Polish Hen vs. Rooster: What Are The Differences?

Written by Tavia Fuller Armstrong
Updated: September 23, 2023
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Polish chickens are among the most unique-looking chickens in the world. No one knows for sure where these European birds originated, but researchers agree they did not arise in Poland. The modern version of this breed came from the Netherlands, and its name refers to the Dutch word, Pol, meaning big head.

Early evidence of chickens with herniated skulls similar to modern Polish chickens dates back more than 1,600 years to ancient Rome. Meanwhile, artistic representations of what appear to be Polish hens and roosters emerged in Europe as long as 600 years ago. Some sources suggest that the majestically crested Polish chicken was imported to the Netherlands from Spain. Others say they came from Asia, brought by Mongols as early as the Middle Ages.

A White Crested Black Polish Bantam Chicken hen in a backyard farm staring into the camera. The head feathers resemble a flamboyant hairstyle.

The modern Polish chicken originated in the Netherlands. Its name is derived from the Dutch word, Pol, which means big head.

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Wherever they originated, by the 18th century Dutch breeders had begun selectively breeding Polish chickens to improve their crests. The contemporary breed spread swiftly across Europe and by the 1850s to the United States. They suffered from waning interest as better meat and egg producers took over the poultry scene. Today, Polish chickens are a very popular choice as show birds. Owners also choose them as ornamental additions to backyard flocks thanks to their unique appearance and quirky behaviors. Let’s take a moment to compare the Polish hen vs. rooster and explore some of their important differences.

Polish Hen vs. Rooster: Crest

Of all the crested chickens, Polish chickens have the most impressive crowns. Polish hens have smaller crests than Polish roosters, and the feathers themselves are smoother with rounded ends and are arranged more neatly. Polish roosters have longer, messier feathers in their crests with pointed, rather than rounded ends. One might say Polish hens look well-coiffed, while roosters look as if they’ve just rolled out of bed after a wild night of partying.

Buff Laced Polish chicken with crest of feathers - Davie, Florida, USA

Polish roosters have wild-looking crests with individually pointed feathers.

©Sunshower Shots/iStock via Getty Images

Both sexes have a large, bony protuberance, shaped like a ping pong ball on top of their skull. It supports the feathers in their crest much like a florist’s foam supports a large, rounded arrangement of long-stemmed flowers. Both Polish hens and roosters also have a unique dumbbell or peanut-shaped brain that extends into this bony cavity. Their brain is no larger than that of other similarly sized chickens, but it is structured differently. The Polish chicken has more cerebral matter and a smaller cerebellum and medulla.

Polish chicken in the farm

Polish hens have neat, rounded crests while Polish roosters have wild, pointy ones.

©Andik Tri Witanto/iStock via Getty Images

Muffs and Beards

In addition to the Polish chicken’s famously feathered crests, some individuals have beards, muffs, or both. The feathers of a beard extend below the beak, while the feathers of a muff cover the side of the face, sometimes masking the earlobes. Both Polish hens and roosters can have beards and muffs. According to the American Poultry Association, beards and muffs are passed genetically via incomplete dominance. Without diving too far into the science of heredity, that means when breading bearded and muffed Polish chickens, some may have full beards and muffs, others may have partial beards and muffs, and some may have none at all.

Polish Hen vs. Rooster: Other Plumage

Polish chickens have soft and sleek feathers unless they are of the frizzled variety. Hens have neatly arranged tails that they carry semi-upright. Roosters also carry their tails upright, but they have long sickle feathers that curve over the top.

The feathers of Polish chickens can obscure their facial features, especially if they are of the bearded or muffed varieties. Roosters have a small, red, V-shaped comb and red, rounded wattles. However, these features usually remain hidden from view. Hens have very small combs and small wattles. Both sexes have white earlobes and their beaks sport large nostrils. They have no feathers on their legs or feet.

Color Patterns

The Poultry Club of Great Britain recognizes Polish chickens in Gold, Silver Spangled, Black, White, White-Crested Black, Golden, and Silver variations. The American Poultry Association recognizes ten different color patterns in both large and bantam varieties: Bearded Buff Laced, Non-Bearded Buff Laced, Bearded Golden, Non-Bearded Golden, Bearded Silver, Non-Bearded Silver, Bearded White, Non-Bearded White, Non-Bearded White Crested Black, and Non-Bearded White Crested Blue. They also recognize Non-Bearded Black Crested White in only the large size.

A mostly black Polish chicken with a mostly white, very round crest / crown standing on a coarse gray mat with an out-of-focus wooden coop as a background.

The American Poultry Association recognizes ten different color patterns in both large and bantam varieties, and another color, Non-Bearded Black Crested White, in only the large size.


Polish Hen vs. Rooster: Size

Polish chickens are among the smaller chicken breeds. They stand relatively tall, but they are quite slender birds. Both males and females of this breed fly very well thanks to their strong wings and light weight.

Like most other breeds, Polish chickens do exhibit sexual dimorphism when it comes to size. Polish roosters can reach heights of approximately 15 inches, while hens stand a few inches shorter. Polish hens only average about 4.5 pounds, but roosters can attain weights of about 6 pounds.

Bantam-sized Polish chickens are tiny, measuring roughly 1/3 the size of the large varieties. However, proportionally they are closer together in size than their full-sized counterparts. Bantam Polish hens weigh only about 26 ounces, while bantam Polish roosters reach about 30 ounces.

Polish Hen vs. Rooster: Temperament

Owners say Polish chickens make excellent pets and show birds because of their friendly and gentle temperament. They reportedly enjoy being around humans and exhibit great curiosity, often following their owners around.

Both hens and roosters have melodic voices. Breeders insist that roosters even crow in a pleasant and non-abrasive way. Hens sometimes crow as well, often to establish a hierarchy among themselves. Although Polish chickens generally have calm demeanors, roosters can become aggressive, especially when defending their hens. Polish hens, also, may exhibit aggressive behaviors toward one another, such as feather pulling and bullying. This behavior is best addressed by providing the flock with plenty of room, so they are not overcrowded.

Both Polish hens and roosters fly very well. Even high fences cannot keep flighty Polish chickens in one place, so owners may consider enclosed runs. Otherwise, members of the flock might hang out in tree branches or other high places when not foraging for food.

Some people find Polish chickens amusing because they startle easily. They can’t help it. Both hens and roosters have such large crests they obscure their vision. Be careful sneaking up on one of the flock, though. Owners recommend always talking to Polish chickens as you approach them; otherwise, they may fly away.

Polish Hen vs. Rooster: Egg and Meat Production

Polish chickens, raised primarily as an ornamental breed today, never ranked among the top egg and meat producers. Hens lay approximately 150 white eggs per year. The eggs range in size from medium to large. Hens rarely ever go broody. If they do start to brood, they most often abandon the nest, refusing to sit on the eggs long enough for them to hatch.

Owners attest that Polish roosters are not good birds for meat. They make decent soup or stew, but they do not make good roasters. These lightweight chickens simply don’t get big enough to stand out as meaty birds.   

Polish Hens vs. Roosters: A Summary

The table below shows a summary of the differences between Polish hens and roosters. This breed does express sexual dimorphism. However, some distinguishing features such as the rooster’s comb and wattles may be completely obscured by its plumage. Both hens and roosters have large crests, but these differ enough that a skilled observer can tell them apart. Polish hens are smaller than roosters, both in height and weight. These differences may be much more noticeable when a male and female are next to one another, though.  

SizeUp to 4.5 poundsUp to 6 pounds
PlumageNeatly formed crest with individually rounded feathers; may have muffs and/or beard; bare legs and feet; short, upright tailWild looking crest with long, individually pointed feathers; may have muffs and/or beard; bare legs and feet; curved sickle feathers in tail
Other TraitsVery short, red comb and short, red wattles; large nostrilsShort, red, V-shaped comb and bright red wattles; large nostrils
TemperamentFriendly and calm; may bully other hens and pick feathers; rarely goes broody; adept flyer; startles easily due to obstructed vision; melodic voice; sometimes crowsWild-looking crest with long, individually pointed feathers; may have muffs and/or beard; bare legs and feet; curved sickle feathers in tail
ProductionFriendly and calm; can be aggressive, especially when guarding hens; adept flyer; startles easily due to obstructed vision; has a melodic, non-abrasive crowing voicePoor meat producer, but good for soup

The photo featured at the top of this post is ©

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About the Author

Tavia Fuller Armstrong is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on birds, mammals, reptiles, and chemistry. Tavia has been researching and writing about animals for approximately 30 years, since she completed an internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Tavia holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology with a wildlife emphasis from the University of Central Oklahoma. A resident of Oklahoma, Tavia has worked at the federal, state, and local level to educate hundreds of young people about science, wildlife, and endangered species.

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