America's Oldest Breed of Livestock

Dominique Feather Shape and Texture

Our friend John Hrycek, Jr. shared this:

I pulled this quote from the Mediterranean Facebook page concerning feather groups and how some sections have no relation to each other when selecting for tighter feathering in our birds. The statement is towards LF White Leghorns. We need to keep this in mind as we try to improve the feather in our LF Dominiques.

Dan Honour- I think part of the problem lies with the feather structure, all birds have cushions and saddles. It is just part of the bird. The cushion is just the female’s saddle and the male’s saddle is just his back feathers. Same section just sex expressed. However, if you get a loose, fluffy feather, usually with too much under fluff and a soft quill, you have issues with top and bottom lines. It is a balancing act with feather width and tighter feathering. Not the hard short feathering on Games nor the loose fluffy feathers on Cochins. Plus, there is variation in feathers in each section and some individuals can have one type of feather in one area and another elsewhere, they sometimes go together but not always. In Leghorns you want the concave sweep of back, no angles or breaks before tail. Many times there are not enough tail coverts or more often the tail coverts are not long enough in the females. The main tail feathers may not extend long enough or the top two not curve slightly. The shoulders may be too high or the back too long to make the continued sweep topline.

This observation answers one of the great quandaries I have had.   When the body feathers would be “right” there might be a soft fluffy saddle on the hen.   For a long time I assumed that all sections of the bird would be feathered the same, however as Mr. Honour has noted, this is not the case.

Writing on the topic of feather texture I once described the Dominique as hard-feathered.  My good friend Julie Groves Gupton was quick to correct that and referring to Mr. Honour’s quote made this observation:

“I like the fact that this writer identifies the difference between ‘hard’ feathering (such as in O.E. Games) and  ‘tight’ feathering (such as in Leghorns and likewise in Dominiques). I worry that some folks are looking for ‘hard’ feathering when they really need to focus on ‘tight’ feathering in our Dominiques. There IS a difference.”

On the matter of feather width and shape I had the opportunity to visit with a Master Breeder of Old English Game Bantams in 2017.  He has mastered each variety he has undertaken so I feel he is a valuable resource.   I asked about soft feathering and feather width.

I am no artist, but I needed to show you something to get a point of reference.  The blunt feather end is exaggerated but you get the idea of the difference.

We are talking main tail feathers in females.  There is a direct relationship between the “roundness” at the end of a feather and the width of said feather AND the width and length of the male offspring’s tail.    The OEGB bantam people swear by this and say it applies to other breeds not just theirs.

They say if you use females with too blunt end feathers that before long the male’s tails will start being shorter and the width of the sickles narrow AND there will be sharp points on the sickles instead of the rounded points (think how nice Katherine’s male’s sickles look)

They try to never use a male with pointed sickles.

They say that as you produce longer rounded main sickles that you will also begin to get nicer saddles – no not fluffier as that is as different issue – but longer and fuller.

John Hyrcek, Jr provided us this picture.  This Dominique pullet is 3rd generation Old English Game cross and shows the effect of tight feathering. Notice that the saddle is very tight feathered but with a good sweep when the main tail is expanded.

Here we have a study on the female top sickle feather.   This conversation was taken from the Dominique Club of America Facebook page.

Hrycek Curved Sickle

John Hyrcek, Jr” Here is an “issue” that is popping up in this years pullets that are throwing nice tails. I am seeing the top main tail feathers growing out longer than normal. I have even counted the main feathers to be sure they were not too many. Should I try to breed away from this issue or is this common for a rather long tailed breed. This past season I really worked in the breeding pen for longer tails with wider mains. She is a 10-11 month old pullet.

Mark Fields You want this! I will elaborate later as I am rushed at the moment

Amy L. Rawson I read somewhere (maybe in Mark’s book?) that this was desirable and that these hens will throw cockerels with nice full sickles.

Melody Hobbs There you go John, asked and answered. 🙂

Mark Fields Yes Amy, it is in the book, but it was originally an article by Roger Voter. These longer tail feathers will put longer sickles on the male offspring. A Hamburg breeder told me how he would keep a couple females with extremely long top tail feathers to put length back on the males. As he said, it’s easier to take length off than it is to add it back. So John, you have a good thing here.

Tracey Rodenbach John, that’s exactly what I’m breeding FOR! Beautiful- that width and nice wide V from the rear with the tilted overlap of feathers is very nice!!!! Color me jealous, or send me one! Lol

John Hrycek Jr the top mains would be broader and have more of a pronounced arch to be effective for improving the tails on the boys. As you can see they have more of a split, giving an awkward appearance to her tail. Her sister does not have this trait, carries her self better in a pen and beat her at the farm show, last week. So I guess that was probably why I got it stuck in my head that the top feathers were an issue.

Mark Fields You definitely want to watch that. Keep the feathers as “flat” as possible. When the inverted “V” starts looking like a ladder that is a very bad thing. (now you have something to worry about)

Tracey Rodenbach I agree Mark- but I like this girl’s tail- great shape on it.

Heaven Roberts Interesting you say that Mark I was told the same thing by a leghorn breeder and someone else (can’t remember what he had). Have always kept it in the back of my mind.