Darwin’s Polish Colonel meets the Vulture

thecolonelHere is our longtime polish crested rooster, the Colonel.We were given Colonel from a beautiful young family on another farm in Fort Bragg.  There he had been number two.  Colonel was beaten down at first but soon realized the big guy wasn’t there.  He was older than our others 3 years ago and soon was top rooster.  Unfortunately, another rooster grew to huge size and the colonel lost a bloody fight.  He was punch drunk and we put him in the wine barrel chicken coop with a very elderly hen who no longer laid eggs.  He recovered in there, then was in love with her.  He would fl;y away from his flock of  young hens (we relocated the rival) and court the granny hen.

Eventually it was time for the Colonel to be relocated to our second Cleone  location down the road and up the hill. When he got there he discovered he was the third rooster.  That didnt work. He flew off.  We found him at the neighbors, where there were 40 hens and no rooster. He charmed them into having a rooster.

So today, I was up there signing in some folks at the AIR B and B and a big vulture swooped into the neighbors yard and landed.  BANG, the colonel attacked the vulture and then flew up in the air and spurred at him as he flew away.  You dont see that every day! The ravens are a plague up there, but vultures don’t get chickens. Colonel was clearly not having any birds messing with his hens.  In his later years the Colonel became totally non-violent even to other roosters. He has always been polite to humans.  Since getting his brains beaten by the other rooster, he ceased fighting and was a lover only. But he had no qualms about flying at a vulture with a wingspan of at least 6 feet.

polishfowletchingThe drawing is of a Polish by Charles Darwin in the “Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication”- the so-called “Big Book” that he promised in Origin to explain the mechanism of Evolution.

The distinctive appearance and true breeding of the Polish chicken and others fascinated Darwin.  How could illiterate farmers who knew nothing of genetics or evolution have created such interesting breeds that anyone could breed at home?  The farmers were grasping something that eluded Darwin.  Although Gregor Mendel had figured out and documented the science of genetics in his pea garden a decade before, Mendel’s work remained obscure until the turn of the century.

Darwin strangely warns “do not incubate”.   Polish are non-sitters for the most part so its hard to imagine how that would work.

Polish roosters are shown in mostly Dutch European paintings from 1400-1900.  But humans rarely felt the need to write down chicken history, even one so striking. The origins of the Polish are lost in history.  Most think it was a Dutch creation. Some think it came from Poland, where it was very popular in the last 400 years, but had a different name.  The classic Polish military uniforms of the 19th century had distinctive hats often with feathers mounted on the top.  So which came first the chicken or the Czapka?

American farmers loved the breed when it came in 1830s.  There was a polish chicken craze from Maine to Nebraska.  Somewhere along the line, its once noted egg laying has declined quite a bit.

colonelPolish chickens are NOT in our breeding program.  The breeding program has the following priorities; 1. Intelligence 2. Breast size 3. Bird weight  4. Vitality 5. Speed to maturity.

More about why we chose those in another post.  The Colonel (and his progeny—- Colonel chillluns became more numerous than we wished, as he was very successful with the hens and they sought him out) rates between 5-7 on intelligence (we have a speckled sussex that opens doors and rates 9-10).  On breast they rate 1 and on bird weight 2.  Vitaliity about 7. So they are out.  Breastless meat chickens just don’t work. Butttt on number 5 we have a colonel son that crowed at 4 weeks!!!  And he rates 5 on 2 and 3.  Not sure who the colonel bred with. That’s a flaw in the breeding program.  I can’t keep up enough to know mom and dad of all my stock.

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