Here at J&R Pierce Family Farm, I think it’s important to connect my readers with valuable insight from other master farmers & gardeners. Today’s post is a guest post brought to you by Samantha Rainwater.
Arguably one of the funniest looking chicken breeds, the Polish chicken is sure to get the attention of anyone passing by. Polish chickens have a distinctive tuft on the top of their heads due to a boney prominence that comes up from the skull.
The head feathers are sometimes neat and organized—like the bird has just done its hair— and other times the feathers may all face different directions, giving them a ‘bad hair day’ look.
Polish chickens are generally kept as an ornamental bird, as they can bring a smile to nearly anyone’s face with just a glance. They are decent egg-layers as well and are sometimes used as show birds. Although they can be eaten, they are not generally used as meat birds.
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Origin of the Polish
The exact origin of Polish chickens is not known, however, they are known to have been around since the 1600s. There are paintings from that period that depict what we know today as Polish.
There is no evidence that the Polish originated from Poland, or in the near vicinity. Rather, it is believed that they may have originated in Spain, and were transported across seas as the Spanish started to occupy new territories.
If they didn’t originate in Poland, why are they called Polish chickens? The name comes from their resemblance to the hats worn by the Polish military. The hats had a feather crest that looks similar to the feathers on the head of a Polish chicken.
Reasons to Raise Polish
Although they are just an amusing bird to look at, there are a few good reasons as to why people choose to raise Polish Chickens.
The main reason people seem to keep Polish chickens is for an ornamental bird to add to their flock. Polish are very easy to get along with, and will generally mix well with any group of chickens. Who wouldn’t want to look outside and see those head-tuft feathers blowing in the wind?
Good Show Bird
The temperament of Polish chickens is very docile, which makes them ideal for a child’s 4-H project. These birds handle well and don’t seem to mind being poked and prodded all that much. The unique looks are also an obvious reason as to why they would be good show birds, thankfully they have the attitude to match.
Although Polish are not excellent egg-layers, they can produce a decent amount of eggs in a year. Polish average around 150-200 eggs a year, enough for use on a small family farm or homestead. Their eggs are generally medium in size and white in color.
The downside to using the egg-laying production of Polish chickens is that they can be inconsistent. One bird may be high-producing with their eggs, while others of the same species may not lay many eggs at all. If your Polish does start laying a good amount of eggs, however, they are pretty consistent and will continue to produce.
Challenges of Raising Polish
There are a few challenges when it comes to raising Polish chickens, although many may be overlooked by someone determined to have some in their flock.
Polish hens are seldom broody, and will not sit on their eggs. If you want to hatch some of your Polish chicks, you will most likely either need an incubator or a hen of another species that is broody. Polish hens just don’t come with that motherly instinct and have no desire to raise their chicks. Although you may occasionally find a broody Polish, it seems to be very uncommon.
Low in Pecking Order
Polish chickens tend to be very docile in nature, which is good for us humans but may cause them to be picked on within the flock. If your flock has some more aggressive breeds, you may need to keep a close eye on your Polish to ensure that they aren’t being harmed by some of the other birds. Polish chickens will rarely stand up for themselves, making them prone to being messed with by the bullies.
Visual impairment is highly common with Polish chickens. Their head crest and feathers will get in the way of their eyes, so trimming away those feathers can be an important chore. Due to their visual impairment, they do not generally do well as a free-range bird. Keeping them in environments where they are familiar will help them to thrive.
There are a few breed-specific health concerns to be aware of if you are considering adding Polish chickens to your flock.
Water on the Brain
Water on the brain is a disorder that can affect any chicken with a crested head. The crest on a Polish chicken is particularly prominent, making the disorder more likely to occur. Water on the brain is caused when an infection occurs in the cranial cavity that produces fluid that then builds up and presses on the brain.
This pressure can affect their mobility, and if not taken care of early on, can cause permanent, life-threatening damage.
Eye Infections/ Visual Impairment
The feathers on the head of a Polish may be cute, but they can cause issues with their eyes. I mentioned earlier that Polish are commonly visually impaired due to their head feathers, and may need to be trimmed often to ensure they can see to a degree. Feathers in their eyes may also lead to infections, as the feathers can bring up dust and particles that are then transmitted to the eyes.
Bumblefoot is caused by bacteria that can enter the foot when it is cut or scraped. Once infected, the foot may become inflamed and swell up with pus, making it difficult and painful for the bird to walk. Although bumblefoot can occur in any breed, the Polish seem to be particularly prone to getting it. Some lines of Polish are predisposed to the bacteria which can pass through the egg.
Mites and Lice
The feathers on the heads of the Polish are particularly fluffy, which helps to attract mites and lice. Checking your birds for mites and lice often is an important task, and checking the head feathers of your Polish chickens is especially important.
Although most breeds of chicken thrive in a free-range environment, the Polish is actually better designed for a coop with a small enclosed run. Polish chickens do not mind confinement and don’t get stir-crazy.
The visual impairment that affects a large portion of Polish chickens is another good reason not to keep them free-range. The lack of eyesight makes them prone to injuries and predator attacks. Keeping them in a safe, confined area is the best way to help keep them safe when they cannot keep themselves safe.
For the most part, the diet of a Polish chicken is fairly straightforward. They can do well on most store-bought chicken feeds and can be trusted to only eat what they need.
Due to the extra feathers that they grow, you may want to consider giving them a feed with extra protein. You can also supplement their usual feed with treats that give them protein, such as mealworms.
Due to their poor eyesight, Polish chickens are not known to be good foragers. Ensuring that your Polish chickens have sufficient amounts of feed is important because they will most likely not be supplementing with bugs.
Raising Polish Chicks
Most Polish chicks will need to be hatched with the use of an incubator or another species of hen that is broody. Polish hens do not often go broody and generally have no interest in their chicks.
If you do get another hen to sit on the eggs, great! This option will be less work for you and will give the chicks a good start. If you do need to use an incubator, just make sure to keep them inside where it is warm until they have enough feathers to keep themselves warm.
Introducing new chicks to a flock can be difficult, especially when they don’t have a mother, or surrogate, to show them the ropes. Take your time introducing them, and keep a close eye on them for the first week or so in the coop.
Polish chicks do have an Achilles heel of sorts that needs to be addressed. The boney prominence on the top of their head does not necessarily form right away, leaving a weak spot on the top of their head. A peck to the head can be deadly to a young Polish chick. This is another reason to monitor them closely when releasing them into the coop and isolating them from any particularly aggressive chickens.
Are Polish Chickens Right For Your Flock?
If you want to add a fun look to your flock, the Polish chicken may be a good addition! These birds are generally docile and do well with children, making them a fun bird to have around.
Due to their nature, the Polish make good show birds and are common choices for a 4-H project. These birds handle well and are a great starter bird for the young livestock exhibitor.
The Polish chickens can be kept in small enclosures, and don’t need much room to run, so they can be kept in nearly any environment. If you are looking for a bird that doesn’t need much room to run, the Polish may be a good fit for your flock.
Overall, the Polish is a great bird to have around if you want to smile when you look out the window. They make great pets and show birds, especially for young children. Who wouldn’t want to show off such a great hairstyle!
Samantha Rainwater is a freelance writer, full-time business owner, and recent mom who spends her free time writing. Her degree in Biology gives her a background in science, which she likes to apply on her small hobby farm. Writing about her experiences is one of her passions, and she finds joy in sharing her experiences with others.
Do you raise Polish chickens? What are your thoughts? Be sure to let us know in the comments!
Want to learn more about farming? Be sure to take a look at these other articles.
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