If you added a Silkie to your flock or are searching to find out whether they would be a good addition to your existing one, you must base selection and care with your climate in mind. Although Silkie chickens make beautiful additions to any flock and earn high praise for their strong maternal instincts, their beautiful, loose-flowing feathers do them a disservice come harsher winter months.
Although Silkie chickens are considered a cold hardy breed, they shouldn’t be left outside in the winter cold without easily accessible shelter and supervision.
Are Silkie Chickens a Cold-Hardy Breed?
Silkie chickens are considered a cold hardy breed of chicken, meaning they can endure the cold fairly well. What they do not endure well is being wet in the cold as their feathers do not provide them the protection that other breeds of chickens get from their feathers.
This alone can make them hard to keep alive, especially in the wrong climates.
For many breeds of chicken, weather conditions resulting in wet environments are not much cause for concern as most breeds have a water-resistant quality to their feathers that prevents them from being thoroughly soaked through.
This is not the case for Silkies.
Your Silkie’s alluringly beautiful fluff of feathers has a downside. Due to a recessive gene, Silkie feathers have a lack of hooklets, also known as barbicels. The absence of barbicels is what gives your Silkie’s feathers their silky, furry appearance.
Without the barbicels acting as a structural glue to seal the individual strands together, their feathers are not as efficient at giving them ample protection against cold and wet climates.
It is essentially the difference between a tightly knit blanket and a loosely knit one, with the cold able to creep in through its open gaps. The same goes for water or rain.
Even though they look like their feathers supply them an ample amount of protection from the elements and warmth, don’t let their fluffy appearance fool you. The insulation quality of their feathers gives them a slight disadvantage over other cold-hardy breeds.
Although they are considered a cold-hardy breed, they are not as tolerant of extreme temperatures as many other cold-hardy breeds. This is why many people keep Silkies in the house.
What Is Too Cold for a Silkie Chicken?
Surprisingly enough, chickens, in general, can withstand temperatures below freezing. However, cold hardy breeds like Silkies can withstand up to zero degrees Fahrenheit when provided shelter.
For harsher winter weather or damp winter conditions, your Silkie will require a bit of help to get through the winter both healthy and comfortable.
What Happens if a Silkie Chicken Gets too Cold or Wet from the Winter?
As explained earlier, your Silkie’s feathers are not designed to withstand extreme weather conditions.
Their feathers do not provide them with the best insulation and can become much more easily soaked by wet conditions. The combination of these two weather conditions becomes problematic and is generally considered an unsuitable climate for Silkie ownership.
When it is too cold outside with a high amount of moisture, your Silkie runs the risk of experiencing hypothermia.
Their body temperature will drop dangerously low, causing them to become lethargic or listless. If your chicken is not quickly tended to and safely returned to its normal body temperature, this condition will eventually lead to death.
If your Silkie is not dried correctly or given shelter to allow them time to dry off, they can also develop respiratory issues and fungal infections.
How Do You Keep Your Silkie Chicken Warm in the Winter?
With a little help on your part, your Silkie will be able to fair the cold and wet conditions that winter brings along with it.
So, before you opt out of adding a Silkie to your flock or rehoming the one you have, you may find yourself completely capable of meeting their winter needs.
Below are a few tips to aid in keeping your Silkie warm and healthy throughout the winter.
Let Your Silkie Take the Lead
More often than not, you’ll find your Silkie is more than aware of their aversion to cold and wet climates. So, before you think about cooping them up in their coop for the winter, give your Silkie the opportunity for some outdoor excursions.
If it happens to be colder than they like, they won’t feel inclined to leave the warmth of the chicken coop.
Like humans, fresh air and a little sunshine in the winter are still necessary to maintain optimal overall health. You won’t want to deny them the opportunity to get the mental and physical stimulation that comes with it, as it can negatively impact their mental health.
Supervise Your Chicken When Outdoors!
Keeping your Silkie dry in cold weather is going to be crucial to their continued health. A cold and wet Silkie can develop hypothermia and succumb to it rather fast.
To prevent your Silkie from getting too wet while out and about during the winter. They will need to be monitored to ensure they stay healthy.
When you see them getting too wet. Dry them up immediately with a towel or blow dryer and encourage them to warm up inside the coup by roosting.
You will also want to keep an eye out for worrying signs while you are outside with them. If you notice your Silkie slowing down, becoming listless, or a sudden drop in body temperature, you will need to act.
Being able to respond to the situation quickly can mean the difference between life and death. So always be present for your Silkie’s outdoor excursions.
Provide Your Silkie with Warm Shelter
As mentioned, your Silkie will likely choose to stay in the warm confines of their chicken coop. That is what makes it all the more important that you set up the chicken coop to provide your Silkie a cozy winter haven.
To help your Silkie stay warm and be better able to dry their feathers between garden runs, you can provide them with more bedding.
This will better insulate your chicken against ground coldness.
You can also set up heated perches or add a heat source to their coop to aid them in keeping warm.
As you can see, with a little extra help from you and a keen eye, your Silkie will be able to enjoy the winter months in comfort.
Silkies are a cold hardy breed, but unlike other chickens, their feathers lack hooklets, which gives them their feathers the silky appearance. Due to the lack of hooklets, this breed doesn’t fair well in extremely cold or wet seasons.
When keeping your Silkies outside in the winter, it’s essential to ensure they don’t get too cold or wet. As long as they have access to a warm shelter, they can live outside in the winter months.
Monitor them closely throughout the winter to ensure they stay healthy!