Are you looking for a dual-purpose chicken breed that is easy to manage? Well, you might want to try Delaware chickens. They are a relatively new breed but have already proven to be great broilers and good egg layers. They are products of crossbreeding between Barred Plymouth Rock and New Hampshire breeds and were once dubbed as superstars! So to help you end your curiosity, here’s a comprehensive guide about this fantastic breed.
Table of Contents
- 1 Origin of Delaware Chickens
- 2 Delaware Chicken Appearance
- 3 Delaware Chicken Weight
- 4 The behavior of Delaware Chickens
- 5 Are Delaware Chickens Cold Hardy?
- 6 What and How Should You Feed Delaware Chickens?
- 7 Delaware Chicken Egg Production
- 8 Delaware Chicken Meat Production
- 9 Delaware Chicken Health Issues
- 10 Taking Care of Delaware Chickens
- 11 Breeding of Delaware Chickens
- 12 Delaware Chickens Pros and Cons
- 13 Conclusion
Origin of Delaware Chickens
As the name implies, Delaware chickens originate in Delaware, USA in 1940. This breed was created by George Ellis, who owns the Indian River hatchery in Ocean View, Delaware. At that time, lots of breeders were usually crossing Barred Plymouth Rock roosters with New Hampshire hens to produce broilers or chickens for meat production.
It was then common that the result would be barred silver chickens or dominated with black. However, George wanted to develop a line of male chickens to cross with New Hampshire females so that the result would be a Columbian pattern instead of barred rock. One day, he found one outstanding male that he eventually called “Superman.”
After this “Superman” chicken mated with several New Hampshire hens, the result was a beautiful white chicken with barred black feathers on the neck and tail. The idea was considered very brilliant because feathers don’t leave dark patches on the skin while they are growing. Since then, Delaware chickens became popular among breeders.
However, lots of people thought that Delaware chickens had a Columbian pattern. But after 20 years, they realized that they’re not. Well, they seem to be similar because the Columbian pattern had solid black feathers. On the other hand, the feathers of the neck and tail of Delaware chickens are really black, which means they are totally different.
George originally named his new breed Indian River. But for some unknown reasons, he renamed it Delaware. Nevertheless, it became the most favorite broiler breed in the Delmarva Peninsula, where it was created. Among the huge companies that became suppliers of Delaware chickens to the East Coast of USA is Perdue Farms.
In 1952, the Delaware chicken breed was accepted into the Standard of Perfection by the American Poultry Association (APA). But unfortunately, after about 20 years of dominance, another white chicken breed called Cornish Cross Rock rose to fame and gradually overthrown Delaware chickens out of the broiler industry.
In 2009, the Livestock Conservancy listed the Delaware chickens in the critically endangered category. This means it had a global population of less than1,000 and less than 500 of them are in the US. But in recent years, breeders became interested again and the breed is currently in the “watch” category, which means good news to all of us.
Delaware Chicken Appearance
Delaware chickens have no other color variety except for white. But although most of their feathers are white, their hackle, wings, and tail have a light black to dark grey barring or speckled black. They also have a single red, moderately large comb with five points. Their wattles and ear lobes are red as well, but their beak is horn color or yellow.
Delawares have a moderately long, broad body, medium-sized head, and neck, while their yellow unfeathered legs are big, muscular, and well set apart. They also have a medium-sized body, long keel (center of the breast), and an upright tail that makes them look like a letter U when viewed on the side. Finally, each of their feet has four toes.
Delaware Chicken Weight
On average, a standard Delaware rooster weighs about 8.5 pounds (3.9 kilos) while a hen can weigh about 6.5 pounds (3 kilos). On the other hand, male bantams usually weigh about 32 ounces while their female counterparts may weigh about 28 ounces. Delaware bantams are very rare, though. In fact, they are as rare as chicken’s teeth!
The behavior of Delaware Chickens
Generally speaking, Delaware chickens are calm, gentle, and have a good disposition. This heritage chicken breed is also docile, human-friendly but not necessarily a lap chicken. Well, you and your small children can carry them but they may not always be in the mood to socialize with people. In short, some of them are moody chickens.
Nevertheless, Delawares are relatively quiet but sometimes can be noisy. And just like other breeds, hens tend to scream while they are about to lay eggs or while they are in their laying mood. On the other hand, roosters crow loudly but not frequently. Overall, both males and females love to chat but your neighbors will not be annoyed by them.
Delaware hens are known for having no interest in being broody. Therefore, you will need a reliable incubator for the eggs, especially if you want chicks. On the positive side, once they go broody, these gorgeous hens transform themselves into excellent mothers. In fact, you may see them sitting on some eggs even if they are not theirs.
Delaware chickens are also friendly to other pet animals and even to other breeds. But although they are adaptable to both confinement and free-range, they prefer to be outside and explore the soil. So yes, they are great foragers. Once you place them inside the coop for a long time, they tend to be aggressive to smaller chickens.
These softly white birds are also flighty, especially the hens. On the other hand, roosters tend to be territorial and are sometimes at the higher rank in the pecking order. They are neither bullies nor likely to start a fight. However, they easily get bored in small areas. Therefore, they tend to scare other chickens that would try to go near them.
Are Delaware Chickens Cold Hardy?
Delaware chickens are generally cold-hardy and can survive well during winter. Their combs are not really that huge and they have unfeathered legs. These two characteristics make them less prone to frostbite as compared to other large birds. Likewise, they also do well in summer because their feathers are not thick and fluffy.
What and How Should You Feed Delaware Chickens?
Feeding Delaware chickens have no particular issues because they can eat what other ordinary breeds eat. As baby chicks, they need the usual starter feed which has 20-24% protein. Once they reach 6-8 weeks of age, you should feed them with grower feed which has 17-18% protein. At this stage, you may also give them treats but in moderation.
Delawares should be switched to layer feed once they reach 16-20 weeks of age or when they start laying eggs. At this stage, you can also start giving them oyster shells but if and only if they are suffering from calcium deficiency. These shells have 95% calcium content and excess calcium is also dangerous for completely healthy chickens.
Delaware Chicken Egg Production
On average, Delaware hens can lay between 200 and 210 eggs a year. This is equivalent to around 4 eggs a week. Therefore, they can be considered good egg layers. These gorgeous ladies can start laying eggs once they are about 6 months old, or between 24 and 28 weeks of age. Their eggs are light brown and large or jumbo size.
Delaware Chicken Meat Production
The first Delaware chickens were bred for meat production and they are still considered meat birds until today. In fact, they are fantastic broilers and are dual-purpose birds just like their ancestor breeds. Their meat has been proven tasty and delicious. They also grow faster and reach adulthood earlier as compared to other meat chickens.
Delaware Chicken Health Issues
When it comes to health, Delaware chickens are by far ahead of most heritage chicken breeds. In general, they are very healthy and have no genetic disorder whatsoever. But just like other breeds with large combs, they may suffer from frostbite if not neglected. Also, they may get infected with internal and external parasites but can be avoided.
Taking Care of Delaware Chickens
Delaware chickens need no special care except that they prefer to be in a wider space. When inside the coop, they like to be alone most of the time so it’s much better if they will be joined by only a few birds. Proper ventilation is a must and overcrowded coop should be avoided. They are also active eaters so make sure you control their weight.
And because they are all-white, predators can easily notice them at night. To help them avoid fighting other birds, their roosting bars should be up to 10 inches wide for each bird. Nesting boxes and dust baths should be spacious, too. Their average life span is 2-5 years only but can be prolonged for a few years more if they are well taken care of.
Breeding of Delaware Chickens
Delawares breed true, which means their offspring are very likely to look like their parents once they become adults. And because they originally came from two different breeds, you can therefore produce sex link chicks out of them. This means you can easily identify if a newborn chick is male or female based on the color of its feathers.
For example, a Rhode Island Red rooster and a Delaware hen shall give you red sex links. On the other hand, a Delaware rooster that will mate with a Rhode Island Red hen or a New Hampshire Red hen will produce Delaware chicks. Likewise, their second-generation chicks can also be sexed by color once right after they are hatched.
Delaware Chickens Pros and Cons
Delaware chickens clearly have more advantages than drawbacks. But before you get too excited to buy them, let’s summarize their pros and cons.
Advantages of Raising Delaware Chickens
- Elegantly white
- Gentle, docile, and friendly most of the time
- Can be held by small children but with supervision
- Noisy but tolerable
- Cold hardy and can tolerate hot weather
- Good egg layers
- Good for meat production
- Can produce sex link chicks
- Easy to manage
- Ideal for beginners
Disadvantages of Raising Delaware Chickens
- Rarely go broody; reliable incubator required
- Prone to predators
- Usually on top of the pecking order
- Chicks are quite expensive
- Short lifespan
- Flighty; can escape from coop
- Available only in one color variant
- Bantam versions are very rare
Strictly speaking, Delaware chickens are for everyone, including beginners. They require less maintenance and therefore less investment. They may not be the most fabulous and elegant birds, but they are still great show birds. Not to mention, they are dual-purpose chickens, which means they are very flexible. Who doesn’t want them?