Dominique Chicken {America’s Oldest Heritage Breed}

closeup of the head of a dominique chicken
Dominique Chicken – National Colonial FarmPark MD” by BrutcherSP is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The Dominique chicken is said to be the oldest domesticated chicken breed in America.

It is the result of the various chicken breeds brought over by European pioneers in the earliest days of the country being settled.

These chickens were indispensable to the first non-Natives to come to America, providing nutritious meat and eggs to people who often arrived with nothing and had to clear swathes of forest and build their log cabins with their own hands.

Her rise to popularity as a dual-purpose breed continued, but industrialization and the creation of higher-producing chicken breeds would see the Dominique relegated to the annals of history.

Extinction seemed to be the fate of this incredible chicken, like many ancient breeds before her.

But fortunately, enough people saw the benefit of raising heritage breeds like her and strove to maintain her numbers.

Today, the Dominique is small in number but may just be served by enough dedicated breeders and enthusiasts to keep her going.

This is a patriotic and historical choice for your homestead or backyard as well as a very practical and useful one.

two Dominique roosters square off in the farmyard over a hen
Chicken Sumo! 2 male dominique chickens face-off over a cute chick” by Paul Williams www.IronAmmonitePhotography.com is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Dominique Quick Facts

  • Primary use: Dual-Purpose (Meat & Eggs)
  • Size (Roosters): 7 lbs
  • Size (Hens): 5 lbs
  • Egg production (Annual): 230-275
  • Starts Producing: 21 – 24 weeks
  • Egg size: Small – Medium
  • Egg colour: Light Brown
  • Origin: USA

Top Reasons To Choose The Dominique Chicken For Your Flock

  • Dual-purpose breed
  • America’s oldest breed of chicken
  • Medium-sized bird
  • Docile and friendly
  • Great forager
  • Cold hardy
  • Heritage breed with interesting historical relevance

The Dominique is a hardy, sometimes-broody, and docile bird that makes a great addition to any flock.

They are broad in stature and are known for their great, reliable production of eggs.

There aren’t many ‘cons’ to this breed, as they are a great choice for most, however, despite being a dual-purpose breed, they are generally better suited for the egg-laying side of things.

See Also: Best Egg Laying Chicken Breeds

Dominique chickens” by vastateparksstaff is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

History and Origins

It’s important to note and respect that the Dominique’s were once considered an endangered, and at-risk, breed of chicken.

It’s important that these birds are bred and protected accordingly, in order to preserve the species for future generations.

The Dominique is said to be the oldest breed of chicken in America.

Various sources suggest that the Dominique was brought to America by the pilgrims, which makes sense because they were originally called the Pilgrim Fowl; if this is their true lineage, then it can be said that the Dominique arrived in North America in the 1750s.

Another potential origin story is that the Dominique chicken came from the French colony of Saint Dominique, which is now Haiti, and was brought to (and bred in) America around the same time in the 18th century.

At one point, the Dominique was also called the Dominicker.

Historically (as well as today) the Dominique is known to be a hardy, foraging dual-purpose bird. The original Dominique breed had either a single or rose comb, the reason for this being that many people at the time didn’t have the breeding standards that exist today.

Throughout its existence, the Dominique has been both an incredibly popular breed, as well as one that nearly faced extinction; one of which occurred over the years following the first world war.

Another endangered time period occurred during the mid-late 20th century when mass production and industrialization overtook the poultry industry, and the Dominiques were deemed to be unproductive (compared to other breeds).

Today, farms and flocks have Dominique chickens and utilize them for their eggs and meat; many also enjoy their presence, as they are docile birds and make great additions to any large or small flock.

3 dominique hens pecking at a whole cob of corn outside
Dominiques” by Melinda Young Stuart is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Appearance

The Dominique chicken is a striking, pretty, medium-sized, stout chicken that is black and white; no other color combinations exist for this breed.

Their barred feathers are quite beautiful.

A common weight for a healthy Dominique Hen is about five pounds, the rooster being about seven pounds. Dominique’s have concave backs, 45-degree angled tail feathers, yellow feet, and a flattened rose comb.

The Dominique has a flat, rose comb.

Is It A Plymouth Rock Or A Dominique?

It is easy to confuse a Dominique chicken with a Plymouth Rock.

Both sport the striking black and white barred pattern in their feathers.

But the easiest and most accurate way of telling these two breeds apart is by simply looking at their combs.

Dominiques have a flatter rose comb whereas Plymouth Rocks have an upright comb. That’s it! And it is hard to miss these features unless the birds are still pullets.

Another (harder) way to tell the Dominique and Plymouth Rock apart is in the barred pattern of their feathers.

The Plymouth Rock’s barring has a very crisp black and white barred pattern while the Dominique has a less clear, more jagged pattern with less of a striking contrast between the black and white.

dominique chicken hen stands outside in the grass in profile

An Autosexing Breed

One advantage to Dominiues, especially if you live in a place where you cannot legally keep roosters, or if plan on breeding them, is that they are autosexing at birth.

An autosexing breed is one where males and females can be told apart at birth before any secondary sex characteristics develop.

Dominique chicks have whitish head spots when they’re born. For females these spots are usually small and more concentrated – the male spots are less crisp and scattered around.

See Also:

Incubating & Hatching Chicken Eggs At Home

Raising Baby Chicks Right From The Start

Personality and Temperament

Dominique’s are friendly, docile, calm birds perfect for a homestead or backyard flock.

They are foragers by nature and quite resilient; if confined, they will still be content but those are less ideal circumstances for this inquisitive breed.

Males (roosters) can become aggressive during mating and if challenged or made to live amongst too many other roosters, but in general, these birds are incredibly calm.

Dominiques are known to follow humans around and are curious; they’ll
respond with excitement to receiving treats.

They don’t love being held for extended periods of time (like most chickens) but typically respond well to briefly being handled or carried.

Dominique hens can make wonderful mothers. They go broody at times, but, it is only
natural and expected; they have survived hundreds of years for a reason! In general,
they are attentive and good at raising their brood.

Because of their laid-back nature, Dominique’s fair best when paired in a flock with other docile and calm chickens.

Small to Medium Brown Eggs

Dominique hens can start laying eggs when they are between 21 and 24 weeks of age.

The outer shell of their egg is light brown; the eggs are small to medium in size.

These brown egg layers produce between 230 and 275 eggs per year, making them
a fantastic choice for anyone looking to have a consistent, reliable egg supply; all in all, the Dominique lays about the same amount of eggs as many other popular breeds of egg layers.

See Also:

Why I Chose The Azure Blue Chicken For Eggs

Best Egg Laying Chicken Breeds

Cold Hardy

Dominiques are cold hardy birds as their plumage is quite dense.

They are stout birds in general, and their small rose comb does not succumb to frostbite easily; if you live in an area where cold weather is common, just ensure your birds have adequate shelter and a dry run.

Otherwise, these chickens do great in colder temperatures.

See Also:

Winterize Your Chicken Coop

How Cold Is Too Cold For Chickens?

Feeding Pastured Chickens In The Winter

Free Range

Dominiques are a good choice if you’re looking for a sustainable, free-range bird for your flock.

They can roam happily for sources of food if necessary, making them a good, thrifty bird to keep.

See Also:

How To Safely Free-Range Chickens (4 Methods)

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Dominique chicken breed is great for anyone looking to raise chickens for eggs and meat — but especially eggs.

They are docile and friendly, making them ideal for a novice chicken keeper too; they do not enjoy being ‘lap chickens’, but won’t mind being carried or picked up briefly.

If you have children, the Dominique is a breed that is gentle in nature and tolerates other animals and children well in most cases.

They lay up to 275 eggs annually and they are attentive sometimes-broody mothers;
this is important if you’re hoping to raise chickens and breed Dominique chickens on your own without incubating eggs yourself!

They enjoy roaming and foraging when they’re outside of the chicken coop; for these reasons, if you have a farm or enough backyard space, this breed may be a great option for you.

If you’re hoping for a low-maintenance, thrifty, hardy, bird that is cold hardy, produces a lot of eggs, and can free-range, the Dominique may be a good breed for you and your homestead or backyard flock.

a flock of chickens on green pasture.

The Ultimate Guide to Homestead & Backyard Chicken Keeping 

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