Silkies originated in China. When Marco Polo returned to Venice from his travels there in 1295, his reports of chickens with feathers like hair, among other things, were not believed. The book he wrote, "The Travels of Marco Polo," was called Il Milione, which means The Million Lies.
Silkies are bantam in size and come in many color varieties, such as this non-bearded buff rooster in a picture taken by Corallina Breuer. All have black skin and bones, however. In China and other Asian countries, their gamy flavor is popular and broth made from them revered for its medicinal qualities.
The New York Times recently focused an article on them in its Dining and Wine section, http://tinyurl.com/yvu6gz.
More than 20 members of the Society for Preservation of Poultry Antiquities raise these beautiful and beloved birds in Black, Blue, Buff, Gray, Partridge, Red Splash and White colors, both Bearded and Non-bearded.
The beard is a cluster of feathers on the upper throat. In Silkies, it should be thick and full, forming a collar.