The Dominique Chicken: America’s Oldest Breed

Looking for a hardy, low maintenance chicken with a history of being a survivor? Check out the dual purpose Dominique chicken breed. Although nearly identical to the Plymouth Barred Rock, the Dominique breed has been in America for much, much longer. Ready to learn about America’s oldest breed? Here is everything you need to know before choosing the Dominique for your flock.

dominique chicken

The History of the Dominique Chicken Breed

Few know where the name “Dominique” came from. Some speculate that the breed is connected to Haiti, which was once a French colony known as Saint-Domingue (Santo Domingo). However, there is one thing for certain: the Dominique chicken has been in America since the 1750s and was also called the “Pilgrim fowl.”

Throughout the 1700s, many European breeds arrived in America with the colonists. An interest in poultry grew, and so, in 1871, the New York Poultry Society decided that only chickens with a rose comb would be called the Dominique breed. The American Poultry Association soon recognized Dominiques as a breed in 1874.

Since then, the Dominique has been known by a number of names, including the Blue Spotted Hen, Old Grey Hen, Dominicker, Dominico, and the Dominic. However, Dominique was the one that truly stuck.

The 1920s were a time of decline for the breed. Due to the hardiness of Dominique chickens, they managed to survive. Popularity rose again until World War II, when the poultry industry took another hit. In the 1970s, only 4 bloodlines of Dominique chickens remained. These flocks were owned by Robert Henderson, Edward Uber, Carl Gallagher, and Henry Miller. They combined their efforts to revive the breed, and it worked for a while.

Unfortunately, since 2006, the breed’s numbers are again dwindling. Dominiques have been placed on a watch list and may soon become an endangered chicken breed.

Dominique Chicken Characteristics

head of dominique chicken

What makes Dominique chickens so great? Here are all the characteristics that separate them from the rest of the flock:

Appearance

Dominiques have long been classified as a dual purpose breed for both meat and egg production. In the past, they were also used for feathers. However, they are not exactly large. A fully grown Dominique rooster weighs 7 pounds on average. Hens reach a maximum of 5 pounds. Their unique feathers have been dubbed a “cuckoo pattern,” which makes them less noticeable to predators. Dominique hens and roosters both have rose combs (which is also part of the breed standard).

According to the breed standard, the Dominique is slate-colored, which means that the bars on the feathers are not purely white and black. There is also no iridescent sheen on their feathers. These chickens have yellow skin and red lobes and wattles. Their eyes are reddish.

dominique rooster tail feathers

Dominique chickens carry themselves proudly. Roosters have a U-shaped back, along with a head it holds high. Females are slightly more sloped, but they still look confident.

Once in a while, a pure white Dominique may be born. This is considered a genetic throwback and is a gene that has been nearly erased from the breed. A white Dominique chick also hatches completely yellow.

Personality and Temperament

Looking for a farmyard companion to follow you around? The Dominique is a wonderful chicken for those who enjoy calm and gentle fowl. Few people have complaints about the hens. Roosters can also be gentle and serene most of the time, though they do have a mean streak during mating season. Dominique chicks are also extremely gregarious, and they will cluster around your feet and hands whenever you come to visit or bring them food.

Dominique hens are reliable and predictable. These chickens love to forage for their own food, but they do not mind being confined either.

If you are teaching children how to be good chicken keepers, consider getting them a few hardy Dominiques to watch over. This breed is forgiving, so long as you give them a treat once in a while.

While many chicken keepers will say that Dominiques are docile and may be bullied in groups of larger chickens, there are also stories of Dominique hens holding their own. Many breeders say that Dominique hens integrate well into already established flocks. They will also defend themselves, if the need arises. The main thing to note is that Dominiques are not aggressive, only assertive, and they will take the lead and act as alpha if no other chicken steps up.

Are Dominique Chickens Noisy?

dominique chicken in the flock with other chickens

Worried about your chickens waking up the neighbors on Saturday morning? The good news is that Dominique chickens are not extremely vocal. Some hens may be more talkative than others, but they are generally average volume.

Dominique roosters do crow, however.

Egg-Laying and Broodiness

Dominique hens are excellent at laying eggs. Anticipate around 4 eggs per week or 230-270 eggs a year. Their eggs are medium-sized and light brown. Typically, the females will be broody — as one might expect from a breed that survived the colonial era of America. Dominique moms are excellent at what they do, and they are attentive to their chicks. Most chicks survive upon hatching.

Fortunately, Dominique chicks are auto-sexing, which means that you can tell apart males and females from birth. Males will have scattered spots of white atop their heads, whereas females have a more concentrated crowning of white. The other way to tell apart the males and females is their legs. Females will have brownish legs. Males have yellow-orange.

Here is what Dominique chicks look like:

Health and Ailments

The Dominique breed generally lives between 6 to 8 years, though this depends on their living conditions and nutrition. For the first 2 years of life, they lay many eggs; once they reach 3 years old, productivity falls about 10% a year.

Dominiques are relatively resistant to temperature changes, thanks to their rose comb. Their plumage is also dense and lays close to the body, working as insulation. As with most breeds of chicken, you have to pay close attention to the quality of the coop. Be sure to give these birds adequate nutrition and treat them for mites, worms, and other parasites when necessary.

Otherwise, this is a fairly resilient breed.

What About The Dominique Bantam?

In 1960, the American Poultry Association recognized the bantam version of the Dominique breed. The bantam size looks exactly the same as the standard bird, and their personalities are exactly the same. The only difference is their weight. Bantam Dominiques weigh an average of 26 oz (1.6 lbs) for hens and 28 oz (1.75 lbs) for roosters.

Interested in seeing the size difference? Check out this video, comparing the standard and bantam-sized Dominiques:

Dominique vs Plymouth Barred Rock Breed

On first glance, you may find distinguishing between Dominique and Plymouth Barred Rock chickens, as they look very similar. However, once you know the two breeds better, the subtle differences become more noticeable.

The easiest way to tell Dominiques apart from Barred Rock chickens is that Barred Rocks only have a single comb. Dominiques have a rose comb. Plus, the Dominique black and white feathers tend to have a more jagged, herringbone-like pattern, whereas the Plymouth Barred Rock tends to have a pattern of black and white lines in their plumage.

Interestingly, the Plymouth Barred Rock is considered a favorable alternative to the Dominique these days. If you are looking for a better egg-layer than a Dominique, go with a Plymouth Barred Rock. Furthermore, Barred Rock roosters are far less aggressive than Dominique ones.

How to Care for Dominiques

Yes, America’s oldest breed of chicken is truly resilient and low maintenance. You won’t have to do much to ensure they are happy and healthy.

Feeding and Nutrition

Dominiques are not the biggest of the breeds out there, which means you do not have to worry about giving them large portions of food. However, they do need good nutrition to lay plenty of eggs and grow up strong. If you plan on raising Dominique chickens from chicks, invest in a high-quality chicken starter. The chicks will need this start for about 12-14 weeks, until they can transition safely over to regular feed.

Give them a well-balanced mix of high quality feed, chicken grit, and the occasional treat, such as greens, fruits, and other safe scraps. Otherwise, your Dominiques will be happy enough to roam the yard, picking up bugs and other edible things. If you find that your egg-laying Dominiques are producing brittle eggs, add in some calcium supplements. Crushed eggshells or oyster shells are wonderful for this.

Housing and Roaming

As with all chicken breeds, make sure your Dominique chickens have a fortified coop to rest in overnight. Their space should be warm and dry. There should be between 3-4 square feet for every bird in the coop, as well as plenty of nesting boxes and places to roost. The ideal roosting space for this breed is 12 inches for every bird.

Dominiques thrive when they have space to roam, but they can also tolerate confinement. If you intend to keep these chickens in a run, allot at least 10 square feet of space per chicken. Ensure that your yard is safe and secure from predators, and keep the run as clean as possible. Raccoon droppings, for instance, are filled with parasites that could make your Dominique chickens ill.

Buying Dominique Eggs or Chicks for Raising

dominique chicks twenty five day old

Despite the decline in popularity, you can still find Dominique eggs and chicks for sale throughout the USA. You can find listings from local breeders on many sites, including eBay and Amazon. Local feed stores may also have breeder information posted.

Dominique chicks average around $2.60-$3.00 each. If you plan on purchasing Dominique bantam chicks, expect to pay a couple dollars more. Most breeders sell Dominique chicks in batches of 3-25 chicks, though some breeders prefer you to buy more. You can also purchase day old pullets and cockerels. Pullets average around $10.00-$12.00, while cockerels can be bought for around $6.00 each.

The best practice is to find a breeder close to you. That way, you can personally collect your chicks or fertilized eggs, thereby avoiding any mishaps during transportation to your location.

Is The Dominique Chicken Breed Right For You?

The Dominique breed is a fantastic choice for those who are just beginning their chicken-keeping journey. These chickens are non-aggressive; even the roosters tend to remain non-aggressive towards their owners during mating season. Hens are perfect for children. Being that they are friendly birds, you can pick them up and hold them, but do not expect them to hop into your lap whenever they get the chance. These birds are more inclined to follow you around the yard.

Being that they are calm and easy to handle, Dominique chickens can also be brought to chicken shows. Doing so may also be a boon to breed. Since the population of Dominiques is dropping, having dedicated advocates for the breed could potentially increase interest in them once again.

If your flock is filled with more assertive breeds, you may need to protect your Dominiques from bullying. Ideally, you would add Dominiques to a flock that consists of other mild-mannered fowl, including Polish chickens, Orpingtons, and Cochins.

Another reason to choose Dominiques is how self-sufficient they are. You can let them free range, and they will get most of their nutrition from that. As a bonus, they are fast growers and start producing eggs sooner than later. This is great if you plan on selling eggs or harvesting their meat.

Conclusion

The Dominique chicken breed has been around since the time of the pilgrims; it is a shame that their numbers have fallen. Hopefully, this article will inspire you to pick up a Dominique or two! The black and white plumage makes this chicken excellent for free roaming, and they are great at laying eggs. Plus, they can withstand cooler temperatures. If that is the kind of chicken you are looking for, then why not add the lovely Dominique to your flock?

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