A Brief History of Dominique Chickens (and an introduction to our flock)

We got our 18 Dominique chicks in the mail on the 22nd August, so they are about three months old now. Our decision to get Dominique chickens was influenced by the lovely people at the Livestock Conservancy here. The Conservancy's mission is: "To protect endangered livestock and poultry breeds from extinction." They do great work, listing livestock from critical status to recovering and helping people who want to help raise heritage breeds.

Dominiques -- sometimes pronounced "Dominiker" here in the south -- have a long history in the states. When I heard the story of this breed I was sold, so here is the abridged version.

Dominiques are acknowledged as America's first breed of chicken. They came in to New England with the pilgrims and were sometimes been called "Pilgrim Fowl" or "Puritan Fowl." As early as the 1820s these birds were widely spread across the east of America; Abraham Lincoln even had a flock. They are dual purpose birds; laying well but are also good eating. Back in the day people valued their feathers for stuffing pillows. They are a resilient and adaptable bird, doing well in cool climates as well as warm; their small comb prevents easy freezing. They also enjoy foraging for food and their coloring offers more protection than most from birds of prey (this is good as we see a lot of hawks around our house).

In the mid 19th century, one poultry writer stated Dominique chickens were “so familiar as to need no description,” and an oft-heard expression was “spunky as a Dominicker rooster” (Mother Earth News article, Janet Vorwald Dohner, July 2010). The cocks have been know to kill cats, snakes, and other small beasts. Good for protecting the flock!

However, the introduction of the Plymouth Rock to the market put Dominique's out of fashion and numbers slowly declined. Farmers have tended to favor breeds who either produce more eggs, or grow quicker for meat, specialising rather than choosing dual purpose breeds.

By 1970 there were critically few Dominiques in America; only four flocks left! There were serious concerns about extinction. An organisation called the Dominique Club of America was founded in 1973 and has been promoting them ever since; it now has over 200 members including myself (I recently joined: its only $10 a year). Since then conservation efforts have helped bring Dominiques back to a 'watch' status. It feels good to be raising some rare historical birds. We intend to sell on some chicks in the spring and spread the Dominikers.

Battle for the greens.

This fellow is a cock in the making. His colouring is slightly lighter-more grayish.

Enjoying their fresh turnip greens -- apparently these have lots of calcium in them.

Look at those feathers!

Who you looking at?

This one is slightly smaller than the rest (the runt); she can't seem to walk straight but eats a lot-we have hope. (She's Lauren's favorite).
The chickens spend their time between an outdoor cruiser I built, with an extra rabbit hutch addition on the far end, and our shed (depending on the weather).

The chicken tractor or chicken cruiser.
The idea is to move this around the garden before spring planting so the chickens till and fertilize the rows. Once they are four months old, the chicks should be safe to go out and forage for themselves, coming back to the shed at night.

Cheep cheep.
Now for a tour of our chicken shed -- this was full of junk like old crusty paint cans and broken flower pots. I stripped it and adapted it for the chickens. It has four nest boxes with hardware cloth as a base (so they are self cleaning), with a cupboard above for feed storage.

Shelly lounging out in front of the garden.

Nesting boxes and storage space above for their food.

Roosts and water (the bucket has red nipples underneath that the chicks peck at to get water.
 Finally, here are some pictures from the vegetable patch, planted in mid August. I forgot to clean the lens so these pictures are slightly cloudy, but you get the idea.

Our veg patch from the back corner

My new favorite vegetable.

Salad bed

Rainbow chard mixed in with fennel (by accident)

What the sign says.

Kale, glorious kale

Cabbage starting to curl up

Broccoli Raab/Rapini on the right-this stuff is nearly chest height now, its insane.

Parsley and cilantro.


Borage. This is very spikey and uncomfortable to pick but makes very tasty refreshing tea; tastes like cucumber.

Freshly picked salad