Thursday, April 7, 2011

In Search of the Elusive Silkie

JTR's infatuation with our little cream-colored Silkie, Himalaya, was growing by leaps and bounds. Every day, he'd hover around the brooder, asking if he could hold her. He'd then sit for endless minutes, statue still, his hand carefully cupped around the fluffy chick. Himalaya, for her part, loved the attention and was perfectly content to nestle into JTR's palm for some non-stop stroking and petting.

When JTR wasn't handling Himalaya, he'd talk about her, asking when her feathers would come in, what color she'd finally be, wondering how big she'd get when she became an adult, marveling at the fact that Himalaya might one day lay eggs. J and I were thrilled that one of our sons was taking such a huge interest in our chicks, but J was a little concerned about which direction JTR's interest was heading. Along with the other Silkies, Himalaya would be part of our work force as a brooding hen, surrogate mom to the fertilized eggs from our heritage laying hens. Life as a coddled pet was not in Himalaya's future.

"Honey, you do realize that Himalaya is a working chicken, right?" I gently asked the seven-year-old boy one afternoon after school and after he'd cuddled the white fluffball and fed it little bits of mealworm.

"Yes, Mommy, I know, she's going to be a Mama Hen someday," JTR answered brightly, returning the chick in question to my hands to place back in the brooder. "Can I bring her in for show and tell tomorrow?"

Obviously I had to work on my explanations a bit more.

JTR went off to school the following day not with a chick but with a binderful of photos of himself holding Himalaya and, to spread the love, holding Stefanski and Clarisse, his former favorite until she began to feather. While he seemed satisfied at this alternative, White Silkies were never far from JTR's mind.

"Hi, Mommy White Silkie!" he'd greet me upon his return from school, and "If you could be any chicken, Mommy, what would it be?" he'd ask, barely giving me any time to respond before he'd chirp, "I'd be a White Silkie!" At bedtime, JTR would give me a hug and, instead of planting a kiss on my cheek, he'd "peck" me with his nose and go "Peep."

It didn't help matters that JTR came across my laptop open to a photo of Hollywood celebrity Tori Spelling toting her pet White Silkie, Coco, around town. And it seriously didn't help that JTR remembered I'd promised he could someday name a White Silkie of his own. He already had names picked out: Altaria or Swablu, after two fluffy white-and-blue bird-type Pokemon.

"You know, people do keep Silkies as pets," I mentioned to J one evening after a full day of experiencing JTR's White Silkie love. "Remember hearing about that pet Silkie rooster that saved its owner from a house fire?"

"We have smoke alarms," J noted.

I ignored him. "When I was in the pet store the other day, I saw these bird cages made for cockatiels or macaws that would work fabulously for Silkies," I went on. "They have four levels, with ramps to walk up and perches at the very top to roost on. And there are pull-out drawers at the top and at the bottom to make cleaning up after the birds easy."

J folded his arms. "And what do these things look like, huge dog kennels?"

"No, they actually are decorated to blend in with furnishings," I told him. "In fact, the dark one would work well here once we reclaim it as a sitting room."

J leaned back against his desk. "So what are you saying? That you don't want to put the Silkies out in a coop at all?"

I shook my head. "I'm not sure, to be honest. But they are intolerant of heat and cold, and their feathers will more than likely get dirty and disheveled being outside. I'm not saying we should keep all of them up here, just the ones we treat as pets."

"And the rest would be in a special pen in the basement," J picked up the thread. "The area that's supposed to be the boys' rec room would work well. That way, we could keep track of how they're setting their eggs and keep them hand trained and clean if we want to show them."

I nodded in agreement. Good! This matter ended up easily resolved.

Or so I thought until the next morning, when, over his bowl of Cap'n Crunch, JTR made an announcement. "I know what I want for my birthday!" he proclaimed.

His brothers pointedly ignored him, as JTR's birthday was more than two months away. "What would you like, honey?" I asked, fairly confident I knew the answer.

"I want a toy stuffed White Silkie, so I can keep it with me upstairs and tuck it into bed with me and take it to school for show and tell."

A toy Silkie?

"Honey, are you sure that's what you want... a toy Silkie?" I confirmed.

JTR nodded happily. "Yep! A stuffed one, as big as my toy penguin. That way, the two of them can be friends and keep each other company when I'm at school."

Well, I didn't see that coming. Once the boys were at school and J'd left for work, and after I'd fed and watered the chicks — and given each their hand-training time — I hopped onto Google and searched for "silkie toy."

The results were nothing I would give to a 7-year-old boy.

I tried again, this time Googling "stuffed chicken" ... and ending up with myriad recipes on how to prepare Gloria and company for the dinner table. "Chicken toy" yielded a mixture of joke rubber chickens and squeaky pet toys. I was getting nowhere fast.

Shifting gears, I logged onto the online forums at Backyard Chickens and posted about my dilemma, asking for help in locating the elusive White Silkie toy. It was like calling the cavalry in; a number of chicken lovers around the country soon responded with what they'd been able to find. One had ended up the same results as I had when she'd searched for silkie toys. A different user commented about the search results she obtained for "stuffed bird." Yet another posted a photo of a toy stuffed chicken, noting it was white but it wasn't a Silkie with that comb and those feet. "Maybe a small child would think it's a White Silkie?" she hoped.

Another person posted a photo of a very cute White-Crested Black Polish she'd crocheted for a Backyard Chickens user. I'd have been tempted to order one if JTR had gone head over heels for Stefanski instead of Himalaya. Someone else posted a photo of a ... something. None of us could figure out what on earth it was. "Someone put eyeballs on an egg and then squished the yolk out!" I commented.

By the end of the day, most of my helpers had called it quits. "I'm seriously having a hard time finding plush Silkies," one wrote. "Good luck!" Another posted a URL that had stuffed toy chickens, but no Silkies. The last couple of posters managed to locate a fuzzy white plush chicken, still not a Silkie but the closest we'd come. The cost, however, floored me. I could buy 15 real live Silkie chicks for what that one toy cost.

Not that I'd buy 15 more Silkie chicks. But I might buy two. Altaria and Swablu, JTR's new White Silkie chicks, will arrive just in time for his 8th birthday. They'll be accompanied on their trip from the hatchery by a pair of Black Silkies, a pair of Blue Silkies, and a pair of Red Silkies.

Okay, I might buy eight.

1 comment:

  1. I've been trying to locate a silkie plush for my goddaughter, and found the task as overwhelmingly complicated as you. I did, however, eventually find an artist with custom made plush chickens as one of her specialties, and she has made quite a fascinating white silkie as well:
    The link above leads to her Facebook site, and you have to be logged on to view it.

    Personally, I think the plush silkie is very appealing, but, being custom made, is bound to cost somewhat more than a live bird. A great idea for a birthday present or something of the kind, though.