White Dorkings Chickens
The Dorking is a foundational chicken breed of old Europe. By "foundational breed" we intend those honorable, old-fashioned breeds that have played a role in Western civilization for centuries or even millennia. For the most part, their origins are obscured by the passing of one age into another. However, they have stood the test of time, and from the villages of ancient Britain, Gaul, and Rome, they continue on here at Yellow House Farm to serve yet another generation of homesteaders.
Unlike the more modern "composite breeds", such as the Plymouth Rock, Rhode Island Red, Wyandotte and Orpington, which are all the fruit of crossbreeding various foundational breeds, the foundational breeds represent a unique genetic resource that cannot be reproduced. If they are lost, they are lost forever. Sadly, with the advent of modern factory "farming" practices, these breeds have fallen into the shadows. Both the ALBC (American Livestock Breeds Conservancy) and the SPPA (Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities) list those breeds that are in need of serious conservation efforts. Here at Yellow House Farm we work diligently to answer this call to support our ever dwindling bio-diversity. With your support, we shall attain our goal of a new Renaissance for these ancient treasures, bringing this valuable breed back from the brink of extinction and reintroducing them as productive farm fowl in our agricultural landscape.
The Dorking is among the most noble and ancient of poultry breeds. It's origins date back to time immemorial. Our earliest record of them is found among the writings of Columella, a Roman agricultural historian of the first century A.D. They are believed to have been brought to England with the invasions of Julius Caesar. It is from this importation that they receive their name as Dorking. In the region of Surrey, England, the town of Dorking boasts proudly of the Dorking on their coat of arms.
The Dorking remained a prominent breed throughout our history. Ulisse Aldrovandi, an agricultural historian of the Italian Renaissance, refers to the White Dorking as being an ancient fowl, indeed. In more recent times, Queen Victoria prefered the Dorking about all other chicken for her plate.
Moreover, the Dorking has a long history in North America, coming over with early settlers. Many an American homestead benefitted from the superior qualities of the Dorking. New England has long been graced by the Dorking fowl. In 1853, the Rev. Edmund Saul Dixon, in his work A Treatise on the History and Management of Ornamental and Domestic Poultry, wrote of several accounts of the Dorking in New England:
"A correspondant, writing from Boston says, 'You ask me what kind of Fowls I prefer? I wish to be understood that, when I speak of Fowls, I recommend or condemn from my own experience--not from the representation of others. I prefer the white Dorking before any other breed known in this part of the country. They have all the good qualities in full, which other breeds possess only in part; they are hardy, handsome, prolific, easily raised, and, when they are brought upon the table, 'they are food for Emperors and Kings (Dixon 184).'"
It is, indeed, on account of quality that the Dorking has endured for over two milennia. Few other breeds can rival the Dorking when quality and flavor are the measuring stick. The breast meat of the Dorking is very white, fine grained, and juicy; the flavor is excellent. The dark meat is richly flavored:
"The [Dorking] approach the ideal for general purposes [...] American breeders prize the Dorkings highly for the quality of flesh, and also for the small proportion of bone. They are especially noted for a broad, deep breast, and the breast meat is distinctly fine in quality (Watson, George C. Farm Poultry. 1914)."
As layers, they are good, although there are breeds that lay better. Dorkings are considered dual-purpose breeds, which means that they are esteemed for the production of both meat and eggs, but this title is ambiguous at best. Very few breeds, if any, could be said to be the ideal for both meat and eggs. Most dual-purpose birds excel in one area and are passable in the other. Dorkings are an excellent meat bird with acceptable laying abilities.
As broody hens, they are tough to beat and make excellent natural mothers. Because of their size and reliability, Dorkings can be used successfully to hatch out the eggs of other fowl such as turkeys, ducks, and even geese.
Moreover, they are good foragers. They roam carefully over their terrain looking for various treats. Indeed, they are no slouches, but remain busy the day long in search of their fare.
At Yellow House Farm the Dorking is our breed of choice. We are proud to be a part of the long heritage of this fine fowl and look forward to seeing its population increase in New England as we rediscover the superior flavor and quality of heritage poultry.