The Polish breed of chickens has an iconic look that makes them truly unique. What makes them so fashionable is their bouffant style crest of feathers and unusual v-shaped comb. This breed can be a bit wacky because their glorious crowns limit their vision. They are typically tame birds that are typically affectionate and will add visual appeal to your flock.
History of Polish Chickens
Not a lot is agreed upon when it comes to the history of Polish chickens except that their history is obscure and most experts don’t believe they came from Poland. The most popular theory is that their name stemmed from their appearance. The fabulous crests resemble the feathered caps worn by Polish soldiers.
Those who study poultry history believe that Polish chickens first came from Spain, then they were brought to Holland when the Spaniards took over the lowlands. The Dutch are given credit for refining the colors and distinguishing the crests back in the 18th century.
Another theory is that their name came from the Dutch word pol, which means head. This would have been made in reference to the Polish trait of a dome-shaped skull. They could have brought by Asian Mongols to Europe during medieval times, thus explaining their arrival to Poland.
Polish chickens were memorialized in England back in the 1700s as they were featured in works of art. Famous Dutch and Italian artists painted them in the 16th – 18th centuries. They were even mentioned in the literature written during this same time period.
Polish chickens found their way into France where they were used for producing eggs. They crossed over to American sometime between 1830 and 1840. By 1850 they were well-spread across America and touted for their egg production.
It was only when Leghorn chickens made their debut that Polish chickens began losing their clout as egg layers. Farmers began replacing them with newer breeds but they were still kept around for exhibition purposes.
Today, Polish chickens still retain their unusual and interesting characteristics. They are currently very popular as a show breed but are certainly capable of laying eggs for the backyard chicken enthusiast who wants a flock with some charisma.
Polish Chicken Breed Standard
Polish chickens are best known for their fluffy crest feathers. Their owners often refer to their head feathers as “pom-pom”. They are popular as ornamental birds, but they also are known for their friendly personalities.
Their breed is classified by the American Poultry Association as both standard and bantam sizes.
Type: Bantam and Large Fowl
Size: 4 to 5 pounds
Varieties: White Crested Black, Black Crested White, Bearded and non-bearded in the colors: White, Silver, Golden, Buff Laced
Polish Chicken Appearance
Their Fancy Features include a v-shaped comb and of course their iconic crest of head feathers. They do not have feathers on their legs and have four toes on each foot.
Polish roosters have a red v-shaped comb that may be hidden beneath their protrusion of head feathers. Wattles are red and earlobes are white.
Their head crests arise from a bony prominence at the top of their skull. Polish chickens can be bearded depending on their variety. If they are bearded, there will be an abundance of feathers around the face and head.
Leg color is typically grey. Feet and legs shouldn’t have any feathering.
Males usually weigh around 6 pounds and hens weigh around 4 ½ pounds. Their skin is white.
Personality and Temperament of Polish Chickens
While Polish chickens are friendly, love to be held, and ideal for children, their quirky personalities stem from the fact that they can’t see well because of the headdress. They have been characterized as easily frightened, skittish, and flighty.
Polish chickens do best if handled gently and given lots of affection and reassurance. They are best suited for compassionate chicken enthusiasts who don’t mind giving them a little extra support.
Although gentle in nature, Polish chickens tend to be inquisitive and they like to investigate. It is not uncommon to hear a story about a Polish chicken caught somewhere unusual because of their inquisitive personalities.
They do tolerate and probably do better in confinement. If they are in a flock and get separated from their mates, they will cry out until the other hens respond and they find their way back.
This breed will often be relatively low on the pecking order. This is due to their mild temperaments. Mixing them with other breeds, you have to be careful that more aggressive breeds won’t resist yanking out those dangly head feathers.
Because the Polish breed of chicken is so docile, they make great birds for children to show at the county fair. They will attract lots of attention because of their unique characteristics.
The consensus by chicken owners is that Polish chickens are not reliable egg layers. A typical hen will lay 2 or 3 eggs a week. Some of their production issues are based on diet. If not fed a proper diet, these chickens may not lay at all. They do best on 16% egg laying feed and should always be offered a calcium supplement.
The yearly egg number is around 200 medium to large eggs. They have been known to lay later in the egg-season than other breeds. It takes them a while to warm up, but once they do, they are fairly consistent.
Polish chicken lay white eggs. They begin laying around 5 months, which is earlier than most other breeds. They are not like other egg-laying breeds since they are not bred for their mothering instincts. They will not go broody and try and stay in the nest to hatch their eggs.
Care and Health Issues
Both the standard and bantam-sized Polish chickens have similar needs for their care.
- A coop that protects them from the elements and keeps them safe from predators.
- A high-quality feed that promotes healthy feathers and the nutrients required for laying eggs.
- A constant source of clean water.
- Entertainment of some sort, perhaps a chicken swing.
Their needs are basically the same as most other breeds. Keep in mind that with their lack of vision, they should have a clutter-free environment that’s easy to navigate. The safer they feel, the happier they will be. Be sure there is nothing they can get trapped in when their inquisitive natures take over.
If you acquire your Polish chickens as young chicks, they need to be watched carefully for the first few weeks. This is due to their bony head prominence. Like a human baby, their skulls do not knit together until they get a little older. This makes the babies susceptible to a fatal head injury if pecked on the head like a chick.
Due to the density of feathers on their heads, as adults, they need to be checked frequently for lice and mites. If found, they should be treated accordingly. You also might want to trim the feathers blocking their vision. This will make your birds’ lives a little bit easier and certainly less scary.
If you are showing your bird, you will not be able to trim the head feathers during the show season.
Tips for Raising Polish Chickens
Other than the head feathers, Polish chickens don’t have any unusual requirements or health issues other than they are not cold hardy. They will need a heat lamp in cold weather. They are heat tolerant but will need access to fresh water in the heat of the summer to avoid heatstroke.
The more you handle these chickens, the more tolerant they will be to hold and groom. Since these are birds that may require the feathers to be cut around their eyes, handling them from a young age will make this task easier.
Try using treats like mealworms or black soldier fly larvae as reinforcement of good behavior while being held. Rewards will go a long way in teaching them to look forward to being held rather than running away when you approach.
If you decide to raise your Polish chickens for showing or exhibiting, handling them will be essential. You can look up tips for chicken grooming to find out how to best present a groomed Polish chicken. These are chickens who do not like to get wet, so keep that in mind.
Even though the Polish breed is a popular and eye-catching bird, there is some concern over their dwindling numbers. The American Livestock Breed Conservancy has recorded that their numbers are getting lower. Those who love this quirky and loveable breed should take measures to promote them and their wonderful qualities.
Polish chickens are not only wonderfully quirky and adorable, but their personalities and antics will bring a smile to your face. While they are not prolific egg layers, they are worth raising simply for their visual appeal. They are relatively easy keepers, are friendly and loveable, and great with kids. Consider adding some Polish ladies to your flock for fun and variety.