Delaware Chicken – Everything You Need To Know
Delaware chickens are a relatively new breed which originated in the United States. Although they are now much less popular than their heyday in the 1940s and 1950s, many professional and amateur chicken breeders are re-discovering the benefits of this breed which has been overlooked for so many years. Their main advantage is that they can be kept both for their egg-laying capabilities and for their meat. Not only do they mature quickly but they can also be eaten at any age. Apart from the main breed, there are also bantam Delaware chickens which are quite rare.
Delaware Chicken Profile
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History & Background of the Delaware Chicken
Originally called Indian Rivers or Ohio Beauty, their name was officially recognised in 1952 when they were named after the state where they originated. They were the result of cross-breeding Barred Plymouth Rock roosters and New Hampshire hens by a poultry farmer, George Ellis. For over 20 years, they were one of the most popular broiler chickens in the USA as their white colouring did not leave black feathers in the carcass. They were gradually replaced by the White Cornish-White Plymouth Rock cross and are now relatively hard to find. They have been placed by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy on its list of endangered chicken breeds although they seem to have made something of a comeback over the last decade.
Characteristics of the Delaware Chicken
In appearance the Delaware Chicken breed is predominantly white with black speckles notably on its neck and rump. Its colouring is very similar to the Columbian breed, with which it is often confused. However, the Delaware’s black colouring is a less uniform black. It has a moderately long and broad body, large muscular legs which are quite far apart, a relatively large, single red comb, red wattles and its skin colour is yellow. Delaware roosters can reach 8 pounds while hens are, on average, 6 pounds. The breed is known for the fast feathering of its chicks and its rapid growth although not as fast as some breeds which can mature in a few weeks. It is said to have a calm, gentle and friendly disposition although it can be noisier than other breeds of chicken. It is relatively hardy in cold temperatures although its comb can be susceptible to the cold and needs to be protected. By contrast, it has less tolerance to high temperatures and does not do well. It copes well with some form of containment and equally well in free-range situations because it is great at foraging.
Egg Laying & Broodiness of Delaware Hens
Delaware Chickens are an excellent dual-purpose breed. The cross-breeding has resulted in a created breed which maintains the high egg production of its Plymouth Rock/New Hampshire ancestry, but with the additional advantage that it is good for meat consumption too. Delaware Chickens produce on average 4 eggs a week which categories it as a good layer. Its eggs are brown or tinted in colour, and they are large- to jumbo-sized. There is contradictory evidence about how broody Delaware hens get compared to other breeds. There is some tendency for them to go broody, and if they do, they make good mothers. However, some people who keep them say that eggs have to be incubated since the hens might be reluctant or unable to hatch and rear them naturally.