America's Oldest Breed of Livestock


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.

This picture is one I like to use to demonstrate the Dominique’s cooperative nature. These three bantam hens successfully incubated and hatched their brood without crushing an egg or trampling the chicks.

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.

This pen contains a large fowl hen and her 12 chicks as well as two bantam hens and their 28 chicks.  The 28 bantam chicks came from under 4 different hens (hatched over several days) and were just dropped into to pen to be brooded.   I’d rather do that than have a large number of broods running around.

So, are they good broody hens?   You be the judge.   Guess how many eggs this bantam hen laid before becoming broody.   Then guess how many chicks she hatched.    You should probably know that this hen is a full sister to the hen that took Champion R.C.C.L. and Reserve Champion of Show at the Dominique National in 2000. 

The photo was taken during her second broody period of the year.  Eggs were collected prior to allowing them to accumulate.  Over 15 days she laid 14 eggs, then went broody.  Thirteen of the eggs hatched.  One of the chicks died  after hatching and another just prior to the photograph.  The remaining 11 were raised to adulthood.

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!