Throughout history the Dominique has been noted as an excellent broody hen, yet in modern times this doesn’t appear to be the case. Periodically we’ve received questions about the broodiness of Dominique hens – specifically why some hens never go broody. It took several years to unravel this mystery, however I can now shed light on the topic.
Dominiques that come from hatcheries have all but lost their broodiness. The change was subtle and accomplished over a period of years, but the reason is simple. A hatchery only produces chicks during a short period each year. Those hens, which are broody, don’t produce as many eggs during the normal hatching season. Since the hatchery replaces their flock each year with chicks from that years hatch, through time they’ve eliminated the “broody gene.”
In exhibition or home flocks the broodiness remains intact. The reasoning is simple, the breeding and culling pressures are different than at a hatchery. The average flock owner does not replace his Dominiques each year and a broody hen is often seen as an asset instead of a liability.
In breeds that become broody, the broodiness appears to be triggered by the length of time the hen has been in production and by visual stimulus. We’ve learned that collecting eggs every day will delay broodiness in our Dominiques. However, the presence of wood or plastic dummy eggs will trigger the desire to set.
We find both large fowl and bantam Dominiques to be excellent broody hens and attentive mothers. As with all things in life there are exceptions, but “bad” Dominique broody hens are rare. We do not allow pullets to set eggs. It seems that they are the most likely to abandon their nest or chicks. Hens two years old or older rarely cause a problem.
Several hens and their chicks are often placed in the same pen to make chores easier on us. Conventional wisdom states this is a bad idea, as hens will harm the chicks belonging to other hens. I have found that Dominique mothers, while attentive are rather accommodating. If the chicks are close to the same age the hens don’t seem to mind that chicks move from one hen to another.
Is the bantam hen mentioned an exception? No, she and her full three sisters hatched more chicks between them than I hatched in the incubator that year. Collectively, they are known as the Unbeatable Beauties – great in the showroom and practical in the henhouse – a trait most Dominiques share. What a great breed!