Judging Polish Chickens
Winning in the Show Ring Requires
a Good Head, Quality Feathering & Good Timing
By Dave Anderson
Polish are one of our most attractive breeds of fowl and there are many varieties (colors) to choose from in both large fowl and bantams. The most popular variety by far is the White Crested Black Polish. There are also White Crested Blue, White Crested Chocolate, White Crested Khaki, solid White and several laced varieties. Polish are unique in the fact that they are one of the few crested breeds and thus draw a lot of attention and admiration in the showroom and on the farm. However, potential breeders/exhibitors should be forewarned that they are one of the most difficult breeds to exhibit.
In addition to a large crest, which obstructs their field of vision to a great degree, most varieties also have a beard that further restricts their ability to see. Because of this, most Polish are uncomfortable in new surroundings and will often assume a pose where they are hunched up with their tail held low. In addition, they will assume this pose when tired or scared. This is especially true of the females.
Thus it is very difficult for judges to evaluate their body type and overall vigor. It is exasperating for an exhibitor to properly prepare their show birds and have them trained to stand correctly in their cages at home only to have them hunch up and not "show" when placed in cages at the exhibition hall. After almost 40 years of raising and showing Polish, I still do not have a standard solution to this dilemma. Some birds will acclimate to the new cage in rapid order and show well when the judge comes along. Others will never stand correctly until they return home. Yet others will pose correctly in the early part of the day but "tire out" and start slumping in the late afternoon. Thus, the time that the birds are judged can be very important.
Another concern is that crested and bearded varieties tend to get their crests and beards wet while drinking. Wet feathers detract from their appearance and will lead to points being deducted by the judge. Because of this, many Polish exhibitors will not water their birds at a show prior to judging. This works out fine if the Polish are judged in the morning but can be very exasperating to the birds if they are judged late in the day.
Polish are also very susceptible to stubs-tiny feathers on the legs or feet that are a disqualification if found by the judge. This is an inherited trait and one should never breed from birds that have profuse stubs. The exhibitor must examine their birds closely for stubs before entering them in the show. I can say from experience that it is extremely exasperating to spend time washing, preparing and training an excellent specimen only to have it disqualified at the show for stubs. It is embarrassing too!
Despite these drawbacks, raising and exhibiting Polish can be a rewarding experience. This is also true of judging the breed. The judge looks for a bird with a strong, well-shaped crest and beard (if appropriate), a flat rather long back sloping from shoulders to tail, and a well spread tail held at 45 degrees. Legs are described as medium in length.
The head of a Polish, to include the crest and beard, is of major importance and actually accounts for 34 of the 100 points allotted to the bird by the judge. Thus a bird with a poor head will almost never win. Conversely, a bird with an excellent head has a great chance of placing well but only if the rest of the bird measures up to the quality of the head.
Of course color is also extremely important in the show room. As mentioned earlier, many of the Polish varieties are laced which means each feather has a base color laced with another color. There are Silver laced (white with black lacing), Buff laced (Buff with a light cream lacing), Golden laced (Gold with a black lacing), and Blue (slate laced with black). These combinations make for very attractive birds but also increase the complexity of the breeding process since it is very difficult to obtain correct coloration throughout the bird.
In summary, the exhibiting and judging of Polish fowl can be a very rewarding experience but one that is fraught with disappointments and letdowns. One must be very patient and keep in mind the fact that the goal is continual improvement of the breed or variety. Then, on the day that the stars all align and the bird shows to the best of its ability at the exact time the judge walks by, you can enjoy the thrill of winning and the congratulations and accolades of your fellow exhibitors.