Silver Grey Dorkings: A Beautiful, Calm Heritage Chicken Breed
Dorking History and Background
If you have ever wondered about this ancient and graceful breed, read on. According to Storey's Guide to Poultry Breeds, the 5-toed fowl believed to be ancestors of the Silver Grey Dorkings have been known in England for over 2000 years.
The Roman writer, Columella, writes of a square short-legged 5-toed chicken brought to Britain by the Legions of Julius Caesar 54 BC. I believe they were bred and renowned as a fine table bird especially in the South of England.
Dorking Breed Qualities
- They are primarily and historically a white-skinned meat breed, though they lay a fair few round white eggs.
- They are prized for their tasty white meat and a gourmet favourite. In heritage chicken meat taste-offs, they are usually in the top three and usually win.
- The long brick-shaped body means there is a good amount of meat on each bird. The length of the breast, along with its curve, means they are actually easier to eat whole than breasted out.
- These docile birds are a great choice for growing your own meat.
- They don't eat much for a meat breed, so growth is not rapid.
- They forage for much of their requirements—free-ranging or inside a large protected electric poultry netting area—so you will save money on feed.
Dorking Breed Standard
The Dorking breed, though rare, actually comes in a number of colour varieties. With a Rose comb they are Coloured (like a Dark in Cornish), Red, Cuckoo, and White. The Silver Grey is the only colour with a single flat large comb.
The single combed silver greys have 6 points with the middle two being the longest. The hens have a similar comb though it is allowed to flop over to one side. The comb can be susceptible to frostbite more on the males than females, though not as bad as the Andalusians in our experience.
All dorkings are short clean legged (no leg feathers) chickens with short pinky-white legs and 5 toes. The 5 toes is a giveaway for ID when they are chicks. The 5th toe should not touch the ground at all and should be completely separate, not just a branched toe off another toe.
The new 2010 American Standard of perfection has detailed information on the correct type and colour of feathers, beak, earlobes, etc., plus many other breeds. It is invaluable for breeding or showing your chickens.
Silver Grey Dorking Temperament
These are a quiet, gentle, peaceful breed. They make a quiet squeaking, peeping noise when foraging and content that I have heard from no other breed. They are mild-mannered and can be shy but are easy to tame. Just handling them once or twice can be enough to tame them up. I have had shy Dorkings trail around after me like pets after being caught once and having a plastic leg band put on.
In a coop of assorted pure breeds, they are often near the bottom of the pecking order but still get to roost high. Roosters can be bullied also in bachelor pens due to their short stature, and require close monitoring when possible or separate housing. For a heavy bird, they roost 7 feet plus which surprised us.
We have never had them sit on eggs in the 2 years we have had them, but they apparently will sit on eggs and brood chicks, making excellent mothers.
Dorkings are Great Foragers
They forage well and will free range in quite a large area. They are the most relaxing breed to watch dustbathing or lazing in the sunshine. They will disappear into the shade on a hot day.
Ours have caught mice and frogs and are among the few breeds that would dart through an electric fence to get to the vegetable garden. I have read they do not scratch very much, and it is actually true. They seem more content to catch large items to devour!
The roosters are vigilant and extremely noisy if there is a threat, making them excellent for warning the flock.
Weaknesses of Dorkings
One thing we have noticed is they can be weaker when it comes to the vigour of bought Dorking chicks. We have found Dorkings sometimes more susceptible to coccidiosis and losses may be higher when shipped. Our own that we have bred and hatched here generally seem stronger and less susceptible to disease and parasites.
Males can be more susceptible to injury if fighting. They are short and at a disadvantage, but are spirited enough to want to in the first place. So care should be taken if they are housed with other breeds of roosters.
Silver Grey Dorking Chicks Can Be Sexed at Hatch
The top of the head is the key to sexing this lovely chicken breed. The dark V seen on a Duckwing-type of colouring is solid and defined and darker on the female. One the male is is a much lighter band or smudge, sometimes still a V shape. Side by side it is noticeable enough to be fairly sure.
Also, chicks vary in darkness overall from different strains or sources. McMurrays chicks are extremely dark on the top of the head even the males (though they are still lighter than the McMurray females), so this works best for birds all from one source. Our other source's Dorking chicks were much paler and the darker females from that line were almost the same as the Mcmurray males!
For juveniles, when the body feathers start to come in, the males will start with black breast feathers and will fill in to have a solid black breast. The females have the softer coloured salmon breast feathers, joining to give a solid salmon breast. See the picture of these 5-6 week old Dorking chicks!
I hope this has given you some insight into this delightful, quiet self-sufficient chicken breed. I find them endearing and one of our favourite breeds. I hope you do too.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.