Monday, March 29, 2010


Polish chickens don’t come from Poland, but they are an anciet breed. Certainly, they were popular and highly regarded as an egg breed by the 16th century. Aldrovandi, the Italian professor who wrote the first book about chickens in 1600, features a woodcut of a crested breed that he calls Paduan. This illustration comes from Lewis Wright's Practical Poultry Keeper, 1899, shows Golden and White Crested Black Polish, on either side of White Faced Black Spanish. The illustrator is not identified.

How they got their name remains lost in history. Perhaps from a corruption of the Paduan name, or a reference to the crest on the poll of their heads.

That crest is the most obvious distinguishing characteristic of Polish chickens. The feathers growing wildly out of the head give them a crazy appearance. The crest is not only feathers – the skull itself has a knob on it, shown in this drawing from Lewis Wright’s Illustrated Book of Poultry. Because of the placement of the crest, the bony skull structure affects the nostrils, so that Polish chickens have flattened, cavernous nostrils, as shown here in another illustration from Wright.

Four varieties of Polish chickens are recognized in the APA’s first Standard in 1874, all non-bearded: White Crested Black, Golden, Silver and White. Bearded Golden, Silver, White and Buff Laced were admitted to the Standard in 1883. The non-bearded Buff Laced variety was admitted in 1938, the non-bearded White Crested Blue in 1963 and the non-bearded Black Crested White in 1996.

Polish have been valued as egg layers throughout the centuries. This cover portrait from the April, 1910 issue of Commercial Poultry shows a White Crested Black Polish.

Other Crested breeds include the Old French breed Crevecoeur, the more modern Houdan and the old Sultan. Jim Parker, who is also leading the Dorking Club, is the contact person for the Crested Breeds Club:

RR #6, 3232 Schooler Road
Cridersville, OH 45806


Andrea said...

Hi, at first sorry for my english!! the history of the name of the Polish breed is very strange. In Italy we had a crested breed, the Polverara Fowl, that was tipical of the Padua regions. In the last centuries she was called "Paduan", and Aldrovandi depicted some Polverara, NOT primitive Polish, calling them "Paduans" or better "Gallus patavinus" and "Gallina Patavina".
Fowl very similar to the polish was diffused in East Europe, Holland, Balgium and also in France. In France the great naturalist Buffon depicted a fowl breed called "crested fowl", that look as the modern polish. Also he depicted the Padoue fowl, that look as the old Polverara.
But with the XIX century incoming, in France the "crested fowl" obtain a new name, may be for the similarity withe the polverara: some author start to call them "Padoue", or Padouan fowl. After few decades they was imported in Italy, creating a great confusion with the italian Paduan or Polverara. The name Polish was utized probably at first in England, may be in reference to the beautiful, polished look of the birds. Hi!!

Christine Heinrichs said...

Hello, Andrea! Thank you for your detailed comment. Help me to understand: Paduan is another name for the Polverara, not Polish. Today's Polish comes from the French crested breeds, which were called Padoue, because of their similarity to the Polverara. After these French birds were brought to Italy, they were confused with the Polverara. They were called Polish first in England.

Thanks for your help. How is your book coming along?