The Delaware chicken was destined to be the broiler chicken of the century.
Unfortunately the meteoric rise of the Cornish Cross breed far eclipsed the Delaware which relegated them to almost extinction.
However a few dedicated breeds and enthusiasts kept the breed going until the Livestock Conservancy stepped in to help.
In more recent times they are enjoying something of a resurgence in popularity due to their suitability for small backyard farms and homesteads.
As a dual purpose breed the Delaware is hard to beat.
Do you want to learn more about this productive and hardy breed? Then keep on reading…
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Delaware Chicken Overview
The Delaware is a fairly recent introduction to the poultry world.
They were first bred in the 1940s and were originally meant for the broiler industry.
Delawares were known as a fast maturing chicken that carried a good amount of meat. Sadly their success was short lived as the Cornish Cross came along and essentially took over the broiler industry.
And so this breed limped along in relative obscurity until the Livestock Conservancy raised their profile.
The Delaware is still on the watch list but as more homesteaders and backyard chicken folks discover the usefulness of this breed it is likely that they will be removed from the list.
She is a great dual purpose breed that can lay large and jumbo sized eggs.
You can expect around 200 eggs every year (or around 4 eggs a week) from this hen – they are great egg layers.
They are a calm and gentle breed that are rarely startled or flighty. She seems to take everything into her stride and adds a feeling of presence to a flock.
This is a low maintenance breed that needs little more than the basics of life: food, water and shelter.
|Hen (6lb) and Rooster (8lb).
|White and Black.
|4 per week.
|Known For Broodiness:
|Good With Children:
|Cost of Chicken:
|$3-$4 per chick.
The Delaware is a medium sized chicken that has a deep and broad body.
When you look at them the first thing you will think is robust. When looking at them from the side, her body is an inverted triangle with a U indentation in the back.
Delawares have a single comb that should have five points.
The comb, wattles and ear lobes are all red and their beak is a yellow or horn color.
Lastly, her legs are quite muscular and her skin is yellow. She will have four toes on each foot.
Size and Weight
Once fully grown Delaware Hens will weigh around 6lb and the roosters will weigh 7-8lb.
There are bantam varieties too and they weigh 32oz (roosters) and 28oz (hens).
Delawares are all white except for their hackle, wings and tail areas. These areas are speckled black and their feathering is fairly tight.
There are no other known color varieties.
What Is It Like To Own A Delaware?
The Delaware Chicken is a very curious breed.
They love to free range.
You will find they love exploring and will investigate every corner of your yard if allowed. This inquisitiveness can lead to trouble though so so make sure anything harmful is kept out of their reach. When she is out roaming she is very predator savvy.
Despite them being a white bird I have never lost one to a predator.
I have always found Delawares to be a lovely breed to have in the flock.
They are exuberant about life, inquisitive and friendly too. They enjoy being with their people and will often chatter away at you and will help with gardening tasks if allowed.
She is fairly assertive but not usually to the point of bullying.
In a mixed flock they will be near or at the top of the pecking order.
They really cannot be described as a lap chicken although it does depend on the individual bird. Some will enjoy some extra loving with you, others not so much.
Egg Production and Broodiness
You can expect your Delaware to put out four jumbo sized eggs every week.
This totals to a respectable 200 light brown eggs per year.
They do not go broody often – I have not seen one in 10 years so I think it is a rare occurrence.
If you want to raise some chicks you will have to rely on a good broody hen (like the cochin) or get the incubator setup.
Also if you want to create your own sex link chickens then you can with Delaware hens. A New Hampshire or Rhode Island Red rooster crossed with Delaware hens will give you sex link chicks. The male chicks will have the Delaware pattern while the hens will be red.
|Eggs Per Week:
|Large or Jumbo.
This breed just loves to talk.
Although they are not raucous by any means, they are not quiet either.
They could certainly be annoying if you have really close neighbors.
As with all chickens the egg song is a celebratory chorus from all concerned and the occasional predator warning can be loud and obnoxious at times.
If you have neighbors near by then perhaps the Delaware is not for you.
Delaware Chicken Care Guide
The Delaware Chicken is known first and foremost to be a strong and healthy chicken.
It is very rare to find one with any serious problems in the health area.
You will need to pay attention to lice, mites and worms but this is just like caring for any of our feathered friends.
Birds should be checked regularly for lice and mites.
You should carefully check around the vent and under their wings.
If you find any parasites you can treat with a suitable dust or spray. Some folks treat for both regularly whereas others will only treat as needed. There is no right or wrong way and it will depend on what is best for you and your flock.
You should also check for worms on a regular basis. If you are unable to do it yourself then you should send a fecal float test to your veterinarian.
As chicks Delawares should be feed a 20-24% protein crumble starter feed.
If you choose the higher 24% protein then you can cut this down to 20% after the first six or eight weeks. They will need to have food available 24 hours a day.
Chicks will also need clean and fresh water.
You can add in an electrolyte and vitamin powder to their water during the first few days to give them a helpful boost.
They can continue on 20% protein until they reach around sixteen weeks old. Now you can gradually move them to a 16% layer pellet or crumble.
In addition to the feed they should also have access to oyster shell in a separate container – this helps to make strong shells. Insoluble grit should also be available separately especially if they do not have access to the outside. Grit helps them to grind down their food and begin the process of absorption.
Clean fresh water should always be available to them.
Coop Setup and Run
Because they are towards the larger size you should give them each at least 8 square feet of coop space.
They are not usually picked on by other breeds as they are a fairly assertive. However the more space they have the happier they will be.
As for perches they should each get 8-10 inches each. This will give them enough room to be comfortable in both summer and winter temperatures.
Regular sized nesting boxes of 12×12 inches would be a perfect fit for these ladies.
This gives them enough space to be comfortable but does not allow double bunking which can damage eggs.
Now onto outside roaming space.
Delawares love to forage and they are very good at it. They will find all sorts of tasty things to supplement their diet with.
They are enthusiastic gardeners and love to garden with you. Gardening may take a little longer than you planned but they are certainly efficient at removing grubs and worms from your soil.
Even if you can only let them free range under supervision a couple of times per week it will help them. This will give them the exercise that they need and allow them to engage in their natural behaviors.
If you do keep them in a run then make sure to give them 10-15 square feet of run space each. Try to make sure that they have plenty of things to occupy their time: leaf litter, lots of perches, quiet areas etc so they can be kept fairly busy.
They do not fly well so if you need to keep them in a run then a four foot fence should do well enough.
Delaware Breed History
The Delaware chicken is a relative newcomer to the chicken world and made their first appearance in the 1940s.
They are actually the result of an offshoot of the New Hampshire and Plymouth Rock breed improvement program that was taking place in the 1940s.
As with all breeding programs there are offspring that do not conform to the expected feathering and general appearance.
The Delaware was one such bird and they caught the imagination of George Ellis from Indian River, Delaware.
Mr Ellis wanted to breed a chicken that was a good egg layer and also quick to mature.
He worked hard to improve and refine the strain and eventually the Indian River chicken was born.
The Indian River chicken was quickly renamed as the Delaware and was a short lived star of the broiler industry.
About 20 years after their ascendancy, the Cornish Cross made its appearance and within a short amount of time had completely taken over the broiler industry. Because the Delaware was specifically bred for the industry not many small farms or homesteaders had heard of this breed, so their decline was fairly quick.
They faded from the poultry industry but fortunately a handful of enthusiasts and the Livestock Conservancy rallied the breed.
These folks loved the breed for its dual abilities.
Luckily the breeding of this chicken had been well documented and it was fairly straightforward to re-create the breed.
In recent years the Delaware has seen a rise in popularity as a good dual purpose breed for the homestead.
Overall the Delaware is a versatile and friendly chicken to have in the flock.
They can be a bit pushy but rarely do they bully other hens.
The roosters are said to be great protectors of the flock. However they can be a bit over-protective during the breeding season so make sure you keep children away from them until you know your roster’s disposition.
As a dual purpose hen they can serve the family well.
This heritage breed is deserving of consideration in your flock as a good, low maintenance dual purpose bird.
Do you keep Delaware Chickens? Let us know in the comments section below…