The Dorking is one of the oldest breeds of chicken in the world. It is believed to have originated in Italy in the Roman Empire. Columella, a Roman agricultural writer, wrote a book called Rei Rusticae Libri, during the time of Julius Ceasar. He described the Dorking as "square-framed, large and broad-breasted, with big heads and small upright combs...the purest breed being five-clawed." When Rome invaded and conquered England, the Romans brought the Dorking to that country around the 50s BC.
The Dorking appeared in the first British Poultry Show dated 1845. It was a popular bird in Dorking, Surrey, England; afterwhich it got its name. It wasn't until after the 1850's in Surrey, Kent and Sussex that the plumage patterns began to stabilise, most probably thanks to farmers who wanted to deter chicken thieves., making their own colour of birds recognisable (which is why there are so many color varieties).
The people of Dorking love this bird so much that they erected a monument to it in one of the town's roundabouts.
Dorkings, were a popular table bird but also became a popular exhibition bird up until the First World War. By the end of the second World War, their popularity had declined and it is thought that only a handful of breeders remained. As their show qualities were improved, so their table qualities were lost. During this period, farmers were switching to hybrid crosses that were faster growing and offered better returns.
The Dorking remains hard to find. Whilst it also exists in a bantam version, breeders are few and far between. The breed is in desperate need of more serious breeders to increase their numbers. Dorkings are fairly calm and docile, are good foragers and don't tend to scratch as much as other breeds. Hens go broody easily and make good mothers. Males have large combs - care should be taken in cold weather to prevent combs freezing.
The Dorking has a very square, rectangular body with short legs and five toes. It can have a rosecomb or a singlecomb. The singlecomb can be large enough to deserve some protection when it gets cold-a little vaseline on a cold night.
They are very friendly birds, I have a rooster who follows me everywhere. The breed is very docile and easily puts up with kids and handling.
Dorkings are very heavy, thick birds and would make great meat birds, and being a heritage breed they take about 4-5 months to mature. The skin colour beneath the feathers is white and they have plenty of fine white meat. Also, being dual purpose, they are good egg layers laying 5 medium creamy/tan eggs a week.120 - 170 per year. It is one of the few breeds with red earlobes that produces a white-shelled egg. They breed all year long, although egg production and hatch rate decreases in the winter time.
The standard weight is 9 pounds for a cock, 8 pounds for a cockerel, 7 pounds for a hen, and 6 pounds for a pullet. The bird has five recognized varieties: White, Silver-grey, Red, Dark and Cuckoo--there are many other colors though: dun, salmon, grey, brown, tawny.
They are noted for being exceptionally broody at times in entire flocks refusing to lay and preferring to set on eggs to incubate them.
They're an English bird so they do great on pasture.
Most Dorkings do not reach this 'ideal' weight and should be selected for increased size when possible.