Frizzle Chickens: Unusual Eye Candy in a Flock
Cochin, Plymouth Rock, Japanese and Polish — Frizzle Bantams are Common with These Breeds
A standard Polish is compared to the Frizzle.
By Laura Haggarty – One of the more unusual-looking chickens you may run across is the Frizzle chicken. Frizzle chickens are not so much a chicken breed, as a type of bird. Any breed of chicken can be bred to be frizzled, but the most commonly seen Frizzle chickens are based on Cochins, Plymouth Rocks, Japanese and Polish chickens.
Frizzle chickens are among the hothouse flowers of the poultry fancy, by nature of their plumage which requires special care and breeding to obtain and maintain. The origin of Frizzle chickens is unclear, some sources state they originated in India, some have them in Italy, some say they were in England as early as the mid-1600s. Whatever their source, they are relatively popular here in the USA now, especially among those who breed bantam chickens for exhibition. However, they’re also fun for folks who just want some unusual eye candy in their backyard chicken flock!
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Frizzles can be purchased from several hatcheries, including McMurray, Welp, and Sand Hill. Generally those available from hatcheries will be based on Cochins. For the other breeds, one must find a breeder who specializes in the other types, and breed clubs are a good place to start to find such a breeder.
There are actually several genetic types of Frizzles, which make some look more extreme than others. The Frizzle gene is an incompletely dominant Pleiotropic gene. That means that it is a single gene that has an influence on a number of traits within the bird, primarily phenotypic, or those that can be outwardly seen. I don’t want to get into a too extensive discussion of the genetics of the bird: a really good explanation can be found in the book Genetics of the Fowl by F.B. Hutt.
The reason that Frizzle chickens look like puffballs is the way the mutated gene makes their feathers curl. Normally, the shaft of a chicken feather lies relatively flat and smooth. With the effect of the F gene (frizzling), the shaft of the affected feathers actually curl or spiral, which makes the feathers lift up and away from the Frizzled bird’s skin. Due to the nature of their feathers, many Frizzles do not fly well, and their feathers are more prone to breakage than flat feathered birds (especially females in breeding pens.)
A Buff Laced Frizzle Polish cock.
Due to the incomplete dominance of the gene, it’s not often that you get two Frizzle chickens that look exactly alike. When breeding Frizzle chickens, it’s best to breed a Frizzled bird to a non-Frizzled bird. If a Frizzle chicken is bred to a Frizzle chicken, you can wind up with offspring that carry too much of the F gene, and which are called “Curlies.” Curlies can sometimes look almost naked and have feathers that are weak and break easily. So breeding Frizzles is a task not for the faint of heart. But if you’re willing to devote the time and space to them that they need, you can wind up with some really spectacular birds, such as the ones seen in these photos by breeder Donna McCormick, of Alexandria, Kentucky. Donna has had Polish birds for 17 years, and as you can see, works with some unusual and strikingly colored birds.
Laura Haggarty has been working with poultry since 2000, and her family has had poultry and other livestock since the early 1900s. She and her family live on a farm in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky, where they have horses, goats, and chickens. She is a certified 4-H leader, co-founder and Secretary/Treasurer of the American Buckeye Poultry Club, and a Life Member of the ABA and the APA.
By the Book
The American Standard of Perfection published by the American Poultry Association states, “Frizzles are one of our odd breeds, and little is known about their origin. Charles Darwin classes them as ‘Frizzled or Caffie Fowls—not uncommon in India, and with feathers curling backward and primary feathers of wing and tail imperfect.’ The main points for exhibition purposes are the curl, which is most pronounced on feathers not too broad; the purity of color in plumage, correctness in leg color; i.e., yellow legs for the white, red or buff, and yellow or willow for other varieties.
A Standard breed since the first Standard in 1874.
“Frizzles may be shown in any breed and variety set forth in this Standard of Perfection. All sections of the bird should conform to the shape description of the breed. The plumage color should conform to the color plumage description of the breed and variety involved. A Frizzle of any recognized breed may compete for class champion as provided under the rules of the A.P.A.”
“Frizzled Bantams” from the Bantam Standard, published by the American Bantam Association, states, “There is no Frizzle breed, only frizzled versions of any breed. Frizzled bantams are common and are shown mostly in the Cochin, Plymouth Rock, Japanese and Polish breeds.”
Originally published in Backyard Poultry 2010 and regularly vetted for accuracy.