Breeds in focus
Instantly identified by its unusual fluffy plumage, including a head crest and five feather-covered toes, the silkie is one of the most distinctive breeds of chicken.
It is an ancient breed, with records in China dating back 2,000 years; it reached the UK in the mid 1880s. Silkies do best when confined because their plumage is unable to cope with wet or muddy conditions. They come in a variety of solid colours. Silkies are unrivalled as broodies; when sitting they are typically reluctant to move from their eggs, even for food, and have to be lifted off their nest. They have long been popular as foster mothers with breeders of ornamental waterfowl and pheasants, while silkie-bantam crosses were traditionally used by gamekeepers for hatching and rearing partridges. They are poor egg layers, because as soon as they become broody it is extremely difficult to persuade a hen to do anything other than sit.