Unique among fowls because of their nearly black skin, the Silkie Bantam is a rather idiosyncratic bird. Their friendly, active temperament and unique appearance makes them an ideal chicken to keep as a pet.
Silkie Bantams are excellent birds to keep as a brooder or as a pet. They are quite gentle and adapt well to human handling. The Silkie Bantam is docile by nature and craves attention. Silkie Bantam hens are excellent brooders and will even hatch and care for other types of fowl. Silkie hens are so naturally broody that they will sometimes brood when no eggs are present! Many people who keep game birds or partridges prefer to hatch the eggs naturally rather than use an incubator. In cases such as these, the keeper often has a flock of Silkies he uses primarily to hatch the other birds' eggs. The Silkie hen herself does not lay very many eggs because, like most chickens, they do not lay while brooding. Luckily, the Silkie hen does not have to care for the chicks alone. The males often possess many maternal instincts as well. Male Silkies are generally very gentle towards the chicks and will even bring choice bits of food to chicks. A Silkie's average lifespan is between 12 and 14 years, so long as they are alowed to graze and lead a happy life, show birds are expected to have a shorter life span
Although it is a small chicken, the Silkie Bantam does not let itself fade into the background. The main characteristic that makes it obvious the Silkie Bantam is unique is the texture of its plumage. Their feathers have a silky, almost fur-like texture. Silkies also have abundant plumage on their legs and an impressive crest on their heads. Another oddity associated with the Silkie Bantam is the fact that their feet have five toes instead of four. Silkies can either have beards or not, and they are the only known chicken with black skin. Silkie Bantams can appear in a variety of colors, including gray, blue, buff, black, partridge and white. The most common color is white. The Silkie's unique feathers are caused by the presence of the "h" gene, which is a recessive gene that causes feathers to be woolly in appearance.
The Silkie is believed to have come from China thousands of years ago. Ancient writers speak of a chicken with hair instead of feathers, and many experts believe they are referring to the Silkie. It is thought that Marco Polo first exported the Silkies from China sometime during the 13th century. The Silkie Bantams that are popular today have been modified through the centuries, with various other breeds introduced to produce such characteristics as the feathered legs. Silkie Bantams are today very common as ornamental or exhibition fowl and they have changed greatly over the past forty years. The American Poultry Association and the American Bantam Association, as well as other fowl associations throughout the world, recognize Silkie Bantams.