Delaware Chicken: Care, Egg Laying and Pictures

Delaware Chicken Care, Egg Laying and Pictures Blog Cover

Delaware chickens are a relatively new breed of chicken to the chicken world.

In the 1940s it was all set to become the broiler industry ‘superstar’, but things went awry and the Delaware languished and fell into obscurity.

They are only around today thanks to a few dedicated individuals who kept and raised this breed.

In this article we explore the history of this lovely bird. We will also persuade you to give this dual purpose hen a chance in your flock. It really is a special bird.

Delaware Chicken Background and History

Delaware Chicken RoamingThe creation of the Delaware chicken was in many ways happenstance.

It all started with the Rhode Island Red.

As the Rhode Island Red breed was being refined for better eggs and meat, several white ‘sports’ were created.

In the 1940s a fellow called George Ellis saw potential in these birds and started working with them. He wanted a bird that would maintain good egg production but increase meat production too. Also a white bird would be exactly what the industry was looking for since any remaining pin feathers would not look unsightly after plucking.

As with their parent birds they were selected for fast feathering and rapid growth rate so that they were competitive in the broiler industry.

He worked with them for several years and his original birds were called Indian Rivers. It was also called the Ohio Beauty for a short time, but was changed to Delaware.

His work with the breed was a huge success.

The Indian Rivers were the most popular bird in the Mid-East.

Their popularity lasted for around 15-20 years before they were sidelined by the even faster growing Cornish Rock cross.

Since the Delaware had originally been bred for the broiler industry, few small farms or homesteads kept these birds and so began a steady decline in their popularity.

A few dedicated souls kept the breed going, but in 2009 the American Livestock Breed Conservancy had listed it as critical status.

Delaware Chicken Purchase Delaware Chickens

Appearance of Delawares

DelawareThe Delaware is a medium sized, dual purpose bird with a long, broad and deep body. You should expect the boys to weigh around 7-8lbs and the ladies around 6lb.

There is also a bantam variety and these weigh in at 32oz for the boys and 28oz for the girls.

They are all white/silver with some black barring on the hackles, wings and tail. Although you may hear people say it is a Columbian pattern it is not so. The Columbian pattern has solid black feathers not barred, so similar but not the real thing.

The rosters are especially handsome with the neck and tail barring.

Their comb should have 5 points and will be red as are the wattles and ear lobes. Combs are quite large so Vaseline may be in order if you live in a cold area.

Eyes are a reddish bay color and the beak is a reddish horn color.

Skin and legs are yellow, the legs are clean and each foot should have four toes.

Delaware Breed Standard

They were admitted to the American Poultry Association standard in 1952. There is only the one variety – white with black barring on their hackles, tail and occasionally wings and body.

Unfortunately they never really made an impact anywhere but the US as their stardom was short lived, so no other breed standards exist.

Disposition and Behavior

Delawares have been described as calm, friendly, curious and intelligent – all of which I would agree with.

It has also been described as quiet – the ones I had were not overly noisy, but they certainly were not quiet, they love to talk!

They can be assertive but definitely aren’t as assertive as Rhode Island Reds. They are always curious as to what you are doing – mine loved to help in the garden and no earthworm or beetle was safe!

Whilst not known for being ‘lap’ chickens, it really does depend on the individual bird; some will happily sit on your lap and go to sleep.

My favorite Delaware hen (Deirdre) would love to sneak into my jacket while I was wearing it, and sit there and sleep!

Eggs Laying, Common Health Issues and Hatching

Delaware ChickenDelawares are excellent layers of four large/jumbo brown eggs per week. They really are not very interested in being broody, so if you want to hatch some yourself, you will need either a broody or an incubator.

You may be fortunate and get a hen that seems to want to brood, but be prepared and have your incubator on standby.

Sex Linkage

Much as the New Hampshire and Barred Rock breeds were used to produce the Delaware, the Delaware can be used with certain other breeds to produce sex-linked chicks.

  • A Delaware rooster over a New Hampshire Red or Rhode Island Red hen will produce Delawares.
  • A New Hampshire Red or Rhode Island Red rooster over a Delaware hen will give you red sex-links.

Health Issues

Apart from the usual parasites (which should be expected) they are a very healthy bird.

The only thing you need to pay attention to is their comb. The combs can be subject to frostbite so a little Vaseline may be called for.

Delaware Chicken History

In order to understand the need for a chicken like the Delaware, we have to understand a little of what was happening at the time they were created.

During the early 1940s the UK and most of Europe was at war with Germany. Although the US did not enter the war until 1941, they did supply materials including food to the UK and allies. In addition to this, during the post war years (1940s and 1950s) supermarkets really gained in popularity.

Farmers could not keep up with the day to day running of their farms let alone the work involved in raising, selling, packing and transporting livestock. These problems were to be solved by the rise of the agricultural industry.

Large warehouses for chicken production were built by enterprising new companies such as Perdue. The supply and life of chickens was now forever changed; the small farms could not hope to compete with this large scale operation and so turned to other produce to keep the country fed.

The Second World War changed the face of farming forever to the benefit of mankind, but certainly not for the animals involved.

Is The Delaware Right For You?

The Delaware is well suited for the small urban/suburban homesteads. It lays plentiful eggs and can be a family meal in a short space of time.

They are people oriented and very friendly, they love to chat with you and let you know how their day is going. If you have children, they are said to be very good with them also and some will tolerate being picked up and cuddled, but this is definitely an individual thing.

This chicken loves to free range in the yard, picking off any bugs or other tasty treats along the way; they can even help you with your gardening.

Despite being white, I never lost any of my girls to predation – they are very watchful and predator savvy.

They are a low maintenance breed which makes them suitable for beginners or a 4H project.

Unfortunately it is said they are difficult to breed to ‘standard’ and many folks have to use the double mating system to get good quality birds.

They usually do well in exhibitions and shows since they remain a rare bird.

Summary

Thankfully, they are now on the ‘watch’ list for the ALBC due to renewed interest in some of the older chicken breeds.

The Delaware is incredibly well suited to small farms and homesteads. They lay very well and are quick to mature, which makes them an economical table bird too.

When the time comes to replace some of my flock here, it will be Delawares that will fill the spaces as I found them to be very low in maintenance but extremely personable.

What about you, do you have any in your flock? Let us know in the comments section below…

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Comments

  1. Aurora says

    We love our 5 Delaware girls, your article is spot-on regarding everything about them. I highly recommend this breed to newbies & ‘seasoned’ chicken owners alike.

  2. Jackie Morris says

    I have four Delaware hens and they are my favorite chicken. The Buff Orpington was my favorite until I got the Delaware. All of my hens follow me everyplace I walk but the Delaware’s talk to me constantly. When they are in the roost and I walk up to the screened area it’s the Delaware’s that get right up next to the screen to tell me good night.

  3. Pam Veith says

    I have a flock of more than 40 Delawares – and I couldn’t be happier. They do talk a lot but they get on well with all of the other variety breeds I have. Then there’s Mr. Delaware. He’s beautiful and a real gentleman. He had an injured leg last winter due to a scuffle with another rooster. I hadn’t held him since he was just a wee chick so I bundled up and wore safety glasses when I went out to tend to him. It was all unnecessary as I just spoke to him, picked him up, cleaned his wound and put some ointment on it. He didn’t flap or squack or squirm. The ladies are just as gentle. And the eggs are devine!

  4. McKel says

    We just got our first Delaware, and I agree! She was the first to get the bugs running rampant in the ‘pasture’ and while she doesn’t love to be held or sit, she isn’t shy about approaching me and hanging out nearby. She even eats gnats right off of my arms!

  5. Jamie DesChenes says

    I just got two Delaware chicks and am not sure if they are male or female yet.They are from a straight run group.I’m excited to have them.I do have a question how do they handle the heat in the summer?

  6. Linda McGraw says

    I keep a flock of 70 to 80 hens. I have owned ten different breeds inall, and my absolute favorites are my Delaware girls. They are friendly and intelligent, excellent layers, and hands down the healthiest, lowest maintenance breed I have owned. I also like their size…not too big, not too small. Just right. I buy birds from my local Grange Co-op, and they offered the Delawares about five years ago. I only got six because I was unfamiliar with the breed and wanted to try them out. All six are still with me and still laying although not as prolifically. My all time favorites. I guess I will have to special order them to get more b

  7. Patty C. says

    I have two Delaware chicks I got from my local co-op. They don’t have the black on them. Do you still think they are Delaware’s?

  8. Salli says

    We live in Costa Rica. We have a white hen with the comb flopped over; black feathers on the top of her neck and some on her tail. She also has a smattering of light brown feathers on her wings amongst the white feathers. She is in with the RIR hybrids & is now sitting on live eggs (4) from a friend of ours. She rarely goes broody but I thought it would help her to be a mama. I am not sure what breed she is & would really like to know. Thank you for a great article. My guess is she is not a true breed. Very good with the RIR’s; like a mother hen. Without her they appear to be lost & really want her around. I gave her away once-regretted it-got her back & the rest of the girls were very happy.

    • HappyChicken says

      could you send a picture maybe? It could be any of Brahma, Lakenvelder, Wyandote, Sussex, or Delawares.

      Claire

  9. Cathy Hull says

    Hi, thank you all for sharing your comments and love of Delawares. I decided to graft my first two Deleware chicks under my first broody Black Austrolop. I chose them because of their calm nature with the Austrolops and Buff Orphentons they will be living with. They are still shy since I didn’t hand raise them, but are calming as they mature. They are 15 weeks old and I found a latch egg in the nest box this evening. Do you think it could be one of the Delawares since all the hens they live with are laying?

    • HappyChicken says

      If the other hens are laying healthy then it could be the Delawares. Try to watch and nail down which one it is that is laying the lash eggs. Then see a poultry vet if you want to help her, antibiotics would probably be prescribed to cure her.

      Claire

  10. BARRY G DAVILLIER says

    Hello, I’m a newbee to having chickens. I only have 2 delwares. They were laying eggs just fine. Up until I changed brand of feed. One continues to lay, but the other one has stopped now for almost 2 weeks. Have no idea what is wrong.

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