Thursday, June 7, 2012

Life in a Zoo The Real Thing: Silky Chickens

Silky Rooster and Friend
One of our Auburn University Student Volunteers is holding this bird. Young men and women from the university often came out to volunteer and help with our critters.  They did everything from cleaning pens, to scrubbing water pans, to raking the grounds, to helping us build pens, sheds, and fences. 

They loved animals and enjoyed getting away from the intense hubbub of college life. Plus, we made sure to fee them well when they came.  I think we created a home-away-from-home environment for many youngsters who had never been away from home before.  Many of them brought their parents to meet us.

We kept all sorts of exotic poultry.  In fact, for several years we were members of the AlaGa Poultry Club. (Alabama Georgia).  My intent was to learn as much about poultry as I could.  I had several books on the subject, but seeing the birds in the flesh brings entirely new insights to the subject.

We were invited to visit the farms of most of the members and see the wide varieties of poultry they kept. I became fascinated with the wide variety of chickens.  It didn’t take long before we too, became collectors of exotic chickens.

I was astounded when one of the poultry men came to my house and showed me how to bathe and prep a chicken for a poultry show!  Yes, you actually can wash a chicken in a tub of warm water with baby shampoo. And yes, it was cream rinsed and fluff dried with a hair drier.  The comb was finished with a light coating of baby oil to make it supple and shiny.

Although the silky chicken is considered a bantam (miniature), it is one of the largest bantams.  These birds, besides being very calm and docile in nature, have the most amazing feathers.  They are very fine, soft, and long.  These feathers are so fine, they look and feel almost like hair.

One of the distinctive characteristics of the silky chicken is its black skin. It’s the only black-skinned chicken in the world.

Notice this rooster’s comb.  There are some eight varieties of combs. Instead of being upright like typical chickens, he has a walnut comb.

Did you see this fellow’s feet?  They are covered with feathers.  Chickens with feathers on their feet are referred to as “booted”.  Silkies are in a class called “booted bantams”.

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