The Dorking Chicken is a rare breed indeed! Hailing from Britain, this five-toe fowl have been interbred with other chickens over the years to create new breeds. This is a testimony to the positive characteristics of the Dorking chicken. Yet, these rare chickens aren’t just rare, they are actually a breed that is considered endangered!
Background and History of Dorking Chickens
The Dorking chicken breed is mentioned in historical documents as far back as the year 43 AD. As the Roman empire expanded throughout Europe, the Roman soldiers brought family members with them. As they migrated from Italy, they brought with them livestock, one of these being the Dorking chicken.
The people of Britain loved the Dorking chicken, mostly for its tender, juicy meat and ability to yield delicious and rather large eggs. Some historians describe the popularity of the Dorking chicken as “love at first taste.” Regardless of the reason that Dorking chickens became popular in Britain, “meat aficionados” sought out this bird above other available yard fowl.
The Dorking is named for the market town of Dorking (Surrey, England). Londoners traditionally bought their table-fare birds at this location, and the Dorking became popular all over the area. In fact, its popularity lingered for centuries until the Sussex chicken replaced it. The Dorking is such a strikingly beautiful chicken that it is often used as an exhibition bird. In fact, the Dorking is known for its regal bearing. This makes it a great breed for showing.
Furthermore, the Dorking enjoys interaction with humans. They aren’t necessarily trained, per se, but their gentle demeanor makes them a welcome addition at any breed show.
Today, the Dorking is still available to enthusiasts, but certain varieties that once were in great numbers are now becoming extinct. Many of the Dorkings today are specifically bred for show, and these Dorkings have the best bloodline available. However, the rare Dorkings aren’t given as much attention, and they are beginning to die out because of this.
Dorking Breed Standard and Appearance
The Dorking is a bird whose standard was once featured in the initial poultry standard books. The Dorking was shown at the first-ever poultry show held in London in 1845. By 1970, some of the original varieties had died off, and a new standard had to be crafted.
There are five recognized color varieties regarding the Dorking chicken: white, silver-gray, red, dark, and cuckoo. One neat fact about the Dorking is the various plumage colors can contribute to the color of the eggs laid by the chicken.
The Dorking chicken as an adult male weighs between ten to fourteen pounds, and the hen typically weighs between eight and ten pounds. A bantam Dorking will weigh between eight and eleven pounds. On average, no matter the gender of the bird, you can expect the Dorking to weigh about eight pounds.
The underskin of the Dorking chicken is white, no matter the color of its feathers.
The body of the Dorking chicken is described as rectangular, and its legs are short compared to other birds. The Dorking has a single comb, which makes it prone to colder weather. The comb is always erect. It has red earlobes, which is an oddity in itself as most chickens with red earlobes produce colored eggs.
The neck of the Dorking is rather short, but it is stout and strong. Its wattles are long and full. The comb and the wattle of the Dorking is typically red.
The cuckoo colors of the Dorking are dark gray on a light gray background. The red Dorking is actually a mixture of red and black feathering. The white Dorking is completely white with no “straw tinged” feathering. There are a few other color varieties of the Dorking, but these are becoming rare.
Personality and Temperament
The Dorking is well-known for its propensity for personality. That’s right – the Dorking is referred to by many of their enthusiasts as “sweethearts.” They are not only calm and tolerant of other chickens, humans, and other animals in general, they are quite friendly. They tend to become attached to their caregivers, which is another rarity where chickens are concerned. While many chickens are not to be left alone with young children, the Dorking is recommended to be with “supervised” children. They are actually quite tolerant of people, and if a chicken can be described as “patient,” then the Dorking can be labeled as such.
It must be remembered that the Dorking may be so docile that they are not good mixtures with more dominant breeds. They quickly become members of the bottom of the pecking order, so if you own more aggressive chicken breeds, mixing the Dorking in with them might not be a good idea. Experts recommend socializing Dorking chickens with other breeds of chicken at an early age. They tend to be good members of any flock and they do not create issues with other chickens.
Dorking hens are known to be broody. However, they are great mothers, and they do a great job of tending to their chicks! Dorking hens are legendary for adopting chicks not their own. In fact, if another hen pushes her chicks out of the nest a little too quickly, the Dorking hen will literally take that chick under its wing. Even with their own chicks, the Dorking mom tends to keep them in the nest for longer than usual.
Dorking Chicken Egg Laying
The Dorking chicken was revered by the British (and other enthusiasts the world over) for its ability to produce meat, but the eggs produced by the Dorking are wonderful as well!
The Dorking produces eggs that are white, but some may be considered “tinted” – a creamy color. Again, this is an oddity because chickens with red earlobes tend not to produce white eggs.
Another oddity regarding the Dorking is the fact that they are not only good layers, but they are also good at producing meat. (Remember, this is what they were hailed for back in Britain.
Health Issues and Care
The Dorking chicken is described as a “hardy” and “stout” chicken, and that should give you a bit of an idea as to whether the chicken breed is a healthy one.
Like other chicken breeds, they are vulnerable to lice and other topical parasites. Caregivers should monitor the chicken for the presence of lice and treat any outbreaks as soon as possible. The Dorking generally does well when lice outbreaks are treated promptly.
Special consideration for the Dorking chicken is the fact that most of the varieties do not tolerate cold weather very well. The exception to this would be the white Dorking that sports a rose comb. Chickens (of any breed) with a rose comb tend to tolerate cold weather better. If your Dorking possesses a single comb, then take particular care in making sure the bird does not become frostbitten.
Other than preventing or treating parasitic infestations in the Dorking chicken, they are all-around healthy chickens.
Tips for Raising Dorking Chickens
Depending on whether you get a Dorking with a rose comb or a single comb, plan to build a suitable coop for your chicks. The hens will need a place to roost and to lay, and the roosters need a place to, well, rule the roost. Dorking chickens with a single comb tend to be prone to frostbite, and a well-built coop will keep your Dorkings warm and toasty inside.
The Dorking chicken is a great breed for first-time breeders. They are friendly birds, and they are known to interact with humans much more than some other breeds.
The Dorking is also a great free-range bird. In fact, they truly enjoy being able to forage. They love finding seeds and the occasional bug out while foraging, and they truly thrive when they have a suitable coop and the ability to forage at will.
The Dorking is often a great show bird as well. They have beautiful plumage and they carry themselves in a way that begs the judge’s attention. As pets, the Dorking loves to stay close to home (even though they do enjoy foraging). They simply won’t get too far from their roost, so to speak.
The Dorking loves to interact with kids. This is yet another reason they are great to show birds.
The Dorking can fly a bit, and they are known to be noisy at times. However, they are not nuisances. They tend to get along well with other breeds of chicken, but remember, when they are mixed with more dominant birds, they may end up at the bottom of the pecking order.
The Dorking chicken is a pleasant yard bird that is friendly and lovable. They tend to be healthy birds with no real issues as far as behavior. They enjoy being around humans, and they are proclaimed to be great pets. These birds date back to the ancient Romans, but today, they are becoming a rare bird.