The Dominique chicken is America’s oldest chicken breed and despite having been a homesteading bird for hundreds of years, today they are listed as endangered.
Dominiques are often confused with the Barred Rock chicken breed; however, they are distinguished by their white barred plumage and impressive rose combs.
If you are new to chicken keeping, then Dominique chickens are a wonderful choice and they aren’t that expensive to feed either!
In this guide, we get to know more about the Dominique by looking at their history, egg production, and their suitability for your backyard.
The Background of Dominique Chickens
There are many tales concerning the origins of Dominiques. One story describes birds from the French colony of Saint Dominique, now Haiti, being imported to develop the breed, while others conclude that Asian and European chicken breeds contributed to their United States origins.
The most well-known origin story dates back to the 1750s and the East American pilgrims.
Dominiques are believed to have arrived in America and were widely distributed in the Eastern United States with the help of the Pilgrims, which is also the reason they are known as Pilgrim fowl.
Interestingly, the Dominique has several names which include the Old Grey Hen, the Blue Spotted Hen, Dominicker, and the Dominic.
They were hardy and naturally foraged for their own food making them an independent breed. While Dominiques have retained much of their traditional appearance, the New York Poultry Society decided that the single comb be replaced by the rose comb variety in 1871.
By 1874, the Dominique chicken was recognized by the American Poultry Association.
The Decline of the Breed
The popularity of the Dominique breed started to decline by 1920 and despite having survived the Great Depression owing to their hardiness, their numbers really suffered during World War II with the rise of the poultry industry.
In 1970, there were only four flocks that were maintained by breeders and flock owners Robert Henderson, Henry Miller, Edward Uber, and Carl Gallaher. A rescue mission ensued and according to the Livestock Conservancy, their numbers recovered between 1983 and 2006.
Today, Dominique populations are decreasing because former breeders no longer dedicate their time to developing the breed.
What’s a Dominique Chicken?
Dominiques are medium-sized dual purpose birds that are natural foragers, dense feathers, and are considered tough fowl.
They are distinguished by their black and white barred feathering from the top of their heads to their tails. They also have a rose comb that became a part of their breed standard in the 1870s.
What is the Difference Between a Barred Rock and Dominique?
The rose comb Dominique became the breed standard and its single comb lines were bred into the Barred Plymouth Rock chicken.
Barred Plymouth Rocks were developed in New England by crossing the single comb Dominique with the Java chicken breed. They have single combs and a similar barred feather pattern across their bodies.
What Does a Dominique Chicken Look Like?
Dominiques are frequently confused with Barred Rocks because these two breeds have similar feather patterns, but there are several features that only belong to the Dominique.
Dominique chickens have bright red cushion or rose combs that are more prominent in roosters. A true rose comb will have a spike at the back of the comb facing slightly backward. They have tight plumage and together with their flat combs, this North American breed is perfectly suited to handle harsh winter weather.
FACTThe feathers of Dominiques have incredible insulating properties and were the primary source to stuff pillows and blankets in the 1900s.
What is most impressive about this breed is their barred feathers that cover the entire body.
While Barred Rocks have defined black and whited barred plumage, the Dominique has a staggered pattern with only slight differences between the black and white colors.
They have a reddish bay eye color, red ear lobes and wattles, and a horn colored beak. They have clean yellow legs with four toes on each foot.
These chickens are medium in size but their broad-shaped bodies make them appear much larger than what they really are. They hold their tails up at a 45-degree angle while the saddle, hackle, and sickle feathers on the Dominique roosters are long with a distinct curve.
The Dominique roosters weigh 7 lbs and the hens weigh 5 lbs compared to bantams weighing 1.5-2 lbs.
The Breed Standard
The Dominique breed standard requires that both hens and roosters have a rose comb, yellow legs, white barred feathers, and close-knit plumage. Dominiques were accepted into the American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection in 1914.
NOTEThe Dominique is known as the oldest American chicken breed but the oldest breed in the world is believed to be the Speckled Sussex chicken breed, known for supplying London with meat and eggs.
Dominiques are also considered a heritage breed because they have been around since the 18th century as dual purpose chickens. Despite their history, they are now listed as critically endangered.
The Dominique bantam is a smaller version of the standard Dominique and was accepted into the American Poultry Association in 1960.
How to Sex Dominique Chicks?
Dominique chicks can be sexed as hatchlings because they have sex linked qualities. Cockerels will have yellow toes and shanks compared to the gray and black shanks and toes of the pullets. These color differences will fade as chicks get older so it’s best to sex them as hatchlings.
This video below shows you what they look like while talking about why they are a good addition to your flock
Is the Dominique Chicken a Good Egg Layer?
Dominiques were originally bred for eggs but today are recognized as a dual purpose breed. Hens lay an impressive 230-270 eggs per year which means you’ll be getting an average of 4 Dominique eggs each week.
What is the Color Egg That Dominique Chickens Lay?
You can expect the egg color brown to light brown and sometimes you may even notice slight freckles on the shell.
DID YOU KNOW?The dark spots you find on the shell of a brown egg will form as the egg moves through the oviduct of the hen and the shell is formed. As the egg spins, these color deposits are added to the shell.
When Do Dominiques Start Laying Eggs?
Dominiques will start laying eggs between 20 and 22 weeks of age. In some cases, you may find that your little hen starts laying before your larger and more mature birds depending on their environment and their diet.
What is the Egg Size of Dominique Chickens?
Medium sized brown eggs are laid by Dominiques but some keepers have claimed to find the odd large egg in the nest.
Are Dominiques Good Meat Birds?
Dominiques develop a large full breast adding to their size and suitability for the table. They have yellow meat that is described as tender and flavorful.
Are Dominique Hens Broody?
Dominique hens tend to become broody a few times a year providing a good opportunity to let your broody hen hatch eggs. They are also very good mothers and are considered excellent at raising chicks.
Coop Setup for Hens
Don’t mess with a Dominique hen and her nest and that applies to her flock mates too! Dominique hens require at least 12 x 12-inch nesting boxes to be comfortable. The nest should also be private and well-ventilated particularly during the summer months.
Because Dominiques aren’t heat tolerant birds, when raising Dominique chickens, they should always have access to shade and cool spots when temperatures rise.
Why You Should Choose Dominique Chickens
These heritage chickens are known to be a low maintenance breed that lays an incredible number of eggs. You can expect a brown egg, size medium to large, and an occasionally broody hen for hatching eggs. They also lay through the summer and winter so you’ll have a steady supply of eggs no matter the season.
If you are looking for a friendly chicken that can produce up to 4 eggs per week, then Dominiques should definitely be a part of your backyard coop. Let’s take a look at whether Dominiques are friendly and healthy chickens.
Are Dominique Chickens Friendly?
When you’re looking for a new chicken to add to a mixed flock you want to know whether they have a friendly personality?
You also want to know if they’re easy to handle and don’t mind being picked up or given the occasional cuddle?
These chickens are friendly, docile, and they don’t mind being picked up by their keepers including children, which makes them a good choice of pet chicken.
While you shouldn’t expect a lap chicken, they are described as calm in nature and tend to get along with different breeds.
Provided the coop is spacious and can accommodate all your chooks, there shouldn’t be any problem introducing Dominiques. If you have assertive breeds you’ll need to keep an eye out for bullying.
These chickens simply love to free range in the garden which is a must when you keep them.
They tend to find much of their food in and around the yard by foraging which could stem from historical Dominique bloodlines and their development as a hardy free ranging chicken.
Are Dominique Chickens Noisy?
A Dominique rooster can be very noisy and crow all day long. He can also become very territorial especially during the mating season so before you decide to add a Dominique rooster to your coop, consider their noisiness and possible territorial temperament.
Are Dominiques Cold Hardy?
Because of their dense feathering that sits close to their bodies, these chickens are well-insulated in cold climates. While their feather insulation protects them during winter, they are not as tolerant of hot conditions and need access to cool water, shade, and ventilated coops.
Are Dominique Chickens Healthy?
Their ability to withstand the cold weather with their rose comb and dense plumage, their natural foraging abilities, and their physical proportions make them one of the healthiest egg laying breeds.
They are not affected by any specific health issues but should have access to sand baths to protect against lice and mites.
How Long Can Dominiques Live?
Dominiques have a lifespan of between 8-10 years.
If you want a friendly and hardy bird, Dominique chickens are the perfect choice for your coop. They are excellent in egg production and the Dominique hen will make a great mother when you want to raise hatchlings.
These birds are perfect for first time chicken keepers because they are low maintenance and have the personality to make a wonderful pet.
Make sure to look around my site for other breeds to consider!
These chickens are also favored for backyard coops because of their beautiful black and white barred pattern across their feathers. They also have bright yellow legs and a rose comb not to be confused with Barred Rocks that have an upright single comb.
If you are looking for Dominique chicks, Cackle Hatchery specializes in a Dominique breeding program offering both bantams and straight-run chicks.
Always look for vaccinated hatchlings ensuring that your new birds are healthy and ready for the coop.
Please share our Dominique chicken guide if you know and love the breed or wish to share some important information on Dominique chicken egg laying, personality, or history with a fellow poultry keeper.
These chickens are certainly a valuable addition to your backyard flock, whether you are looking for an egg layer or a family pet. They offer great eggs and delicious meat, making them an excellent choice for raising chickens for their eggs or meat production.
While they are listed as endangered, hopefully, renewed interest in Dominiques will do much for their recovery as one of the oldest chicken breeds.
(1) Dominique Chicken – National Colonial FarmPark MD by Sam Brutcher – licensed under CC BY 2.0
(2) Dominique chickens by Virginia State Parks – licensed under CC BY 2.0