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Sultan Chickens: Discover this Unique Heritage Breed

The Sultan Chicken is rather quirky, and known for its distinctive appearance. They have a large crest of feathers on their heads, fluffy plumage, and feathered legs. As you might imagine, they are kept mainly for their ornamental value. This small breed is known for its docile, friendly, temperament, but they do require careful attention and are best kept as pets or exhibition fowl. In this article, we’ll look at the history and temperament of the sultan chicken, along with its breed characteristics and care requirements, providing you with all the information you need to keep these unique heritage birds.

Key Takeaway

  • Friendly
  • Small
  • Ornamental exhibition birds
  • Make good pets
  • Need careful care

Background & History of the Sultan ChickenBreed

Sultan chickens, which are also known as Saray Tavuğu or Serai Täook (palace fowl) are ornamental chickens that originated in Turkey when it was a part of the Ottoman Empire, sometime between 1789 and 1807, during the rule of Sultan Selim III.  

Bred to be ornamental fowl, they were kept by members of the Ottoman court, particularly the Sultan himself. They were known for their distinctive appearance, of a large, crested head, fluffy feathering, and feathered feet. 

It is thought that their crested heads, which resembled the turbans worn by the Sultans of the time, were what made them so favored. 

The breeding of the birds was carefully managed by the court, and only a select few were allowed to own them. According to a legend, sultan chickens were kept, rather like the British gentry kept Peacocks, as decorative features in the gardens of the Sultan’s palace. 

It wasn’t until 1854 that the breed arrived in England, when Elizabeth Watts, editor of the London-based Poultry Chronicle, from Hampstead, England, received two of the fowls from a friend in Constantinople. 

Upon arrival, the birds were in very poor condition, covered in dirt with stained and matted feathers. Only after they had molted months later did she discover they were actually pure white.

Elizabeth also noted that the sultan chickens didn’t damage the grass in their runs as much as other breeds, and the runs remained green. 

In 1867, sultans were sent to author and poultry expert George O. Brown in America. He wrote that they were the most contented and tame chickens he had ever owned and that they preferred eating grains and insects to vegetables. He also mentioned that they sang contentedly almost constantly.

White sultans were first included in the American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection in 1874 when they became popular among poultry fanciers looking for a decorative show bird. 


Sadly, despite their past popularity as show birds, the breed fell out of favor during the world wars, as chickens that were not capable of producing high quantities of meat and eggs were not required and they almost became extinct by the 1930s. 

Another issue the breed faced was their coloring. Being predominantly white, caused them to be heavily predated. 

Fast forward to today, and sultan chickens are still threatened and are included on the Livestock Conservancy Organization’s “Watch List,” which is a list of breeds that are considered to be at risk of extinction due to declining population numbers. This highlights the importance of preserving and protecting heritage breeds like the sultan for future generations.

Temperament & Behavior of Sultan Chickens

Sultan chickens are well known for being one of the friendliest breeds you can find. They are docile, contented birds and easily tamed. They seem to love human company and make fantastic pets. They are calm and not known for any aggression towards people making them an ideal choice for children and beginners providing proper care and attention is given.  

Interaction with Flockmates

Sultan roosters are known for being gentle, kind, and caring to their hens. However, they can be bullied by more assertive chicken breeds, so this is something to be aware of if you have a mixed flock. Only keep them with other chicken breeds with a similar temperament such as Silkies, Buff Orpingtons, Cochins, Easter Eggers, Australorps, and Brahmas.


Sultan chickens are very agile and excellent flyers and will easily fly over an 8-foot fence. Because they need protection from predators, they are best kept in an enclosure with a netted roof so they can’t fly out. 

They are not good at defending themselves from predators due to their fluffy head crest, which hinders their vision and their calm temperament. 

Sultans are not really foraging chickens, as they prefer grains and insects. Therefore, a large enclosure with good quality high fencing and shelter from extreme weather is necessary for their comfort and protection.

Broodiness and Egg Laying

Sultan hens are poor egg layers, averaging only 50 a year. They don’t go broody and in most cases do not make good mothers. If you want to raise them, you will need to use a broody hen of an appropriate breed such as a Buff Orpington, or use an incubator to hatch the eggs. 


Despite their often talkative natures, sultan chickens are generally quiet as they are not very loud. They do have a tendency to “chatter” with each other all the time. They only complain loudly if they feel threatened or stressed, such as being attacked or if they are cold or wet. 

The roosters will crow, although this is usually in the morning and not throughout the day. They are generally considered a good choice for those looking for a quieter breed of chicken.

Sultan Breed Specifics & Traits

Looks are important when it comes to sultan chickens, this is because they are primarily kept as ornamental fowl and not for meat or eggs, as they are poor layers and only have a small carcass. 


Sultans come in two sizes, standard and bantam. The standard-size chickens are smaller than many other chicken breeds, with roosters weighing around 5 to 6 lbs (2.7kg) and hens approximately 4 lbs (2kg).

Bantam roosters are only about 26 oz (740g) and bantam hens are 22 oz (625g).

Life Span

Their lifespan is usually between 5-8 years, although some may live longer with proper care.


The large, puffy crest of feathers on their head covers their eyes and gives them a regal and elegant appearance. They have a small, short beak, and a beard made up of three clumps of feathers. 

They have full, soft, fluffy plumage, and their gray legs are feathered to the toes. The body is rounded and broad and the wings are held draped so as to conceal the thighs and upper hocks which are described as being vulture-like, as they are very well developed. Their tails are long and they tend to stand quite upright. 

Their eyes are dark and they have small, white earlobes. Almost completely hidden under their plumage is a small, bright red, V-shaped comb. They are also one of the minority of breeds to have five toes on each foot.


The plumage of sultan chicks is usually yellow or white, with some brown or black markings on the wings and back. They have a round head with a distinctive crest of feathers, a slightly curved beak, and large, dark eyes.

The crest is usually larger in proportion to the chick’s body than it will be in adult birds, and may look a bit disheveled or untidy at first. As the chick grows and matures, the crest becomes fuller and rounder, giving it the characteristic “powder puff” appearance that adult sultans are known for.

Varieties and Feather Patterns

The officially recognized color variation is white, although there are many other hues that aren’t officially recognized, such as black, blue, splash, and buff. Black and blue sultan bantams are recognized by the American Bantam Association. Bantams are basically miniature versions of full-size birds.

Resilience to Cold And Heat

Sultan chickens become very distressed when left in cold, wet, and muddy conditions. Their feathery feet and legs quickly pick up mud, causing infections, or worse, they can lose toes or legs to frostbite. 

Sultans are also susceptible to frostbite on their combs if their head feathers get wet and then freeze. Frostbite is an excruciatingly painful condition for chickens, so it’s important to keep them warm and dry.

The breed does better in warmer conditions as long as they have access to fresh, cool drinking water and deep shade. However, if left outside without proper facilities, they can suffer from heat stress because their thick plumage makes it difficult for them to regulate their body temperature.

Resilience to Predators

One of the reasons sultans face near extinction is that they are highly vulnerable to predation. The all-white plumage makes them very visible, and their vision is limited by their large crests, plus large feathered feet make it difficult to move quickly away from danger. It’s not surprising that they have little chance of surviving predator attacks and why it’s so important to provide a safe area for them to live in.

Health and Disease

With good nutrition, proper care, and regular veterinary checkups, your sultan chickens should remain healthy and happy. As with any breed of chicken, they are susceptible to some illnesses and health problems. Here are some of the more common ailments that may affect your sultan chickens.

Marek’s Disease

Sultans are considered to be at a higher risk than some other breeds for contracting Marek’s disease. This is a viral disease that causes tumors, paralysis, and other symptoms, and it’s important to vaccinate them against it. 

Infectious Bronchitis and Mycoplasma

Clean living quarters with good ventilation are essential to prevent respiratory ailments such as infectious bronchitis and mycoplasma, which is one of the most common health problems due to the chicken’s large crest which can block its airways.

External Parasites

The fluffy feathers on their head and legs make them especially attractive to external parasites such as mites or lice. These can cause skin irritation and feather loss. Keep a close eye on your flock and treat them regularly to help prevent these pests. Maintaining a clean and dry coop with a good dust bath area will also help. 

Skin Irritation and Infection

Due to their unique appearance, sultan chickens may be susceptible to feather pecking by other birds in the flock. This can lead to wounds and infection. To prevent this, make sure your birds have enough space, provide plenty of entertainment and stimulation, and separate any that are overly aggressive.

Eye Infections

Your chickens can get eye infections from the feathers covering their eyes. You can carefully trim the feathers if you need to, but be careful not to accidentally cut their combs or blood feathers. As an alternative, you may want to tape the feathers out of their eyes.


Another health problem related to their feathers has already been mentioned in this article: frostbite. Check them regularly in cold weather, wash any mud off their feet and legs, and make sure their muffs, crests, and beards are not wet or frozen. 


If your chickens are overfed and don’t get sufficient exercise, they can be prone to obesity. This leads to a range of related health problems, so it’s important to monitor their diet and provide plenty of space for them to move around.

When it comes to overall health, keep a close eye on your flock so you can catch potential problems before they become a serious issue. 

Some practical ways to help keep your chickens healthy and safe include the following:

A Safe Place to Live 

Sultan chickens need a good-sized enclosure or run, as it is difficult for them to maneuver in a small space due to their feathered feet. It must be well-fenced and either high enough or completely enclosed so they can’t fly out. 

Make sure it’s protected from the elements with plenty of shade and can be kept clean and dry during bad weather. 

Coops can be homemade or commercially bought, but either will need to be well-insulated and ventilated. During the winter months you can provide a heat lamp, but ensure it is positioned high enough so the crest is not too close.


Provide a good quality complete feed but be careful that the calcium content isn’t too high as they are not big egg producers. A few insect treats now and then will enrich their diet without causing obesity.


Clean fresh water must be available at all times. It is best not to give them water from an open bowl, as getting their faces wet during the winter months can cause health problems. Consider using a nipple watering system, these are devices designed to give water to chickens with minimal mess.


Their poor egg-laying abilities mean they only produce an average of 50 eggs per year …. that’s around one per week. The eggs are small to medium in size and white in color, although some sultans which have been mixed with other breeds can lay light brown eggs.

Sultan hens take a much longer time to develop and produce eggs than other hens. They start laying at around six months of age, but some don’t start until they are 10 months old.

Where to Buy Sultan Chickens 

Although they are a rare breed, there are many places you can purchase them, including hatcheries, feed stores, and online poultry marketplaces. Some popular hatcheries that offer these delightful little chickens include Meyer Hatchery, Cackle Hatchery, and Murray McMurray Hatchery.

On average, the cost of a sultan chick will be anything from approximately $6 to $8 depending on the age, sex, and variety of the bird, the location of the seller, and the time of year. You will also need to cover shipping and vaccination costs.

If you’re interested in purchasing sultan chickens, it’s recommended you do your research into potential sellers carefully to ensure you’re getting healthy, well-bred specimens from a reputable source.

Look for sellers who prioritize the health and welfare of their birds and are willing to answer your questions and provide information about lineage, health history, and care requirements.

It may also be helpful to connect with other sultan chicken enthusiasts, either through local poultry clubs, online forums, and social media groups. These networks provide valuable resources and information on where to find sultans for sale, as well as tips and advice on raising and caring for these unique and rare birds.


The sultan chicken was developed as a “palace fowl” in the Ottoman Empire. They gained popularity due to their unique appearance and docile temperaments, but the two world wars and heavy predation, drove them to near extinction. 

It was only when they began to attract the interest of show communities and people discovered how tame and friendly they were, making them fantastic pets that their numbers began to increase. 

If you’re looking for a unique, regal bird that chatters softly to its flockmates and loves to be petted, then the sultan is the chicken for you. Not only will they give you hours of pleasure, but you’ll be helping to save this beautiful, rare breed.

Q & A

Q: Are Sultan hens broody?

A:  No, Sultan hens are not known for being broody. In fact, they generally make terrible mothers.

Q: Why do Sultan Chickens pick on other breeds?

A: Sultan chickens are not known for picking on other breeds, quite the opposite. It is because of their unusual looks and docility that other breeds will often start picking on them.

Q: How much space do Sultan Chickens need?

A: Sultan Chickens need a reasonable size space of around one square meter or more per bird, but they should not be kept free-range due to the threat from predators.

Q: Are Sultan Chickens dangerous?

A: No, Sultan Chickens are not dangerous to people or other chickens, only to themselves! This is because they are highly susceptible to predation, frostbite, heat stroke, and bullying from other chicken breeds.

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