Your Ultimate Guide to the Dorking Chicken Breed

Give me five, down low! The Dorking chicken is the best meat chicken since the Roman Empire. They are also reliable winter layers and great brooders. But these hefty birds have something extra that most others don’t have. It’s something you need to maintain in exchange for a bounty of eggs and meat. 

Get to know more about the good old Dorkings by reading this guide.

Dorking Chicken Breed In A Nutshell

PurposeEggs, meat
Average lifespan7 years
Egg Production150-200 eggs per year
Egg color & sizeCreamy white, sometimes slightly tinted large eggs
Size / market weightHen: 7 lbs; rooster: 9 lbs
Beginner-friendlyYes 
TemperamentDocile, broody
Coop needsWide space
Cold hardy?Yes
Health ProblemsSingle comb is prone to frostbite
RarityRare-endangered

An Old English Dorking Tale

The Dorking Chicken is one of the oldest domesticated poultry breeds still available today. You can even trace back their origin to the time of Julius Caesar (1). These gladiator birds with a rare extra toe eventually made it to the United Kingdom in the 1800s during the Roman invasion. The British loved the Dorking meat, and so did the rest of the world. 

Today, the Dorking remains the tastiest breed of meat chickens. But chicken keepers like breeding them more for exhibition than practicality, too. 

The Appearance of the Dazzling Dorking 

There’s a lot to behold about the Dorking chicken breed. They’re big birds that sit low to the ground. Having a fifth toe and impressive plumage are definitely eye-catching too.

You can find these chickens in five color varieties and two comb types.  Other countries have different standards, so let’s focus on the North American Standards. Here’s the breakdown

VarietySpecial MentionRoosterHenComb TypeLarge or Bantam?
Cuckoo DorkingLooks like Barred Plymouth Rock.They have a uniform feather pattern of alternating dark and light gray (2). Roosters have bigger combs and wattles.They have a uniform feather pattern of alternating dark and light gray (2). Rose and SingleLarge Fowl
Colored DorkingRarest color varietyStraw-colored hackles and saddles with the rest of the body left black.Black backs and tails, dark salmon breasts, and straw shafting.SingleLarge Fowl and Bantam
Red DorkingJet black feathers with a beetle-green sheen. Bright red hackles, back, and wing bows.Golden, black-striped hackles and black tails. The remaining plumage is a deep red, spangled with black tips.SingleLarge Fowl
Silver Gray DorkingMost popular variety.Solid black chests and tails that contrast the solid white hackles and saddles (3)Uniform gray back and body. But they have a salmon breast and black tailSingleLarge Fowl and Bantam
White DorkingMost basic, and some say original Dorking variety.Roosters have uniform white plumage all over—no streaks of other colors. Hens have uniform white plumage all over—no streaks of other colors. RoseLarge Fowl and Bantam

No matter the variety, all Dorkings must have five toes. This extra toe only appears in four other breeds and doesn’t have a special function. It doesn’t touch the ground and points upward (4).

Aside from unique feet, these chickens also have short legs and necks and a deep rectangular body shape. They also have white skin and pinkish-white shanks without feathers.

Owning The Dual-Purpose Dorking 

Let’s get to know these five-toed chickens even more. Get an inside look at what it’s like to own these chonky chickens.

The Docile Dorking

Dorkings are friendly and docile chickens. They get along with other chicken breeds and other animals they meet. Because of this, they can get bullied by more aggressive breeds. So keep an eye out for them.

One of the most interesting things about these chickens is that the hens go broody real quick. They are excellent mothers, adopting other eggs and even duck chicks. 

As for being moms, well, you can think of them as overbearing mothers. Dorking hens tend to keep chicks in their nest for a longer time than they need. Human parents aren’t the only ones that suffer from separation anxiety!

Winter Wonder Layers 

Before the hens turn into good moms, they are first good layers. 

Being a heritage breed means that it takes a while for them to get in the laying groove. But when Dorkings do, they provide you with large white or slightly colored eggs

A Dorking hen can lay up to 200 eggs per year consistently. Its egg production is not as good as the Speckled Sussex, but you can rely on a Dorking hen to give you eggs during winter. 

Dorkings: The Tastiest Table Bird Around

These chickens may not be the best egg-layers. But they are arguably the best meat chickens out there (5).   

“The flesh is tender and delicate. The chickens are well fleshed in the choicest sections: breast, merrythought (wishbone area), and wings.”

Dorkings aren’t as big as Orpingtons, but they have tastier meat. They are known worldwide for their excellent meat quality. You just have to wait AT LEAST a few months to harvest the meat. Slow growing Dorkings sometimes take two years to fully mature!

Are Dorkings Noisy?

These short, hefty birds aren’t the noisiest. Roosters crow just like any other, but hens aren’t particularly clucky. They also don’t make any trouble that causes loud squabbles.

Caring For Dorking Chicken: What You Need To Know

Production-wise you now know the Dorking chicken breed is fantastic. Now let’s find out if these highly efficient chickens are also high maintenance.

How To Keep Your Dorking Chickens Healthy

You’ll be happy to know that Dorking chickens aren’t prone to any particular diseases. But these low-setting birds are not low maintenance. 

That extra toe that never touches the ground needs regular trimming. For some reason, the chicken gods decided to add a toe that is useless and points upward. It can also potentially poke the chicken’s butt if the nail gets too long.

Dorkings also get dirty faster than others. It’s easy enough to avoid. Just make sure they stay in a good place with no puddles or too much dust. So keep them dry to rule out skin and feather issues.

four free-range Dorking chickens walking on sand

Keep in mind that when we say dry, we don’t mean dusty desert dry. Dust isn’t good for any chicken. But most especially Dorkings that are closer to the ground. They can develop breathing problems if you often expose them to dusty areas.

If you keep single comb Dorkings, make sure you keep an eye out for frostbite. 

Clean, healthy Dorkings live longer lives. So you get more eggs and tastier meat. It also means fewer vet bill expenses for you.

Feeding Your Dorking Hens

Grower feed is essential if you want to raise these birds for the table. But, laying feed is equally crucial for egg-laying hens. Since Dorkings are good foragers, let them out to graze on bugs for extra protein. 

Just make sure you don’t overfeed them. These birds drew the short stick of the leg lottery, so give them a break. They can only carry so much weight!

Plus, overfeeding circles back to more health problems like fatty liver and lower egg production.  So, run a good backyard operation by doing a weight watchers segment for your chickens.

Dorking Dwellings

Speaking of backyards, Dorkings make excellent backyard chickens. They don’t like small spaces but also don’t wander far. So you can let them free-range without worrying that they’ll jump the fence.

Another bonus is that they don’t like scratching. So your garden plots are safe! 

If you want to keep them in a coop, make sure it’s big enough for them to move around. Allot around 20 ft2 per regular-sized Dorking. Yes, it’s big; but these guys like to walk. It develops their muscles. So if you want tender chicken, give them their space.

Buying Your Dorking Flock: Dorking Chickens For Sale

Breeder clubs are your best bet of getting poultry show quality Dorkings. If you’re not raising them for competition, you can visit local poultry shops and hatcheries are great for sourcing this egg and meat breed. 

Most of these places have a minimum order to ship these birds as either chicks or adults. Here are some places you can check to get your Dorking starter flock:

The Bottomline

Dorkings are extraordinary all-around chickens to have in your backyard. They have an easy-going personality, excellent meat and egg production, and low feeding costs. Those characteristics outweigh any maintenance of occasional cleaning you may need to do for them.

Overall, there is very little not to like about these chickens. Get a few birds and enjoy the bounty they bring to your table.

FAQs

Silver Gray Dorkings lay white eggs. The Dorking breed, in general, lay white eggs. But the hue varies, with some laying slightly tinted eggs than others. The tint ranges from pale pink to pale beige.

Some people find it unique that these red-lobed chickens lay white eggs. Since most other chickens with that characteristic lay brown eggs. In any case, the darkest hue a tur Dorking lays is a pale beige. Anything darker is a disqualification of breed standards.

Chickens with five toes are the Dorking, Faverolles, Houden, Sultan, and non-bearded Silkie bantams. 

Having five toes is uncommon in the chicken world, with most breeds having only four toes. The five breeds have a genetic mutation that causes the growth of an extra toe. But instead of it being a fault, the APA standards actually certified this characteristic. 

So, even if you have a chicken with all other Dorking traits but only four toes, that chicken gets disqualified. It’s ironic to uphold a genetic fault, but it’s also cool because it makes them truly unique.

Dorkings can live in almost any climate, but it depends on what variety you’ll get.  

Rose Comb Dorkings thrive in colder climates because their comb retains heat. Plus, you don’t have to worry about frostbite. Single comb Dorkings do better in hotter climates because their combs help cool them down. Think of it as a built-in fan. 

That said, White Dorkings do best in Colder climates because they only have rose combs. And Silver Gray Dorkings thrive in the heat thanks to their single combs.

  1. Poultry Breeds – Dorking Chicken. Retrieved from: http://afs.okstate.edu/breeds/poultry/chickens/dorking/index.html/
  2. Dorking. Retrieved from: https://vicvet.com/perch/resources/dorking-standard.pdf
  3. Dorking Chicken. Retrieved from: https://heritagepoultry.org/blog/dorking-chicken
  4. Chicken Feet. Retrieved from: https://web.extension.illinois.edu/eggs/res13-feet.html
  5. Dorking Chicken. Retrieved from: https://livestockconservancy.org/index.php/heritage/internal/dorking

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