What to Know About Polish Chickens

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on November 30, 2022
6 min read

Polish chickens are a European breed of chickens. They have a beautiful crest of feathers on their head. They were bred for show but can be great pets, too.

Here’s more about Polish chicken characteristics, lifespan, care, and more.

Old paintings suggest that Polish chickens have existed since the 1600s. Despite their name, they did not originate in Poland. Poultry historians believe they came from the lowlands of Spain. They were brought to Holland, where the Dutch bred various varieties of Polish chicken to refine their color patterns and develop crests.

By the mid-1800s, Polish chicken arrived in the U.S. They were originally bred as egg producers. After Leghorn chickens became popular, Polish chickens were favored as show chickens. Their unusual characteristics make them ideal for exhibition. 

Polish chickens have a magnificent feathered crest on their head. The fowl likely got their name because their heads look like Polish military hats with a feather crest. An alternate explanation is that the bird’s name comes from the Dutch word “Pol,” which means a large head.

The Polish is a unique and beautiful breed of chicken. A Polish chicken sports a large hat-like crest. Some varieties have beards and muffs, too. A bony cone or a protuberance on their skull supports their feathery crests. 

Along with the crest, they have a small red V-shaped comb hidden by feathers. They also have red wattles and white earlobes. They are small and have soft feathers. They have white skin and large nostrils. Their gray shanks or legs don’t have feathers, and they have four toes on each foot.

A Polish hen has a tidy feather crest that looks like a pom-pom, whereas a Polish rooster has a ruffled mop-like crest. Although the feathery crest is attractive, the feathers can fall over a Polish chicken’s eyes and restrict its vision. It makes the birds prone to aerial attack by predators like eagles.

Polish hens lay around 150 to 200 medium or large white eggs per year. They start laying eggs late in the season but are persistent once they start. They rarely brood and don’t sit on their eggs until they hatch.

Polish chicken size. Polish chickens are similar to Leghorns in size. They’re small, about 12 to 15 inches tall. Roosters weigh around 6 pounds, and hens weigh about 4.5 pounds. They are lightweight chickens and are good flyers. You may find them on branches of trees while roosting or sleeping.

Polish chicken personality. Polish chickens are calm, gentle, friendly, and active birds. But they are easily surprised or frightened and may have a nervous disposition. It is because they can’t see properly because of their large crests. Poultry handlers always talk to them when they’re closer, so they don’t get scared and fly off.

Polish chicken colors. Polish chickens have a wide range of color combinations with different crests. Some have crests with frizzled feathers. Their colors include black, blue, buff, golden, white, and silver.

Based on the color, crest, and beard, they have the following varieties:

  • White-crested black
  • Non-bearded white
  • Non-bearded golden
  • Non-bearded silver
  • Non-bearded buff laced
  • Bearded white
  • Bearded golden
  • Bearded silver
  • Bearded buff laced

Like most chicken breeds, the average lifespan of chickens is 7 to 8 years. Hens can live as backyard flocks for 6 to 8 years and produce eggs for 3 to 4 years. But the egg production, size, and shell quality decrease over time.

Polish chickens live in dry, warm conditions. But to tolerate the heat, they need enough shade. They are not used to cold weather. Their crests are prone to water collection and ice formation, causing the birds to feel cold. The crest feathers also freeze in cold, icy weather. 

Housing.  House Polish chickens in a well-ventilated and dry chicken coop. They must have a lot of space, so they don’t damage each other's crests by picking. The crest can have lice, which spread among chickens.

Polish chickens perch on branches of trees and scavenge for feed during the day. But they must be kept in a shelter at night to protect them from predators and thieves. If you are housing them for laying eggs, they must be kept indoors at all times. 

Chickens must be kept in a coop, shelter, or shed with proper ventilation, light, and space. Ideally, there must be four birds per square meter, which is 2.7 square feet per bird. They also need about 8 inches of space for perching.

Feeding. Polish chickens eat to satisfy their energy requirements, which change seasonally. In warmer months, chickens tend to eat less, so you must ensure they get all the essential nutrients in their diet. In colder months, the birds eat more to increase their body heat. Also, young, growing birds need a high-protein diet compared to mature chickens. 

You can purchase complete feeding diets, including crumbles, mash, or pellets. All you need to do is fill a feeder with the feed. You can also mix feeds like complete feed and grain supplement and add nutrients like calcium for better growth and eggshell quality. 

Chickens constantly eat feathers and coarse materials along with their feed. You’ll have to feed chickens hard grit so they can digest these in their gizzards. They’re then eliminated from the body.

You may have to add medicines like coccidiostats in the feed for egg layers. The drug helps prevent coccidiosis, which is an infection caused by the intestinal parasite coccidia. The parasite may be present in the manure of infected chickens, which other chickens ingest while pecking at the floor. Birds with coccidiosis have diarrhea and dehydration. They appear pale, depressed, and thinner than usual. They may also have ruffled feathers. 

Ensure that the feed is available to the birds at all times. Use feeders or troughs with enough space for all birds to eat together. Replace old feed to give your chickens fresh feed every few weeks.

Along with feeding, provide fresh, clean water every day. Use 1 or 2-gallon drinkers or large tank water systems. Place multiple drinkers or waterers around the enclosure for all birds to drink from. Clean the containers daily as it keeps water fresh and cools the water.

Grooming. If your Polish chickens are show birds, you’ll need to groom and bathe them well. Bathe the chickens 3 to 5 days before the show. It gives them enough time to dry. For grooming, trim the nails using a clipper. Use an emery board to smoothen the nails and beak.

Use large tubs of warm water to wash the Polish chickens. You can use shampoo, a quarter cup of vinegar, and conditioner to clean them. Hold your Polish chicken with its breast in your palm and lower it in the tub. Most birds relax and even go to sleep during the bath. Dry them with towels or a blow dryer.

Chickens tend to carry infectious bacteria like Salmonellaand Campylobacter. They live in the intestines of the chickens and can pass it on to other animals through their droppings. To prevent infections:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water after touching Polish chickens or things associated with them. Avoid touching your mouth with dirty hands.
  • Keep children below age five away from the chickens.
  • Avoid eating or drinking where the birds are kept.
  • Clean the poultry feeders and drinkers outside the house to avoid contamination at home.
  • If you’re using Polish chicken eggs, thoroughly cook them to avoid infection.