Chickens As Pets: The Dorking

The Dorking is an ancient breed of chicken, the keeping of it for meat and eggs having been traced back to the time of the Roman occupation of Britain and reaching these shores from Italy. It wasn’t called a Dorking back then, of course, possibly taking its name in the 19th Century from the English town of Dorking in Surrey. The evidence points to some time around the first British poultry show in 1845.

Dorkings are gentle giants and classic chickens, in that they are easily spooked and so best not kept with rowdier, less genteel breeds. They’re great around kids but not great layers because of their long ancestry, with better egg laying breeds being developed down the centuries. That said, when they do lay, their eggs are pretty and a pale cream colour but surprisingly small given the size tiny chicks reach when they grow up. Dorking hens go broody often.

So, poor layers – small eggs – often broody. These characteristics make Dorkings not ideal candidates for chickens as pets. However, they are very beautiful and come in a number of colour variants – my Dorcas is a Silver Dorking – while being very friendly as well. These qualities, plus the fact that this traditional (historical) breed needs our support to survive, might sway you as they did me.

The photo shows Dorcas finally getting her way after two years of wanting babies. She’s sitting on 18 bantam eggs, Polands and Pekins. They’re due to hatch in just over a week’s time. It will be interesting and perfectly safe to see the interactions between a giant mother and her tiny chicks. Despite her size, she won’t be a clumsy parent and I don’t think she’ll put a foot or wing wrong when it comes to raising her young.

A broody hen doesn’t care if the eggs she sits on aren’t her own. To her, any eggs are her eggs. Obviously, smaller hens can hatch fewer eggs than Dorcas. If you’re looking to do large and natural (as opposed to incubator) hatches, then the Dorking is a clever and excellent addition to your flock.

Dorcas is the sweetest broody hen I’ve ever dealt with. I respect what her nature is directing her to do, so it’s true I only eyeball her daily to check she’s okay and don’t try to move her. Even so, I’ve known hens that will attack you when in the broody state if you look at, let alone stupidly touch.

Dorcas is responsible, too. She takes a food, drink and toilet break away from her nest once every day for around 15 minutes. Some hens take too long or too little, in the case of the latter having to be forced off the nest daily and locked outside the coop long enough to consume food and water, and do toilet.

Obsessed she may be but Dorcas isn’t as daft as some. You could say she has her work-life balance sorted!

Chickens As Pets is the only guide you need and the most beautifully presented. It’s also competitively and affordably priced at less than the cost of many glossy print magazines. Chickens As Pets iBooks for iPad Edition is the first-ever interactive, multimedia, touchscreen book about chickens to be published in the whole world.

Don’t have an iPad? There’s a Kindle version in the Amazon Store and one for all other e-readers on Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Diesel, Sony, Nook and Kobo. Nobody needs to miss out on this golden egg, although only the exclusive-to-Apple interactive iBooks Edition for iPad includes multimedia elements and is designed to make the most of the iPad’s unique capabilities.

The iBooks Edition is viewable on all iPads including the iPad Mini. The Kindle and Smashwords Editions are viewable on Macs, PCs, Smartphones and other tablet computers. The paperback can be bought from Amazon, CreateSpace or your favourite bookstore.

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