Why might one choose to homestead with American Dominiques? In my opinion, they are just about as close as you can get to the perfect homesteading bird.
Sexing of Chicks
One of the great things about Dominiques is that the chicks are color-sexed at hatch. WOOHOO. To 90%+/- (you get better at it the longer you work with your strain) you can tell males from females as soon as they’ve popped their heads out of the egg. The males are lighter and have a wider light spot on their head than females, and also have lighter legs and beak. There are many great websites that already have photos for sexing Dominique chicks – check out dominiquechickens.com.
Why is this a great trait for the homesteader? There is no need to have a professional sex the chicks to ensure you are keeping only pullets. If I don’t have room for extra cockerels, I sell or give them away as heritage meat birds, which they are.
Dual Purpose, Done Efficiently
This means that the Dominique is a good egg layer and also a good meat bird. You will not get 350 Jumbo eggs out of a Dominique hen, nor will you get a 5lb carcass at eight weeks from a cockerel. What you will get is a hen that can lay around 280-300 med/large eggs per year, and cockerels that will be delicious for the table at around 16 weeks of age.
Comparing the feeding of a production “Rhode Island Red” flock (my mothers) and our Dominique pullets hatched on the same day, I was going through a full half the feed (same brand) and feeding 25 birds while she was feeding only 10!!! This is just an example and in no way proof, but when you talk to enough Dominique owners and get enough examples you become a believer. We are often told by customers buying replacement pullets that they are worried because they don’t eat much – they think they have no appetite, because their old flock of production sex links, etc. ate so much.
And yet the Dominique pullets still give almost an egg a day without fuss – weather be damned, too. We had a three day stretch of –32F in the middle of the day in Eastern Oregon. I still got eggs all three days from my Dominiques, with no heat lamp or lights. The eggs were frozen solid and I had to use them scrambled, but they were eggs none the less!
Replacement Stock by Good Mothers
Dominique hens are not annoyingly broody, stopping every three days to set on more eggs. However, they can, will and do go broody and make great mothers. They are attentive to their chicks and protect them.
The following is a video from a fellow Dominique Club of America member, she was out watching a mother hen and chicks and recording on her cell phone. A hawk came in for the chicks. Listen to the video around the 15 second mark – the hen lets out a warning cry, the chicks run for shelter. Then the hen turns around to go after the hawk, flying up to attack!!! Dominique momma: 1, Red-Shouldered: 0.
And this hen is not an isolated incident! You will find examples of a Dominique hen’s great mothering skills across the country.
Dominique roosters are excellent flock protectors and will gladly lay down their life to protect their hens and chicks as well.
Alert in the Field, Calm in the Henhouse
I think this phrase really describes our Dominiques. They are hardy, active foragers that withstand extreme weather all across the country from -32F in Alfalfa, Oregon to 111F in early June in Tennessee. All the while they will happily scratch and peck for a good portion of their own feed. They love whole grains and greens, and will turn their nose up to processed feed when given the choice. Many days I have to lock my little flock up in the coop to make sure they are eating enough processed food and getting all those micronutrients it contains – otherwise they go out first thing in the morning, eat nothing but what nature provided them and then come back in and peck around the feedpan a bit until bedtime. I suppose I shouldn’t worry, they seem healthiest this way and the feedbill certainly goes down when I’m able to let them forage.
There have been times and situations where free ranging is not an option for Dominiques. I know many buyers of ours have birds in town and are only able to give them greens through the fence or just let them out a few hours at a time. But the Dominiques withstand confinement well – staying calm and not pacing the henhouse (burning calories with worry). They just seem happy in about any living situation you can give them.
While the Dominique is an active bird, they are not flighty or ill mannered. If a hen is especially flighty, we cull her from the breeding flock, as this does not fit the breed’s standard. The same with an aggressive roo – he gets invited to dinner before he flogs us twice. Thankfully it is extremely rare to have to make that decision in the Dominiques. They just tend to be happy little hens and respectful gentlemen roosters. I have heard of many folks new to poultry ownership getting flogged by a Dominique rooster, but as soon as they learn that you need to pick him up and carry him around a bit – show him you are still in charge and yes, you will help protect the flock, not hurt it – those same “evil” roosters will become puppy dogs overnight, so happy to see you come because they know you have the scratch grains for their ladies to peck at.
I really enjoy the Dominique’s personality in that they are intelligent, active and still sweet enough for my 4, 5 and 6 year old neices and nephews to go in the coop and try to grab their favorite for the day.