When it comes to the world of chickens, the Delaware is a relatively new breed.
Once set to become the “superstar” in the industry of broiler poultry in the 1940s, things turned awry, and the Delaware breed not only languished but fell into somewhat of obscurity.
It is only because of a select few individuals dedicated to maintaining and keeping the breed that the Delaware still remains.
The main purpose of this article is to offer and present a bit of the history of the Delaware chicken breed. We will also look at why flock keepers should give this dual-purpose breed and chance and integrate it into their flocks. We are sure you will be more than willing to agree that the Delaware breed is a pretty special bird.
History Of The Delaware Chicken Breed
When looking at the original creation of the Delaware chicken, many are not aware that they came about by way of happenstance.
The Delaware breed owes its very existence to another breed—that of the Rhode Island Red.
Other breeds that were involved in the process were the New Hampshire and Barred Rock breeds.
When breeders were working to refine the Rhode Island Red breed, to create a better producer of both meat and eggs, it happened that along the way, several white sports were created and came into existence.
George Ellis, in the 1940s, saw great potential in the newly created Delaware breed, and he set about working with the birds.
He worked towards creating a bird that would maintain its egg production and offer an increase in its meat production as well.
The Delaware breed also offered the distinct advantage that, with them being a white bird, would offer the industry a breed that would not show unsightly pin feathers when plucked.
As with the Rhode Island Reds, from which they were an offshoot, the Delaware breed became quickly favored for their rapid growth rate and their ability for feathering fast.
This rapid growth made them very competitive in the industry with other broiler birds.
Ellis worked with the breed for several years, with his original creations carrying the name of Indian Rivers.
For a while after that, the breed was often referred to as Ohio Beauty before being officially changed to Delaware.
In the end, Ellis’s work with this new breed of bird proved to be a somewhat huge success.
The Indian Rivers soon became the most popular breed of chicken in the Mid-East.
This popularity lasted for approximately 15-20 years before the Delaware breed was quickly one-uped by the even faster-growing Cornish Rock cross.
With the Delaware breed having been initially bred for the purpose of use in the broiler industry when the popularity of the Cornish Rock cross increased, there were very few farms or homesteads that chose to keep the Delaware breed—this began the somewhat steady decline in their one popular status.
Although several flock owners were dedicated to the Delaware breed and worked to keep it going, in 2009, the Delaware’s status was listed as critical by the American Livestock Breed Conservancy.
To better understand the importance of the Delaware breed, it is essential to understand what was going on in the world around them at the time of their creation.
In the early years of the 1940s, the UK and most of Europe were engaged in a war with Germany.
Even though the US didn’t officially enter into the war until 1941, we did aid the UK and the allies with supplies of food and materials.
It is also worth noting that during those post-war periods, in the 1940s and 1950s, the popularity of supermarkets grew, and they began to come into their own.
Farmers of that time were finding they could not keep up with what needed to be done with the day-to-day running of their farms, in addition to what was required to raise, sell, pack, and sell their livestock.
The rising of the agricultural industry soon solved these problems.
Although it is agreed that the Second World War undeniably would forever change the face of farming for the betterment and benefit of humans, for the animals involved not so much.
Appearance Of The Delaware Chicken Breed
As it is a dual-purpose bird for both eggs and meat, the Delaware breed is a medium-sized bird and presents with a long, broad, and deep body.
Male Delaware’s can typically weigh approximately 7-8 pounds, whereas the females usually weigh around 6 pounds.
The Delaware breed also offers a bantam variety, and they can typically weigh 32 ounces to 28 ounces, male to female, respectively.
Delaware chickens present with white/silver feathers, with black barring on their hackles, as well as their wings and their tail.
Many are prone to referring to the Delaware breed a having Columbian patter, but this is incorrect.
For Columbian, the feather pattern is that of solid black and is not barred—creating a similar look, but not a Columbian.
The Delaware breed creates a somewhat handsome rooster, which presents with a stunning barring of the neck and the tail.
The working standard for the Delaware breed is that its comb has five points and will present as red along with the wattles and the lobes of the ears.
The Delaware breed generally has rather large combs, making them prone to frostbite in those somewhat colder regions.
Their beaks are a reddish horn color, with their eyes presenting more of a reddish bay.
Their legs are clean of feathers and, like their skin, are yellow in color, and should have four toes on each foot.
Delaware Chicken Breed Standards
The Delaware breed officially gained admittance into the American Poultry Association in 1952.
There is only one variety of the Delaware breed, which presents as white with black barring on its hackles, tail, and in some instances, its wings and body.
Because their popularity was relatively short-lived, the Delaware breed never had the chance to make any type of impact anywhere but in the US.
For this reason, there are no other standards of breeding in existence.
Delaware Chicken Temperament
Those flock keepers that have chosen to have the Delaware breed have described these birds as friendly, calm, curious, and extremely intelligent.
Many have said that the breed is quiet. However, others say that the Delaware breed is a somewhat chatty and talkative bird.
The Delaware can be an assertive breed, but it is not in any manner to be mistaken for the overly assertive Rhode Island Reds.
They are always curious about what is going on around them, and if you let them, they will help you tend your garden, as no insect or worm is safe from them.
The Delaware breed, like most breeds, is not known as a ‘lap’ chicken, but in the same vein, it all depends on the individual bird’s personality.
Some have been known to not only sit on your lap but catch them a nap as well.
Delaware Egg Production and Broodiness
The Delaware breed is an excellent choice for egg production. Their eggs are large to jumbo in size, brown in color, and the breed is generally known to lay at least four a week.
The Delaware breed is not a breed of chicken that is known to go broody. If you are looking to hatch some chicks, you will have to do it by way of another broody hen or use an incubator.
Be aware that the Delaware hens will act as if they want to go broody, but it will be better served to have an incubator on the ready just in case.
Just as both the New Hampshire and Barred Rock breeds create the Delaware breed, Delaware’s can combine with other breeds that will then produce sex-linked chicks.
A better explanation is:
- If the Delaware rooster mates to either breed of a New Hampshire or Rhode Island Red hen, then you will see the production of Delawares.
- However, if the rooster is of the breed of a New Hampshire or Rhode Island Red, and the hen is a Delaware, you will see the production of red sex links.
Issues Known To Delaware Chickens
Other than the usual occasional bout with parasites, which most all chickens breed tend to suffer from, the Delaware breed is an exceptional example of a very healthy bird.
The only real issues they are prone to deal with are in regards to their combs. Because Delaware’s present with a rather large-sized comb, they are susceptible to frostbite in the country’s colder regions.
Are Delaware Chickens A Good Choice For You?
For those flock keepers looking for a breed that is exceptionally suited for those homesteads or farms in a suburban or small urban environment, the Delaware breed is an excellent choice.
They are a wonderful dual-purpose breed, providing both eggs and, if necessary, meat for the family table.
The Delaware breed is known to be very friendly as well as being people-oriented.
They are very chatty and talkative birds that are more than willing to engage in a conversation with their keepers.
The Delaware breed is an excellent choice for those flock keepers with small children, and depending on the bird’s individual personality, will tolerate both being picked up and cuddled.
Because the breed so loves to free-range, they can be a helpful resource when it comes to maintaining the bug population in your garden or your yard.
Unlike other white breeds, the Delaware is a very watchful bird and proves to be savvy to any and all predators.
The Delaware breed is one of the lower maintenance breeds, making them an excellent choice for beginning flock keepers or children in 4H projects.
Even with their decline in popularity when the Cornish Cross breed hit the market, the Delaware breed is now on the watch list of the American Livestock Breed Conservancy due to a recent resurgence in interest in these older breeds of chickens.
The Delaware breed is an excellent choice for both smaller farms and homesteads in those suburban and rural settings.
The Delaware matures quickly, is a significantly proliferate layer, and has the dual purpose of being a meat bird.
Delawares are birds that have proven to be one of the lower maintenance breeds.