If you have ever wondered what you call that extra bump at the top of a silkie chicken’s head, it is called a Vaulted Skull.. They are very easy to see in newborn silkie chicks but become less noticeable as the chick grows up. Not all silkies have them. About half of my chicks hatch with noticeable vaults. They make the chick appear very cute and that is one reason they are very popular with people purchasing silkies.
Vaulted skulls are common in silkies and in polish chickens. It started out as a mutation. People then selected it because they liked the look of it. They polish had them first. The polish were then bred into silkies to improve and create larger crest sizes. Often chickens are bred together to get new colors, traits and types. Because polish have had this trait longer than silkies, their vaulted skulls are more closed and less susceptible to injury.
A vaulted skull is a skull which has an opening at the top not unlike when a human baby is born. The soft spot on a human skull grows together and become hard. Sometimes a silkies hole will grow over but sometimes it does not. There are pictures online which shows silkie chicken skulls with this opening.
Because of having a vault, a part of the silkies brain is therefore unprotected. A vaulted skull will just have skin and down covering the opening of the skull. Since there is an opening in the silkies skull, it can allow a portion of the brain to protrude through the opening. This is what causes the look of the bump on top of their heads. This can cause the chicks to be quite delicate. Once they are a month old, the bones in the vaulted area usually grow thicker and closer together.
A vault on a silkie looks like the crest has a rubber band around it. The skull vault gives more stability to the crest as as well as shape. Birds with large crests often have crests that flop over to one side or the other. Something about the fact that the skull is open stimulates feathers to grow that way which can look very attractive. Silkies born with vaults are more apt to have larger crests as adults and are said to win more poultry shows.
Silkie chicks with or without vaults can have nice top knots. It all depends on the quality of the line. The standard states that a silkie’s crest should be nice and round and even in shape. I like to think of it looking like a cotton ball or powder puff on top of the head.
Extremely vaulted heads should be moved to a separate brooder for added protection. They can be injured if something hits them on top of the head or if they run into something. The chicks with the huge vaults are usually the ones more likely to get stuck in the shells. They have a hard time pipping since they can’t move rotate in the shell very well. They are the ones more likely to need help hatching out.
People wonder if it is worth it to purchase a silkie with a large vault. Understand that you are taking a risk. Some people chose silkie chicks that do not display a vault for that very reason. Vault or not, all silkie chicks will develop nice crests. It is difficult to tell for sure which adult birds were born with vaults if you didn’t keep records. Since vaults are here to stay in most lines it is important to understand how you can protect your bird.