Dorking Chicken

The Dorking chicken is an ancient breed first developed as a landrace in the area of Kent, Sussex, and Surrey counties in England. This area was famous for producing poultry of the highest quality for the table; the five-toed Dorking having been the most sought after of these chickens. It is the town of Dorking, once called Darking, for which the breed was named.

The origin of Dorking chickens is a bit of a mystery. The Roman author, Columella wrote of five-toed fowls in Rome whose description fits Dorkings fairly well. Popular history is that the Romans brought five-toed fowls with them when they invaded in 43 A.D. Curious is the fact that these five-toed fowls were so respected by the Romans for their fine table qualities, but none are to be found in Italy. One could speculate that the Romans may have brought the five-toed Ardennes chickens from Belgium and that these formed the basis for the Dorking breed. We also know that prior to the Roman arrival in Britain, Phoenician traders were known to visit from the Mediterranean and exchange poultry for tin in Great Britain.

Dorking chickens are to be found in several colors, the most ancient of these being the White, the Colored (or Coloured), and the Silver Gray. Much old literature speculates that the White Dorking chicken is the original variety. We know that the Colored Dorking is the largest of the Dorking chicken varieties and that the Silver Gray Dorking was derived from it. Other colors of Dorking chickens include Cuckoo, Black, Red, and Speckled.

As a table fowl, the Dorking chicken has few peers and no superlatives. The flesh is tender and delicate. The chickens are well fleshed in the choicest sections: breast, merrythought (wishbone area), and wings. Early Dorking chicken breeders so valued the breed that it was only with great difficulty that any live chickens could be obtained at any price. At one time it was rumored that the town of Dorking had a law against selling the chickens alive.

Though easily fattened for the pot, Dorking hens are excellent winter layers, and could be said to be very good layers except for their propensity to sit after laying 35-50 eggs. They are exemplary sitters and mothers; often staying with the chicks far longer than hens of other breeds. Dorking hens also tend to welcome chicks of other hens. Dorking pullets are slow to come into lay, but will be found to lay all through the winter – a time when eggs are harder to come by.  The breed is not much inclined to wander far from home, though they are good foragers. They like to roost in trees when given a chance – something unexpected of a large chicken with short legs.

Exactly when Dorking chickens arrived in America is a bit of a mystery. We do know they were well distributed here before 1840, and were even shown at the first poultry show in America in 1849. By 1904 they were the most popular breed in their native England. The Dorking chicken is recognized by the American Poultry Association in three varieties: White (1874), Silver-Gray (1874), and Colored (1874).  Males weigh 9 lbs and females weigh 7 lbs.
Photo credit: Moss Mountain Farm

Light Sussex Chicken

Since the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 A.D., the area around Kent, Sussex, and Surrey has been a hub of poultry production with a reputation for producing chickens of the finest flavor. There is much speculation on the origins of the poultry of this area. Phoenician traders were known to visit Britain before the Romans and exchange poultry for tin. The Romans certainly did bring poultry, including some with five-toes which would later be called Dorking chickens, but they also brought the knowledge of breeding livestock to fulfill a purpose and may have introduced the British to eating poultry.

The chickens of Kent, Sussex, and Surrey had the reputation of being the finest table-poultry, with white skin, legs, and feet and juicy, tender flesh. Many early writers made remarks regarding the superior qualities of the five-toed fowl, implying the four-toed fowl were more common, but still of high quality. Old literature seems to indicate that in the early days of this landrace of poultry the four and the five-toed fowls were produced from the same stock.

By the time of the introduction of Asiactic fowl to England in the mid-1800s, the five-toed fowl were being maintained as a breed, while the four-toed fowl were bred in flocks varying much from one to the next. With a great deal of excitement, the British crossed the Asiatics on local flocks seeking improvements, such as increased size and hardiness. To their disappointment, they discovered that size did increase, but bones became larger and flesh coarser and less tender. By 1900 there were precious few flocks of the old Kentish, Sussex, and Surrey chickens that had not been contaminated by crossbreeding.

Speaking to a group of Sussex farmers in 1903, Edward Brown, a noted writer on the rural poultry industry, reminded them of their history and reputation for producing the finest poultry and berated them for being on the point of letting this breed die out. His speech moved many and in July of that same year E.J. Wadman took up the mantle and formed a club for Sussex chickens. Soon farmers networked to find relatively pure pockets of the breed and began its promotion. So it is that an ancient breed was brought back from the brink of extinction and became a “new’ player in the emerging poultry industry of the early 1900s.

Sussex chickens are a dual-purpose breed with a deep broad body, close fitting feathers, and white skin, shanks and feet. The breed will put on fat very easily, making it well suited for market poultry. The hens are fair to good layers of brown eggs, though they lay best if not allowed to get overly fat. This could be a wonderful breed for a small farm or homestead, being active and all-around an excellent breed for meat and eggs. Sussex chickens have a reputation, in some circles, of having flesh superior even to that of the Dorking and Old English Game chickens. Sussex chickens reached America about 1912 and was recognized by the American Poultry Association in three varieties: Speckled (1914), Red (1914), and Light (1929). In England another variety is recognized, the Brown (a very dark red color). Some breeders have created additional colors, such as Coronation, Buff, White, and Silver. Males weigh 9 lbs, females weigh 7 lbs.

Bresse Chciken

They are good for eggs as well as meat. Laying upwards of 250 eggs per year. They lay large size cream colored eggs. They are white with a have bright red single combs and blue steel legs. They weigh is about 5-7lbs. the Bresse is known to be able to have a marbling effect like beef during their growing. This makes them have a more intense flavor.

 also known as Valaille de Bresse which has A.O.C. appellation d’origine controlee status. in its home region of France. Which became a breed approx 500 years ago in the Burgundy region of France. Bresse chickens were first imported to the US in 2011. They are call American or Canadian Bresse because of the import restrictions. Bresse chickens can cost $150-$200 Us dollars in France. They command a high premium over other poultry of the region. They come in 4 colors white,
black blue & splash
. We are running them all together.

Chantecler Chicken

The Chantecler originated in the Quebec Province of Canada and is a fine example of a dual-purpose breed. Brother Wilfred Chatelain first thought of the idea for the Chantecler when he was walking through the Oka Agricultural Institute’s poultry flocks, in Quebec, and realized there was no breed of chicken from Canada; all of the breeds being used in Canada originated in Europe or America. He wanted to create a breed of chicken that could stand the harsh climate of Canada, and that could be used for both egg and meat production.

From the French ‘chanter,’ “to sing,” and ‘clair,’ “bright,” the Chantecler is the first Canadian breed of chicken. Under the supervision of Brother Chatelain, the monks of the Cistercian Abbey in Oka, Quebec, sought to create, “a fowl of vigorous and rustic temperament that could resist the climatic conditions of Canada, a general purpose fowl.” Although work began on this breed in 1908, it was not introduced to the public until 1918, and admitted to the American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection in 1921.

The Chantecler was created by first crossing a Dark Cornish male with a White Leghorn female, and a Rhode Island Red male with a White Wyandotte female. The following season pullets from the first cross were mated to a cockerel from the second cross. Then selected pullets from this last mating were mated to a White Plymouth Rock male, thus producing the fowl as seen today. Although this produced a pure White Chantecler, Dr. J. E. Wilkinson of Alberta, Canada, decided to create a similar chicken with a color pattern more suited to range conditions, one whose color pattern would blend with its background. He crossed the Partridge Wyandotte, Partridge Cochin, Dark Cornish, and the Rose Comb Brown Leghorn, to create the Partridge Chantecler. The Partridge Chantecler was admitted into Standard in 1935.

The breed is noted for having nearly no wattles and a small cushion comb – the comb appearing much like a small round button sitting low on the head. The small comb and wattles allow this breed to withstand the cold Canadian winters without worry of frostbite. Not surprisingly, the breed is noted for being very hardy, is an excellent layer of brown eggs with a reputation as a good winter layer, and has a well-fleshed breast.

The Chantecler can still be found in both of its original colors, White and Partridge; both having yellow flesh and legs. It is an excellent choice for anyone wanting a productive fowl that will excel in a wintry climate. The breed is noted for being calm, gentle, and personable.