Silkies are a chicken breed that is known for its soft, pretty plummage and sweet disposition. Silkies are a great choice for beginners just getting started with managing a flock. Part of that management means keeping an eye on the ratio of hens and roosters.
However, juvenile Silkies, especially those that are younger than eight weeks, often have similar features which can make it difficult to determine their biological sex. Silkies roosters and hens differ in a few distinct ways, which can help the careful observer make an educated guess.
The only surefire way to determine the sex with absolute certainty is with a DNA test.
Upon hatching, Silkie males and females will look nearly identical. Silkies also mature more slowly that other chicken breeds, further complicating the sexing process at the earliest stage. Most physical traits that can be used to determine the chicken’s sex present at around 6-8 weeks of age.
As with most breeds, Silkie hens will have a smaller body size and wing structure. Silkie hens have much shorter feathers as well, especially the streamer feathers found at the top of the head, which are a puffier shape.
Silkie hens do not grow wattles until they are around six months old. Silkie hens are said to be very affectionate; they often love to be held and petted. Silkie hens are excellent mothers to chicks, and have even been known to raise chicks of other poultry, such as ducks and geese.
Silkie roosters are larger and tend to hold their bodies taller and more upright than female Silkies, although these differences are usually only noticeable after the chicks are 12 weeks old.
Juvenile Silkie roosters have a prominent wattle growing under the beak at around 8 weeks old. Between 6-9 weeks, male Silkies will begin to grow streamers at the crown of its head; the crest found on male
Silkies are much spikier as compared to females. And just like other boy chickens, Silkie roosters love to crow!
Differences between Silkie Hens and Roosters
While Silkie hens and roosters differ in physical and social characteristics, it can be challenging to determine even prominent differences until the chicken is more developed. Here are a few traits to consider when trying to determine the sex of a Silkie chicken.
Size and Body
A standard-sized Silkie will weigh between three and four pounds. Once Silkies have matured to adult age, the size difference between roosters and hens is very noticeable. Roosters usually weigh more and have thick legs. While Silkie roosters develop spurs at the age of six months, Silkie hens never develop spurs.
Silkie chickens, regardless of sex, have some distinct features, such as black skin, black bones, blue earlobes, and five toes on each foot.
Silkie hens have distinctive primary wing feathers while Silkie roosters maintain their fluffy wings until they are older. Silkie roosters also tend to have shorter wingspans when compared to hens.
A wattle is part of a chicken’s heat regulation system. They are fleshy lobes of loose skin that hangs down on either side of the chicken’s beak. While all chickens have wattles, they are especially pronounced in the roosters of most breeds.
Silkie males begin growing their wattle as young as six weeks. Because Silkie hens do not develop a wattle until they are six months old, this is a commonly used method to sex Silkies. If your Silkie has not developed a distinct wattle by 10 weeks of age, it is most likely a male. Silkie wattles are generally black or a dark mulberry shade.
Silkie chickens are known for their smooth, soft, and fluffy feathers. Silkie chicken feathers lack the barbs of other bird feathers, and more closely resemble down than feathers. They earned the name Silkie for a good reason!
Silkie feathers can come in a variety of colors, including white, black, blue, gray and gold. Silkie hens and roosters have different feather patterns and placement.
For example, roosters will have neck feathers (known as hackle feathers) and long feathers at the tail, particularly after age 10 weeks. Silkie roosters will also have streamers protruding from the back of their crest, developing at around 4 months of age.
Silkie hens have round, soft tail feathers. By comparison, Silkie rooster tail feathers are more pointed and feature harder feathers.
Crown, Crest and Comb
Silkie hens and roosters differ greatly when it comes to crown (head) feathers. Hens have a crown comprised of short, wiry feathers, forming a soft puffball shape. Silkie roosters, on the other hand, have streamers (or long feathers that “stream” down the chickens back) on their crowns.
Hens and roosters of the Silkie chicken breed also differ in comb, particularly in shape and size. A Silkie rooster comb is shaped like a U and is larger, while the hen will generally have a smaller, V-shaped comb.
Silkie chickens are known to be docile and friendly, with hens being especially calm and shy. Once the hen has reached brooding age, Silkies produce eggs with creamy white shells about 2-3 times a week. In a flock with other birds, Silkies can get bullied because of their docile nature.
Just like most roosters, male Silkies are protective of their hens and can be quite territorial. Male Silkies will often chest bump other males and in general are much more physical than hens. Roosters will also begin to crow loudly at around 3 months of age.
Roosters may also make a loud clucking noise called tidbitting to alert others in the flock to food. However, hens with chicks also engage in tidbitting.
Silkie roosters may begin to attempt mating with hens at 3 months old. Roosters may mount a hen or perform a mating dance that consists of dropping a wing and shuffle dancing around the hen until she either consents or runs away from the rooster.
Silkie hens love to brood on a clutch of eggs, which can make them territorial. Silkie hens are not the best breed for prolific egg laying.
The Silkie breed of chicken is a great and beautiful bird that will make a wonderful backyard companion, even for small yards. Silkie chickens are difficult to sex when recently hatched because they look very similar and tend to grow at a slower rate than other breeds of chicken.
While sex determination can be tricky to do with certainty without a DNA test, juvenile Silkies will generally display observables differences in crown feathering, size, presence of a wattle, comb shape, and behavior.