America's Oldest Breed of Livestock

Dominique Feather Color

1870 Southern Farm and Home Magazine

About this 1870 article APA Judge Sam Brush said “Mark, I think this dovetails pretty well with some of the observations expressed by Eugene Barnard at one point. It was something like “from 30 feet they should look “bluish” due to the patterning.”

It is interesting that Sam should mention the judge Eugene Barnard as he was one of my harshest critics of the Dominique bantams.  He regularly told me they looked too much like Plymouth Rocks in shape, pattern and color.   But to my dying days I will recall him yelling at me across the show room at Lincoln Nebraska. He was waving one of my Dominique bantams in the air and yelled “now this is a Dominique!”

Once while discussing the color, Tracey Rodenbach recounted  “When I grew up, my Uncle Willis described them this way – think of a light blue calico sheet with small dark blue flowers, hanging on a washline in the neighbor’s yard.  From far away, you can’t really make out the pattern, it just looks blue.  As you get closer, you see the pattern.  This slate blue look is what I’ve been after in my flock.”

So exactly what color is the Dominique?   This author believes that the description of “just short of positive black and white” is too harsh.  I have long contended that the color should be described as “dove gray” and “silver white”.

Tracey comments about the bird on the left “The birds I remember from childhood did not have a stark white lighter coloring- it was more of a light soft grey. The darker barring looked more “gunmetal” colored- making the birds look blue from a distance.”   I agree that the “white bar” should be a silver color that has just a hint of “blue” in it to give the overall desired hue.

The important thing to remember is that the Dominique is actually a black chicken with white bars.   There are genetic factors that then determine the size of the bars, the color of the white and the color of the black.

The black is made blackest by melanin retention (keeping the black dark).  The more you diffuse this the lighter the dark bar becomes.

John Hrycek, Jr asked “So am I reading right that the melanin retention in the dusky legs is related to the poor color in the barring? At my place I see a lot of pullets with little “melanin expression” in the legs and beaks, but throw very poor color in the cuckoo barring”    Furthermore he points out “this pullet is very poor in color. Notice smut between the shoulders, wider dark bars in main tail and the dark bars have a metallic sheen.“

Yes, the black spots on the legs and the dark patches are related.  When you start to clean up the legs the barring begins to get cleaner as well, but it takes time.

Carl Fosbrink of Barred Plymouth Rock fame gave me a lesson in cleaning up the color in barred birds.  You should check for ‘smut” between the shoulder blades.  When you start to clean up this area for color the rest of the body follows.

I often use the term “smut” without thought to the new fancier, so let’s give it a little definition.  This is when the dark bar bleeds over into the light bar and the feather looks smutty instead of nice and clean.  Sometimes instead of the dark bar bleeding into the light it gets a dark brown color instead of shades of black.

Brown of any kind is bad in Dominiques.  When you start to reduce the dark color other things peak out.  Maybe that black was covering a little bit of brassiness (brown/red) and when the black was removed it shows through.  This is should be avoided.   We want both the silver and the blue to be clean colors.

To begin the process you need to select breeders with the cleanest barring, selecting males with the lightest color bars.   Over a few generations you’ll begin to see a change.  The dark bars will be cleaner and lighter, the white bars will be brighter, the legs will become more orange and the face, comb and wattles will be more orange/red instead of the harsh dark red.

I have gone to great lengths to impress on the reader that the Dominique should be blue and silver but I will concede that this is not the sole requirement to quality birds.  I will end this discussion on color with this point: The Hyman line was definitely from the old blue lines, however the Voter birds were just as definitely black and white.  Each were beautiful quality birds.

****** Mark – remember to say something about undercolor and fluff