American Dominique Project
We are breeding a project flock of American Dominiques. We are accumulating birds from several sources and selecting the best qualities we can find in our flock, and culling religiously. We hope to have some decent stock for sale by next summer, and more as time goes on and we are able to continue our efforts to get a true standard Dominique flock.
What Are Dominiques?
Dominiques are a wonderful breed of bird that is often called the first true American breed. They are a dual purpose bird laying medium to large light brown eggs. They are a medium weight bird, and should weigh between 6 to 8 pounds.
Their feathering should be that of the cuckoo coloring - not quiet black on white bars, with bars being unevenly spaced and feathers ending in black. Unlike the Barred Plymouth Rock with even barring that you could almost draw a line through, Dominiques' barring should not be lined up. The feather should end in an eye. Roosters should have long shackles Dominiques should have a true Rose Comb, with the end of the comb always pointing slightly up, and hollow combs are a fault.
Dominiques are a sex-linked breed of chicken, meaning that the sex of the chick can be distinguished at hatching (from the color of feathers/markings). The hens should be moderately broody and good mothers, and Dominiques should be excellent foragers. Their rose combs withstand cold climates better than single-combed DP breeds.
We will have photos of our own birds up soon, but here are the images from the standard to compare. Notice the curved backs, upright tail carriage, uneven barring and the lighter appearance of the cock vs. the hen.
Problems in Present-Day Dominiques
As with all hatchery stock, the hatchery Dominique has problems in general health, vigor and quality. However, there are certain features that have extended beyond the commercial hatchery to make these birds not what they need to be.
So many Dominique strains have been crossed with Barred Plymouth Rocks that single combs are not uncommon, or generally bad rose combs after several generations of breeding back to breed. While the single comb may have well been the original comb for the Dominique, it is currently a fault and must be bred against. The BPR has also added a heavier weight, more uniform barring, and a flatter and longer back. If you look at the photos above from the original standard book, there's nothing flat about that rooster's back - he swoops from a proud neck to an even prouder tail, and the hen is similar. Unfortunately the present day Dominique is often squat, flat, and plump - better suited for the meat production that was demanded at the time these traits were bred in.
Many Dominiques are also of much darker coloring than need be - the hens are almost black. We have been very lucky with the stock we have gotten so far in that very few of our hens or cockerels were too dark to meet the standard for color and all have good barring. Some breeders have tried increasing egg size (that was made small from inbreeding in an effort to save the breed in the late 20th century) with good success, and we hope to mimic the same ideal.
Poor combs are a plague among Dominique fanciers, and no one seems to have an exact idea on the perfect comb, making it that much harder to breed to a commonly recognized ideal. Some winning cocks have such an upturned spike it is vertical, while others would prefer breeding for a more moderate upturn.
What We Are Looking For
We are culling for the following traits, almost in order:
Sloping back (with no flat spots)/Upright Carriage, Tail spread and fullness, Body size, Combs, Feathering (and barring).
This has been a hard list to stick to, as so many breeders must know. You often find a rooster that has that perfect or near-perfect comb but a horrible back line, and it's a hard decision to cull or keep him. The same goes with a hen - you may have the most sweet, beautiful hen with perfect coloring and sloping back, but a tail that is just not what it needs to be.
Growth isn't a huge problem in current Dominiques, but egg size can be. We are looking at our mature hens closely to see what size and quantity of eggs they are laying in order to further refine our breeding stock.
Problems In Our Current Flock
We are currently culling for type and capacity, and unfortunately have some comb and coloring issues. We know that these two faults will be easier to fix down the road than a type issue would be, so we hope that as long as we don't lose track of them completely that we will be able to select for these better once we have type and capacity selected for in our breeding stock.
Other Sites, Information
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