If you’re a backyard chicken enthusiast and looking for a no-fuss, no-nonsense, no-frills chicken, the Delaware chicken might be just what you are looking for! These are simple but attractive-looking birds that are easy to care for and great for both eggs and meat production.
Originally bred in the US state of Delaware (hence their name), these chickens used to be extremely popular in the commercial meat industry, due to their high yield of meat. Their popularity was overtaken by Cornish hens, and the breed became critically endangered. Thanks to breeders and enthusiasts, it has been making a gradual comeback since 2005.
Delaware chickens were developed in 1940 when George Ellis bred a New Hampshire Red hen with a Barred Plymouth Rock rooster to create a beautiful white bird. The breed was admitted to the American Standard of Perfection in 1952 and was originally a broiler chicken. The birds mature quickly and begin laying eggs relatively early.
The Delaware is a reasonably large bird, and with white feathering, it is an attractive meat bird for the table. This is because all-white feathering doesn’t result in darker patches on the skin; hence the carcass has an appealing, uniform appearance for meat-eaters.
Though the bird tends to be large, it is not heavy; and is hence considered to be a medium-sized breed. Roosters grow to a weight of almost 4kg and hens grow to almost 3kg.
- Near-white plumage with tight feathering
- Speckled black feathers around neck and hackle
- Black tail feathers; long tail
- A deep, broad body
- Single red comb with five points
- Red wattle and earlobes
- Yellow beak, legs and feet
- Legs and feet are bare and muscular
- Four toes on each foot
While the Delaware is quite a calm and curious chicken, and it does enjoy being with people, it is likely not the friendliest member of your flock. These hens do not startle easily and can be a calming presence on the overall flock. Hens can be assertive and chatty, but rarely bully other chickens.
Roosters are relatively very well behaved, and they are great at watching over their hens.
Delaware chickens love to forage and they are very adept foragers, so will thrive if allowed to do so. They are reasonably predator-savvy, though their inquisitive nature can get them into trouble as they will investigate every nook and cranny of their domain.
Do They Lay Eggs
These chickens are great egg producers – especially considering they are a large-medium dual-purpose breed. Hens in their prime will lay up to 280 eggs annually, or 5+ eggs per week. The eggs are brown and very large; some will be jumbo-sized!
Will They get Broody
Delaware hens are very inclined to broodiness! If they do go broody and are allowed to hatch their own eggs, they make wonderful mothers and will take great care of their chicks.
Tips to Care for Delaware Hens
- Feed a high-quality starter feed for the first 8 weeks then move the chicks onto a grower feed. Transition to quality laying feed at 16 weeks.
- Supplement calcium separately so the chickens can access this when they need to.
- Ensure the chickens get plenty of protein (foraging is ideal for this).
- Allow your chickens to safely forage if possible. If you keep them in a run, allow at least one square meter per bird, and provide at least half a square meter per bird in the coop.
- Be aware of lice, worms, and mites (as you would for every chicken breed).
- Delaware chickens are endangered, so they require dedicated breeders to help preserve the breed.
- If you crossbreed a Delaware hen with a New Hampshire Red or a Rhode Island Red rooster, the chicks will be sex-linked. This means their sex can be determined by the color of their down when they hatch. Male chicks will have the characteristic Delaware pattern, while hen chicks will be red in color.
Why Keep Delaware Chickens?
Delaware chickens are healthy, robust, and experience few health issues if you provide them with basic care. The average lifespan is over five years. They are ideally suited to backyard flocks, and while they are OK with kids, they are not your best choice if you’re looking for a cuddly pet or a lap chicken.
A gentle breed, Delaware chickens require little maintenance beyond food, water, and shelter, and they are great for novice backyard chicken keepers in more rural areas. They can be very chatty and may annoy sensitive neighbors in suburbia. They sing quite happily when laying and send out a loud predator warning.