The Dominique is sometimes referred to as a "Dominecker". America's oldest native breed of chicken, they were as much at home at Washington's Mount Vernon as scratching in the streets in Massachusetts. In fact, by 1820, there was enough interest in the breed in the Boston area that they had their own club. By 1849, the little "tiger striped" birds were so well known they had an entry in the Merriam Webster Dictionary as "Dominecker". I was given my first birds by Mark Fields the same year his excellent book came out, later adding birds from Jack Bloomer and they've been my favorites ever since. Though Mr. Fields' book has been sold out for some time, you can find the new Kindle edition here: "The American Dominique, a Treatise for the Fancier" While my birds are kept strictly for eggs, the Dominique is a medium sized, dual purpose bird, capable of economically producing both eggs and meat. They have yellow legs and a pert rose comb that resists freezing. Their uneven, cuckoo barring, which to my eye appears "blue" from a distance, helps them hide from predators, and their lively disposition means they are ready, willing, and able to hustle a large percentage of their own grub. They are a perfect choice for a pastured, free range operation such as ours.
The second breed, which is actually the one we've had the longest, is the Mottled Ancona. One of the oldest breeds in the Mediterannean class, they originated in Ancona, Italy and were first brought to the United States in the late 1880s. They're a handsome, glossy black with evenly spaced white tipped feathers. (think of a star filled sky on a clear, dark night, and you've got it) A few years back we were able to obtain some of the rose comb variety from Fred Zillich at ZPF before he sold out of the breed, and Sam Brush of Lone Star Anconas in Keller, TX, who has been maintaing and improving the last of the Zillich stock and has been a generous a source for 'new' blood for our flock. Just to hedge our bets, we keep a second line of the lovely rose combs to work with from Yellowhouse Farm. Both single and rose comb varieties of the Mottled Ancona are great foragers and steady producers of white eggs. Due to their coloration and their busy temprements, the Ancona is another breed that handles itself well in a pastured, free range environment and they're quite smart looking in a uptown way.
The third breed I've been focusing on are the Buckeyes. They have the distinction of being the only American breed that was created entirely by a woman. Back in the 1890s, Mrs. Nettie Metcalf of Warren, Ohio decided she needed an active, cold hardy, dual purpose bird for her farm. Not seeing exactly what she was looking for in the existing breeds in her area, she set about crossbreeding to produce her own. The final result was a medium sized, lustrous, deep mahogany bird with yellow legs and a frost resistant pea comb. Like the Dominiques and Anconas, the Buckeyes do well in free range conditions, and they're one of the calmest and most people oriented breed of chicken on the farm. I've taken to calling them my Boot Birds, because when you step outside they will practically be standing on your feet. Many thanks to Laura Hagarty of Pathfinders Farm and Dwayne Urch of Turnland Poultry for a solid start in the breed.
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