If you’re looking for beauty in chickens, Polish chickens won’t disappoint you. These stunning birds can make a great therapy chicken. By just looking at their stylish crest, you can’t resist but smile. But what’s the catch for owing these beautiful chickens? Here’s a comprehensive guide about this Dutch chicken breed. Simply read until the end and you will learn everything you want to know about them.
Table of Contents
- 1 Origin of Polish Chickens
- 2 The Appearance of a Polish Chickens
- 3 Average Weight of Polish Chickens
- 4 Polish Chicken Behavior
- 5 Are Polish Chickens Heat Tolerant or Cold Hardy?
- 6 Feeding a Polish Chickens
- 7 Polish Chickens Egg Production
- 8 Polish Chickens Meat Production
- 9 Concerns When Raising a Polish Chicken
- 10 Caring and Raising a Polish Chicken
- 11 Polish Chickens Pros and Cons
- 12 Conclusion
Origin of Polish Chickens
First of all, Polish chickens did not originate in Poland. So far, there’s no official record explaining where this breed came from, who created them, when, and how. Nevertheless, some historians believe that the first Polish chickens were exported from Spain to the Netherlands during the Dutch War of Independence, which started in 1568.
Interestingly, some paintings during the 1600s depicted similar chickens. A perfect example would be the oil painting by Dutch painter, Melchior de Hondecoeter back in 1668 titled Poultry Yard. The said painting featured crested chickens standing beside each other. They look like a White Crested Black Polish chicken and a White Polish chicken.
To add mystery to its history, the name “Polish” was also believed to have come from the Middle Dutch word “pol,” which means “head.” This is after it was learned that the skull of a Polish is dome-shaped. Interestingly, Charles Darwin also mentioned in one of his writings that chickens with a crest should be classified as “Crested or Polish.”
It was also believed that the name “Polish” was chosen because these chickens have a feathered crest similar to the military hats that Polish soldiers used during that era. Nevertheless, the Dutch are credited for the creation of Polish chickens because they were the ones who developed the crests and refined their color patterns.
Polish chickens were believed to have reached England sometime during the 1700s. They reached America between 1830 and 1850 and became a favorite backyard chicken. Unfortunately, production gradually declined before the end of the century because of the rise of Leghorn chickens in the US and most parts of Europe.
The original purpose is to create a breed that would be used for egg production. But because of its rapid popularity in arts and literature, this breed was better known as show birds or for exhibitions. The American Poultry Association (APA) has already recognized ten Polish varieties into their Standard of Perfection. They are the following:
- Non-Bearded White Crested Black (1874)
- Non-Bearded Golden (1874)
- Non-Bearded Silver (1874)
- Non-Bearded White (1874)
- Bearded Golden (1883)
- Bearded Silver (1883)
- Bearded White(1883)
- Bearded Buff Laced (1883)
- Non-Bearded Buff Laced (1938)
- Non-Bearded White Crested Blue (1963)
Polish chickens have other color varieties but are not yet recognized by the APA. One of them is the Tolbunt Polish chicken, which has a color mixture of brown, black, and white. Although they are relatively new in the scene, this stunning beauty is gaining more popularity among chicken farmers as time goes by.
As of posting, the Livestock Conservancy listed Polish chickens as “watch,” This means that this breed has an estimated global population of less than 10,000 and the annual registrations in the US are below 2,500. It also means the actual figures have a limited geographic distribution, or they are not present in lots of areas.
The Appearance of a Polish Chickens
To start with, Polish chickens have a unique hairdo similar to Tina Turner’s hairstyle that’s hard to ignore. They are somehow similar in appearance to Leghorns when it comes to shape and type. Some of these stunning birds have a beard on their faces, while some don’t. They have a small but long body, a medium-length back, and broad shoulders.
Polish chickens have an unusual V-shaped red comb (or duplex) that is usually covered by their huge feathers. These gorgeous chickens also have a large horn-colored beak, white ear lobes, red wattles, and reddish bay eyes. Their tail is well-spread, while their unfeathered legs are gray, and their long wings are held close to their body.
While Polish chicken hens’ appearance is gorgeous on their tidy hairstyle, roosters possess a spiky, dirty look crest as if their hairstylist got drunk while fixing their hairs. Nevertheless, both of them are distracted by their head feathers that grow all over their face. These roosters also have pointed sickle feathers in their tail. Their legs are wide set and each foot has four toes.
Polish baby chicks cannot be sexed but as they grow older, you may notice something different between the crest of males and females. In most cases, male Polish chickens tend to have bigger and more pronounced head feathers than females. On the other hand, the crest of female Polish chickens is somehow more circular than males.
As mentioned earlier, there are ten recognized color variations of Polish chickens. Each variation is very unique from the others. Six of them are Non-Bearded while the remaining four are Bearded. Here are some of the details of the most popular ones so you can know them better.
Golden Polish Chickens
Also known as Golden Laced Polish, their baby chicks are brown. Roosters have a creamy white pattern on their heads and hackles, while most of their necks, breasts, bodies, and tails are black-dominated at the front. Their back is golden as well as their wings but with some black and white accents.
On the other hand, hens can vary from light to dark grayish-buff. They have brown wings with some highlights of black. Both of their breast and neck are salmon blue in front, while their tail is black with some gray accents. Both the bearded or non-beard varieties have already been recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA).
Silver Polish Chicken
Also known as Silver Laced Polish chickens, they come in bearded and non-bearded varieties and both of them have been recognized by the APA. Both roosters and hens have dark horn beak and slate blue shanks. They also have laced feathers over their bodies, while their feathers may vary from silvery white to silvery gray.
White Polish Chicken
This color variety can either be bearded or non-beard. Whatever your choice is, the APA has already recognized both of them. However, in the UK, this variation is called Self White. Their feathers are white but may vary from dull to glossy. They have a dark horn beak and light slate blue shanks.
Buff Laced Polish Chicken
Just like the others, both the bearded and non-bearded have already been recognized by the APA. Both males and females have slate blue beaks, shanks, and toes; and their feathers are golden buff surrounded by some creamy white lacing on their edges. However, males tend to have a richer color than females.
Average Weight of Polish Chickens
Polish chickens are available in large fowls and bantams. Male large fowls weigh about 6 pounds (2.75 kilos) while their female versions weigh about 4.4 pounds (2 kilos). On the other hand, male bantams weigh about 850 grams (1.9 pounds) and females weigh about 740 grams (1.63 pounds).
Polish Chicken Behavior
Polish chickens are one of the friendliest breeds you’ll ever meet. They are very calm, gentle, and ideal as family pets. In fact, you and your small children can cuddle or carry them any time without worrying about being pecked. They pose their fluffy head and seem to be begging for attention. And yes, they love to be noticed by people around them.
These exemplary chickens are also docile, active, and pretty quiet. Well, hens may be a bit noisy when they are about to lay eggs which is normal in any breed. But don’t worry; they are quieter than most of the other breeds. Therefore, you can raise them even if you are living in an urban environment and your neighbors will not get offended.
This Polish chicken breed is adaptable to both confinement and free-range. They are also curious, alert, but are poor foragers. Broodiness seems to be not a regular habit for Polish hens, although it still depends on their strain. This is probably because they were bred to become show birds, not mothers. Therefore, they are also not great egg layers.
Polish chickens are also friendly to other breeds and can be considered to be lower members of the pecking order. Therefore, they are prone to bullying especially from aggressive breeds that cannot resist but peck on their fabulous head feathers. In short, they are not brave enough to fight back or to protect themselves from predators.
Are Polish Chickens Heat Tolerant or Cold Hardy?
Polish chickens cannot be categorized as cold-hardy although they can tolerate cold weather. This is because once their crowning feathers get wet; they are very likely to feel uncomfortable. In the worse scenario, they could suffer from frostbite. On the other hand, this one-of-a-kind breed has almost no problem during summer.
Feeding a Polish Chickens
Feeding Polish chickens is like feeding other breeds. They love to eat anything you feed them. They also like to forage but their lard crest is a huge hindrance. Therefore, you should provide them with lots of grower and layer feed and supplement with extra protein for their feathers. But more importantly, give them a very good supply of clean water.
Polish Chickens Egg Production
As mentioned earlier, this Polish breed was bred as ornamental chickens, not egg layers. But even so, they can still lay 100-200 white eggs a year which is equivalent to only 2 to 4 eggs a week. Some strains are also late bloomers and may start laying eggs when they reach 9-10 months old. Polish chicken eggs are usually medium-sized.
Polish Chickens Meat Production
Unfortunately, Polish chickens are not bred for meat production and are, therefore, not dual-purpose birds. In fact, this breed is more for ornamental purposes than for egg-laying. Nevertheless, some backyard farmers claim that they have eaten Polish chicken meat and that they taste delicious. But how can you slaughter such gorgeous chicken?
Concerns When Raising a Polish Chicken
Polish chickens are generally healthy birds and have no genetic disorder. However, their beautiful crest poses some health risks. First of all, baby chicks have a prominent bony head that does not knit together immediately. This may cause serious injuries or even death if not well taken care of. You can avoid this through careful handling.
Nevertheless, adult Polish chickens have more problems than chicks. In most cases, their large crest prevents them to see where they are going or when someone is coming. This visual impairment makes them nervous and flighty. Apparently, this is also a problem when aggressive breeds and predators attack them without a warning.
Their crest is also prone to mites and lice, as well as frostbite during winter. They can also easily get wet while they are drinking, and can cause eye infections when dirty. Therefore, they may need some extra care when it comes to their crest. Other than that, healthy Polish chickens could live within their estimated lifespan of 5-8 years.
Caring and Raising a Polish Chicken
Polish chickens may have the nicest head feathers among other breeds but there is a huge price to pay. Aside from being low in the pecking order, they are unable to see immediately if a predator or an aggressive bird is going to attack them. Therefore, they are very likely to get caught unprepared and won’t be able to escape at once.
These stunning birds may not also see you coming closer. To avoid them from being jumpy and scared, you might need to whistle, speak, or call their attention first before you approach them. If their crest gets dirty, it can also lead to an eye infection. Therefore, you might want to wash their crest carefully and dry them immediately after.
If you can’t wash them, you can apply few amounts of insect repellant to the rest but make sure they won’t reach their eyes. Nevertheless, the best preventive measure to all these potential problems is to trim their feathers regularly. Just be very careful not to accidentally cut their combs. Otherwise, your poor chicken will be in deep pain.
If you are preparing your Polish chicken for an upcoming bird show, trimming is likely impossible. Another option is to tie their crest using a hair tie. However, some chickens may feel uncomfortable and will remove it. In that case, tape their crest using a small strip of masking tape or painter’s tape. However, removing it could be painful.
Polish Chickens Pros and Cons
Without a doubt, Polish chickens are very beautiful and stunning. However, their beauty has a price. To help you decide if they are the right breed for you, here is the summary of their pros and cons:
Advantages of Raising Polish Chicken
- Gentle, docile, and very friendly
- Super charming and fun to watch
- Ideal for family with small children
- Friendly to other breeds
- One of the best show birds
- Available in several color variations
- Not the best cold hardy
- Noisy but tolerable
Disadvantages of Raising Polish Chicken
- Not great egg layers
- Not ideal for meat production
- Prone to bullying and predators
- Require high maintenance
- Crest poses health risks
- Free-range requires supervision
- Not good mothers
Polish chickens may be as fragile as baby chicks but they are as gorgeous as beauty queens. So if you are after egg production or meat birds, this breed might not be for you. On the other hand, if you want to show birds and you are willing to spend time with them and be patient, they are a good investment.