Other Names: Poularders, Patavinian, Paduan
Type: Large, Bantam
Colours: Black, White, White Crested Blue, White Crested Black
The Polish is a striking poultry breed with its large mop crest and rather upright neck. Varieties with contrasting colours provide an added dimension to this unusual looking bird. The Polish breed was developed solely as an ornamental fowl. It is considered a non-sitter and will hence not hatch its own eggs. Artificial incubation or fostering of eggs being the main method of hatching eggs from the Polish breed. The standard (or large) Polish weighs in at around 3kg for the rooster, and around 2.25kg for the hens. The bantam rooster is about a third the size of its larger cousin and the hen just under half the size.
This breed dates back to the 16th Century although their origin is uncertain. They do not come from Poland as the name might suggest, but the name is thought to originate from the word 'Poll', which means 'top of head', presumably referring to the unusual crest of feathers.
The crest on the male should be as large as possible, smooth and high in front, while the crest on the female is globular, with the feathers standing upright. The crest is formed because of a peculiarity in the skulls of Polish fowls. It is a bony tuberosity on the forepart of the skull. Each chick when born has a head which looks like half a marble has been thrust under the skin of its skull. The crest often grows over the chicken's eyes impairing its vision. But this crest can be clipped or trimmed if the birds are not shown.
There are a number of recognised colours of the Polish, but there are four main colours here in Australia: The white crested black (a white head and a black body); the white crested blue (a white head and a blue body); the self white (all white), and a straight black (all black).
The Polish can be a difficult bird to raise, in particular if it is to be bred as a show bird. The show standard requires the crest to be large and in good clean condition. Maintaining a large and clean crest requires that the bird remains dry and free from lice. Breeding to enhance the crest size and maintaining a symmetrical shape, often comes with the neglect of other parts of the bird. They can be susceptible to colds if allowed in the wet. Their genetic history encompasses a small gene pool and hence they are susceptible to various diseases, including Mareks, a debilitating condition that causes the bird to become paralysed and slowly die from the condition. Their overly large crest can cause cerebral hernias in chicks – a condition that brings the brain out of the skull.