If you’re looking for ways how to tell male and female Silkies apart, there are some physical and behavioral characteristics that can help you determine the sex.
Silkies are one of the harder breeds to sex reliably at an early age. Vent sexing is the method a lot of experienced breeders use. It’s not the safest or most reliable way to tell though.
Here are some of the things to look out for or pay special attention to if you’re trying to identify if a Silkie is a pullet, hen, cockerel, or rooster:
As males and females age and mature, there are some physical differences that will start to become apparent.
Wings - One of the earliest ways you can tell the difference between a male and a female is by looking at their wings.
Females have primary wing feathers that are much more defined. Males are more fluffy. It’s hard to describe, but quite obvious when compared side-by-side.
Crown feathers - Crown feathers, also called their crest are the feathers on the top of their heads.
Not only is this crest of feathers one of the distinguishing features that are unique to Silkies, but the males start to grow longer, single feathers from around 8 weeks of age.
The older they are, the easier this is to tell the difference between the two. Females will have a much more rounded and tight crown.
General Plumage - Despite both males and females looking like fluffy balls of feathers with a couple of eyes poking out, there are some differences between males and females.
Silkie roosters have longer feathers poking out among the fluffy ones. They also have pointed saddle and hackle feathers (around the neck). Sometimes you can see the difference at the end of their tail too as they’ll have more pointy feathers there.
Combs and Wattles - Male silkies develop their combs and wattles earlier than females. If you have a mixed brood, it’ll become very obvious when some chickens start developing combs and wattles and some don’t.
If you already have mature birds, males have larger, rounder “walnut-like” combs. While female combs are more of a “V” shape.
A cockerel or rooster’s wattle is longer and larger too.
Feet and Legs - The feet and legs can be a pretty big giveaway too. First of all, an interesting fact - Silkies are one of few breeds or species of birds that have five toes, not four. Interesting, eh.
Secondly, males develop thicker, stronger legs. Being one of the few breeds that also have feathers on their legs, males tend to have more, thicker leg feathers too.
Then there are spurs. Roosters have spurs, female chickens do not. It can take around 6 months to clearly see spurs developing though, so it’s not a way to sex them early on.
Males and females also display different behaviors at different stages of their development.
The most obvious is laying an egg, of course. But it can be 7-9 months before Silkies start laying.
Here are some other behaviors that you should start noticing earlier than egg laying:
Noise - I’ve spoken with owners before that said the only thing that actually confirmed the sex of a Silkie for them was when it let out a “cock-a-doodle-do”. More commonly known as a crow.
The earliest you can expect to hear a male crow is around 3 months old. There’s usually no mistaking it though. For such a small bird, they can let out a deafening crow.
Then there’s tidbitting. Tidbitting is the name used for the noises and dance roosters perform when trying to alert the rest of the flock to the food they’ve found.
Hens can also perform tidbitting. If this aligns with some of the other signals, however, it’s a good indication you have a rooster.
Body Language - Silkies are a docile and friendly breed. Roosters will be roosters, however, and they will start to show some bossy behavioral traits among a flock as they mature.
If you have a brood you’ll notice the males chest-bumping and becoming more physical with each other. Roosters will also start to become protective and territorial over their flock as they assume their place in the pecking order.
If you want to see what I've been talking about for yourself, check out this video:
I’ve given you a number of physical signs and behavioral traits that will help how to tell male and female silkies apart at various stages and ages.
Still, Silkies are one of the hardest breeds to reliably sex before they start showing some of these signs from several months of age.
If you want to be 100% what the sex of your chicks are there is a DNA test available. You’d have to speak with a local poultry expert to find out where and how you can have this performed on your chicks.
If you’re willing to wait and watch your flock grow up you’re in for a treat though. Silkies are one of the most wonderfully interesting, fun, curious, and unique looking breeds of chicken.
One thing I know for sure - you’re in for a load of fun. Males or females.