Dominique Chickens: One of America’s Favorite Heritage Chicken Breeds

Dominique rooster and henThe Dominique Chicken, also called the Dominicker is thought to be the oldest chicken breed in America. These hardy birds were a favorite of the early settlers in colonial America. Prized for their easy self-sufficient nature and reliable laying, they were found in abundance on American farms.

While the breed has been on the decline due to a taste for larger hens in industrial times. The Dominicker is still a great choice if you want a reliable, hardy and easy going flock. Find out what you can do to help preserve this heritage poultry breed.

About the Dominique Chicken

One of the most popular chickens of the American homestead in the 1800s, the Dominique chicken was an integral part of daily pioneer life. The birds were raised for both meat and eggs and have a calm and gentle temperament. Easy to keep and quite hardy, the chickens were bred in good numbers on the farm. They provided the early pioneers not only with food but also some comfort in the form of abundant feathers used to make pillows and soft bedding for the home.

Dominique Rooster
The breed has a black and white barred plumage. Rooster Photo Credit: Mt._Vernon

The Dominiquehas black & white barred plumage, and a low profile rose comb with a shorter spike that curves upward. Medium in size, the females weigh in at about 5 pounds with the males averaging 7 pounds. They hold their heads high atop a full breast as they strut about the farm with their long full tail feathers. This classic American chicken was a true favorite.

When it comes to egg laying, the Dominique produces approximately 230 – 275 eggs per season. The eggs are on the small to medium size which is likely why they started to fall out of favor when the poultry industry began to select larger hens to increase the egg production.

Dominique Chicken Facts At a Glance:

  • Black & White Barred Plumage with a Rose Comb
  • Likes to Free Range, Good Forager
  • Lays Small-Medium Brown Eggs
  • Calm Temperament
  • America’s First Chicken Breed

Caring For Dominicker Chickens

Dominiques are very self-sufficient birds – they will scratch for their supper most of the day, very happy to feed themselves with the food mother nature provides. As a result, you can expect the birds to eat just about “half the feed” of many other popular breeds such as the Road Island Reds.

3 dominickers scratching for food

Due to the self-sufficient nature of the Dominicker chicken, free ranging is often preferred since it cuts down on food costs and the birds enjoy it. But if free-ranging is not an option, they would also be quite happy with a nice big run and a portable chicken tractor, so one area doesn’t get too picked over.

If you don’t have an existing hen house, you can find many build your own chicken coop styles online. Two good sources to find building plans are the coop design plans website or the member forums of backyard chickens where many people post photos of their own setups. The Dominicker is an active bird, but they are not fussy at all. They will adapt to most any style of chicken coop or environment.

The Dominique On The Decline

After the Great Depression, the Dominique chicken continued to decline in numbers until they reached a low of only four known flocks by the 1970s. Thankfully a few dedicated breeders banded together to rescue the breed from extinction. These flock owners were able to help bring the numbers back somewhat over the next ten years.

However, in current times, the breed is on the “Watch List” of the Livestock Conservatory. The watch list for the poultry class of animals is defined as:

Fewer than 5,000 breeding birds in the United States, with ten or fewer primary breeding flocks, and estimated global population less than 10,000.

Dominique chickens, a heritage breed at the Homeplace 1850s Farm. Forest Service Staff photo

How You Can Help the Breed

There are several ways you can help to keep this historic breed of chickens from disappearing!

  • Add a few Dominique birds to your flock! Here are a few good breeders that have chickens for sale to get you started.

The Cackle Hatchery
Meyer Hatchery
Nantahala Farm & Garden

  • Make a donation to the Livestock Conservatory program which is a national organization dedicated to preserving our heritage breeds for future generations.
  • Support your local farmers that raise Dominiques by buying their eggs, meats and other products. There is nothing better than farm fresh eggs for your family!

Why Choose the Dominicker Chickens?

Whether you have a large farm, rustic homestead or just a backyard coop, these black and white heritage chickens make a great choice. Here are just a few reasons you should add Dominiques to your flock:

    1. They are excellent foragers which make it less expensive to feed your flock. In fact, this old time breed has been reported to cost up to 1/3 to 1/2 less than some of the more popular “fancy” chicken breeds.
    2. Known to be friendly, gentle birds, they are easy to keep and good with children. The Dominique chicken is also great in the show ring!
    3. The breed is very hardy, less prone to frostbite due to their tightly arranged feathers and considered to be a healthy breed in general.
    4. Attractive plumage – the black and white speckled feathers and high tails make these hens a delightful addition.
    5. Good, reliable layers producing brown eggs. The hens are very good mothers.

Video of the Dominque Chickens on a Farm