Complete Guide To The Polish Chicken Breed
Have you ever entertained the idea of adding a living ornament to your home?
You probably haven’t… I mean, who does that?
However, the Polish chicken is one of the few creatures on this planet that appears to be exactly that.
This ornamental bird is a treasured breed that deserves your attention if you happen to be on a quest for a chicken companion that will add some beauty to your surroundings.
History of the Polish Chicken
To the surprise of many, the Polish chicken breed is not actually Polish, but Dutch. Although some poultry historians maintain that this old breed may indeed trace its origins to an Eastern European country, others claim that the bird was imported to The Netherlands from Spain or Italy sometime around the 15th century.
It is believed that the breed was given its name because its crest resembled the caps worn by Polish soldiers at the time.
Since it was Dutch poultry breeders who developed this bird and its many varieties, credit has been given to them. In fact, the Polish chicken breed became so important to Dutch culture that they feature in many paintings that date as far back as the 15th century. Poultry Yard, a painting by Melchior de Hondecoeter from 1668, is the perfect example – illustrating what seems to be a White Polish chicken next to a White Crested Black.
An age-old poetic description of the breed, on the other hand, refers to the Polish chicken as:
The flower of all poultry and, moreover a Dutch breed, is the Dutch crested.
The cocks and their magnificent crests, elegantly bent backwards
and hanged over aside with small, vertex snow-white feathers; the crest
looks like a Japanese chrysanthemum.
The hens have a pure global crest, like a pumpkin, resembling the Dutch
guelder rose. This white looks bright in combination with
the black, green shining feathers of the body.
Profiling Polish Chickens
But what are the qualities of such a peculiar breed? Find out more about this bird’s physical characteristics, personality, and purpose in the upcoming section.
Apart from their stylish hairdo, though, Polish chickens are characterized by having a relatively short body, medium-length back, and a large and well-spread tail. Their neck is also of medium size and slightly arched in shape.
They are a clean-legged chicken, meaning no feathers grow on their slate-colored shanks. Their wattles are rather small and bright red in color, while their earlobes are also small but white in color. Their beaks come in varying shades of horn or blue, such as bluish-black or slate-blue, and their eyes are normally reddish-bay.
Polish have a V-shaped comb, which is a type of comb that divides itself in two – making it look more like two tiny, wobbly horns on top of their heads (that is, if you manage to find it beneath the tuft)!
Considered a small-sized breed, the weight of a standard Polish hen reaches about 4.5 pounds or 2 kilograms, while a standard rooster reaches 6 pounds or 2.75 kilograms. Polish bantam hens weigh around 1.6 pounds or 740 grams, while Polish bantam roosters weigh around 1.8 pounds or 850 grams.
The Battle of the Sexes
You might be wondering about the differences between hens and roosters when it comes to this particular breed.
Well, the male vs. female Polish chicken situation is somewhat tricky. Before the birds are fully developed, most chicken keepers are unable to tell their Polish hens and roosters apart until the latter ones start to crow – which will usually happen between 4 to 5 months of age.
You can always try sexing Polish chicks when they hatch, by looking at the shape of their crests. However, there are as many people who claim this sexing method works as there are who claim it doesn’t. But it’s always fun to give it a try!
Once the birds have matured, it’s easier to distinguish roosters from hens, since roosters tend to be a bit larger and their crests more pronounced. Hens’ crests are also rounder in shape, while roosters’ appear more disheveled.
If you are searching for a calm and friendly chicken, you’ve come across the perfect breed.
This breed is of a mild nature, making the Polish chicken temperament the perfect match for a family with children. They like being around people and get used to human handling without much fuss.
Something to consider, however, is that they often spook easily at things around them. This is because their fuzzy feathers limit their vision; consequently, they become jumpy when unexpected things happen in their surroundings. Whistling or making noises of some sort as you approach them can help prevent these terror-stricken reactions.
If kept with other breeds, it is possible for them to end up at the bottom of the pecking order. Try to keep an eye on them to make sure they aren’t being tormented, especially if there are any overly-dominant chicken breeds present in the flock.
Polish adapt well to confinement, but if you decide to free-range them, special care must be taken, since their limited vision makes them vulnerable to predators.
Finally, these birds are not exactly celebrated for their motherly traits, because they rarely go broody!
Their imposing looks and unique feathering makes Polish chickens one of the most popular show and ornamental breeds out there. However, this wasn’t always the case for these birds.
Back in the 1800s, for example, the Polish were widely used for egg production in North America. This changed the moment the Leghorn set foot in U.S. territory and took their place as the most prolific layer.
Since then, Polish chickens have evolved to become the royalty of the poultry exhibition world and the remarkable pets we know them as today.
Despite not being the most productive, you may still occasionally stumble upon good layers who will supply you with as many as 200 Polish chicken eggs per year. But, bear in mind that this will always be the catch with this breed: you may or may not come by a good layer.
In other words, if you are looking for a reliable layer, this breed might not be the choice for you!
The Polish chicken egg color is white, and they can vary from medium to large in size.
Varieties of the Polish Chicken Breed
Polish were first recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1874, whereas the British Poultry Standards recognized the breed in 1865.
At present, there are 7 different Polish chicken colors recognized in the United States for large fowl and 6 for bantam. Four of these apply to both bearded and non-bearded types of Polish, while two apply to non-bearded Polish only. In the UK, there are nine recognized varieties that apply to both bearded and non-bearded Polish.
Refer to Storey’s Illustrated Guide to Poultry Breeds for more detailed explanations on each color variety.
Golden Polish Chicken (A.K.A. Golden Laced Polish)
According to the American Poultry Association, female Golden Polish chickens are a greyish-buff color that varies from light to dark. The fore part of the neck and breast has a salmon hue, and the tail is black with grey accents. Their wings are brown and have black highlights over a grey color.
Male Golden Polish chickens have a creamy white color to their heads and hackles, a golden back, and golden wings with black and white accents. Black dominates the fore parts of their necks, breasts, bodies and tails.
The beak for both female and male Golden Polish is dark horn in color, and their shanks and toes are slate blue.
This variety is recognized by the American and British Poultry Associations for both bearded and non-bearded Polish. The British Poultry Standards color specifications, however, differ to the American ones.
Although not its official name, this variety is frequently called Golden Laced Polish or Polish chicken recognized variety bearded Golden.
Silver Polish Chicken
According to the American Poultry Association, female and male Silver Polish chickens are almost entirely covered with laced feathers. Their plumage ranges from silvery grey to silvery white with black lacing. Their beaks are dark horn in color, and their shanks and toes slate blue.
This variety is recognized by the American and British Poultry Associations for both bearded and non-bearded Polish.
Although not its official name, this variety is frequently called Silver Laced Polish or Polish chicken recognized variety non-bearded Silver.
White Polish Chicken
For both female and male White Polish chickens, their plumage should be totally snow-white and range from glossy to matte. Their beak is dark horn in color and their shanks and toes light slate blue.
This variety is recognized by the American and British Poultry Associations for both bearded and non-bearded Polish. In the U.K., however, this color goes by the name of Self White.
White Crested Blue Polish Chicken
For both female and male White Crested Blue Polish chickens, their plumage should be fully blue with the exception of their crest, which is either completely white or white with a few highlights of blue in the front. Their beak is black with bluish tones and their shanks and toes a dark slate blue.
This variety is recognized by the American and British Poultry Associations for non-bearded Polish only.
Black Crested White Polish Chicken
For both female and male Black Crested White Polish chickens, their plumage should be entirely white with the exception of their crest, which is glossy black. The beak is horn in color, and their shanks and toes slate blue.
This variety is recognized by the American Poultry Association for large fowl non-bearded Polish only.
White Crested Black Polish Chicken
For both female and male Black Crested White Polish chickens, their plumage should be totally glossy black with the exception of their crest, which is either all white or white with a few blue highlights in the front. The beak is black with blue hues, and their shanks and toes dark slate blue.
This variety is recognized by the American Poultry Association for bantam non-bearded Polish only, whereas Britain recognizes it for all bearded and non-bearded large fowl and bantams.
Buff Laced Polish Chicken
For both female and male Buff Polish chickens, their plumage should be golden buff with creamy white lacing. Their beaks, shanks, and toes should be slate blue in color.
This variety is recognized by the American and British Poultry Associations for both bearded and non-bearded Polish. The British, however, refer to this Polish chicken recognized variety bearded Buff Laced as Chamois instead.
Didn’t find your perfect Polish chicken recognized variety yet?
No worries, there are other varieties that are still lined up to be recognized – such as the Black-Tailed Red, White Laced Red, and Splash. Or take a look at the British varieties that aren’t recognized in the U.S., such as the Self Black, Self Blue, and White Crested Cuckoo.
Extra Polish Chicken Facts – Read These FAQs Before Adding One to your Flock!
Polish chicken care
When it comes to Polish chickens, special care mostly involves keeping their crests as clean and dry as possible at all times. Keeping the birds in a coop and run will help prevent their crests from getting dirty, but if the crest happens to get soiled it is necessary to wash and dry it.
For information on how to clean a birds’ crest, read the University of Florida’s PDF on Preparing Poultry for Show, which provides instructions under the subsection Washing Your Birds.
If you are unable to wash the crest, you can apply an organic insect repellent to prevent mite infestation – just make sure it doesn’t make contact with their noses or eyes!
You’ll know your birds have a mite issue if there are black dust particles in the base of the crest plumage. Irreversible injury can be caused to the chicken’s eyes and ears if this problem isn’t addressed quickly.
For more information on how to detect if your chooks have a mites, check out this great video from Tractor Supply Company below:
Trimming the feathers around the eyes will not only allow Polish chickens to see better, but will help prevent eye infections, too. Watch Meyer Hatchery’s video, How to Trim a Chicken’s Crest for instructions. Finally, avoid crest pecking by keeping Polish chickens separated from non-crested chicken breeds.
Continue reading about the topic on Countryside Daily’s article, The Polish Chicken: “The Royalty of Poultry”.
Are Polish chickens more vulnerable to predators?
Definitely. Polish chickens are not able to see as well as other breeds due to their wacky crests. Therefore, it is always better to keep them well-protected in a suitable coop and run, and to supervise their outings when allowing them to free-range.
Learn what predators to look out for in our article, Chicken Predators and Pests – How to Protect Your Flock!
Are Polish chickens endangered or threatened?
Polish chickens are currently categorized as a Watch breed in the Conservation Priority List of the Livestock Conservancy. This means that there are less than 2,500 yearly registrations in the U.S. and an approximate global population of less than 10,000.
Can Polish tolerate heat?
Polish were developed in The Netherlands and therefore have a reputation for being cold-hardy. In other words, Polish are more likely to do well in cold climates than hot ones. Nevertheless, this is not a breed that is capable of withstanding extreme cold or hot weather.
What are the different Polish chicken breeds?
Breeds are a group within a species that display similar characteristics that set them apart from other groups within the same species. In this case, the Polish breed of chicken can easily be distinguished from the Blue Andalusian breed, for example, or the Dorking.
Within breeds are varieties, which are subclasses based on the color of their feathers, comb type, and the existence of beards and muffs.
Therefore, there are no Polish chicken breeds. There is just one Polish chicken breed that’s composed of several varieties such as the Silver, Golden, and White Crested Black.
Polish vs. Similar Chicken Breeds
We’ve rounded up some of poultry’s royalty to show alternatives to the Polish chicken, without forgetting about the importance of looks! The Houdan, Sultan, and Silkie all make for elegant options.
Another curious-looking farm fowl breed (that’s actually related to the Polish), the Houdan is a large, French, dual purpose breed. The fact it is a dual purpose bird is perhaps the greatest advantage it has over the Polish.
These birds are known to have a gentle and easy-going personality, and make great backyard chickens due to their ability to handle confinement well. Like the Polish, Houdan aren’t exactly a broody type of hen!
Houdan are best raised in moderate to hot climates and are said to perform best under dry and warm conditions. When cared for properly, you can expect a Houdan to lay a total of 100 white eggs per year.
Recognized varieties include the White and Mottled.
A precious oddity! The Sultan is a Turkish, ornamental small breed. Rumor has it that they used to be the wandering adornments of sultans at the time of the Ottoman Empire – hence the name.
These feathered-footed rare birds are known to be calm and docile and tend to bear confinement well. They are also known to damage gardens and vegetation substantially less when compared to other breeds, presenting an advantage over the Polish in this sense. Sultans are best raised in moderate to hot climates and can lay around 150 small white eggs per year.
Only the White variety of Sultan has been recognized at this point in time.
An adorable… chicken? Yes… the Silkie is a chicken, despite merchants once selling them as a bunny-bird cross! These birds are known to be some of the friendliest you’ll ever find, and their tolerance to confinement makes them a suitable option for the urban chicken keeper.
These peculiar chickens are best raised in moderate climates, and – although they aren’t exactly the most outstanding layers – you can expect around 150 small eggs per year.
Unlike the Polish, these cute birds are famous for their motherly qualities, making for great egg sitters and adoptive mothers of chicks that aren’t their own.
Recognized varieties include the Partridge, Gray, and Blue.
Learn more about this breed in our guide to the Silkie chicken!
Verdict – A Polished Poultry Prodigy
So, do you think this distinguished chicken breed is right for you? Bear in mind that Polish are most likely to be a suitable choice if you:
- Have young children
- Live somewhere with a moderate climate
- Are able to provide a full predator-proof coop and run
- Will not be introducing the birds to overly-dominant or non-crested breeds
- Have time to provide these birds with the care they need
Let us know all about your Polish chicken questions and opinions in the comments section below, and remember to pass this article along to your fowl-aficionado friends!