There are many chicken breeds used for ornamentation purposes, such as the Cochin, Silkie, Araucana, Brahma, Houdan, and Sussex, to name a few. These are all beautiful birds, with rich colorful plumage.
But all of them pale compared to the magnificence of the Polish Chicken, with their unique crested plumage around the head, and stunning color combinations.
Polish chickens are pretty good egg layers.
Couple that with a gentle disposition, and you have a real winner. Just about anyone can successfully raise Polish Chickens.
Polish Chickens are gentle, calm, non-aggressive, and not demanding.
Polish Chicken Breeds
Polish chicken breeds are acceptable in both Standard and Bantam sizes.
There are several colors that are considered ‘thoroughbred‘, such as:
- Bearded Buff Laced
- Bearded Golden
- Bearded SIlver
- Bearded Black Crested
- Non Bearded Black Crested
- Non Bearded Buff Laced
- Non Bearded Golden
- Non Bearded White
- Non Bearded SIlver
- Non Bearded Golden
- Non Bearded White
- Non Bearded White Crested
The Polish Chicken breed offers good looks (and some on the unusual side), a gentle demeanor, sustainability, and great pride and enjoyment.
Yes, they are a bit quirky, but they more than make up for it with their charm.
If you have never seen a flock of Polish Chickens, you have really missed something. Of all the other Heritage Chicken breeds, I regard the Polish Chicken as the Cadillac of all poultry (Rolls Royce, if you live across the Pond…).
Anyone can afford to keep a small flock of these beautiful birds.
Polish Chicken Biology
Polish Chickens are Gallinaceous, meaning they are ground-dwelling birds that only fly to escape danger or reach perches.
They belong to the order Galliformes, which includes all chickens, turkeys, pheasants, grouse, quail, Guinea Fowl, and partridges. Their proper name is Gallus gallus domesticus.
They share all the same biological aspects as other chickens.
Polish Chicken Egg Production
Males are called Roosters, females are Hens, and newly-hatched developing birds are called Chicks. Hens will lay eggs whether fertilized or not. On average, a good chicken will give you 2-4 eggs every week for most of the year.
Outside influences can have severe adverse effects on their egg production. The addition of steroids and hormones in their food can greatly increase their egg production, but it severely reduces the nutritional quality of the eggs.
Fertilized eggs hatch in 20-24 days. Most chickens average around 5 lbs when grown. From egg to grown chicken averages around 18 weeks, barring outside influences such as growth hormones.
Body Temperature, Hearth Rate, Respiration
Polish Chickens maintain an internal body temperature of 103ͦF, and have an average respiration rate of 12-30 breaths per minute, depending on what they are doing. They have a 4-chambered heart that beats around 350 beats per minute, or around 6 times per second. Because of this high metabolism, they have to eat several times their body weight daily just to stay alive.
By comparison, a 180 lb. human only needs to eat around 4 or 5 lbs of food per day, depending on the caloric values. Their lungs do not expand and contract as much as other animals, so when handling them, it is important to not hold too tightly, so the breastbone moves freely. Otherwise, the chicken can suffocate quickly. Their average lifespan is around 6 years.
Since Polish Chickens, as most other birds, have a beak with rigid nostrils directly on top, they have to be careful in the rain because water can go into the nostrils and drown them. They cannot close their nostrils.
Chickens have a small brain, but are very intelligent, just the same. They have good memory and reasoning skills. They also have excellent eyesight and color vision. Polish Chickens, in particular, are easily trained, and can do tricks.
Chickens have 2 ovaries and ovary ducts, but as a rule, only the left one fully develops and is functional. Occasionally, you will get a right-handed hen, but it makes no difference as to their laying ability.
Polish Chicken Behavior
All polish chickens have a very strict social, or “pecking” order.
Every bird has to establish its dominance. The dominant birds will pluck feathers and steal food from more submissive birds. Flocks of more than 15 or 20 birds can lead to excessive fighting, with adverse results on eggs, and bird appearance.
Submissive birds will run, and segregate themselves from aggressive ones when possible. Aggressive breeds should not be kept in the same place as gentle ones, such as Polish Chickens.
Roosters have to be kept separate from each other, or they may fight to the death.
Why Keep Polish Chickens?
Keeping any chickens does involve a little time and work. Is it worth it for the eggs? You’d have to decide for yourself. Fresh eggs do taste a lot better, and are better quality than the ones from the store, and your chickens will never be mistreated, like they do at poultry farms. And eggs are sustainable.
Here is why I love Polish Chickens:
- They are a little smarter than normal chickens
- Polish chickens have a docile personality, and actually like to be held and cuddled
- They are good egg producers
- They keep the yard aerated by scratching, and bug-free because they like insect snacks from the ground
- They provide fertilizer
- They compost kitchen scraps happily
- they are just plain cool and beautiful. I can watch them for hours as they mill around and interact with each other.
Are Polish Chicken intelligent?
Earlier, I said Polish Chickens were smarter than other breeds. This is because they have a forward sloping skull to provide anchor points for their head feathers. This gives them a slightly larger brain. They have outstanding cognitive abilities compared to other birds, and can recognize individual people, dogs, and what-not, even after months of not seeing them.
They are easy to keep, and are not picky about food. They are somewhat disease-resistant, and do well with other non-aggressive breeds, like Cochins, Silkies, Sussex, Brahmas, etc…
Although Polish Chickens are not considered Endangered, estimates are that there are less than 5000 breeding pairs worldwide, and a total population of less than 10,000, so breeding helps to keep the breed alive.
There are enough variations to keep anyone happy.
Polish Chickens are less noisy than other breeds. The roosters crow is not as piercing, or frequent. And they are relatively long-lived, for a chicken, averaging around 6 years from birth to natural death.
And lastly, you can easily purchase fertile eggs for under $4.00 (US) online, and they hatch easily in an incubator. You can buy grown birds from a breeder for between $10.00 – $15.00, depending on their particular pedigree.
Housing Your Polish Chickens
Polish Chickens are very calm, gentle and loving birds.
They tolerate being confined very well, as long as your enclosure has what they need, in other words, food, water, a roost, and something to do. There are many styles of chicken enclosures to pick from, and all have their advocates.
You can build your own chicken tractor, if you are handy and knowledgeable of Polish Chicken requirements. Or, and I highly recommend this, you can purchase one already designed. All you have to do is follow the assembly instructions, which are not very complicated.
Whether you build your own, or buy a coop, there are certain features which will be required. Location is important. In the shade is best where possible so the temperature can be controlled easier. Also, near a windbreak will help in winter.
As close to the house is better, because you are less likely to tend to them frequently if you have to walk 1/4 mile to the coop, especially in winter. 5 yards from the house is plenty far enough away so as not to be able to detect any ‘birdy’ smell from the coup.
If you keep the coup clean, and tend to your birds properly, this shouldn’t be a problem anyway.
How Much Space Do Polish Chickens Need?
Polish chickens will require around 4 square feet per bird to be healthy. Of course, more is better when it’s possible. And birds will need 8 square inches for roosting space inside the coop.
For nesting, a standard 12” x 12” nesting box is fine, and you will need one nesting box for every 3 hens, so they will always have a place to lay eggs when they are ready. Contrary to popular belief, all hens do not lay eggs every day all year. At any given time, about 1/3 of your hens will be laying. Once you collect the eggs, they will relinquish the box to another hen to lay on.
It is especially important to keep the inside of the coup clean. You should clean it thoroughly at least once a week, and inspect it daily. Sweep out old food, debris, and…well, you know what. Save it for fertilizer, because it is the best in the world for healthy plants. I clean my coops a few times per week, just because I am retired and my wife only lets me go fishing so much. It’s better to clean too much, than too little.
Your Polish chickens will need an outside run to stay exercised and healthy. They are also fun to watch and interact with. But, I advise against letting them ‘free-range’. They are very vulnerable to predation from foxes, coyotes, stray dogs, bobcats, hawks, skunks, weasels, etc…Keep them in a covered run, and allow about 8 square feet per bird.
Make sure to line the edges of your coop all the way around with large rocks, so inquisitive predators cannot dig under the enclosure.
Coops are not hard to build or acquire, and maintain.
Showing Off Your Polish Chickens
Everyone likes to show off their accomplishments, and Polish chicken breeders are no exception.
It’s great fun to attend some shows even if you don’t want to show your birds. You can learn a lot from other breeders. When you get ready to compete, remember a few tips, and it will greatly enhance your experience. Start with small shows, keep your birds away from other roosters and older birds, and make them look as good as possible. Quarantine your birds temporarily when you get back home.