A Look at the Silkie Standard of Perfection

20171020_121935-1The American Standard of Perfection is a wonderful book published by the American Poultry Association. In it you will find all kinds of valuable information on all of the breeds of chickens that are recognized by this group.  Their main purpose is to list characteristics of each breed at their highest level.  This information is used by judges to help them judge the qualities of individual birds against what has been decided as the “perfect” bird of that breed and variety by the American Poultry Association. It is also used by breeders to improve their birds through breeding towards the standard and by exhibitors who want to place well in poultry shows who use the standard as a guide for choosing birds.

In judging, there is a scale of points that equals 100.  Points are assigned to different attributes of the bird.  Points will be deducted if the bird does not meet the standard given.  There are also disqualifications that can be given which will eliminate a bird from competition.  Since silkies  have crests and beards their point system is adjusted to include points for those areas.

The disqualifications specifically for silkies include :  Bright red comb, face and wattles.  Shanks not feathered down outer sides.  Feathers not truly silky (except in primaries, secondaries, leg, toe and main tail feathers.) Vulture hocks. There are other disqualifications that are for all birds, not just silkies.  You would find those under “General Disqualifications” elsewhere in the book.

The standard weight for a silkie cock is 36 oz.  The standard weight for a silkie hen is 32 oz.  The standard weight for a silkie cockerel is 32 oz.  The standard weight for a silkie pullet is 28 oz.

The standard then lists descriptions of each of the areas of the silkie’s appearance.  This is all part of the bird’s shape.  It is best to obtain a copy of the standard so that you can read in detail what the standard entails. I will mention a few of the items of interest but there is much more information listed in the book. I will be discussing the Bearded Silkie only.

The comb should be walnut shaped. In the males it should be circular shaped and have a horizontal indentation across the middle of it. Females should also be walnut and smaller. The wattles should be small and concealed by the beard in bearded silkie males.  The females should be very small and concealed.

The crest should be medium sized. The beard and muffs should be thick and full. The neck should be short and gracefully curved.  The back should be short and broad and rising back in a curve towards the tail.  The cushion of the tail should be broad and round and very fluffy.  The tail should be  shredded at the ends.

The wings should be closely folded and carried well back being nearly horizontal.  Primaries should be concealed  by secondaries.  The tips should be well shredded with tips being concealed by saddle feathers.

The silkie needs to have five toes. Three in the front and two in the back.  One toe in the natural position and the other placed above it curving upwards and backwards.  Feathering should be to the middle toe.

Comb should be deep mulberry colored.  Beak should be slaty blue and eyes should be black.  Earlobes should be turquoise blue. Skin should be dark blue and toes slaty blue.

Silkie’s feathers come in different colors and not all colors are recognized by the APA. Here are the ones that are recognized: white, black, blue, partridge, buff, gray, splash, self-blue (lavender) and paint.  There are separate descriptions for each of the different color varieties indicating what is accepted and what is not.

Symmetry, as well as, condition and vigor are also important in judging.  The overall shape and balance of the bird is important.  The silkie should look like a “S” curve with the bottom part of the “s” continuing upward.  They almost look completely circular, like a bowling ball when they stand correctly.

There is much more to the silkie standard than I have talked about in this article.  If you would like to purchase a copy, you can get one through the American Poultry Association here.

There are also knockoff copies at Amazon that are not printed through the APA.  I think that they are basically  xerox copies and have the same information.

Hopefully this will answer some of your questions concerning what the standard of perfection is.  As a breeder, we are constantly trying to improve our silkies and have them come as close as possible to the standard that has been set. It is important to show your birds as a breeder or attend shows so that you can talk with judges and other people who are knowledgeable about silkies.

For more tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies go to our weekly chicken blog at VJPPoultry.com

VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul in the city of Forest Lake, MN.  We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available.

Follow us on Facebook for weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.

Victoria Peterson

Information for this article was taken from The American Standard of Perfection 2010 published by American Poultry Association, Inc.

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Silkies For Sale – 4/21/18

Why it is so Difficult to Sex Silkie Juvenile Chicks?

20180409_083330-1Silkies are among the hardest breed of chickens to sex at a young age.  The old adage that you can’t tell them apart until they crow or lay an egg has a lot of truth in it.  I have found that certain weeks of age are easier than others for telling which are boys and which are girls.

Newborns that are hatched together out of the same color pen can be judged on size.  Males tend to be larger and more curious than the females. This only works with same color chicks. If you want more information about sexing younger silkies, check out “sexing young silkie chicks.

At around three weeks, males will begin to be more aggressive and will play fight with other males in the same pen.  Beware – females can do this also.  The silkie comb on males may begin to show some signs of development from three weeks onward.  A upside down “U” at the top part of the comb may be the beginning of a wider developing comb and signal a male.  Females tend to have a more narrow upside down “V” at the top of their combs.

Males will continue to develop their combs which will become wider and may get bumpy.  After twelve weeks the female comb begins to get wider as well and males and females will begin to look similar again.

AT VJP Poultry we have a rooster return policy.  I had a customer return a rooster for rehoming last week that was around four months old. I asked him why he thought it was a rooster at that young age and he said that it was because it had a mean disposition.  I put my hand down next to it and it immediately pecked it – hard!

After the customer left, I began looking more closely at the bird.  It was a pet quality partridge or buff silkie.  The color was wrong for the show ring. The more I looked at it, the more I just couldn’t get a handle on whether I thought it was a boy or a girl.

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The first thing I did was to trim around the eyes. It was unable to see and this could have been part of the reason that it pecked so hard at my hand.  I took a look at the comb and wattles.  The comb was wider than younger females but at four months female silkie’s combs begin to grow.  I looked for wattles.  At four months they should be showing on a male.  I begin to see them as young as two months old as small red dots.  This bird had just the slightest suggestion of the outline of a wattle.  Again, females will develop very small wattles as they grow towards maturity.

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The crest of this bird had a definite pom pom shape.  Because I didn’t see this bird when it was younger, I don’t know if it went through any Elvis type crest that some males have beginning at two months.  I looked at the back of the head to check for “streamer” development.  Nothing so far, but there are new feathers coming in right at the spot that could later develop into streamers.

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Next I looked at the hackle feathers on the neck.  Males should have longer hackle feathers than the females at this point.  I did not have another to compare it with but they looked shorter and more female to me.

The wings on the bird looked long, especially the primaries.  They also seem to be hard or stiff – not shreddy.  Just because they seem large, it makes me think male.  Females have shorter primary feathers.

The tail is wide and stands up straight.  I also think that this is a male characteristic.  Females often have their tail down in a more submissive position.

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This silkie has large feet and massive foot feathering.  This is another sign of a male.  Females foot feathering are more in proportion to the rest of its body.  Foot feathering depends on breeding but males will have larger feet.

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The stance of this bird is very upright.  Boys stand up taller than girls as a rule and there is more room between the tail and the bottom of the feet.

Behavior is hard to tell since I didn’t see how it developed.  It seems very docile once its eye feathers were trimmed.  It is currently alone so I can’t see how it interacts with others.  Males would be more assertive. If you placed it with another male, they may begin to fight even at this young age.

Males at four months are often crowing especially first thing in the morning.  This bird only made soft clucking sounds like a hen would make.  It did not struggle when you picked it up and did not make grunting sounds like a male may make.

So let’s look at the score card:

Comb- Female                             Wattles- female

crest – female                               hackle feathers – female

wings – male                                tail – male

feet – male                                    stance – male

behavior- either                          noises – female

If I was pressed I would have to go with male, but it certainly could go the other direction.

This article is to show how hard it is to determine the sex of a young silkie.  Mistakes can be made.  Breeders and judges alike are not always certain when sexing silkies.  I do think that it is much easier to sex them if you watch how they grow and develop.  Taking a four month old juvenile silkie and trying to sex it in isolation is much more difficult.  Hopefully, a crow will come sooner or later – or maybe an egg.

For more tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies go to our weekly chicken blog at VJPPoultry.com

VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul in the city of Forest Lake, MN.  We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available.

Follow us on Facebook for weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.

Victoria Peterson

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Silkies For Sale – 4/16/18

How To Integrate New Chickens Into Your Flock

20161106_123815Chicken Math is a very real thing.  We enjoy adopting new members to our flock and we want it to go as smoothly as possible.  Every year new birds are added and older birds are replaced or die off naturally.  A hen may chose to raise a clutch of chicks or new breeds catch our eye and we then must figure a way to incorporate these new birds into the standing social order.

Chickens are very social animals.  There is an order of dominance or what is called a “pecking order.”  The correct  integration of new birds is important.  You need to manage the pecking order so that new birds and chicks do not get hurt and the original flock does not become overly stressed.

When you first acquire new adult birds, they will need to be quarantined before you can mix them in with your home flock.  This is for the safety of your flock.  Do not quarantine them in the same area as your current birds.  Have a separate pen or crate away from the others.  They will need a place they can stay for thirty days.  You do not need to quarantine chicks that you buy from a hatchery as these are not exposed to an adult flock that may contain germs.

Each flock of chickens has their own germs that make them immune to certain things in their environment.  A new bird will not have that immunity.  This would  be a good time to give it some probiotics or Rooster Booster to help supplement its immune system.  A feed with extra protein will help it deal with the stress of being in a new place.

The new adult bird may also have some hidden issues.  Check for lice, mites, breathing problems or discharge from the eyes or nostrils.  A little poultry dust in case of mites or apple cider vinegar in the water for general health wouldn’t hurt.  Disease can take up to a month to show itself in a healthy bird.  Make sure that you practice biosecurity  and wash your hands when handling new birds.

It is best to introduce new birds in pairs or more. Do not buy a single bird and expect it to smoothly be accepted by the others.  Being alone and new is a double disadvantage.  If there is more than one bird introduced at the same time , they will then have a buddy to hang out with.  There is also more than one bird to take all of the pecks that will be directed their way.

Always add birds of a similar size to the flock. Larger breeds are always more dominant and will bully the smaller breeds. If you have a flock of Jersey Giants it would be difficult for a small bantam to be accepted.  Try to wait as long as possible to introduce young birds.  They should be done making baby noises and be as fully feathered out as possible.

The first step is to separate them in the coops and outside runs.  The idea is to keep them separate but visible to each other.  Seeing but no touching each other. They may try to fight through the fence but they can’t hurt each other.  Poultry netting is a good way to separate them.  Even just a dog crate sitting in the run will work.  Do this for a few days to a week.

When it is time to actually put the birds together there is a few ways you can do it.  Some people think that the best time to do it is at night after they have gone to bed.  Stick the new ones on the roost and they will all wake up together the next morning and may be more accepting.

Another method is to do a free range situation.  Let the new birds out to free range first.  Then let the rest of the flock out.  There is plenty of room for the new birds to run and hide or just plain get away from any unwanted pecks.

If you don’t let your birds free range, you can put the new birds in the run first and then let the older flock out. By letting the new birds out first, they can find out where the food and water is first. Distract the flock with treats so they won’t be so focused on the new chickens.  Make sure that you have multiple feeding dishes and watering stations.  The older flock may try and block the new birds from eating and drinking.

Make sure that they have plenty of room.  Overcrowding will stress everyone out and make the older birds resentful.  Put out more food and treats than they actually need.  Flock blocks can be helpful.  Hiding places are also important.  Just placing a piece of wood against a wall can provide a hiding place for a scared bird.

I know that it is hard, but the less interference from humans the better.  Unless there is blood it is best to let them work it out themselves.  If a bird is super aggressive towards a new one, put it in a dog kennel for a few days.  When it comes out, it will become a “new” bird and be taken down a peg or two.

Two or more roosters will not get along unless they are raised together and are not where they can see hens.  Ten hens per rooster is the recommended amount.  Don’t introduce a new adult rooster to a flock that already has a rooster. They will fight for dominance.

After you have introduced new birds, watch to make sure that they are eating and drinking.  Give them plenty of places to hide behind.  Put everyone on the same food and have separate dishes of oyster shell.

The introduction of new birds can cause your old flock to stop egg production for awhile until things settle down.  It will take a few weeks but soon everyone will have a new place in the pecking order.

For more tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies go to our weekly chicken blog at VJPPoultry.com

VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul, MN.  We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available.

Follow us on Facebook for weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.

Victoria Peterson

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