The Chicken Chick®: Tips for the Care of Crested Chicken Breeds

Aug 15, 2017

Tips for the Care of Crested Chicken Breeds

Tips for the Care of Crested Chickens  www.The-Chicken-Chick.com
Sometimes being a fancy chicken isn't all it's cracked up to be. With showy poofs of feathers on their heads, crested chickens often encounter daily challenges other breeds do not. A chicken keeper that is aware of these potential challenges can make adjustments to improve their chicken's quality of life and ensure flock harmony. Let's take a look at some of those challenges and some simple accommodations that can help our feathered-hat-wearing friends.
Tolbunt frizzled Polish hen  www.The-Chicken-Chick.com
Ally McBeak, a Tolbunt frizzled Polish hen (above)
Seigfreid & Roy, Gold Laced Polish chicks  (below)
Gold Laced Polish chicks  www.The-Chicken-Chick.com
Blue Polish and Black Polish hens www.The-Chicken-Chick.com
White Crested Blue Polish hen & White Crested Black Polish hen
PROBLEMS CREATED BY CRESTS
Slower Social Response & Injuries
As a result of feathers covering their eyes to varying degrees, crested chickens often behave differently and attract unwanted attention. Having limited vision impedes a crested bird's ability to react quickly to everyday social interactions such as respecting the social structure in a flock. Every flock has a pecking order that dictates which chickens have priority access to food, water, roosts, nest boxes, dusting holes, etc. When a bird wishes to enforce the pecking order, she can usually do so by moving towards a lower-ranking flock member, which is generally enough of a clue to the underling to get out of the way. However, crested chickens that are unable to see other birds approaching to claim priority status may receive their message via a sharp peck on the head instead, which can result in feather damage and injuries.
Gold laced Polish rooster.
Gold Laced Polish rooster www.The-Chicken-Chick.com
Public Relations Problems 
Crested chickens are often accused of being less intelligent than other birds when the truth is: they simply can't see well past their crest feathers. They can seem jumpy and may appear to over-react to certain interactions, but having obscured vision means are easily sneaked up on and surprised frequently. Imagine wearing a feather blindfold throughout your day and how that would impair your ability to find the front door, locate your lunch, negotiate past co-workers in the hallway, and to get out of harm's way quickly.  While this skittish behavior makes complete sense, it tends to relegate crested birds to the bottom of the pecking order and being bullied away from feeders, drinkers, dusting locations, and off roosts.
Crevecoeur pullet www.The-Chicken-Chick.com
Crevecoeur hen
Sitting Ducks
Delays in response time due to impaired vision can also be life-threatening to a crested chicken.While other birds may see a predator approaching from a distance and scurry to safety, a crested bird may not see the predator in time to escape or may have difficulty seeing their way to a safe location quickly enough to escape harm.

B&B for Insects
Everyone loves a fluffy feather bed, including lice and mites, which tend to set up camp among the feathers of crested birds. Inspect crests for insects regularly during regular physical exams.
White Crested Black Polish hen  www.The-Chicken-Chick.com
Fair Weather Feathers & Overexposure
Rain, snow and ice pose unique problems for crested birds. Rain causes feathers to hang and separate, revealing the pink skin underneath. Since chickens have such keen vision and inspect novelties with their beaks, they are drawn to investigate pin feathers, the skin and feather shafts, which frequently causes a feather-picking problem that can create a vicious cycle of baldness, head injuries, and feather regeneration, followed by more feather picking.  Feathers that get wet in drinkers in freezing temperatures can form icicles, which are uncomfortable, can cause frostbite and draw unwanted attention from pecking beaks. Molting also exposes the skin on the head, drawing unwanted attention to the area.
Rainy day Polish hen.
White Crested Black Polish hen  www.The-Chicken-Chick.com
Rain and molting combined to set the stage for a pecking injury for Doc Brown. Crested birds with injuries must be removed from the flock and the injuries tended to until healed and not returned to the flock until their feathers have grown back to avoid a never-ending picking problem.
SOLUTIONS TO CREST PROBLEMS
Crevecoeur hen www.The-Chicken-Chick.com
If a crested chicken is not participating in a fair or poultry show, there is no need for their vision to remain obscured by feathers. Trim crest feathers around the eyes with sharp, blunt-tipped scissors. If you can't see their eyes, your birds can't see well enough, so don't be shy about the amount trimmed.
Emerging pin feathers (as shown below) draw unwanted attention to the scalp of crested breeds. Never trim emerging pin feathers. The base of the feather shaft contains a blood supply, which will bleed if nicked.

TIE-BACKS
Putting crest feathers in a ponytail on top of the head sometimes works to cover bald spots, hide pin feathers and to hide the scalp and some chicken keepers tie back their crested birds' feathers with painter's tape, but I haven't found either of these to be especially helpful. The birds usually wriggle out of them in short order, creating another possible problem: ingestion of the ponytail holder or tape.
Tolbunt Polish hen with frizzled feathers www.The-Chicken-Chick.com
Tolbunt Polish hen with frizzled feathers www.The-Chicken-Chick.com
COLORED GOO IS NOT A SOLUTION! 

JUST SAY "NO" TO COLORED "ANTI-PICK" PRODUCTS!
I do not recommend products that tint the skin and feathers blue or purple for several reasons. Coloring the wound does not conceal it from flockmates, in fact, the opposite is true! Chickens have superior color vision- better color vision than humans, and a novel colored goo or spray on another chicken's body draws unwanted attention to the area, inviting exploration and additional picking. Further, the main ingredient of most cover-up products is alcohol, which burns like the surface of the sun on an open wound. Finally, colored dyes impede the ability to detect one of the first signs of infection, which is redness. Injured birds should be separated from flockmates and proper wound care administered until complete healing has occurred. 

Re-introduction back into the flock without conflict will be extremely difficult if a bird is kept out of sight from flockmates for long periods of time. I recommend separating birds with crest injuries by housing them within a rabbit hutch or similar setup within the flock during the day to reduce these challenges. Once the injury has healed, re-integration is as simple as opening the "door" between the birds.
Tolbunt Polish hen with frizzled feathers www.The-Chicken-Chick.com
MORE CRESTED CHICKEN BREEDS
Appenzeller Spitzhauben pullet 
Appenzeller Spitzhauben pullet www.The-Chicken-Chick.com
Mottled Houdan rooster
Mottled Houdan www.The-Chicken-Chick.com
Sultan.
Sultan www.The-Chicken-Chick.com
Bearded Mottled Silkie 
Silkie  www.The-Chicken-Chick.com
bantam White Crested Black Polish rooster 
bantam White Crested Black Polish rooster  www.The-Chicken-Chick.com
White Crested Black Polish hen
Cream Barbanter rooster 
Cream Barbanter rooster  www.The-Chicken-Chick.com
Doc Brown & Freida (White Crested Black Polish Hen & White Silkie Hen)
White Crested Black Polish Hen & White Silkie Hen  www.The-Chicken-Chick.com
The Chicken Chick’s Guide to Backyard Chickens
Kathy Shea Mormino, The Chicken Chick with Roy, a Gold Laced Polish rooster

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