know I shouldn’t play favorites but this little lump of fluff has found her way into my heart. I’m not quite sure if it is the way she mothers so beautifully or the gentleness about her. She is patient. She is kind and she is wonderful with the kids. She is giving and generous and keeps an eye out for the other Silkies. I have never told the kids about my personal feeling about her and the girls. I didn’t want them to know that I secretly had my favorites.
Yesterday I had my eldest go out to the coop to let the girls out, toss in some scratch and check for eggs. When he came inside, as the soon to be aloof double digit kid could only share…”You know Mom, I never realized this, but Dolly is one of my favorite hens.” I could feel my heart smile.
My heart was smiling because to a boy whose life is consumed with school, his peers and the normal pressures of growing up has taken the time to notice our small unassuming, easy-to-miss little hen. Sometimes it is the little things in life that really make the biggest impact. Love knows no size. Love has no boundaries except those that you place on it.
Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest
|Feathers rocking an amazing do.|
I have three nesting boxes. The problem is that I have four broody Silkie Bantam hens. They are stubborn. As a concession two will often share a box but when one of the big girls comes into lay for the day, it is like World War III. Every Silkie jockeys for position to stay in their box. What does a girl who wants to lay her egg do to the broody girls? She talks to them and gives them a peck. Often, these hormonal Silkies cannot be reasoned with. They have an unreal dedication to brood. The only way they vacate the nesting box is through repetitive pecking by the big girl who wants to lay her egg. Finally, one little Silkie can’t take it anymore and abandons the nest scooting out into the run.
This repetitive pecking for the Sikies comes at a price. It affects their cute little heads. Once filled with a poof ball of fluff, they have now succumbed to the feather styling efforts of the bigger girls. Some little ones sport mohawk-like dos. Others appear to have a sort of male pattern baldness working. Then there are some that are missing a few patches here and there, almost mange-like. I feel badly and know that as soon they snap out of the broodiness, their beautiful poofy coifs return. The Silkies, on the other hand, are unfazed.
I wish I could be unfazed like them when I get a bad hair cut. We have all had them. When trying out a new stylist sometimes the cut is just a little too short, shows off the ears too much or just is the wrong color. I think the worst cuts though have always come when I have brought a photo in as an example. “I want to look just like this movie star.” The problem is we are not in Hollywood. We have humidity; combine that with running around the day, doing errands, laundry, cooking, washing the dog and serving as an after school taxi cab does not always match the do. Having naturally wavy hair, often those Hollywood styles end up at the end of the day looking like a huge ball of frizz with it’s own zip code. Sometimes, I think the chickens could do a better job at styling my hair. Hey, they’d probably do it for free, especially if they found some bugs in there after I was done gardening for the day.
Have you entered the chicken coop giveaway yet? You have only until tomorrow by 11:59pm East Coast Time. Click here for the link.
Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest
I have said it time and time again, that animals are capable of emotions. It is underestimated and under publicized but I know this to be true, without the need for any scientific evidence. Strangely enough, my girls are my science experiment. I watch them like a petri dish experiment, except only good has grown from keeping them! We have learned so many lessons from the chickens and have been reminded about the importance of living simply.
Dolly is one of our Silkie Bantams. She is the head of the Silkies but the Silkies always keep to themselves. They let the big girls eat the treats first and use the best nesting boxes. The little ones stay out of the way. However, they are still a family and they care about each other. All eight chickens sleep on a 3’roost, despite that fact that ample roosting space exists.
For the past two weeks, Dolly likes to steal moments with me. While the other girls are busy in the morning gobbling up scratch in the run, I like to do light coop housekeeping. Dolly always sees this as an opportunity. She peeks in the door as the others are not looking. Then she comes into the coop and just sits by me on the roost, watching. She quietly converses with me. She never tries to escape out the door, rather, she waits. Then, interestingly enough, she stands on the coop floor in front of me and goes into the submissive position. Up until this point, I have not even tried to pet her. She is just there, telling me that I am allowed, like a rooster, to interact with her. I pick her up and place her upon my lap. She is warm. I smell the top of her sweet little fluffy head. She snuggles right in, sometimes under my armpit, sometimes in the crook of my neck. There, I pet her gently. I offer to place her on the ground outside of the coop. She just stands there and then tries to hop back into my lap. She wants nothing more than my love.
Dolly and I bonded when she was having her clutch of chicks this past Spring. I find it fascinating that she comes to me, on her own, alone in need of nothing more than love. Love is universal, even in the world of chickens.
Dolly, our year old Lavender Silkie Bantam, was purchased as pullet last Fall from a farm in Cotuit. She turned one in May and is one of the sweetest chickens that we own.
Immediately, when she was integrated into the flock, Chocolate, our rooster, took a liking to her. They were always together. However, prior to that, Tilly was his girl and she was now replaced by this fluffy little beauty. Tilly’s feelings were hurt and she started to dislike Dolly. Since then, Chocolate has been rehomed, but Tilly still holds her grudge against Dolly. Dolly on the other hand, just avoids Tilly and her life is without conflict.
Dolly is at the top of the Sikie pecking order, which put her in the middle of the order between the 8 girls. She commands the attention of our other Silkies; Feathers, Fifi and Autumn. She can be assertive when necessary and can be found bossing the other Silkies around.
She also loves to be broody. As Silkies are prone to broodiness, so is Dolly. It seems as though her broody cycles will break for a bit. Then she will lay two weeks worth of eggs, and return to being broody. We actually allowed her to hatch her own clutch of eggs this past early Spring. She made a fantastic mother and successfully hatched 7 out of her 8 fertilized eggs. If you would like to read about Dolly’s adventures in motherhood, it begins here.
She is also incredibly smart. She knows her name. She even understands when I even give her little commands. She also comes when I call her. She is a lovable girl with a soft spot for motherhood, making her one of my favorite girls.
Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest
Silkie Bantams are some of the most adorable little chickens you will ever lay your eyes upon. They are thought to be the oldest breed of ornamental chickens, first discovered by Marco Polo during his travels to China in the 13th century. Marco Polo described them as “fur covered fowl with black skin”. They are unique for a number of reasons. In addition to their black skin, their feathers grow such that they retain the soft fuzzy feeling of a baby chick. They also have feathered feet and five toes instead of the traditional four.
Silkie Bantams are also much smaller than the standard sized breeds. They will grow to about half of the standard size. Their eggs too are miniature, equalling about half the size of a standard’s egg. Silkie Bantams are reliable egg layers when they are not in a broody stage. That being said, Silkie Bantams are a chicken that tend and like to be broody. They will even go broody without the presence of eggs. They make excellent mothers and will easily adopt baby chicks of a different breed.
Silkie Bantams also make fantastic pets and adapt easily and quickly to being handled due to their sweet and docile nature. They are the perfect chicken for children. Silkie Bantams come many shades including black, lavender/splash, buff, partridge and white.
Currently, Dolly, Feathers, Autumn and Fifi are our Silkies. They all have won a special place in my heart due to their kindhearted nature. Dolly is an incredibly dedicated mother and has raised her own brood as well as adopted a Silver Laced Wyandotte chick as her own. She is an incredible nurturer and makes a fantastic mother. They all do not mind being handled. They also seem to influence one another to go broody. Often they will pair off together, and sit in the boxes waiting for eggs to arrive.
Photo Credits: Tilly’s Nest
Today I ventured to the local feed store to pick-up more food for the ever growing baby chicks. They are eating so much lately, almost a pound per day. So, on this drizzly and foggy Cape Cod morning, I went on my way. When I arrived, I knew that it was going to be instant temptation. Our local feed store has been getting weekly deliveries of baby chicks. Everytime I go into the store, I find myself resisting my chicken addiction. However, this time there was no escaping meeting the newest member of our flock.
I was good at first. I went over and picked up the food and supplies. I even was standing at the checkout counter. Then, I glanced over at the divided brooder. It had some Jersey Giants left from the previous week and the other two sections were filled with Silver Laced and White Laced Wyandottes. Uh oh; I have always wanted a Silver Laced Wyandotte. I watched them eat, drink and sleep. I had to have one. After about 10 minutes of watching the chicks, I picked out the most adorable girl with a freckled face. She was worth the every penny of the her five dollar cost. They boxed her up and soon enough, I was heading home with chick food and a new chick!
Every chicken expert says, do not mix chicks of various ages. Today, was going to be my experiment. If worse came to worse, I could always separate the group with chicken wire. I took the chick’s Mom, Dolly, out to the large run and coop with the rest of the flock. I opened the new box and placed it under the heat lamp. Next, I grabbed Percy Peepers from the brooder. I figured, Percy was about the same size as the day old chick and did not have much of an advantage with his bad leg. I watched their interaction; no aggression. In fact, they were snuggling after about 3 minutes.
I removed the rest of Dolly’s chicks into another separate box, cleaned the brooder, refilled the waterers and feeder and returned all of the chicks, including the new one to the brooder. I sat and watched. The new chicks definitely recognized the new girl as not being an original chick. They were at first scared and cautious. I gave them some scratch as a distraction. Soon enough, they were ignoring her. Our new little chick on the otherhand, journeyed closer to the heat lamp to take a nap; so far, so good.
I went and retrived Dolly who did not want to return to the brooder. She was busy taking a dust bath. When she entered the coop, she soon realized that there was a new little baby amongst her brooder flock. All of the original chicks were standing behind Dolly seeking protection from the newbie. Dolly gently pecked at the baby. It just stood there. As if nothing ever happened, Dolly and the chicks moved on and went about business as usual. I sat and watched for 40 minutes. Everything seemed fine. After all of the morning excitement everyone decided to take a nap. The new chick nestled close to Dolly, not underneath, but in front. Everyone, including Dolly, closed their eyes.
I am optimistic that this transition will go smoothly. I will continue to closely watch and intervene for the little chick as need be. I am excited to have a new little chick amongst the ever growing teenage chicks now. They are goofy looking as patches of real feathers emerge. Soon enough, our new little Silver Wyandotte will be bigger than the Silkies. As she is a standard breed, she will grow at a much faster rate. I will never claim to be a chicken expert. I will never know as much as my fellow chicken keepers. I am only a novice with a big space in my heart for chickens. However, even experts can be wrong.
|Spring chicks and Feathers|
Silkie Bantams are a fantastic breed for individuals who enjoy birds that are docile, good with children and are cold hardy. They enjoy being broody and make excellent mothers.
Silkies have feathers unique to their breed. They retain a plumage similar to young chicks. Silkies are also different from most chickens as they have black skin, black bones, blue earlobes and five toes as opposed to most chickens that have four. Silkies are believed to have come from Asia and were described in the 13th century by Marco Polo.
We currently have four Silkie pullets, one rooster and a new batch of Silkie chicks. Silkies are the sweetest nicest chickens. They are smaller than standard breeds. I would say that the hens are about 1/3- 1/2 the size of a standard breed. The rooster seems to be the size of a standard hen. The hens lay tiny eggs. Two of their eggs are equivalent to one standard size egg.
Feathers is the sweetest little girl that we have. She is a very friendly and curious little hen. She is the first to come running when I call “girls” for treats. She is very smart too. Often, she is the one who sneaks into tight areas to find the tastiest of treats that the other girls cannot reach.
Chocolate is our rooster and he is, well, a rooster at that. He is chivalrous and generous with his ladies. However, he is going to be rehomed. I have zero tolerance for aggressive roosters. He is not friendly to my children or my husband. He is doing his job; however, he fails to realize that his human family is not the enemy. He will be rehomed this Spring to a nearby farm. He is beautiful and will help my friend breed Silkie bantams. His life will be saved and I can visit him. The hardest part is that he loves me to pieces. He loves snuggling, talking, and going for walks. Despite that, I must do what I know is right.
Dolly, Meesha and Autumn were added to our flock last Fall because Chocolate was terrorizing the other girls. Four girls proved not enough for Chocolate, as he needed more ladies to keep him company. When I purchased the chickens, they were not accustomed to being held and were not raised as pets. They have now been with us for about 6 months.
Dolly is just that, a doll. She is so sweet and friendly. She is content and loves to be tucked underneath of my arm and relax. She just hatched chicks about 3 weeks ago. While broody, she has never pecked at me. We worked together and she learned how to be a fantastic first time Mom. She is protective with her chicks, as she should be. She is an excellent mother.
Meesha and Autumn are a bit different. They have never warmed up to us humans. They are skittish and shy. They are also impossible to catch. Currently they are broody. They love to peck at me, especially Meesha. They are not the nicest of chickens. At this point, these two are not necessarily considered pets like the rest of the flock. Instead, we see them as friends for Chocolate.
We love Silkie Bantams. In total, we have 12 Silkies right now. Our flock will need some rearranging this Spring, as we cannot keep them all. Tilly’s Nest can only hold 7-8 chickens. We are going to have to make some tough decisions in the days ahead. Chickens are addictive! Once you get them, especially the Silkies, you are going to want more and more!
|We are in this together!|
Just another Saturday in the life of these two broody girls.
Here are the facts:
These two have been broody since the beginning of March.
They are sitting on invisible eggs.
I found these two together in the center nesting box. They are smart that they sit in opposite directions, that way, they can attack any hands that comes to check for eggs.
We miss their eggs.
Yesterday they both took a dust bath together. It had been a long time since I last saw them take one.
I think that they are in cahoots with one another.
Often I catch them in the act of rolling another gal’s freshly laid egg into their nesting box.
I think these two are going to be broody forever.