Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Heritage Breeds: Dominique Chickens


The Dominique was the first U.S. breed of chicken.

The Dominique chicken is primarily an egg laying breed, but many keep it as a dual-purpose (egg and meat) bird. This is a breed I am strongly considering adding to my land. As you read about this chicken, I wouldn't be surprised if you will, too.

Conservation Status: In Watch Status by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.  "Watch" status means that there are less than 5,000 breeding birds in the U.S.  For a full description of Heritage and Heirloom Foods, check out this post.

Description: Laying Breed Chicken or Dual-Purpose Chicken
Class*: American
Origin: United States
APA**: 1874

Size: Medium
Cock 7 lbs (3.2 kg)
Hen 5 lbs (2.25 kg)

The Dominique's "rose" comb is small enough to minimize risk of frostbite.

Comb (the fleshy thing on top of the chicken's head): Small to medium rose comb - bright red
Wattles (the fleshy thing hanging from the chicken's chin): Small to medium wattles - bright red
Earlobes (the fleshy thing just below and behind the chicken's eyes): Medium-sized, oblong - bright red

Beak: Yellow
Eyes: Deep red
Shanks: Yellow
Toes: Yellow

The black and white barred feather pattern, also known as "hawk coloring".

Feathers: Barred black and white (really they are dark gray over off-white)
Eggs: Small-Medium. Brown eggs. 230-275 eggs per year.

The Dominique was once the country's primary backyard chicken.

History
It is the first truly American breed of chicken, although the exact origin is unknown. Likely it was primarily European stock that formed the original breeding stock, and over time there was likely some Asian breeds mixed in as well. The Dominique was the primary barnyard chicken in the U.S. for about a century (1830-1930's), until it was replaced by the Barred Plymouth Rock breed. By the 1950's, it was thought that they Dominique was extinct; however, there were a few breeders out there who kept the breed alive. A full scale restoration took place in the 1970's with only four flocks, and today the breed is in a much safer position.

The name, Dominique, may have come from the French colony Saint-Domingue (a.k.a. Hati) which was a likely source for some of the original breeding stock.

The Dominique's mild manner is just one of its great attributes.

Attributes/Permaculture Planning
  • Very hardy birds
  • Range well
  • Tolerates confinement (but I don't recommend that for any animal!)
  • Great forager
  • Good egg producer
  • Broody tendency (means that the hen will want to hatch the eggs she lays - this is a great attribute when we are trying to improve our stock in a breeding program... who wants a mother that abandons her eggs?)
  • Good mothers
  • Barred feather pattern provides protection from arial predators - camouflage!
  • Feathers used to be highly prized for stuffing pillows and mattresses
  • Young birds feather out and mature early - can produce eggs as early as six months
  • Hens are calm and friendly
  • Cocks can be aggressive - known to kill snakes, mink, even small cats... good protectors!

For more information on Dominique Chickens, check out the Dominique Club of America.

A Dominique cock.

*Note: While there are a number of breeds that have a Bantam (miniature) version in existence, I choose not to discuss them on this site. Most Bantam breeds are show-only birds, and would not be ideal birds for a homestead... and I am not interested in "pets" that take up resources instead of providing for me and my family. There is a lot of very good and helpful information on other sites if you are interested in Bantam breeds.


**APA = American Poultry Association. Founded in 1873, it is the oldest poultry organization in North America.


1 comment:

  1. Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on blogs I stumble upon every day. It’s always helpful to read through articles from other authors and practice a little something from their websites.

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