Silkie chickens are well-known for their fur-like fluffy feathers, which give them a unique appearance.
The feathers of Silkies are very different from other breeds of chickens because they lack barbicels.
Barbicels give normal chicken feathers a smooth appearance; without them, Silkie feathers are more wild and wispy.
But, do these fluffy feathers protect a Silkie from getting wet?
Unlike most other chicken breeds, when Silkies are in the rain for too long, they will get soaked all the way to their skin. Silkie feathers do not repel water because they are not smooth like a regular chicken’s feathers. This feature makes Silkie chickens more prone to hypothermia.
Despite their fluffy appearance, Silkie feathers also do not provide much insulation.
However, as long as a Silkie chicken stays dry, the bird tolerates cold weather.
Keep reading to learn how to keep Silkies dry and some tips for winterizing your chicken coop.
What To Do If Your Silkies Get Wet
Since Silkies do not have any natural protection against rainy weather, keeping them as dry as possible, especially when it is cold outside, is crucial.
When a Silkie is wet for an extended period, the bird is more susceptible to respiratory diseases and hypothermia.
Respiratory illnesses are dangerous for chickens, and symptoms include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Decreased egg production
- Facial swelling
Respiratory issues in Silkies require veterinary care, and if treatment is not sought as soon as possible, illness may spread to the entire flock.
You may need to quarantine sick chickens from the healthy birds until they are well again.
Hypothermia is another serious condition in Silkies, and it occurs when the bird is wet and exposed to cold temperatures.
To prevent illness in your Silkies, it is crucial to dry them off as much as possible when they get wet.
Wrap your Silkie in a dry towel, and use a blow dryer with a diffuser detachment if ambient temperatures are too cold.
Silkies are very docile birds and tolerate being wrapped in a towel very well.
Ensure the chicken is mostly dry before putting them in the coop at night.
Related Reading: Do Silkie chickens have an odor?
How To Keep Silkies Dry
Silkies seem to enjoy rainy weather, so keeping them in the chicken coop is often challenging whenever it rains.
As long as there is warm weather, allowing your adult Silkies to roam outside during a drizzle is generally safe.
Baby Silkies cannot regulate their body temperature properly, so letting them out of the coop when it rains is not an option.
If the rain is too much for the adult chickens, they will usually figure it out and go to the coop independently.
This is not always the case, so if you are worried about your Silkies getting too wet, there are several ways to keep them dry.
Providing your Silkies with a dry shelter when wet weather strikes are essential to their health.
Cover the Chicken Run
Since keeping your Silkies in the coop during a rainy day is difficult, consider placing a roof over the chicken run.
Corrugated metal is one of the most common roofing materials for a chicken run, but you may also use a durable clear plastic cover to let sunlight shine through.
A roof over the chicken run protects these fluffy chickens against rainy weather and prevents the ground from getting muddy.
Mud will easily stick to a Silkie’s feet and make the bird more prone to frostbite in freezing temperatures.
Place a layer of pea gravel in the chicken run to keep it from getting muddy, and ensure run-off water is diverted away from the area with proper drain pipe placement.
Keep the Chicken Coop Dry
In addition to keeping the chicken run dry, inspect the roof of the coop for any leaks.
Any moisture in the chicken coop may cause illness in your Silkies.
Repair roof leaks in the coop immediately or places a sturdy tarp over the top to prevent water from getting inside during inclement weather.
Keeping Silkies Warm and Dry in the Winter
One of the most common health concerns among backyard chicken keepers is how to keep their Silkies warm when temperatures drop.
It is vital to keep your Silkies warm and dry during cold winter nights.
Special precautions must also be taken to keep their water from freezing.
Use a heated metal waterer when temperatures are cold, and be sure your chickens have plenty of food and fresh water at all times.
Feeding your Silkies high-calorie treats in the evening will also help them generate body heat throughout the night.
If the temperatures outside are above freezing during the day, you may allow your Silkies some time in the chicken run to exercise.
Keeping your Silkies confined to the coop all day will cause them stress and lead to aggressive behavior.
Ensure your chickens are dry before putting them in the coop at night to maintain their core body temperature.
If you must keep your Silkies in the coop because of frigid temperatures, add a few toys to keep the chickens from getting bored.
The most critical aspect of keeping your Silkies warm in the colder months is properly winterizing the chicken coop by following the steps below.
Further Reading: How Long Do Silkie Chickens Need A Heat Lamp?
Use the Deep Litter Method
The deep litter method involves stirring up old coop bedding and adding fresh bedding on top every week.
As the deep litter composts, it releases heat, providing warmth and insulation on the cold ground of the coop floor.
Pine shavings and hemp are good choices for bedding material for the deep litter method because they decompose faster than other bedding types.
If you prefer to clean the chicken coop regularly, add a layer of bedding at least 2-3″ inches deep to keep your Silkies’ feet warm.
Some good bedding options for chickens include:
- Wood chips
- Wood shavings
- Hemp bedding
- Shredded newspaper
Provide Wide Perches
Wide perches in the chicken coop help your Silkies feel secure and allow the birds to tuck their feet under the breast feathers for extra warmth.
Keeping their feet warm and protected reduces the risk of the chickens developing frostbite.
Silkies cannot fly, so keep the perches low or provide chicken ladders to climb onto easily.
Perches 4-6″ inches wide will allow the chickens to rest comfortably at night with their feet flat on the surface.
Insulate the Chicken Coop
Thoroughly insulating the coop will allow it to retain heat in the winter.
You may use spray foam insulation for the walls and ceiling of the coop, or if you live in a milder climate, hanging heavy blankets is an option.
There is no need for a supplemental heat source in the chicken coop, as this only creates a dangerous fire hazard.
Silkies produce plenty of body heat at night, and they will increase the ambient room temperature in the small space of the chicken coop.
Eliminate Drafts in the Coop
Eliminating drafts in the coop is another way to keep your Silkies warm and cozy.
Use silicone sealant or weather stripping around windows and doors to prevent cold air from blowing in.
Close the door to the chicken run when temperatures are lower than 0° degrees Fahrenheit (-18° C).
Add Ventilation to the Coop
Sealing drafts in the chicken coop is crucial, but you do not want it to be airtight.
The chicken coop needs proper ventilation to prevent moisture from building up inside.
Moisture in the coop is the leading cause of frostbite in Silkies during the winter.
Ventilation also allows ammonia, carbon dioxide, and dust out of the coop while letting fresh air in.
Add small holes to the coop where the ceiling meets the wall.
Ventilation needs to be as high as possible in the coop so the air is not blowing directly onto your chickens and small predators cannot get inside.
You may also cut out small windows near the coop roof and cover them with hardware cloth to allow airflow.