You may have heard that one of the unique characteristics of Silkies is that they have more toes than you average chicken. This is, in fact, very true - Silkies have 5 toes on each foot. Most chickens have 4 toes, although Silkies are not the only breed to have 5.
Silkies and Their Unique Characteristics
Silkies are interesting chickens, to say the least. But I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that if you’re reading this.
They are by far the most unique looking as they have a soft fluffy coat of feathers, not the normal, more coarse feathers that other chickens and birds have.
I remember the first time I saw a Silkie. I was at a farmers market and someone had a black Silkie they were letting roam around their stall.
I just didn’t know what it was - and I wasn’t the only one.
A small crowd was gathered and the farmer was being asked all sorts of questions. Even after he told everyone it was a breed of chicken, people were asking loads of questions they wouldn’t usually ask about a chicken.
Silkie chickens are just a different breed of chicken. But they have a number of unusual qualities that make them very different from other breeds.
Aside from their fluffy plumage, which is why they’re called Silkies as it’s said to feel like satin or silk to the touch, they also have black skin and bones, blue earlobes, and 5 toes on each foot.
Do All Silkies Have 5 Toes?
No, all Silkies do not have 5 toes. Some have 4 like most chickens, some have fused or partial toes that might not be enough to be called a toe, and I’ve seen some Silkies with 6 toes!
The correct name of this abnormality is Polydactyly. This means that a chicken - or any other animal - has an extra 1-2 digits on its foot.
It’s caused by a particular gene, and breeders are able to selectively use their gene while breeding Silkies to create a chicken with extra digits.
Another interesting characteristic about Silkies is that their wings have standard tridactyl. This means that they have a 3 digit arrangement (or fingers) in their wings.
I know, it’s getting a little confusing with all these long scientific names, but it’s very interesting.
Related - Do chickens really have fingers?
Can Silkies Have 4 Toes?
Silkies can have 4 toes like most chickens, yes.
This is what adds further confusion when owners take a look at one of their Silkie’s feet and wonder why everyone is saying that they have 5 toes.
Seeing 4 toes is rare though, 5 toes are pretty much the 'norm' for Silkies. What isn’t normal is the size and exact placement of the toes, that’s something you’ll have to find out for yourself if you hatch some baby chicks.
How Many Toes Do Chickens Have?
Just to make this 100-percent clear, most chickens have 4 toes. The breeds that typically have 5 toes are Silkies and:
If you spot a different breed with more or less than 4 toes, it's most likely due to a random abnormality.
It's also important to note that roosters have spurs. Spurs look a bit like a fifth toe, but they are NOT toes.
Spurs stick out from the back of a rooster's leg, a little higher up from their toes. They're much harder than a toe and have a sharp pointed end.
I advise you to take my word for it and not get too close to check this for yourself. This is because roosters use their spurs as a defensive weapon.
When fighting with other roosters they are capable of doing some serious damage using their spur as a shank. As well as injuring us if we get too close to an angry rooster!
Related - Can hens also have spurs? (actually, yes!)
Are Silkies Good Backyard Chickens?
It’s normal to be fascinated or enchanted by Silkies as they’re so unique (and cute) looking compared to other chickens.
But before you jump in and order some because you want to tell your friends and family you have fluffy chickens with 5 toes, you need to make sure they’re right for you.
Don’t worry, there aren't many downsides to silkies. But as with buying any animals or pets, you need to know what you're letting yourself in for.
The good news is that silkies are small chickens, so they're great if you don't have a lot of space or you living in an urban setting.
The main Downside of Silkies if you can call it that, is the fact that they only lay around 100-120 small eggs a year.
Most people raise backyard chickens for their eggs, or for their meat which silkies are obviously not good for either as they're so small.
Silkies are more of a pet than anything else. They love interacting with people, and of course, are a lot of fun to pet and play with.
They're easy to look after, too, so they are perfect beginners. The only other important thing to note is that they're not the most cold-weather hardy though.
But honestly, egg-laying and cold weather aside, Silkies are one of the best breeds of backyard chickens.
Some owners even treat them as indoor pets - but you should read this post about the dangers of keeping chickens indoors here before considering that.
Hopefully, this article has helped resolve any confusion or misconceptions you had about the unique characteristics of silkies and how many toes they have.
Silkies really do have five toes! As well as black skin and meat, dark walnut combs, blue earlobes, and fluffy coats of feathers! It's all true.
Image credits - Photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash