Let’s talk about the Dominique! Have you heard of them before? Do you have any in your flock? Dominiques were one of two breeds we bought as chicks when we started out in our chicken keeping journey.
Dominiques are a heritage breed, meaning an heirloom breed in danger of becoming extinct. According to The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, a heritage chicken is one “hatched from a heritage egg sired by an American Poultry Association Standard breed established prior to the mid-20th century, is slow growing, naturally mated and with a long productive outdoor life.” Dominiques are currently on the “watch” list, and in recent years have been making a comeback.
The Dominique (also called the Dominicker and Pilgrim Fowl) is recognized as America’s first chicken breed and most likely descended from chickens brought to New England from England in colonial times. Their name is thought to have come from birds imported from the then French colony of Saint-Domingue that were also used as part of their development. They were a popular dual-purpose bird and found on many early American farms.
appearance & characteristics
Dominiques can be confused with Barred Rocks but they are different breeds. (It is thought that Doms contributed in developing the BR). The most obvious way to tell them apart is their comb – Doms have a rose comb and BRs with a single comb. Their barred patterning is also slightly different. Dominiques have irregular bars of light grey and dark grey which makes them look more mottled instead of the crisp parallel black and white baring of the BR.
These Chickens are of medium size. Their barred patterning is also called hawk-colored and actually helps them to be less obvious to predators. They have yellow legs, bright red wattles, comb and earlobes. Their skin is also yellow. They carry their heads high and have a lovely arched neck sitting on a broad and full body.
Roosters are lighter in coloring and have a long sweeping tail. They weigh 7 lbs on average.
Hens are darker in their barring and are round with plump breasts and a high tail set. They weigh an average of 5 lbs.
Due to their small combs and tight feathering, the Dominiques are especially cold hardy. They are also able to adapt to hot and humid climates. Although they are categorized as dual-purpose, foremost they are egg layers producing on average 230-270 medium sized, tan to light brown eggs per year.
As for their behavior and temperament, they are known to be calm, sweet and gentle. They will often follow you around for treats (but what chicken doesn’t) ha! In my own experience I do 100% agree with this but my two hens can also be a little sassy. My rooster is amazingly gentle and loves to be held, pet and carried around. They are known to become aggressive especially during mating season. They do well in free range conditions because they are great foragers but can also tolerate confinement well.
Hens are known to be occasionally broody and mother hens are attentive to their chicks. They have a high success rate of raising their brood. Also, did you know that Dominique chicks are auto sexing?! This is relatively new information I learned and it would have been valuable to have known when we went to buy chicks the first time around. I asked for 5 out of the bin (they were advertised as straight-run). Of course the farm store employee just scooped up any old 5 chicks and it turned out we got 4 roosters and 1 hen. Horrible odds! Had I known they have auto sexing traits I would have been more picky about the ones I got. Anyways! The traits… cockerels (males) will have a larger and more scattered yellow spot on the head. Pullets (females) have a yellow spot more small and concentrated. You can also look at their feet with cockerels having yellow shanks and toes, pullets with a grayish or blackish coloration.
In May of 2019 we took some of our own eggs (a mixed bunch) and placed them in an incubator for hatching. 21 days later we had 4 peepers ready to start their lives! Only 1 chick hatched from the Dominique eggs (I think I placed 3 total) and luckily enough it grew up to be a pullet. An adorable little chick, bred from our own Dominique chickens. I am pretty proud of this chicken and she is the friendliest little thing ever. She’s also quite demanding of those treats and isn’t afraid to grab your finger if you’re moving too slowly. Her mother hen is Danny, whom you’ll have seen in some of the photos above. Her sire is unknown as we had four Dominique roosters at the time.
Look at baby Daphne! So adorable. It’s hard to tell but she has that small condensed yellow spot on her head and the blackish coloring on her shanks and toes.
So… should you consider adding a Dominique (or two) to your flock? They are a great choice for a family flock as they are calm, docile and non-aggressive. Perhaps not a sit-in-your-lap kind of chicken but they don’t mind being picked up and carried around – speaking from experience. All three of my Doms enjoy being held. They are a low-maintenance bird and can forage for most of their food if in a free-ranging environment. Because of this self-sufficiency they make great chickens for first-time keepers. They are hardy birds and aren’t known to have a lot of health problems. All in all I feel that this bird is a great choice and you wouldn’t be disappointed welcoming one into your flock.
Do you have any stories about Dominiques? Do you enjoy the company of them? Let me know in the comments! Thanks for reading, and enjoy the pictures of these Dominique chickens that call Fivemile Creek Farm their home. Be sure to check out the captions 🙂