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

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart will feature backyard chickens in a program about urban agriculture April 2. My friend Terry Golson, who wrote Tillie Lays an Egg,, and one of her chickens will have two and a half minutes. Terry will also talk about her HenCam,, which allows viewers to enjoy watching Terry's chickens.

"I have no idea who else will be on the show, but I'm sure it'll be full of chicken love," Terry says.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Gardeners' and Poultry Keepers' Guide

Shelter Publications has taken an interest in publishing replica editions of old, out-of-print books that offer helpful information that hasn't been improved upon over the years. The third in their series is The Gardeners' and Poultry Keepers' Guide,
There's certainly plenty of solid information and useful sketches of poultry coops, houses and runs in this little gem. I'm delighted to see a publisher bringing books like this back to life. I'm encouraged that they see enough interest in such books to present them to a general audience.
The previous two are Shelters, Shacks & Shanties by Daniel C. Beard, founder of the Boy Scouts, originally published in 1914. Wildwood Wisdom by Ellsworth Jaeger, originally published in 1945, "contains 500 richly illustrated pages of woodcraft lore rarely seen today."
Thanks, Shelter, for taking this interest. I have several additional candidates I intend to submit to them for consideration. How about Franklane Sewell's Poultry Manual and Herbert Myrick's Turkeys and How to Grow Them?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Chicken research

Two interesting research projects involving chickens are reported today. One, in The Scientist, New Model Org? Cluck, cluck,, makes the case for using chickens as the scientific research model organism.

"Uppsala University functional genomicist Leif Andersson and colleagues used cutting-edge sequencing technology to comb the chicken genome and identified some genetic signatures of domestication, according to a study published today (10th March) on Nature's website. These genetic signatures code for traits that make domestic chickens useful as egg or meat producers, but in humans, changes to homologous genes can lead to complex 'lifestyle diseases' -- such as obesity and diabetes. This suggests that biomedical researchers may be able to use the domesticated chicken to research these conditions."

The other, in Nature, No Sexual Confusion for Chicken Cells, takes note of a phenomenon, gynandromorphism, in which both sexes are expressed in a single individual, It's described as a "rare, naturally-occuring phenomenon in which one side of the animal appears male and the other female." How this happens is being explored for insight into how sex is determined, the influence of hormones and the inherent sex of the animal's cells.

"The cluster of seemingly nondescript cells that grows into a chick has a stronger sense of identity than you'd think. Rather than waiting for hormonal cues from the sex organs, the cells know whether they're male or female from the start, a new study reveals. The discovery challenges the standard picture of how sexual differences develop in vertebrates."

This photo shows such a bird in a mirror, but I'm not sure what breed they are. Perhaps some variety of Leghorn. Although the researchers say this occurs naturally, I've never heard of it. It would certainly be obvious in breeds that have significant sexual dimorphism, such as Faverolles and Dorkings. On the other hand, in breeds that are henny feathered, such as Campines, the birds wouldn't look much different from usual.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Bill Stevenson

Guineafowl, poultry and waterfowl breeder Bill Stevenson is hospitalized, his right side paralyzed and his speech impaired. He is able to understand and is cheered when he hears that his Guineafowl friends are thinking of him. He has been moved from the Intensive Care Unit to the rehabilitation unit. Cards can be sent him at:

William Stevenson
Lifecare at Lofland Park
715 East King Street
Seaford, DE 19973.

Bill's friend Connie, along with Pat and Jeff Ammon, has organized a fund to help defray his medical bills. Donations can be sent to:

The William W. Stevenson Jr. Benefit Fund
c/o PNC Bank
#2 Pennsylvania Ave
Bethany Beach De 19930.

Tax ID number, 30-6228734, must be written on the check or money order. Without this number, the funds cannot be accepted.

Contact the Ammons at

36902 Double Bridges Road
Frankford DE 19945

Pat says, "I must also mention we are NOT doing this alone. My friend and Bill's, Connie, set up the fund. We are all working to keep the animals alive until decisions and arrangements can be made. My husband Jeff, Connie, John, Albert, Gordy and others have been working tirelessly for weeks. Bill will need visitors to keep his spirits up. So far he seems to be doing well but it will be a struggle to say the least."

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mother Earth News

Mother Earth News conducted a survey of poultry breeders to assess their experiences with regard to various characteristics. Editor Troy Greipentrog contacted me for information, which is now posted on the web site, His article, Best Chicken Breeds for Backyard Flocks, appears in the April/May 2010 issue. He cites Orpingtons, such as these of Michelle Conrad, as good dual purpose birds: layers of large brown eggs, good meat and with a calm disposition. What more could you ask for?

Thanks for reaching out, Troy, to publicize reliable information on traditional breeds.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Chickens in Every Yard!

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The city councils that are balking at making chickens legal are on the wrong end of the discussion. In Belgium, one town is offering free chickens to local residents,

The goal is to reduce waste. Chickens are great consumers of green waste of all kinds, kitchen clippings, weeds and of course any tasty insect pests that tag along. Chickens and other poultry play an important role in a sustainable garden or farm.

The town has provided free chickens before, and found it a successful project. They have a few conditions: residents have to agree not to eat the chickens for at least two years. By that time, these happy pairs will have increased their numbers while making their way into the hearts of their new owners.

Thanks, Mouscron, Belgium, for leading the way!