While it may be either the prettiest or the strangest looking chicken you’ve ever seen, the Polish chicken is certainly one bird to behold!
Over the years, their fancy head feathers and friendly personalities have earned them their keep in the urban coop.
If you’re thinking of introducing the Polish chicken to your coop, you’ll need to know if they have the right temperament, whether they’re good egg layers, and if they require any special care!
The following guide is going to tell you everything you need to know about these incredibly unique and peculiar birds.
The History of Polish Chickens
There is definitely some uncertainty surrounding the exact origins of Polish chickens; however, we know that this breed originated in Europe. They are a European breed, but surprisingly, they did not come from Poland!
Interestingly, its name comes from the similarity between its head feathers and the crested feathered caps worn by the Polish soldiers from the 17th to 19th century.
There exists an interesting tale about how the Polish chicken breed came to France.
It is said that the Polish King came under attack in 1736 and upon his unseating, he fled with his valuables – including his Polish chickens! Thereafter, the Polish chickens entered France and became fan favorites amongst the French aristocracy.
While the tale about the Polish king and his crested chickens might be a little far-fetched, what we know about the origin of Polish chickens is that they were bred in Spain and transported to the Netherlands.
During the 15th century, Polish chickens were depicted in pastoral paintings, and by the 16th century declared a pure breed of poultry by the Dutch.
Becoming the Polish Chicken of Today
During the 18th century, Dutch fanciers refined the colors and head crest of the Polish chicken breed. It was also thought that these birds got their name “Polish” from a traditional Dutch word ‘pol’ which means large head. Polish chickens are also known as top hats for obvious reasons!
The Polish really made their mark as production chickens in France. As a result, their growing popularity led to their transport to England in the 1700s, and then to America between 1830 and 1840. By 1850, these chickens were an integral part of the growing egg production industry.
Despite the Polish chicken making its contribution to egg laying, the White Leghorn soon surpassed it. Fanciers who appreciated the exotic and unusual appearance of these chickens referred to them as an ornamental breed.
American Poultry Association Acceptance and Standards
In the 1870s, the American Poultry association accepted the Polish breed. Both standard chickens and bantams were recognized, and today they are commonly referred to as a continental breed. The different colors of this breed were standardized between the 1870s and 1930s.
The Appearance of Polish Chickens
Polish chickens are beautifully crested and available in different colors, but what is most remarkable is the difference between the hen and the rooster.
The Polish hens have the perfect permed hairdo! Her head feathers are precisely round like a pom pom! But, the Polish roosters are the rockstars of the breed with wild feathery heads that are unique and impressive.
Both hens and roosters have feathered heads that can become quite dense and overgrown, and this obscures their vision. If you give them a little trim it can help improve their range of vision, but for show birds, trims are less favorable among fanciers.
What Does a Polish Chicken Look Like?
An unmistakable feature of the Polish chicken is their feathered crest, connected to a bony head prominence, a unique trait only found in this breed. The beautiful feathers on their head create a cascading effect over the eyes, which can make it hard for them to spot predators.
These chickens can be bearded, meaning their plumage includes feathers around the face and beak, or non-bearded with a clean face. The legs are gray without any feathers and they have four toes on each foot. They have white skin and a slim body that is medium-sized.
Polish roosters have a small v shaped comb which is common on crested breeds, but you’ll rarely see it because of all the feathers on their face! They have a red, v shaped comb type with white earlobes and red wattles.
Polish chickens are standard birds that are medium in size. They have long bodies that are similar to Leghorns and tend to walk with an upright stance.
A full size Polish rooster can weigh up to 6 lbs compared to hens that weigh around 4-5 lbs.
They also come in bantam size. Polish bantams only reach 1.8 lbs in weight.
The Polish Frizzle Variety
If you want an even more unusual-looking bird than the traditional Polish, then consider frizzle chickens. The frizzle is a variety that has outward curling feathers giving these birds an instant perm!
FUN FACTThe frizzle feather is a genetic trait that results from the brittleness and breakage of the feathers, causing them to curl upwards and outwards.
Polish Breed Color Varieties
The Polish chicken is available in a stunning mix of colors, from the buff laced to the silver laced variety. The combination of their beautiful colors and patterns with their showy head feathers instantly creates an exotic appearance, one widely adored by chicken owners.
Today the APA lists the following feather colors:
- Non-bearded white crested black, white, golden, and silver.
- Bearded golden laced, white, silver, and buff laced.
- Non-bearded buff laced.
- Non-bearded white crested blue.
Another interesting color that made its way into the hearts of select breeders in the 20th century is the Tolbunt. It’s a pattern of black, brown, and white giving the bird a mottled appearance. Unfortunately, this striking color is not currently accepted by the APA.
An astonishing bird is the Blue Polish chicken, with a white crest, black beak, and slate blue skin. It is recognized by both the British and American Poultry Association for the non bearded variety only.
NOTEThe Polish breed colors in demand among backyard chicken keepers include the bearded buff, the non bearded silver, the blue, and the non bearded golden laced variety.
How to Tell the Sex of the Polish Chicken?
Polish chickens are easy to sex, as everything you need to look for is in their head crest. Roosters have pointy and flat head feathers while the hens have rounded feathers on top of their head.
In Polish chicks, thicker legs indicate a rooster while thinner legs belong to females. Hens also tend to develop feathers much faster than males.
Here’s a video on how to determine the sex of Polish chickens.
How Is Their Egg Laying Ability?
The egg production of Polish chickens will vary based on the heritage of the bird. If you are looking for a good-looking chicken that lays quite a large number of eggs per week, it may be better to consider other breeds.
Polish typically lay 150 to 200 eggs per year, so you can expect around 3 to 4 eggs every week.
When Does Egg Production Begin?
Polish hens will start laying eggs at around 20 weeks or 6 months of age. Their egg laying season starts in the spring, so if you have a hen who turns 6 months in winter she will only start laying eggs by the next season, in the springtime.
What Do Polish Chicken Eggs Look Like?
If you’re curious about their egg color, Polish lay white eggs that are medium-sized. To encourage egg production and beautiful white eggs with solid shells, be sure to provide hens with high quality feed and a comfortable nest box.
Are Polish Hens Broody?
They are not a broody breed of chicken; however, you never know when you might come across the odd hen who just won’t leave the nest!
This breed is rarely broody but if you do find yourself with a broody hen, you can place an ice pack in the nest to discourage her broodiness.
Is the Polish a Good Meat Bird?
Polish chickens do not make for great table fare, mainly because they are very slim and lack muscle and fat that would make them reasonable choices as meat birds.
The Polish Chicken Temperament
Each chicken might have their own distinct personalities. But these chickens are generally friendly and the least likely to start a squabble in the coop. The Polish is a wonderful pet and ornamental breed with a gentle disposition. But unfortunately for them, their docile nature makes them more susceptible to being bullied by assertive breeds and they tend to be at the bottom of the pecking order.
If you have a mixed flock with more aggressive breeds, you can incorporate some accessories or features inside the coop to help your Polish escape the stronger chickens.
TIPA chicken swing is a simple way to encourage safe perching away from bolder chickens while keeping your birds stimulated.
Because of their calmness, they are also kid friendly so they don’t mind being picked up and cuddled, especially the Polish hen.
Just remember that their head feathers obscure their vision making them easily startled or flighty compared to other breeds. You can prevent a flighty Polish by calling them or speaking to them as you approach so they are aware of your presence.
Polish Chickens and Confinement
Polish chickens certainly make for rewarding chicken keeping, but the real question is whether they deal with confinement well and can be kept in your urban backyard?
Owing to the small size and the generally calm nature of Polish chickens, they do quite well in confinement. Because their head feathers make it harder for them to spot sky or land predators, a secure space where they feel safe can also make them feel much less flighty.
Be aware of adding the Polish to a mixed flock because of their crested head feathers. Other chicken breeds like to peck at these feathers but could eventually draw blood and cause serious injury.
NOTEThe Polish hens and roosters are also less likely to stand up for themselves because of their delicate temperament, so look out for signs of pecking and bullying.
Is This Chicken Breed Heat and Cold Hardy?
While Polish chickens appear fluffy and ready to take on wind and snow, they are generally not cold hardy birds. In frost-prone areas, you must place a heat lamp in the birds’ well-insulated coop or use a chicken heater like the ones in this review to keep them warm. They are considered heat tolerant provided they have access to shade, water, and ventilated coops.
The beautiful feathery crest on the head of the Polish is a sight to behold, but frozen feathers can increase the risk of frostbite around their face. If you do find frozen feathers on their heads, dip them in warm water and gently towel dry the area.
Is the Polish a Noisy Breed?
As a backyard keeper, do you want to know whether Polish chickens are noisy? After all, it’s your neighbors who’d be bearing the brunt!
These hat chickens are considered chattery, especially the hens. But, the roosters can be aggressive and screech at all hours of the day. They are not generally noisy, but it all depends on the individual bird.
Coop Requirements for Polish Chickens
Polish chickens require a minimum of four square feet of space per bird inside the coop. These chickens are often at the bottom of the pecking order, they should be provided a spacious enclosure where they can easily retreat from boisterous or aggressive birds.
Polish chickens can do well inside the coop, but it is always a good idea to give them time to forage and free range. To make them feel more secure while rummaging through the garden, you can build a chicken run!
NOTEBe sure to make it predator-proof so they don’t succumb to scavengers – they get targeted because of their large head feathering and obscured eyesight.
Nest Boxes for Hens
The nest box for Polish hens should be at least 12 inches wide to provide enough space for them to move around in. You should have at least 3 nest boxes for one hen, but always keep an eye out for broody and bully chickens.
Breed Health and Longevity
Polish chickens are generally healthy birds; however, their dense head feathers make them prone to lice and mite infestations.
Grooming and Feeding
While other breeds require little fuss, you’ll have to invest in some chicken grooming to keep your Polish looking neat and clean.
If you’re not aiming to make them show birds. Trimming feathers around their head and face is always a good idea, because it helps the bird see better. It will also help you spot any parasites before they cause illness in your flock!
Polish chickens are not fussy when it comes to food, but it is always best to give them quality feed that is high in protein. The protein helps them with healthy feather development – they have so many extra feathers on their heads, choosing a nutritious diet is a must!
Consider natural and protein-rich alternatives such as mealworms and black soldier fly larvae. The soldier fly larvae contain fat, minerals, and vitamins and can be introduced as part of their regular feed or as a healthy treat.
What is the Lifespan of Polish Chickens?
These chickens can live between 7 and 8 years of age.
How to Raise Polish Chicks?
If you’re thinking about raising young Polish chicks, most keepers have had success by incubating the eggs rather than relying on the hen, because they’re rarely broody.
Hatchlings should also be isolated from other chicks and monitored because of the delicate, bony prominence on top of their heads.
FACTThe bony prominence of a Polish chick does not fully form until after they hatch, so they’ll emerge with a soft, vulnerable spot on the top of the head where it will eventually form.
It is better not to release young chicks with aggressive birds that may peck at their heads, potentially causing injury or worse. If you need more info about raising chicks, this review of chicken starter kits can help.
Polish chickens are eccentric yet friendly, quirky looking yet beautiful, and have become an adored breed across the world.
Gentle and Friendly
They may appear to have a bad hair day sometimes, but these chickens have a gentle nature and are often enjoyed by children. They’ll definitely want to give their pet chickens the odd cuddle and gentle hug!
This breed also comes in a variety of colors, including the popular Tolbunt and bearded buff laced. The blue non bearded, white crested and laced Polish chicken is the only one to be recognized by both the British and American Poultry Associations.
For healthy chicks and adult birds, it is super important to find the right breeder. At Cackle Hatchery, you can find various colors such as the rare splash, both bearded and non bearded types. You can also check out this list of the best chicken hatcheries if you need more hatchery options.
Feel Free To Share
If you are considering this breed or you already have beloved Polish chickens in your coop, feel free to share this article with your friends, family, and any other poultry enthusiasts you know! This breed is certainly a fun and loveable breed to add to the coop.
(1) “Buff Laced Polish Chicken” by Just chaos is marked with CC BY 2.0
(2) “Polish Chickens” by Just chaos is marked with CC BY 2.0
(3) “Cape Town Day 8 087 White-Crested Black Polish Chicken” by Karmor is marked with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0