We have studied the polarization-electric-field hysteresis, the dielectric permittivity dispersion, the piezoelectric properties, the electric-field-induced strain, and the interrelations between these properties for bismuth ferrite (BiFeO3) ceramics. The results indicate that the domain-wall movement in BiFeO3 is strongly inhibited by charged defects, most probably acceptor-oxygen-vacancy defect pairs. The domain-wall mobility can be considerably increased by preventing the defects from migrating into their stable configuration; this can be achieved by thermal quenching from above the Curie temperature, which freezes the disordered defect state. Similarly, Bi2O3 loss during annealing at high temperatures contributes to depinning of the domain walls and an increase in the remanent polarization. The possible defects causing the pinning effect are analyzed and discussed. A weakening of the contacts between the grains in the ceramics and crack propagation were observed during poling with constant field at 100 kV/cm. This is probably caused by an electrically induced strain associated with ferroelastic domain reversal. A relatively large piezoelectric d33 constant of 44 pC/N was obtained by “cyclic poling,” in which the electric field was released after each applied cycle with the purpose to relax the mechanical stresses and minimize the problem of cracking.