The Dorking: Everything You Need to Know About This Rare Chicken

Looking for a breed that will bring meat, eggs, and companionship to your family? You’ve found it! The Dorking chicken is a special chicken with a rich history which is, unfortunately, currently considered endangered. The Dorking is one of the oldest known chicken breeds, possibly dating back to 43 AD. 

So, if the Dorking has been around for so long, why are they endangered? Moreover, the Dorking is a well-loved breed, but certain varieties are getting harder and harder to find. What gives?

We can probably attribute the scarcity to the commercialization of the poultry industry. Faster growing chickens became a priority over many other previously valued characteristics, like taste and temperament. 

The Dorking was, and is, a highly sought after chicken by those who are meat aficionados. The chicken gained popularity when it was brought to England by the Romans. It is believed to have been love at first taste. 

Today, the Dorking can be purchased in small quantities from chicken hatcheries or breeders, but not all colors are available. This is a breed that needs the support of backyard chicken breeders before they are gone for good.

Appearance

The Dorking is a stout breed, used for both meat and eggs. They are known to have shorter legs than other large breeds and it’s their stockiness that makes them an ideal meat breed. 

The Dorking comes in white and silver-grey color varieties, both of which are lovely additions for those who enjoy an ornamental flock. The comb of the Dorking is large and sometimes looks to be a tad floppy on the roosters, which gives the breed a somewhat comical appearance. While the large comb is bright red and beautiful, it’s not well-suited for extremely cold environments. 

It should be noted that the white variety of the Dorking has a rose comb, so if you live in the northern hemisphere, the white bird should be your first choice. However, since this chicken is endangered, and rare, the white colored Dorking is nearly impossible to find. 

Speaking of rare, the Dorking is one of the few breeds that sports a fifth toe! Even though the toe exists on the bird, it doesn’t serve much of a purpose—that we know of. It truly just hangs out on the back of the Dorking’s foot. A cute little quirk for sure!

dorking chicken

Size

Weighing in at around 8lbs, the Dorking is a hefty meat chicken.  Even though they appear small, due to their short legs, they are quite meaty. They have a long back with a broad breast, but some enthusiasts will refer to the Dorking chicken as a boxy-looking breed. 

Eggs

Typically chickens that are known for one type of product (meat or eggs) are not utilized much for the other. Big meat chickens don’t tend to be prolific egg producers; however, the Dorking is an exception to this rule. Hens will produce a good amount of eggs, enough to keep up to some of your decent laying hens. What’s more, they are known as chickens that produce consistently throughout the winter, rather than slow down like some breeds.

The Dorking’s eggs are considered white or creamy—in other words, they are lightly tinted and they will usually be medium to large in size. A healthy happy Dorking hen can lay around 170 – 190 eggs per year. This bird really does provide a ton of protein!

Meat

If you are looking for a dinner chicken with some amazing flavor, look to the Dorking. This breed is considered to be on the top of the list of the most delicious and flavorful chickens. This prime poultry has the meat in all the right places, making it very tender and light. Rave reviews of the Dorking seem nearly comparable to those of the Bresse chicken, another highly sought after meat chicken. 

Another nod to the Dorking is awarded due to their visually pleasing, and appetizing, skin. Many chicken breeds, that have not been bred for commercial production, have yellow or grey skin. Somewhere along the line, someone decided that in order for the chicken to be edible, the skin should be white. This is obviously not true, but if this happens to be a concern for you, now you know that the Dorking sports white skin. 

Hardiness

Generally speaking, the Dorking is a bird that is quite hardy, and not to be considered a delicate chicken. While those with single combs should be given special accommodations in cold climates, the white varieties is able to avoid frostbite with their aforementioned rose comb. It’s important to know how to care for your chickens during winter.

Free-Range

Need another reason to start your own flock of Dorkings? Well, they are excellent free-rangers! They love to forage your property for bugs and weeds, and they tend to stick close to home. Win-win!

Note: If you are planning a weekend picnic with your friends, it might be wise to let them know you have some extremely friendly chickens that might be joining you. Or, if you don’t want them free-ranging around your feet, perhaps temporarily confine them. If you’ve ever had a dog that begs, a chicken can be much more pesty.

Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pikerslanefarm/8776501461/

Temperament

If you are reading through this thinking the Dorking is probably the perfect chicken, wait until you hear about their dispositions! The Dorking is the dolly of the flock—they are sweethearts. So, if you become attached to your chickens, perhaps raising a Dorking as a meat chicken may not work very well for you. They are known to be calm, friendly, and tolerant; great qualities, but not-so-great if you have aggressive chickens in your flock, like the Cornish chicken. Your Dorkings will probably end up at the bottom of the pecking order

Dorkings can go to being a broody hen easily, but are said to be one of the best mothers, and will raise their chicks well. They have even been said to adopt chicks that are not their own. Hens don’t quickly kick their babes out of the nest either. They have a tendency to mother their clutches long after other hens’ babies have flown out of the chicken coop

You can’t go wrong with a Dorking, and when it comes down to it, they need to be embraced by those who appreciate the breed, and an all-around chicken. It would be a shame for this breed to go extinct, especially because it is a sweetheart of a chicken. 

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Comments

  1. thomas hansen says

    We have a dorking rooster, he was chased out of the coop by 2 other roosters, he now roosts on the hood of my truck. He is my buddy.

  2. Molly says

    The official colors for Dorkings are White, Red, Silver Gray, Dark, and Cuckoo, though I’ve heard cuckoo is only recognized in the UK. I think it’s Horstman’s Poultry that has red Dorking chicks, and Sand Hill Preservation center in Iowa has black Dorkings. I’m really interested in this breed, and I enjoyed reading your post, particularly with regards to their temperaments.

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