When you look at a silkie chicken’s feathers, it becomes clear that their feathers look very different from most other chickens. Whether you’re the owner of a flock of beautiful silkies yourself or know somebody who is, this may raise many questions. For example, can silkie chickens fly, and if they can, how high?
Although silkie chickens are smaller than other breeds, their wing-to-body ratio is disproportionate compared to other birds. In addition, silkie chickens cannot fly due to their feathers not having barbicels. However, they can fly as high as four feet when positioned and use their legs to jump as high as 2 to 3 feet.
Most people think silkies cannot fly due to their weight, and although this is one reason, it could also be due to their feathers, as they cannot fly as high as other chickens. Continue reading with us as we go over why silkie chickens cannot fly!
But first, let’s take a closer look at chicken feathers.
The Structure of A Chicken’s Feather
Chicken feathers are a part of their anatomy that helps them fly, as feathers are strong and light enough to provide lift. However, the anatomy of a feather is quite complex, and understanding it can help us understand why silkie chickens cannot fly.
Each feather consists of three parts:
- The calamus or quill: is the stalk that connects to the base of the wing.
- The rachis: a four-sided shaft that runs along the length of the vane.
- Barbicules: are what give feathers their shape and help them stay together.
Most chicken breeds have barbicules, which are tiny hooks that help them stay in the air.
However, silkie chickens do not have them. As a result, their feathers tend to flatten out when they get wet.
Silkie Chickens’ Feathers Compared To Other Breeds’ Feathers
If you take a silkie chicken’s feather and compare it to a regular chicken’s feather, you can immediately tell the differences.
While a regular chicken’s feathers have a smooth texture with a thick shaft running along the center with thick hairs growing on either side, this is not the case with a silkie’s feather.
A silkie’s feather will have several soft hairs that do not stick to each other on either side of the shaft. When scientists took a microscopic look at regular chicken feathers, they noticed that they have hooks known as barbicels.
Each barbicel sticks closely to the one next to it, creating a very smooth windproof, and waterproof surface.
Unfortunately, a silkie chicken’s feathers completely lack these barbicels, which causes each individual “hair” to fray separately, which is also why the feather has such a fuzzy appearance.
Due to these hairs fraying separately, silkie chickens’ bodies do not have the same waterproof or windproof bodies as regular chickens and most other birds, which is why they cannot fly.
How High Can Silkie Chickens Fly?
As you may already know, chickens generally aren’t strong flyers, as their small wings and larger bodies limit them.
Of course, how high a specific chicken can fly will depend on its breed.
However, before considering their breed, it is essential to note that it is not in a chicken’s nature to try and fly, and it’s not comfortable or easy for them to fly for too long.
Instead, a chicken’s feathers allow them to jump short distances and hover for short periods.
You won’t notice this behavior very often unless your silkie tries to escape a threat or predator or when they become startled.
However, when they try to fly, you’ll notice them taking a runup while constantly flapping their feathers up and down.
Due to silkies having a smaller muscle-to-weight ratio than other chickens, so they won’t be able to fly completely, but the faster they flap their wings, the more they lift their bodies off the ground.
This will be especially true when they run while flapping their wings.
Silkies have some power in their legs and can jump due to their small size, which could result in them jumping over small fences.
Silkies Can Jump As High As 4 Feet
While silkie chickens cannot fly in the traditional sense, they can jump while fluttering around for shorter periods. While some of the heavier chickens, such as Buff Orpingtons, cannot fly nor jump, lighter chickens, including silkies, can sometimes jump between 4 and 6 feet high.
As mentioned above, silkies are not very good at flying and will hardly ever try to fly as it is difficult for them to try. Flying is not a natural reaction for them to rely on, but when it comes to jumping, things become different.
Silkies have some power in their legs, as the joints inside their legs allow them to achieve a spring-like extension.
This extension happens from their hips to their knees, down to their feet and ankles. This unusual feature allows a silkie chicken to jump between 4 and 6 feet high if they try their best.
This is true for both silkie roosters and hens. However, silkie chickens won’t start jumping randomly, and they won’t usually try to jump over the fence you built for them to leave your yard.
Do Silkies Try to Jump and Fly?
Typically, silkies will only jump if startled or scared by a sudden movement. Most silkies can make it up to their perch even if raised off the ground.
Silkies can also hop over a small fence lower than 4 feet, which you must keep in mind.
Should You Provide Silkies With A Perch?
As silkie chickens cannot fly, you may wonder if they need a perch or if they will have trouble getting onto it. Most silkie owners will stack boxes or provide their silkies with ramps to help them reach the places they need to that are too far from the ground.
Hay bales or a ramp would be a good choice, as a perch is necessary, especially for a silkie chicken. In addition, a perch in their chicken coop will help to imitate a chicken’s natural sleeping position, as they usually roost in trees.
Perches will also provide silkie chickens with a way to escape predators lurking on the ground. For these reasons, providing perches in their coop will help them feel less stressed and be more comfortable.
While silkies cannot fly away from threats and predators, roosting remains an innate behavior, and they will always feel comfortable doing so, no matter their abilities.
Adorable Silkie chickens capture our hearts with their unique plumage, which can also be detrimental. Their inability to fly as far distances as other chicken breeds mean they are at risk of succumbing to cold and wet conditions, not to mention the danger predators present.
You can help them by ensuring they have a roofed area and a secure coop to protect them against predators. With this extra layer of protection, your feathered friends will remain safe and sound!
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