Breed: Polish Chooks
Temperament: Can be flighty
Cost: $30 plus
Lifespan: Seven years
Recommended for: Experienced breeders
Polish Chooks have a crest or hat of feathers on their head which looks like a pompom. They have long, deep bodies, prominent breasts and large wings. Males weigh about 3kg (6.5lb) and females weigh about 2.25kg (5lb). There are four main colours of Polish fowl 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. There are actually two types of Polish chooks: the nonbearded, called crested and having a white crest and a coloured body and the Paduan or Patavinian fowl which are all one colour. The Paduan should never be bred with the crested fowl because this results in a non-standard colour. One breeder has crossed hybrid Polish chooks with Frizzles to create a frizzled Polish.
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 (see diagram). 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.
Polish chooks are placid but can become irritable. Their crest often impairs their vision which makes them much slower than other fowl because they can’t see where they’re going.
Health and lifespan
Polish chooks are delicate and susceptible to colds if allowed out in the wet. The birds are not generally strong because they come from a small gene pool. This means they are susceptible to diseases such as Mareks disease, a virus which causes tumours in the body’s organs. The birds need to be vaccinated against this. Sometimes Polish chicks can also be born with cerebral hernias because their crest is too big and this brings the brain out of the skull. These chicks are brain damaged and their movements are uncoordinated. Polish chooks usually live between seven to eight years but are most productive in the first three years of their life.
Breeders recommend feeding the birds 18% protein layer pellets which are readily available from stock feed suppliers as a supplement to a balanced diet of greens, shell grit and household scraps. Their diet can also be supplemented with wheat as a treat.
Breeding and costs
Polish chooks are difficult to rear and need special care when moulting their first down to grow feathers. They need to be protected from the cold weather and from catching a cold because their real feathers are slow to grow. Some colours are more robust than others. The white crested blues are the rarest birds because often the chicks die before they hatch. The cost of Polish chooks varies according to their quality but the price ranges from $30 a pair for pet or backyard birds.
Polish chooks need limited grass runs with ample shed room where they can be confined. The impaired vision of the birds makes them vulnerable to attacks from hawks and foxes so they need to live in a confined, protected area.
The difficulties in breeding and rearing Polish chooks makes them best suited to experienced Polish breeders. They can also make good pets for children when they have been tamed, particularly birds with smaller crests.
Polish hens are good layers of large, torpedo-shaped eggs. They usually lay about 100 eggs a season. Breeders recommend getting a cross bred (such as a Leghorn cross or an Australorp cross) if owners want an egg laying breed to provide lots of eggs for the home.
The origin of the Polish fowl is uncertain and obscure. However, they do not come from Poland as the name suggests. It is believed the name ‘Polish’ comes from the word poll which means the top of the head, and presumably refers to the interesting pompom on their head. Polish chooks are also known as Poularders, Patavinian or Paduan fowl. They first came to Australia after World War II.
Breeder: Peter Jones wants to start a club.
43 Settlers Hill Crescent
Croydon Hills VIC 3136
Phone: (03) 9723 8914
Australasian Poultry is also available in newsagents or by subscription. Cost: $4.80 per issue. Write to Poultry Information Publishers, PO Box 198, Werribee, VIC, 3030. Phone: (03) 9741 3738.