Most domestic breeds of chickens, even the older heritage ones, were typically bred for a purpose. Some were bred for meat, some were bred for their egg-laying capability. Some, sadly, were bred for fighting.
But those purposes change over time, and chickens that were once raised only for utility might be kept around simply because they are so beautiful, or unique.
The Polish is one such chicken. Originally kept for eggs, today they exist pretty much only because they are so outrageously interesting thanks to an immense crown of feathers on their heads.
They are fancy, that’s for sure, but that magnificent crest comes with a few drawbacks. I’ll tell you all about these fabulous and friendly birds below…
Polish Quick Facts
- Purpose: Exhibition, also capable egg layers.
- Plumage: Many, with and without beards: White, black, silver, golden, buff and most also come in laced varieties that may or may not have beards!
- Eggs Laid Year on Average: 180 to 200.
- Egg Color: White.
- Broodiness: Low.
- Average Weight: 6 lb, roosters. 4 ½ pounds, hens.
- Average Height: 12 to 15 inches.
- Lifespan: 4 to 7 years.
- Temperament: Nervous and flighty, but generally friendly to people and content to be held. Cowardly and will rarely protect themselves from other chickens.
What Color and Pattern are Polish Chickens?
Polish chickens come in a dizzying variety of colors and patterns, and this is further complicated by the fact that they can have beards too!
You can get Polish chickens in bearded or non-bearded silver, buff, white, black, and many more, and this is further compounded by the fact that most color morphs are also available laced!
If you’re willing to put in the time and the money, it is possible to find a Polish chicken that looks exactly how want it!
How Big are Polishes?
Polish chickens are on the small side of the medium category. They will only rarely if ever grow to be 1 ½ feet (45 centimeters) tall, and that’s the roosters. Hens are even smaller.
Polish chickens top out at around 6 pounds (2.7 kgs), but it is common to find some as little as 4 ½ pounds (2 kgs).
Their small size and nervous temperament has made them the “lap dogs” of the chicken world, and many are completely content to be held by their humans.
But, they also don’t take up much room and are generally tolerant of confinement, so if you need a breed that is good in small spaces, a Polish isn’t a bad choice.
Polish Chicken Essential Characteristics
One of the most distinctive and instantly recognizable chickens out there, the history of the Polish breed is actually highly convoluted with many unknowns. Or at least, many more than the name would suggest!
We don’t even know exactly if they actually come from Poland, though we do know they originate from somewhere in Europe.
Theories abound: Some believe they were originally brought to France along with the possessions of a deposed Polish king.
Other folks assert that these chickens were actually created elsewhere from Spanish and other European stock, and don’t actually come from Poland at all.
Even the original purpose of these chickens is up for debate, with some historians asserting that they were originally developed for egg production or they had special qualities that made their meat a delicacy.
Still, others claim that these chickens were always a luxury bird developed for aesthetics alone.
Frankly, we will probably never know exactly, and this is one of the oldest heritage breeds around, and we do have evidence of them being in Europe and discussed as far back as the 1700s.
But assuming you can get over these mysteries or just don’t care about them, today the Polish is a beloved ornamental breed that has a sweet, if timid and nervous, personality.
Their gorgeous good looks are reason enough for many owners to invest in them, but they also happen to be surprisingly good layers with a very low tendency to go broody.
The eggs they lay are small but of good quality, and combine with their other attributes this might make them just right for people who want to keep them confined or have very little room to work with.
What are Polishes Chickens Raised For?
Today, the Polish chicken is an exhibition breed, or occasionally kept as a pet or companion animal.
The actual historical use of the breed is hotly debated even today, but they were suspected to have been larger, more prolific layers in the distant past.
However, countless generations of selective breeding with chickens being chosen for looks and that magnificent crest alone has produced a small chicken that has trouble remaining aware of its surroundings, and it is ill-suited for most utility purposes except the production of small eggs.
Are Polish Chickens Good Layers?
Yes. The Polish is a surprisingly good layer, and they can be expected to lay between 180 and 200 small eggs every year.
Hens only rarely go broody, and they aren’t great moms, so this isn’t a chicken to choose if you want to naturally expand your flock, but they will produce eggs continually with rare exceptions.
The eggs are small compared to most of the grocery store eggs you would typically buy so do keep that in mind.
If this isn’t a problem, there is no reason why a couple of Polishes can’t keep you in eggs for most of the year.
What Color Eggs Do Polishes Typically Lay?
Polish chickens lay bright white eggs.
When Do Polishes Start Laying?
Polish chickens start laying pretty early on compared to most heritage breeds, at around 5 months of age. Occasionally, they might start laying around month 6.
What Do Polish Chickens Eat?
Polish chickens eat what every other domestic chicken eats, and for best health and nutrition they should have a diet that revolves around a well-rounded chicken feed. This should make up about 85-90% of their total calorie intake.
The remainder of their food can be whole and natural foods, including bits of plants that they are allowed to forage on including flowers, seeds, leaves, grass, nuts and so forth along with the usual bugs, slugs, worms and other creepy crawlies.
You’ll also want to complete the diet of your Polishes with grit, which they need to help them digest their food, and potentially with other vitamin and mineral supplements to ensure they get all the resources they need to stay healthy.
But, one thing to keep in mind is that Polishes aren’t particularly good foragers, or hunters, for that matter.
They are quite nervous, easily startled, flighty, and those beautiful crests restrict their vision significantly.
The result is a chicken that is long departed from the hunting and forging prowess of its wild jungle fowl ancestor.
If you want to be sure that your Polishes are getting everything they need in their diet, you need to plan on providing it for them, whether or not it is naturally sourced.
How Long Do Polish Chickens Typically Live?
Polish chickens aren’t particularly long-lived for a small breed. Most of them live to be about 5 years old, though some die as young as 4 years old and others can live to be as old as 7 or so.
It doesn’t seem quite fair, especially compared to the long lifespans enjoyed by some much larger breeds, but that’s the way it is.
As much as you might love your precious Polish, it is not a relationship that’s made to last a lifetime.
Are Polishes Prone to Particular Health Problems?
Polish chickens are unfortunately prone to several significant health issues, though these are not the typical worries of genetic diseases or problems with organs that you might expect with some other breeds…
Sadly, most of these problems revolve around the primary reason that most people get them: that huge, splendid crest!
First and foremost, in most chickens and lines this crest can get so enormous and so lanky that it effectively restricts the birds’ vision.
Most can see in about a 300° arc around them, and can quickly see behind them by just slightly turning their head.
This isn’t the case for a Polish once those crest feathers come in and get long: They can only see just in front of them and to the ground right below them.
This, as one would expect, has cultivated a highly nervous personality in an animal that is typically prey for just about everything else that lives!
These chickens tend to stay anxious and stressed, and any sudden sounds or sudden, rapid movement will probably send them skittering or flying away.
Some even suspect that this nervous disposition is partially responsible for their short life spans!
More directly, this restricted field of view gives ground-bound and aerial predators a huge advantage if they set their sights on your poor Polish. Your chickens might, very literally, never see it coming!
Early warning and quick reactions are the only defenses most chickens have to protect themselves, and the rest of the flock, from getting picked off.
What’s more, if the crest gets wet or muddy, it can fold over and stick to the chicken’s face, totally blinding them and eventually leading to tissue death.
This is a major cause for concern, obviously, and you must put in extra care to ensure the feathers stay trimmed, clean, and dry if you want to keep them out of your chicken’s eyes.
Lastly, concerning the crest, these fluffy feathers are a picture-perfect hiding place for mites, fleas and other bloodsucking critters that can make the life of your chickens a living hell.
You know what to do: stay on top of inspections, and check beneath the feathers carefully for any signs of injury or infestation.
And there’s one more thing: the Polish chicken, compared to many other breeds, has a distinctly dome-shaped skull.
Their skull is also slow to knit together and harden after the chicks are born, and that means they are vulnerable to direct injury until they mature significantly.
Special care must be taken when handling Polish chicks, and you must protect them from other birds which might deliberately, or accidentally, peck them or kick them in the head.
Are Polish Chickens Friendly?
Yes, Polish chickens tend to be quite friendly and docile to the point of timidity.
As mentioned above, these poor chickens are quite nervous since the crests on their heads greatly restrict their vision, and assuming they’re comfortable with you or another person, they are generally happy to be held and feel protected and safe.
This generally agreeable nature has made them darlings to some chicken keepers as pets and companions, but you must keep in mind that they tend to be quite nervous and are very easy to startle.
You must not assume that your chickens will hear you coming, so if you don’t want to scare them make sure that you whistle or call to them if they aren’t facing you directly.
Do Polishes Get Along with Other Chickens?
Polishes get along fine with other chickens because they never start trouble. These anxious birds are content to mind their own business, but they are also highly vulnerable and sensitive to bullying.
You might say they are perpetually near the bottom of the pecking order!
For this reason, it is critical you keep an eye on them if they are in a mixed flock, whether or not you are adding chickens to your flock of Polishes or adding a few Polishes to an existing flock of other birds.
Something else to keep in mind is that those long feathers on their head are frequent targets for antagonists to tear out.
This can lead to bleeding, which can cause further eye problems, and physical trauma which can become infected.
If you are going to add a Polish to an existing flock of chickens, you should only do so if all of the birds are sweet and nice to each other, and definitely don’t let your Polishes fall under the attention of an aggressive rooster.
What Kind of Chicken Owner are Polishes Right For?
The Polish is a particular chicken for a particular kind of keeper. The most obvious choice is a person who loves and admires these ancient birds as they are, and either wants to keep them for ornamental or pet purposes, or show them on the exhibition circuit.
Their quirky personality, stunning good looks, and of course, that amazing crest will never fail to draw attention.
Polishes are also a decent choice for people who want a good amount of smaller eggs, and don’t want to worry over their hen going broody except very rarely.
However, the list of people that Polishes are not good for is far longer, sadly: people who want calm, stoic chickens that can take care of themselves will not be happy with a Polish.
Similarly, those who desire a low-maintenance chicken are probably going to find a lot to resent when it comes time to take care of that immense and quickly growing crest.
Speaking of, people who are determined to let their birds free-range will expose Polishes to needless stress and predation.
As mentioned above, most predators will have a very easy time picking off a Polish since they will be unlikely to see them coming, especially in the case of birds of prey that can approach virtually unheard.
Something else to keep in mind is that a frightened Polish is likely to flee and get away- they spook easily and fly quite well themselves!
Polishes are also poor utility bird, not known for high-quality meat and producing only small eggs.
The chickens themselves are somewhat poor mothers, and not a good choice for raising their own, or other chickens’ chicks naturally.
Lastly, even if you just want a Polish for a pet you should probably think twice: these chickens, as beautiful and unique as they are, typically don’t live anywhere near as long as other breeds, and that means you might be setting yourself up for heartache after you bond with your special boy or girl.
Polish chickens are somewhat rare, and have been endangered in the past. Although, thanks to the efforts of conservationists and enthusiast breeders the population is far more plentiful and stable than it has been in a long time.
No. you’ll have to wait for your chicks to develop a little bit to tell the boys from girls.
Tim is a farm boy with vast experience on homesteads, and with survival and prepping. He lives a self-reliant lifestyle along with his aging mother in a quiet and very conservative little town in Ohio. He teaches folks about security, prepping and self-sufficiency not just through his witty writing, but also in person.
Find out more about Tim and the rest of the crew here.