Sporting neatly coiffed bobs or flamboyant topknots reminiscent of a rock star, Polish Chickens are charming chooks that are clucking their way into the hearts of many. These new fashion-forward birds that make for an interesting pet, and contrary to their exotic looks, are not necessarily that difficult to care for.
Like every other pet, the best way to keep them healthy and happy is through regular grooming, a nutritious diet, clean housing, and a healthy dose of love and attention!
Trim, Wash & Dry
The pom-pom looking tuft of feathers on top of its head is the Polish Chickens’ crowning glory. Yet these feathers, when left to grow wild and unkempt, could lead to vision issues.
With its lush feathering, these gorgeous chickens are more prone to infestation by mites and other parasites. However, if left unchecked, could lead to eye irritations, infections and even breathing problems.
Avoid this by treating your chook to a salon experience. Using a pair of scissors with blunt ends, trim the overgrown feathers around its eyes so that it can see better. Alternatively, tie up the crest of feathers in a hair tie but make sure it isn’t too tight. Check its crest regularly and keep it dry and clean at all times. When it gets dirty, it is time for a wash and dry.
Everything In Moderation
A well-balanced diet goes a long way in keeping your feathery friends healthy, and the first step in doing so is to get a nutritionally complete feed that is suited to your chook’s life stage.
Nutritional needs vary between young chicks, roosters or laying hens. For instance, laying hens require more calcium, and it is important to give them what they need, no more and no less.
Polish Chickens require more protein in their diet to support the growth of their feathers when they moult. Protein-rich treats such as mealworms, cooked beans, and as cannibalistic as it sounds... scrambled eggs – are recommended.
Other healthy treats that your chooks can indulge in include leafy greens and fruits like berries and bananas as these are high in fibre and vitamins. Sunflower seeds are also recommended as they are high in healthy fats and protein.
According to The Chicken Health Handbook, water makes up for 50 percent of the chicken’s body and 65 percent of an egg. This makes water the singular most important item in your chicken’s daily intake. Given our tropical climate, it makes sense that your chook gets plenty of clean water to stay hydrated.
The average chicken drinks between 0.5 to 1 litre of water per day, depending on the weather. Its water supply should be changed and cleaned daily and, placed in a cool, shaded area. Consider keeping the water container above ground too. This would prevent the chook’s crest from getting wet, and attracting unwelcomed company like lice and mites.
On hot days, take it up a notch and offer your chickens a reprieve with high-hydration snacks such as watermelon cubes and cucumbers.
Home Clean Home
Polish chickens tend to do well in confinement due to their size and can be kept in flat-based cages such as those meant for rabbits, but that’s not to say they don’t relish space. The Merck Veterinary Manual recommends a minimum of 0.18 sq m of space inside and approximately 1 sq m outside runs for a laying hen.
If kept outdoors, ensure the run is covered to protect them from unwanted visitors and that the coop is sheltered from both sun and rain. It is also important to choose housing that is well-ventilated, sturdy, and easy to clean.
Just as bedsheets have to be changed regularly, the chook’s too have to be considered. Keep its bedding and cage fresh by cleaning it thoroughly once a week. Clear the soiled bedding and wash the cage before dousing it with pet-friendly disinfectant. Then, sun it for a few hours and allow it to dry thoroughly. Finally, add in fresh new bedding (wood shavings are a popular choice) and you are good to go!
You can also go one step further by sprinkling food-grade diatomaceous earth around the edges and base of the housing. This would serve to keep external parasites at bay.
A Cluckin’ Good Time
Like humans, chickens are social creatures that thrive on company and interaction. They tend to get lonely when there is just one of them. They are affectionate creatures and like to be held and cuddled. When bored or depressed, they may resort to self-harming behaviour such as feather picking.
To prevent this, shower your chook with attention and if possible, get them a friend! Preferably of the same breed – as these chickens tend to be low on the pecking order and do not flourish with more assertive breeds.
Polish Chickens are also a curious bunch that love exploring their surroundings. Do let them roam about regularly, but keep an eye on them as their penchant for climbing, paired with their bad eyesight, often lead them to places they really shouldn’t go.
Consider the introduction of toys to keep your chook entertained. You can prep DIY toys simply by hanging a corn cob or a bunch of vegetable leaves together on a string for your chook to peck at. Yes, most, if not all chickens are strongly motivated by food. Besides keeping them busy, activities such as these also add a nutritional boost to your chook’s diet!
By Sherlyne Yong