Use: Dual-purpose Dominique chickens lay a respectable number of small- to medium-sized, brown eggs yet are meaty enough to roast when young or stew in old age. Historically, Dominiques were expected to forage their own feed and still excel as fend-for-yourself, free-range fowl or in pastured-poultry situations. Because of tightly arranged feathers, they resist frostbite. Dominiques are also able to adapt well to hot climates. They come in both large fowl and bantam sizes.
History: The exact origin of the Dominique chicken breed is uncertain, but the American Poultry Association postulates that the Dominique’s ancestors original ancestors were hawk-colored or gray fowl imported to New England from Europe. The APA also refers to Asiatic and Hamburg bloodlines.
Barred chickens with both rose and single combs were well-established in the eastern United States by 1750, where they were known as Dominics, Dominickers or Dominiques. In 1871, the New York Poultry Society decreed that only chickens with rose combs would become the standard of the chicken breed and that chickens with single combs were to be called Plymouth Rocks.
Dominique chickens remained popular until the post-World War II industrialization of poultry breeds rendered most heritage breeds obsolete. By 1970, only four known flocks of purebred stock remained. When the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy published reports about their plight, chicken keepers so rallied behind America’s first breed that even though it’s still uncommon, the Dominique no longer faces extinction. It’s currently listed in the ALBC’s Watch category.
Conformation: The American Poultry Association’s standard for Dominique chickens calls for large-variety cocks to average 7 pounds and hens to average 5 pounds. Bantam-variety cocks average 28 ounces and hens average 24 ounces. They come in a slate-and-white barred pattern known as cuckoo or hawk-colored, which serves as camouflage to protect them from predation. Roosters have rose combs that rise to a distinctive, slightly-upturned spike at the rear; hens’ rose combs are smaller. Dominiques are broad-bodied, meaty and yellow-skinned chickens. Their abundant but close-lying feathers, along with their smallish rose combs, serve to make this a cold-hardy breed that also adapts to hot, humid climates.
Special Considerations/Notes: Dominique chickens are calm and gentle. Ideally, they should live in free-range conditions, but they also tolerate confinement well. Hens are decent layers of light- to medium-brown eggs, and historically average 230 to 275 eggs per year. Hens brood their own chicks and are attentive, protective mothers.