Breeds of chickens – Dominiques

The Dominique breed developed from the fowl introduced during the early settlement of New England. These were of the type predominating in the south of England and from which the Sussex and Dorking descended. This stock was widely distributed in the Eastern half of the United States by mid 19th century. The breed was generally known as Dominiques except in the region of origin where they were known as Plymouth Rock and occasionally as Pilgrim Fowls. The differentiation between Plymouth Rock and Dominique was not made until 1870 when the management of the New York state poultry show ruled that only rose combed fowl of intermediate size could compete as Dominiques, and that all medium and large single combed fowl of this colour would be known as Plymouth Rocks. A small single combed bird of this colour was called a Dominique Leghorn.

A great increase in popular interest began in 1875 with the “improved” type finding an enthusiastic response among exhibitors and farmers. The breed was never used commercially, and was eventually eclipsed on the farm by the gradual shift to “Plymouth Rocks” when the preferred type of “Dominique” had been transformed into the “Plymouth Rock.”

Dominiques have many advantages besides their handsome appearance. They are hardy, do well on open range as well as in confinement, are generally calm by nature and are easy to work with and show. They hatch well, are early feathering, mature young, and are of moderate size. The American Poultry Association’s Standard of Excellence indicates that cocks run 7 pounds; cockerels, 6 pounds; hens, 5 pounds; and pullets, 4 pounds. The females are good mothers, reasonably good layers of light to dark brown, and show less tendency toward broodiness than many other exhibition breeds. There are both large and bantam Dominiques. Dominiques are also good meat birds.

While for many years Dominiques were very rare, they are no longer a “lost breed”. There has recently been a revival of interest in them which has placed them in a unique category of their being uncommon enough to be interesting and unusual, but not so common as to be a “me, too” breed.

The Dominique is a medium sized bird with black and white barring over the entire body. The rose comb is characteristic. A dual propose breed, these birds were kept to produce brown eggs and chicken for the pot. The heavy plumage not only protected the birds in cold weather, but provided material for pillows and featherbeds. The plumage colouration also made them less conspicuous to predators. They were expected to make a part of their living by foraging and to raise a clutch or two of chicks each year.

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