a doubt, the most frequently asked question about Silkies is "How do
you tell the girls from the boys?" Sexing Silkies just takes practice,
patience and a sense of humor! One answer by experienced breeders is
that Silkie cockerels crow and Silkie pullets lay eggs. However, if you
are hoping to figure out the gender of your Silkies prior to maturity
at 8 or 9 months of age, there are a few little tricks that will help.
Here are a few suggestions for trying to figure out who is what.
Comb: Usually, a male will have a larger comb than a female. Also, a
Silkie cockerel's comb seems to develop faster than a Silkie pullet's
comb. However, some males will have very small combs and some females
will have very large ones!
Crest: A Silkie cockerel's crest will be shaped differently that the
Silkie pullet's crest. The male's crest should show "little streamers"
coming from the back of the crest. It looks a bit "swept back." and not
really round. The pullet's crest should be nicely round in shape
without the tell-tale streamers.
Wattles: Generally, a Silkie male will have larger and rounder wattles
than a Silkie female. However, this trait is a bit easier to use for
sexing with non-bearded Silkies. With top quality bearded Silkies, the
wattles of both genders are nearly non-existent and even the males
frequently show very small wattles.
Spurs: Silkie cockerels will usually have them and the females usually
Sounds: Silkie cockerels crow. Silkie females usually don't BUT hens
have been known to crow...
Eggs: Silkie pullets should eventually lay eggs. However, there are
cases of cockerel-looking Silkies that lay. I would say that this case
is rather unusual and laying eggs is the best indicator that your
Silkie is a female!
Feathers: Silkie cockerels will develop "male feathers" on their
hackles and saddles. (For those folks in doubt about terminology, the
hackle feathers are the ones on the neck and the saddle feathers are
the ones just in front of the tail.) These male hackle and saddle
feathers are longer and more pointed at the tips than the feathers on
the Silkie pullet's hackle or her feathers in front of her tail. On
Silkie cockerels, these saddle feathers may even tend to lay over the
wings a bit.
Tail: Silkie females typically have rounder and softer tails than the
males. Silkie males usually show a more pointed tail because of the
presence of "normal" or "hard" feathers in their tails. Keep in mind,
however, that although the Standard allows some "hard" feathers in the
Silkie cockerel's tail, in top show quality males, hard feathering in
the tail is discouraged and often is not present. In creating a perfect
"show" Silkies, the ideal for both male and female is a perfectly round
and wide tail so this trait may not be as helpful in sexing Silkies as
are a few funny stories... I know of a very reputable and honest master
Silkie breeder that sold a pair of Splash Silkies to a newcomer to the
breed. Unfortunately, to the dismay of the master breeder both turned
out to be cockerels! It wasn't until the second male was nearly a year
old before he developed proper male characteristics. The breeder was
very embarrassed to be caught making such a mistake.
Hirvela sent me a mystery bird last summer. It was a non-bearded Black
Silkie "something." The "mystery bird" was a year old and had some
pullet features and some cockerel features. She guessed "it" was
cockerel but couldn't tell for sure. I changed my mind 3 times over the
next 6 months before deciding it was a cockerel. HE finally started
crowing. In the same box was a non-bearded Black pullet and she had to
go broody before I was convinced she was a SHE!
in front of the cages where Silkies are exhibited at poultry shows,
Silkie breeders openly debate where a particular bird is a cockerel or
a pullet! In fact, I'd be willing to bet that with no other breed of
bantam is THAT particular issue contested right among the show cages by
if not all, of the tips listed above require comparing males to females
so I'm not sure how much the novice will be helped by these words. With
sexing Silkies, the case is not so much "practice makes perfect" as
practice tends to lend a better successful percentage. I guess sexing
Silkies is a subtle thing. So many breeders tend to refer to a
"feeling" that the particular Silkie is one gender or the other. By the
time that my Silkie chicks are 8 to 12 weeks old, I can usually guess
about half of the Silkie's genders right. Of the other half, I am as
likely to get it wrong as right. All in all, it is slightly better than
a coin flip. At three or four months old, I usually band my Silkie
chicks. At this point, I'll make some notes on what I think I've got. A
couple months later, I'll try again and compare my results. Still, I'm
constantly surprising myself or perhaps I should say that those Silkies
are constantly surprising me!!!