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The Polish chicken is very ornamental in appearance due to the feathery crest on top of their heads. This has given rise to other names such as Tophat or Pom-Pom. There are also many beautiful laced and frizzled polish varieties. This makes them popular as show birds and pets for the backyard chicken keeper.
Is the Polish Chicken right for your flock?
- The polish chicken has a distinctive feather crest on its head
- They are a heritage breed that is good with children
- Polish chickens lay medium white eggs, but are not the best for egg production
- They tend to get picked on by other more aggressive chickens
In this post, we will discuss everything you need to know about these adorable, friendly chickens.
Table of Contents
Background & History of the Polish Breed
Charles Darwin classified any chicken with a crest as a Polish or Crested chicken. This wasn’t because such birds originated in Poland, but because their fancy top knot resembled that seen on top of the cap worn by Polish soldiers.
Historians believe they were imported from Spain into the Netherlands when Spain inhabited the lowlands between 1579-1713. During the 18th Century, Dutch chicken fanciers are attributed with developing the breed and refining both the color patterns and crests of the fowl, making the plumage more prolific.
The Polish were popular in Europe not only for their unusual appearance but also for egg production. They featured in paintings of the 16th to 18th century by both Italian and Dutch artists and were also mentioned in the literature of the time.
The Polish chicken arrived in America during the 1800s and by 1850 were quite well established, just as they were in Europe, where they were used primarily for egg production. It wasn’t long before this heritage chicken breed was replaced by other more prolific layers. They did, however, remain popular for use at exhibitions.
The White Crested Polish chicken is part of a group of crested breed chickens that can be traced back for some 1,600 years. This makes their pure breed history one of the longest recorded for chickens.
Interesting Facts About the Polish Chicken
Polish chickens were once prized among the French aristocracy for their flamboyant, fancy appearance (which also resembled their tastes in fashion at the time.) There is a story that in 1736 the King of Poland was unseated and fled to France. Unable to leave his beloved chickens, he packed them in his luggage and took them with him.
The Polish chicken has an unusual skull that thrusts upwards towards the top of the head. This forms a bony protuberance where the crest feathers sprout. It results in the birds having a significantly enlarged brain compared to other chicken breeds and is associated with cognitive abilities.
The unusually shaped head has a downfall for the Polish, which is the instance of cerebral hernia. This is where the brain pushes up through a gap in the skull. In chicks, this can be problematic as if a chick is pecked there, it can cause damage to the brain.
Although the Polish chicken is not classed as endangered, they are on the watch list. This means that there are fewer than 5,000 breeding birds and a global population below 10,000.
Temperament and Behavior
The appearance of a Polish chicken just makes you want to pick it up. They are very docile with an even temper making them kid friendly and great for beginners. If handled as young birds, they are easily tamed with regular gentle contact and the giving of treats.
The pom-pom head feathers of a Polish can often reduce their vision, making them easy to catch. The downside to this is that it makes them prone to being nervous and flighty. To avoid startling them, it’s best to talk softly when you approach, letting them know you’re there.
For anyone just starting out with chickens, they can be a suitable breed, particularly if you want something ornamental to look at which also provides you with some eggs. If you want a bird that will also be suitable for the table, then there are other dual purpose breeds that are better for meat production.
Their docile nature and limited vision can make the Polish chicken the target of aggression from more dominant birds. For this reason, it is better to mix them with other non-aggressive breeds including (but not limited to):
Try to avoid mixing Polish chickens with Rhode Islands, Welsummers and other alert, active breeds.
If you want a hen that goes broody and mothers her chicks well, then Polish are not the right breed for you. They are not kown for broodiness, and, if they do, are soon lose interest. Better breeds for raising chicks are Silkies, Buff Orpingtons, Cochins, Sussex, or Brahmas.
When it comes to noise, Polish chickens rank around the medium volume mark, 6.5 out of 10. A Polish rooster will crow, but it isn’t as forceful and piercing as many other breeds.
Polish Chicken Breed Specifics & Traits
Average size & lifespan
Polish chickens are attractive ornamental birds. They are useful for providing eggs too, but are not suitable for the table.
Full-size Polish roosters weigh 6 lbs, and females weigh 4.5 lbs. Polish bantam chickens are also available. Males weigh 1.8 lbs and females 1.6 lbs.
Most Polish chickens live an average of 4 to 7 years, but this does depend on how well they are kept. Some chickens can live much longer than this.
A Polish chick looks like most other baby chickens, but with an extra dense, fluffy bit on top of their heads, they somewhat resemble Elvis!
The crown feathers on the Polish chicken is their most obvious and unique trais. These crowns can grow to more than 3 inches in length, and form a large crest that often falls over their eyes, making it difficult for them to see. The distinctive feathers on top of their heads are why they are sometimes referred to as Pom-pom or Top Hat chickens.
They can also have beards, which are additional feathers that sprout out around and below their beak, giving the appearance of a beard.
Polish chickens come in a wide variety of colors, many of which are laced, meaning the edges of their feathers are a darker color than the middle, giving a lace-like appearance. There is also a polish frizzle with feathers that curl, twist and turn instead of lying flat, making them look soft fluffy.
Although there is a vast variety of colors available, not all are documented by the American Poultry Society. Polish chicken color varieties that are recognized include:
- Non-Bearded White Crested Black (1874)
- Non-Bearded Golden (1874)
- Non-Bearded Silver (1874)
- Non-Bearded White (1874)
- Bearded Golden (1883)
- Bearded Silver laced polish chicken (1883)
- Bearded White polish chicken (1883)
- Bearded Buff Laced (1883)
- Non-Bearded Buff Laced (1938)
- Non-Bearded White Crested Blue (1963)
Colors that are not recognized by the American Poultry Society include: White Crested Blue Splash, Black-Tailed Red, Black Crested Blue, Self Black, Harlequin, Chocolate, Splash, Black Crested Buff, White Crested Buff, White Crested Dun, Blue Polish chicken, Tolbunt, and the White Laced Red.
Polish chickens have an unusual, small V-shaped comb which is hard to see under all their head feathers!
Polish chickens are heat tolerant if provided with shade. They generally prefer a dry, warm climate. Their crests can become easily waterlogged leading to them becoming chilled. In icy weather, the prolific head feathers tend to get frozen. A well ventilated, dry chicken coop is a must.
Being quite lightweight, Polish chickens are pretty good flyers. They will often be found in the branches of trees when it comes to roosting time.
Polish are quite upright birds. On their heads, along with their crest feathers and red v-shaped comb, they also have red wattles and white earlobes. Leg color is typically slate blue or grey with four toes on the feet. They have white skin.
Other than their crest (sometimes beard) and unusually shaped skull, they also have very large nostrils.
Hen vs. Rooster
Young Polish chickens are hard to sex at a glance, as both the male and female can look very similar. However, with mature birds, the differences are relatively easy to distinguish from the crest alone. In males, the crest stands more upright and is quite messy and wild-looking. The hens’ crests looks more like a smooth bob-shaped hairdo, and the feathers have rounded ends as opposed to the pointed ones seen in roosters.
The tail feathers are also a giveaway. Hens have shorter upright tails, where roosters have long arching feathers that curve over. If the feathers are black in color, they will also have a beautiful blue-green iridescent sheen.
The hens have a very calm and docile disposition which is also common in many males. However, some keepers have reported having aggressive roosters, particularly if they are guarding smaller flocks in a small space, such as a backyard.
It is the rooster’s job to protect his girls, so if he sees you as a threat to them, he could show some aggression towards you. The best way to avoid this is to provide as much space as possible and to handle your rooster regularly. That way he knows you well and sees you as a member of the flock and not a threat.
Polish Chicken Quick Facts
|Type||Ornamental and Egg Producing|
|Average Weight||Male 6 lbs. Female 4.5 lbs|
|Weeks To Maturity||18 to 20 weeks on average|
|Average Life Span||4 to 7 years|
|Color variations||A broad spectrum including laced and frizzle|
|Egg Production||Approximately 110 per year|
|Temperament||Docile and can be tamed|
|Kid-Friendly||Yes, for older children|
|Comb Type||V shape|
|Flightiness||Can fly and startle easily|
|Unique Traits||Crest and some also have beards|
Being docile chickens, Polish are at risk from predators. Their restricted vision means they are easily crept up on by stealthy hunters, and can also be taken from above by hawks. This tends to make them easily startled, and they will cry out if they feel threatened or get separated from their flock.
Protecting your birds from predators is quite important with Polish chickens. Ideally, they are best kept in a safe environment such as a chicken run with a wire roof.
Disease Resistance and Common Health Problems
The unusual shape of a Polish chicken’s skull can make them more susceptible not only to brain injury as chicks, but also to a condition called hydrocephalus, which is the retention of fluid in the skull that pushes against the brain.
Symptoms include falling over, walking backward, or spinning in circles. This can seem amusing but is very distressing to the bird. It requires anti-inflammatory medication from the vet, and treatment may last for a month or more. Severe cases should be euthanized.
The prolific crest feathers may produce a few additional health issues, such as feather mite or lice infestation. They may also cause eye infections. To prevent this, birds should be treated for lice and mites regularly and have the feathers around their eyes trimmed unless they are being used for show purposes.
Polish chickens are just as likely as other chicken varieties to suffer from other diseases and common complaints. They have no particular resistance to any. Keeping their living conditions clean and providing good quality food and fresh, clean water are the main ways to reduce the likelihood of infections.
Polish hens start laying eggs at between 20 and 24 weeks of age. The eggs are white and of medium size.
During the laying season, the hens will typically lay between 2 to 5 eggs a week and average around 110 per year.
Feeding & Nutrition
Proper feeding helps keep your chickens healthy and happy. It will also ensure you get the best possible egg production from them.
From 0 to 6 weeks of age, chicks will need a special chick starter crumble formulated to give them the nutrients they need to grow and ground small enough for them to eat.
If you are only feeding chicks a starter feed, they do not need any grit. If you choose to give them treats like mealworms, they will also need chick grit added to a small dish in the brooder.
At 16 to 18 weeks of age, introduce them to layer pellets. This will help them start the development of their first eggs. Your chickens can be kept on this feed for the rest of their lives, although it is good to provide them with some added extras too. Seeds, mealworms, and kitchen scraps can all be beneficial additions.
If your birds can have access to free-range, they will benefit greatly and further supplement their diet by foraging for worms, grubs and insects they find naturally.
Taming You Chickens
Polish chicks seem to be born tame. By handling the chicks a few times a day, you can quickly build a strong relationship that allows them to trust you. If you buy a slightly older polish hen that is about to start laying (between 18 and 20 weeks), then you need to start handling them daily to get them used to you. Offer treats such as mealworms by hand, and they will quickly get to know you provide tasty goodies and come running.
They are naturally inquisitive birds, a trait that makes them easy to tame, but also sometimes prone to getting themselves into trouble and in need of rescue.
It’s worth asking the breeder if they are used to being handled when you get them, as birds that are already used to human contact make better pets.
Where to buy
You can purchase chicks, eggs, or pullets, which are young hens that are about to start laying eggs, from hatcheries.
Cackle Hatchery – Great selection starting as low as $3.45 each for a mixed. Cackle Hatchery is our referred hatchery and has a 3 chick minimum order.
Strombergs Chickens – Have a good variety of different color chicks starting at $4.49 each (15 chick minimum purchase)
Meyer Hatchery – Have a large selection starting at $5.16 per chick (3-15 chick minimum depending on breed)
These wonderful ornamental, white egg-laying birds, can be delightful to keep as part of a gentle flock or even as pets.
Their unusual crest feathers give them a distinctive look that is much admired but can lead to a few problems, such as restricted vision.
With plenty of color varieties, there is bound to be one, or even several, that appeal.
They are generally good for older children or people new to keeping poultry. The Polish chicken’s docile temperament makes them easy to tame and fun to have around.
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