Red Dorking Restoration Project

RD_hen_with_chicksThis project is currently in hiatus.  We hope to resume it in the future.  This page is presented, therefore, for informational purposes only.

Appleworm™ Orchard is undertaking the ambitious project of restoring the Black-Breasted Red Dorking to its previous place as a premier table fowl and is looking for the assistance of other backyard farmers in achieving this goal.

Our ambition is to breed a bird with the following traits: (i) ability to forage; (ii) large size; (iii) excellent brooding and parenting; and (iv) true-to-type reproduction of all of the above. Our hope is that the resulting birds will be able to hatch and mother their own chicks, that the offspring will grow well on the range, and that the resulting cockerels can become large and tasty carcasses.

We have been working on this project for over half a decade but have been frustrated by the poor genetics of the various broodfowl we have acquired over the years (lots of unwanted recessive traits kept popping up) and the chicks’ poor brooder-survival rate (they seemed intent on getting themselves trampled by the other breeds).

So . . . we are trying a new approach. Instead of starting with a small breeding flock (one roo and several hens), we are now starting large. In Spring 2013 we acquired over 80 Red Dorking chicks and culled them down at Thanksgiving into three small breeding flocks from the best pullets and cockerels. We then left them alone. Sort of.  What we actually did was allow each hen to lay, brood, hatch, and raise her offspring the next year.  We then selected the finest pullet from each clutch and recomposed the flocks.  We are repeating this process this year.  With sufficient repetition we expect to have Red Dorkings that will breed all of the desired traits true-to-type.

Our biggest problem is that Appleworm™ Orchard is not large enough to house multiple free-ranging breeding flocks. Here is where you might be able to help. We need volunteers to provide homes for these flocks this winter and then monitor the hens’ mothering this spring.  Even if your can’t provide a home to a rooster, there are other ways you can help out.

If you think you might be interested in lending a hand, please do contact us. We look forward to working with our neighbors in restoring to New England homesteads this ancient, elegant, and tasty bird.