Ask our Experts
QAre Silkies, with their fine feathers, any more likely to succumb to the cold (we live in eastern Scotland!) than other breeds? Our young daughter is set on having some for her birthday and whilst we have the facilities to keep a few, we don’t necessarily have the weather!
AJeremy Hobson says: I don’t think you’ll have any problems as all feathers provide both insulation and waterproofing. Some are, though, better at doing so than others and you are right to think of this aspect. However, so long as they have shelter to get out of the rain and wind, you should be okay.
It’s of interest to note that the colouring of a feather as well as its structure affects its resilience to a certain extent. Black feathers, for instance, are thought to be more resilient to ‘wear and tear’ than white ones because they contain more pigmentation. The main pigments are melanins (manufactured in the bird’s body) and carotenoids (which are absorbed from foods, especially greenstuffs and roots).
Whilst obviously not a chicken, the snow goose is a perfect example of the difference. Although predominantly white, it has black tips to its wings due to a high concentration of melanin at this point; the reason being that this helps strengthen the primary feathers, making them more resilient and capable of the arduous seasonal migrations being undertaken.
A Silkie. Black feathers are thought to be more resilient to wear and tear