More and more Singaporeans are choosing to keep Silkie chickens as pets as opposed to traditional dogs or cats. We find out why—and what exactly these chickens are
About a week ago, Singapore watched in amusement as a man found a lost Silkie chicken while out one day. The chicken followed him home and though he put up an appeal for the owner, no one came forward to claim the bird, which he named Ryan.
Ryan was eventually adopted but during the time that they were together, Facebook users got to enjoy frequent updates about the bird's antics. These included Ryan following the man around the house and even to the shower, not wanting to step on grass and enjoying cuddles.
Ryan's case, however, has shone a light on the increasing trend of people keeping chickens, particularly Silkie chickens, as pets in their homes.
Many are even choosing to keep these birds as opposed to regular dogs and cats simply because they are easy to care for, adorable and safe.
So we decided to take a look at why the Silkie chicken is becoming such a trendy and adorable pet to have.
So what is a Silkie chicken?
A Silkie chicken, which is also known as the Silky or Chinese Silk chicken, is a type of chicken that is usually very fluffy and has feathers that feel like silk (hence the name).
This breed of chicken also has other unique qualities such as its black skin and bones as well as its blue earlobes. One quick way to identify if a chicken is a Silkie one or not is to also count its toes. Chickens typically have four toes. The Silkie chicken, however, has five.
Silkies are also pretty well known for their calm and friendly disposition. In fact, they are usually the most docile of their species.
In many parts of Asia, particularly in Chinese cuisine, Silkie chickens are used as a form of traditional medicine. In fact, making chicken soup with Silkies is common because it is viewed as a curative ingredient.
Why do they make good pets?
There are many reasons why Silkie chickens make for excellent pets as opposed to animals such as cats or dogs or even other birds. For one, Silkie chickens cannot fly. This means that they are much easier to contain and you don't have to worry too much about them escaping.
Considering their calm and friendly temperament, Silkies are also really great for households with younger children as they are unlikely to get aggressive. In fact, once a Silkie chicken becomes comfortable with you, you can actually cuddle them and pet them almost as if they were a puppy. Silkies are also very intelligent creatures and can be trained to respond when called. They will also likely follow you around the house, much like what Ryan did.
While it is true that your chickens will likely crow in the morning and intermittently throughout the day, they are no more noisy than a typical cat or dog. If insects are the bane of your existence in your home, a Silkie chicken will also eat them up which makes them an excellent form of insect repellant.
Jazz Chong, the founder and owner of Ode to Art gallery and her architect husband, Edmund Ng, own four Silkie chickens of their own and they are absolutely smitten with them. The couple and their children were offered Silkie chicken eggs last year and decided to put them in the incubator they had at home.
Chong said: "Every morning, the whole family would monitor the incubator, after 21 days we saw the eggs hatch and over the next few months, we watched the adorable baby chicks grow into beautiful, soft Silkies. It was a moving bonding experience for all of us."
She added that though they had stumbled upon Silkie chickens by accident, they ended up being the perfect pets for her and her family.
"They are relatively quiet, so my neighbours are not disturbed. They are as fluffy as a cat or a dog, and my kids love to play with them. They have so much fun together. Even feeding them every morning has become our fun little family routine," Chong said.
That said, chicken enthusiast and owner of Facebook Group SG Polish Chickens, a community that aims at educating the public about responsible chicken ownership in Singapore, Jayce Ho, warns that even Silkies can turn out to be aggressive. She said: "Cute chicks may turn out to be a noisy and aggressive rooster, even for mild breeds such as Silkies and Polish."
She went on to warn potential owners that this should be something to already anticipate when thinking of getting a Silkie chicken as a pet as it is not right to simply abandon your chicken later on in life when they grow up.
Are they legal and safe?
Silkie chickens are perfectly legal in private residential areas. In fact, you can keep up to 10 chickens in your home if you have the space to do so.
If you choose to have that many chickens in your home, they will need to be caged in a well-ventilated chicken coop and run to ensure that they do not escape and disturb other residents.
Chong mentioned that she herself used to keep her chickens in the house till they got bigger. She said: "We had them in the house when they were chicks, but now they need their space, so they roam free in my (enclosed) backyard, where we installed a small henhouse. It has become my kids’ favourite area to play in."
She added that Silkie chickens, particularly the females, tend to be on the smaller side compared to other breeds which means they don't need much space in general. However, she does stress that it is important that a Silkie chicken does not get cold or wet and so a sheltered area is very important for them.
Not to mention, if you are worried that your Silkie chicken might be dirty or unhygienic, you can rest easy. As long as you put them in a clean environment, your chicken will clean itself. They are surprisingly low-maintenance.
You can also freely use your Silkie chicken for fresh eggs and skip that aisle in the supermarket.
Also, as Bird Flu does not exist in Singapore, you do not need to worry about it.
Where can I get a Silkie chicken in Singapore?
Unlike regular pets, you are not going to find a Silkie chicken at a normal pet store. In fact, many chicken enthusiasts actually discourage you from trying to go out and buy a Silkie chicken as it can encourage breeders to breed and sell these beautiful birds illegally and irresponsibly.
However, it is legal to get a Silkie egg, incubate it and then raise the chick. However, Ho emphasises the need to really put thought into the decision. She said: "Always make sure that you discuss with your family members before hatching or committing to any pets. You may end up hatching roosters. Are you able to handle its aggressiveness and crowing?"
She added that her own family discussed and planned for over a year before they themselves committed to keeping chickens in their home.
You can also choose to adopt abandoned chickens if you are able to. Currently, many chickens, in particular, get abandoned when they grow up and are no longer small and cute.
Remember that Silkie chickens have a lifespan of around nine years and though they are easy to care for, they still require knowledge and appropriate handling as well as daily care. One should always be responsible, not buy these birds on impulse and seek out legal and well-researched places if you are looking to adopt a chicken or to incubate an egg.