I’ve raised Silkies on and off throughout my chicken-keeping career. In that time I’ve ended up with a lot of roosters. Silkies, because they’re more of a pet chicken than a layer, are often sold in a straight run, meaning there is a 50/50 chance of getting a pullet or a cockerel. The reason I tend to get roosters is that I’m very bossy at the feed store, I want the plumpest, largest, most sturdy-looking chicks that the batch has to offer. And often those end up being males. When it comes to choosing chicks, I like to pick out my own. So I ask if I can just come behind the barricade and pick out my own from the brooder bins. If they say no, that an employee has to do it, then I become the annoying customer who points and yells “that one…no that one…yes by the food dish.” As the employee grabs back and forth at rushing chicks. But that’s who I am.
It can be difficult to sex any chicken breed at a young age, but Silkies, in particular, are even more of a challenge because they mature slower than other breeds. The male and female also have similar coloring and plumage, particularly the crest plumage.
I belong to several online SIlkie groups, and sexing is one of the most frustrating topics discussed with the breed. The good thing is that with a few tips, you don’t have to wait until your hens lay their first eggs or your cockerels start to crow to be certain, or at least have a good guess. While a trained eye might be able to spot a male from a female right from the first hatch, most other noticeable signs start presenting themselves around 6-9 weeks.
Below are 7 things to look for when trying to sex your Silkies.
Both the male and female Silkie boast the fluffy crown of feathers on their head. When they are young this cotton ball shape may look very similar across the sexes. But around 7 weeks the male will start to develop “streamer feathers”. These are single feathers that extend beyond the fluffy crest. The female will keep her neat rounded crest into adulthood.
Male Silkies will develop their wattle much sooner than females. It is easier to spot when you have a mixed flock of both pullets and cockerels of the same age. You will see that some are developing a wattle where others aren’t. These early wattles belong to the boys. Females will develop a wattle much later…closer to her laying her first egg.
Female Silkies will keep their bodies more horizontally positioned, where males will stand more upright, keeping their chests forward and their necks elongated. Males will also hold their tail more upright, where females will keep it horizontal or slightly dipped toward the ground. Cockerels of the same age and color will be larger overall.
This is the one method that can be used early on in chicks that are less than a week old. In females, you will see just the tiniest little suggestion of primary wing feathers at the tip of the wing. In males, it remains as fluff until they are a bit older.
In females, the comb comes in in a more delicate “V” shape, where the male has a wider “U” shape.
Males have larger feet, thicker legs, and longer hackle feathers than females.
While I’ve seen dominant personalities in both hens and roosters, in general, cockerels tend to be more bossy, louder, have tendencies to lead or show food, they may bite, and show curiosity earlier than pullets.
If all else fails there are blood tests that can be performed to sex your chickens.