Dorkings were one of the original utility fowl taken with settlers to America, becoming one of the most common farm birds in the 1800's. They were also exported to Australia and became known as an excellent table bird in the colony.Their qualities have been utilised in the development many other breeds, including the Lincolnshire buff, the Houdan, and the Faverolles.
Dorkings are a heavy breed utility fowl, and their characteristics reflect this purpose.The character is quiet and stately, Dorkings should not be flighty or prone to panic and aggression. They should be large, with a long, deep body, looking rather rectangular when viewed from the side. Breast should be full and carried well forwards. The white legs are short and strong, with five toes, the fifth seperate from and above the normal hind toe, pointing upwards. The Australian Standard calls for mature hens to weigh 3.6-4.55 kg, while roosters should weigh 4.55-6.35kg. Lack of size is one of the issues faced by Dorking breeders in Australia today, with very few fowls reaching the standard weights.
Dorkings are quite hardy birds, and enjoy free range foraging. They lay a moderate number of medium to large sized white to tinted eggs. Dorkings breed well, generally fertility is good and, as long as their nutritional needs are met, egg hatch rates are high. Hens make good broodies and are natural mothers. Silver Grey, Red and Dark chicks can easily be sexed by around 2-3 weeks as their juvenile feathers come through, with the males showing a black breast and females showing salmon/chestnut breast feathering. They are one of the slower growing breeds; while pullets may come into lay as early as five months, they may not attain their full adult size until 18 months to two years old.
The most common fault in Australia is a lack of size and type. Many breeds have been proposed to outcross to to try to regain some substance, these birds must be chosen with caution to avoid any further deterioration in Australian Dorking genetics. Rigorous selection within the breed will yield results over time. Red flecking and shading in the wing and shoulder of the Silver Grey is often seen, this is a result of autosomal red required to deepen the salmon breast of the hen. The breeder must select pairs carefully to attain a balance between clear shoulders/wings of the male and the richness of the salmon breast feathering of the female.
Australian Dorking Summary
The Dorking is a magnificent bird and a pleasure to keep. Breeding these fowls is a real challenge, but can be very rewarding. They truly are a heritage breed worthy of the efforts to maintain them. A breeders' network has recently been formed to promote the breed and bring interested people together. Already we have members in all states of Australia, and we hope in time the group will grow and evolve into a club with strong support.