What is a Frizzle Chicken?

A frizzle chicken is a very unique bird. Its curly feathers stick out in all directions, giving the chicken the appearance of a mop. Or perhaps a feather duster would be a better analogy.

In any case, is a frizzle a breed of chicken, or is frizzling a peculiar feather arrangement? Well, that just depends on who you ask. Frizzle fans consider their favorite chickens a breed, regardless of the parentage of the individual bird. However, they make a couple of exceptions: frizzled Polish and frizzled Japanese Bantams are not considered Frizzles (as in the breed) by Frizzle fanciers. They are simply regarded as variations of their respective breeds.

Which makes sense, because genetically a frizzle is not a breed; it is simply any chicken with frizzled feathers. You can have a frizzled Cochin or a frizzled Plymouth Rock or a frizzled Polish, or a frizzled crossbreed for that matter.

The Genetics of Frizzling

Frizzling is caused by a dominant gene—one which “trumps” the other varieties of the same gene. In this case, the other variety is the gene for normal feathering. A frizzled chicken has one frizzle gene and one normal gene. Because the frizzle gene is dominant, the normal gene is “trumped” and is prevented from producing straight feathers. When two chickens with this gene combination are mated, the result is as follows:

  • 25% of the offspring will have two normal genes.
  • 50% of the offspring will have one frizzle gene and one normal gene.
  • 25% of the offspring will have two frizzle genes.

However, having a chicken with two frizzle genes is generally not desirable. Instead of having the lovely feather-duster appearance, the poor bird will have thin, delicate feathers that break off at the slightest touch. The result is a chicken that spends most of the year being bald. Bald chickens are just not attractive, and they don’t like the cold much.

Therefore, most Frizzle fans prefer to breed a normal chicken to a frizzled chicken. This cross results in the following:

  • 50% of the offspring will have two normal genes.
  • 50% of the offspring will have one frizzle gene and one normal gene.

Thus the bald chickens are avoided altogether.

Frizzle Faults

Just because a Frizzle has one frizzle gene and one normal gene does not mean it is free from frizzling-related problems, however. Even though it isn’t bald, it still isn’t very weatherproof. A normal chicken’s feathers are designed to shed a reasonable amount of rain, but frizzled chickens have little natural defense against the elements. Therefore, they must be provided with dry shelter, and they do require extra protection from the cold.

Also, Frizzles cannot fly. Perches must be placed low enough that the chickens can jump up onto them easily, or they will spend the night on the ground.

But for those who are able to properly house their flock, the eye-catching Frizzle can make an interesting addition to the backyard menagerie.