Several chicken breeds are crested, with a fluffy fountain of feathers tumbling from a knob on top of their heads. That crest has attracted plenty of attention over the years, sometimes called a top-knot or a top hat. Recognized crested breeds include Polish, Crevecoeur, Houdan and Sultan. Most likely it’s the small Polish, the most popular. Crevecoeurs are larger, always all black and show a distinctive horned comb with two prongs. Houdans are usually mottled black and white. Observe their legs. Houdans have a fifth toe, a spur on the back of the leg. Unrecognized breeds include the hefty Sulmtaler. Sulmtaler roosters have a small tuft at the back of the serrated comb, but hens have a nice crest and their combs meander in an S shape on their heads, the front falling to one side and the back to the other.
|Golden Laced Polish tooster|
Brabanters and Appenzeller Spitzhaubens have pointy crests behind that V comb.
Although their appearance invites humor, crested chickens have a long and distinguished history, and are honored for their productive usefulness as well. Ulisse Aldrovandi included woodcuts of crested chickens in the first book published on chickens in 1600.
|Aldrovandi called these Paduan chickens|
That knob isn’t just feathers up there. Crested breeds have a dome of bone on their skulls. The feathers grow out of that. Because of the placement of the crest, the bony skull structure affects the nostrils, so that crested chickens have flattened, cavernous nostrils,
Crests require extra care. Breeders may trim the crest back or hold it back with a rubber band during breeding season, so the birds can see what they are doing. Special waterers can help the bird avoid getting the crest and beard feathers soaked, which can ruin them for a show.
|Drawings by J. Batty|
The crested breeds have V combs, even if they are concealed beneath the crest feathers. The V or horn comb, required for exhibition in the U.S., is unusual. In England and France, the leaf comb, shaped like butterfly wings, is still recognized. Leaf combs are the result of the V comb crossed with a single comb.