If you are new to learning about chicken keeping, it’s likely that you’re wondering what breed is best for you. Part of the fun of owning chickens is learning about all the different breeds—including some that are part of the Livestock Conservancy.
One of the rarest modern breeds to gain newfound attention is the Delaware Chicken. Want to learn about this increasingly popular dual-purpose bird? Our guide will give you a good idea of what you need to know about this.
A brief history of the Delaware Chicken
Delaware Chickens are a fairly new breed of poultry that originated in the 1940s. Their original breeder, George Ellis, crossed Plymouth Rock roosters to New Hampshire hens to create a beautiful breed that’s heavy enough for meat while still being good at egg production.
This chicken breed was so popular, the American Poultry Association accepted it as an official breed by 1952. It was the leading broiler breed for about 20 years until Cornish cross-breeds became the standard.
The Delaware breed was already at a disadvantage because it was a breed that was primarily used in broiler farms. Since they were not a homestead breed, they almost vanished entirely when it fell out of favor with broiler industry farmers.
Today, Delaware chickens are seen as a beautiful heritage chicken breed. Small farms and backyard gardeners are starting to increase their popularity once more.
What do Delaware chickens look like?
Delaware chickens are medium to large birds with red comb, ear lobes, and wattles. Their bodies are large, white, and have black tail feathers. Near their heads, you can occasionally find small bars of black feathering. Their eyes are a reddish-bay shade.
What are Delaware chickens good for?
Delaware chickens definitely display good traits for any type of money-making endeavor. If you are looking for egg production, you won’t do wrong by investing in Delaware hens. They’re pretty prolific when it comes to their egg production.
Most people, though, tend to use Delaware chickens (especially roosters) for their delicious meat. The American Poultry Association Standard expects their legs to be meaty and muscular, which makes them ideal for a good drumstick.
Since Delaware chickens mature quickly, you don’t have to worry about losing money waiting for them to grow. Males, in particular, tend to be ready for processing faster than other heritage breeds.
Delaware chickens and their egg-laying abilities
Let’s just face it: you don’t become a favorite among industrial farmers without having some industrial capabilities. One of the reasons why people love having Delaware hens is because they are incredibly good at laying eggs.
A typical Delaware female will lay as many as 200 to 220 eggs per year. Each egg will be a large brown egg packed with flavor. If you have the space for them, they can be an ideal addition to a backyard egg-laying flock.
While their eggs may be a simple brown shade, people agree that they tend to be very flavorful. So, what it lacks in cool coloring, it makes up with in deliciousness.
How do you care for your Delaware chickens?
Delaware chickens are fairly straightforward when it comes to their needs. They were not bred to be demanding, though they definitely have a “show bird” look. Here’s the scoop…
While there are many heritage chicken breeds that have wild requirements, Delaware is not one of them. You can give them a decent life by giving them as little as four square feet of coop space and 15 square feet of chicken run.
They do best in temperate climates similar to the Delmarva region where they originated. However, they’re rated as having excellent cold tolerance and above-average heat tolerance. A little temperature fluctuation won’t hurt these birds.
You still need to make sure they have fencing and other protective measures. You don’t want a predator to snatch up your chicken, right?
Delaware chickens are great in terms of disposition. They are calm and friendly birds that have a little issue sharing the roost with others. With that said, this chicken breed has a spine. They are assertive and won’t mind putting their foot down if pecked.
If you have chicken breeds that are known for being aggressive or territorial, you still may want to rethink adding a Delaware to the flock. They are friendly, but since they are assertive, they won’t think twice about attacking a bird that attacks them.
As far as chicken breeds go, the Delaware chicken is not a demanding eater. They are fans of free-ranging and can supplement their diets decently well. If you have a basic feed that you give to your chickens, your Delaware chickens will be fine with it, too.
Like all chickens, adding extra vitamins and nutrients to their feed is always a smart ide—at least, within reason. Since this is a breed that can be fairly heavy egg layers, you should consider dropping an oyster shell or two for extra calcium.
Fresh water is a must. It’s best to have some water near their coop and outside in the shade near their run.
Do Delaware chickens make good pets?
This depends on what you want as far as pet chickens go. If you want a chicken that will follow you around and cluck at you, then yes. They can make great pets. They are calm and relaxed, though they are not attention-seeking as other breeds can be.
One thing that you may want to be aware of is that this is not a lap chicken breed. You will be disappointed if you want to pick them up and cuddle. Knowing that, you might want to avoid getting this chicken if you have smaller kids who aren’t used to chicken ownership.
Are Delaware chickens noisy?
Delaware chickens are a breed that likes to cluck, bawk, and crow whenever they can. When they are “talking” to their owners, you can expect them to let out a steady stream of clucking noises.
They will also get loud with one another, often “arguing” or just raising their voices. If you have a rooster, you may want to watch out. It’s not unusual for them to want to crow more than once a day.
Because they have a penchant for noise, we do not suggest getting them if your backyard flock is in the suburbs or a city. Your neighbors will likely find a way to complain about them and cause problems for you.
Are Delaware chickens good show birds?
Absolutely! The American Poultry Association recognizes this breed as an official heritage breed. Since they are elegant in appearance, they tend to be a smart choice as far as entries into competitions go.
You have a decent chance of getting a prize if you have a well-cared-for Delaware rooster in your flock. The trick is to find a breeder that sticks to the Standard of Perfection for this breed closely.
One major perk about having a breed as rare as Delaware chickens is that you don’t have to worry about there being too much competition. This is a very rare heritage breed, even in the United States.
How much does a Delaware chicken cost?
Though Delaware chickens are still considered to be extremely rare by the Livestock Conservancy, they are not actually that expensive. If you have between $4 to $10, you can get a standard Delaware chicken from a breeder. (If you find a breeder near you, that is!)
If you want to get a chick but can’t find a breeder, there is some good news on the horizon. This breed has sex-linked chicks. So, if you mate a Delaware with another bird, you might be able to get one for free.
People who want to get a Delaware chicken for show purposes might have to pay more than $10. Show-quality roosters and hens can run as high as $30 or more if you go to a breeder with a strong track record for show prizes.
There are not many breeds in America that are both modern and on the verge of extinction, but Delaware chickens come close. This breed is an excellent dual-purpose chicken that has a friendly disposition and a low-maintenance health record.
Though it looked like this breed was going to vanish, its popularity has spiked once again thanks to the uptick in backyard flocks. Honestly? The revival couldn’t happen to a better breed. Once you have one, you’ll definitely want to get more of them.