Meet the Polish Chicken! They are some of the most comical looking birds that will ever grace your flock. Strutting about with the wackiest crowns on their head and confusedly peeking about at their surroundings, they are an amusing chicken breed and watching them will certainly never grow old for me.
These birds are often raised by poultry fanciers looking for a good show bird, but they have other positive attributes that just might be a perfect fit for your flock.
About the Polish Chicken
The ancestry and original lineage of the Polish have always been a bit cloudy. Many people believe their original lines were brought to Europe during medieval times by the Asian Mongols. It’s all a little unclear and just about everything you hear about the breed and their origination will be mostly speculation.
As of 1874, three varieties of Polish were accepted into the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection. Other varieties have been accepted in the years since then.
There are several different varieties of Polish, some of them bearded and some of them non-bearded. Some of them are even frizzled! A ‘frizzle' chicken is a chicken with feathers turning all this way and that instead of lying flat on their whole body. The different color varieties of Polish that have been accepted into the standard of perfection are white crested black, black crested white, white, buff laced, golden laced and silver laced.
So many beautiful colors! It kind of makes you want to get one of each, doesn’t it?
1. Size and weight
Polish chickens are rather small birds, with standard adults weighing in at about 4.5 to 5 pounds for females and 6 to 6.6 pounds for males. Not a bird for meat production. Their eggs are also a bit smaller than ideal, but still a decent size. However, these small birds are great for children starting out handling birds.
Polish birds have very calm and docile temperaments. They love to be snuggled and petted. Since they have a giant mop of feathers on their head, they often have a hard time seeing when something approaches them. If a person were to sneak up behind them and catch them, they might get a bit startled initially. To prevent this, quietly talk to them as you approach them, so they aren’t entirely caught off guard.
Polish hens will very rarely go broody. I’ve personally never witnessed one in my flock.
Polish roosters are calm and protective, but very rarely show aggression to humans.
3. Polish Production
There are several strains of the Polish Chicken, some more reliable for egg production than others. However, if you are solely looking for a breed for eggs, I suggest looking into some alternative breeds. Some strains will lay up to 200 eggs per year, but most of them will be about 140-160 eggs per year. When your hens are feeling productive, you can expect a beautiful, small white egg in the nesting box.
Caring for your Polish
1. Feeding and nutritional needs
Your Polish Chicken should not require much special care as far as nutrition and feeding goes. You can find nutritionally complete laying feed at just about any feed store. Make sure to supplement extra protein in the fall when molting occurs. A molt is a process almost all birds over a year old go through in the fall to get a fresh new coat of feathers to prepare for the impending winter.
Often in the winter, the feathers on their heads will get wet from the waterers as they are drinking, and they end up with icicles hanging from their heads. That’s certainly not pleasant! Try to make sure your birds are drinking out of proper drinkers and not tubs that they can get too wet in. Situations like this can also lead to frostbite.
2. Housing Polish
Since the Polish is a rather small breed, they do not need quite as much space in the coop and run as some other breeds do. However, they also need space to get away from bigger birds in the event of flock tension, so make sure they have plenty of space to do that.
Polish Chickens are not especially cold hardy, so if you live in a cold climate, these birds may not be for you. At any rate, ensure the house they go into at night is a warm one free of drafts to prevent frostbite.
The Polish Chicken tend to thrive more in enclosed areas with adequate predator protection. Their vision is rather impaired due to the feathers on their head, so they have a hard time sensing danger in time to escape from it. Aerial predators such as hawks are especially dangerous for these little chickens.
The few Polish I have allowed to freerange often wander too far away and never return because they do not have a good sense of direction. They manage to get lost and eaten far too easily.
3. Health Issues and Care
Polish chickens do not suffer from too many health issues, but you do need to be aware of one problem Polish occasionaly could suffer from in a mixed breed flock.
Often their head feathers will get plucked at and pulled out. After all, those feathers are a bit conspicuous, aren’t they? When this does happen, they will need some time in a crate alone for a few days. I have Blue Kote which is a helpful product when treating head wounds for Polish.
Keep an eye out for chicks being bullyied when they are very small. Their heads are very sensitive and one peck just a bit too hard can seriously injure or kill them.
4. Grooming Polish
You might occasionally need to schedule a spa day for your little mop-headed crew. It’s rather beneficial to trim away the feathers around their eyes to improve their visibility. Some people prefer to use hair ties to keep the feathers out of their faces. I have found this method to be a bit difficult to implant because they like to scratch them out. I suggest trimming the feathers a bit every few months.
If you are planning to show your bird anytime in the future, do not trim the feathers. You want your bird in their best looking condition for the judges.
5. Breeding Polish
I have bred several Polish in the past, and let me tell you; they are a joy to raise! Few things beat the cuteness factor of a chick popping out of the egg with a mini afro on their head.
When managing your breeding pen for Polish Chickens, make sure your roosters are gentle on the hens. During mating, some of the favorite hens may lose some head feathers. If one hen, in particular, is getting a bit too much attention, remove her for a few days to let her recover. Her eggs will remain fertile for several days after removing her from the pen with the rooster so you can continue to collect hatching eggs while she’s resting.
Alternative Breeds to Polish Chickens
If the Polish sounds a bit too high-maintenance for you, here are a few birds with similar traits and appearances that might appeal to you a bit more.
Sultan chickens are a charming breed of chicken that originated in Turkey. Sultans still have a sizable head of feathers, and in addition to that, they’ve got feathered legs and feet! This breed is very similar to Polish in many ways. They are a small breed with slightly less than average egg production. Sultans are recognized by the American Poultry Association in three colors; white, black, and blue.
Despite the fact they lack the headdress that the Polish Chicken possess, Wyandottes make a decent alternative to Polish in color varieties. Wyandottes have several different color varieties; black, blue, buff, Columbian, golden laced, partridge, silver laced and silver penciled.
These birds are larger birds with increased cold tolerance, increased egg production and a higher chance of going broody. For those interested in the many beautiful colors Polish come in without some of their characteristics, Wyandottes make a nice alternative.
If you like the look of the set of head feathers but think it might be a bit much, a smaller crested breed might be right up your alley. Legbars sport a tiny crest that enhances their character without impairing their vision. These birds are still somewhat small birds, with slightly jumpier attitudes. Legbars come in cream, white and opal color varieties. As a plus, this breed lays blue eggs!
Did You Know?
This breed is currently listed on the “Watch Status” of the American Livestock Conservancy. That means the number of Polish Chickens around is getting a little bit low and is being monitored closely.
Wouldn’t it be a shame if these delightful birds were to become endangered? I sure do love having them around, and I think you will too! They add quite the comedian element to the chicken run and give a lovely pop of character.