Why Delaware Chickens Are Nearly Extinct

Why Delaware Chickens Are Nearly Extinct

Heard of Delaware chickens? Did you know they’re fast headed for extinction? For a chicken breed that was developed in 1940, the Delaware Chicken has the potential to be one of the shortest-lived breeds out there. So what is this breed, and why are they on the edge of extinction?

History of Delaware Chickens

George Ellis of Ocean View, Delaware is the father of this breed. He was looking to produce a fast-feathering bird that grew quickly – with the goal of promoting them in the competitive broiler market. As he experimented with a number of breeds and breed mixes, he stumbled upon the occasional Columbian pattern. He liked this barred spotting from the crossing of New Hampshire hens and Barred Plymouth Rock roosterse, and focused on developing stock so the color bred true. His “Indian River” chicken was the result. By 1952, when the Standard of Perfection recognized this bird, it changed its name to reflect its state of origin: The Delaware Chicken. 

For a time, this striking mostly white bird was primed for the spot of number-one broiler, but it soon lost any chance it had when Perdue (yes, that Perdue) made the Cornish Rock (and its crosses) the go-to for its industrial warehouses. By popularizing the Cornish Rock, much of the private love and profitability of the Delaware fell to the wayside. Its slow decline has persisted to this day, and in 2009, the American Livestock Breed Conservancy listed it as critical. However, thanks to some serious dedication, breeders have brought them up to the “watched” list.   

delaware chicken hen

By Linda from Chicago, USA

Why Should We Hope to Bring the Delaware Chicken Back?

For those for whom patriotism is important, the Delaware Chicken is distinctly American. Bred and raised in the USA, it never gained the traction needed to find itself imported to other countries. To this day, it can only be found in the USA. Delaware chickens are friendly, large, and excellent dual-purpose breeds. While they were originally not developed for small farms or private flocks, this hardy bird is an excellent egg layer, and a great addition to any backyard farm.

What do Delaware Chickens Look Like?

These are large birds that are mostly the purest of whites – except for their spotted banding of black at the backs of their neck and at the tips of their tails. This coloring is called Columbian, and it’s very pretty.  Roosters may even sometimes have the black barring on their wings. Their comb, wattle, and earflaps are a vivid bright red.

Their legs are equally bright, but yellow rather than red. The legs are clean from feathering. Roosters average around 8.5 lbs, and hens weigh in at 2 pounds lighter: 6.5 lbs. There are also bantam varieties that are 2 lbs(rooster), and 1.75 lbs (hens). Both varieties feather quickly and quick to fill out into a robust body. 

Delawares are friendly and easily handled. They are calm enough to be with children (under supervision, just to be safe). They are reported to be a very sociable chicken, who enjoy babbling to their humans. If you are looking for a super-quiet bird, they might not be ideal. That said, they are not super noisy, either – they are just very sociable. They are also quite curious and intelligent. 

Are Delaware Chickens Good Layers?

They lay between 100 and 150 large brown eggs per year. They might not be as good as championship egg-laying breeds, but they are certainly no slouch when it comes to egg productivity. They also have little interest in sitting on their eggs, and rarely go broody. For people looking to complement their flocks with a chicken that is very much “one of the girls,” Delawares are an excellent selection. 

Do They Require any Special Care or Housing?

Delawares are excellent in all climates, from warm to cold, so they don’t need any special housing – just predator safe coops and runs. These birds thrive in free-range settings, or pens that give them enough space to roam. If you do live in colder climates, spreading Vaseline on their combs could prevent frostbite on the coldest days of the year. 

Where Can I Buy Delaware Chickens?

This breed might be on the “watch” list, but they are still available at a number of retailers. The more people who raise Delawares, the less likely they will go extinct!

  • My Pet Chicken, in Monroe, CT,  has limited availability
  • Meyer Hatchery, in Polk, OH, offers them throughout the year
  • Purely Poultry, offers these fine birds and provides shipping across the nation
  • Murray McMurray Hatchery, in Webster City, IA, offers females, Unsexed, and male Delaware chickens. Murray McMurray also works closely with the Livestock Conservacy to repopulate at-risk breed.

Delaware chicken feature image courtesy of Josh Larios, from Seattle, USA

Raise Golden Comets For Lots Of Eggs!

Raise Golden Comets For Lots Of Eggs!

Golden comet chickens are not something that can be seen streaking through a dark night’s sky. It’s actually a hybrid breed that likely gets its name from its coloring, which ranges from a rich reddish orange to a light golden yellow. Of course, it could be a mix of that and the miniature comets that these hens release nearly every day – and by comets, I mean eggs. The Golden Comet is a chicken that’s one of the most prolific egg layers on earth, and a wonderful choice for anyone wanting to get more “butt nuggets.”

golden comet hen looking at camera

5 Amazing Facts About Golden Comets

  • You can tell right when they’re born whether they’re male or female
  • They’re fantastic layers of brown eggs – you can expect 5-6 eggs per week!
  • They’re very hardy, and do well in cold AND heat
  • They’re friendly chickens who will jump for treats!
  • Because they’re a mix between a New Hampshire rooster and a White Rock hen, each individual chick can look slightly different.

Appearance

So, what do Golden Comet chickens look like? When they hatch, the females are a dark yellow, while the males are such a pale yellow as to be almost white. As adults, the hens are golden red in color with white highlights on their necks and backs. Roosters are white to white with light to dark red feathers on their shoulders. The red of their feathers is sometimes described as a cinnamon, and there is a bit of variety in their coloring. They have single combs. Their legs are yellow, and their beaks are a yellow brown. Mature females weigh four to five pounds. Mature Golden Comet roosters weigh six pounds. 

Golden Comets are Red Sex Link chickens, created by mixing a New Hampshire rooster and a White Rock hen. There are no other variants of Golden Comet chickens, but there are a number of other Red Sex Link chickens, including the Red Star, Golden Buff, Gold Sex Link, and Cinnamon Queen. 

new hampshire rooster in grass

New Hampshire rooster – the male line in Golden Comets.

Red Sex Link Chickens Vs. Other Breeds

Like other great laying hybrids, such as Black Sex Links, Golden Comets are sex linked chickens, meaning you can tell whether a chick is male or female as soon as they hatch. Chickens are notorious for their sexing problems – figuring out whether a chick is a rooster or a pullet is a hassle. It usually requires either vent sexing or waiting a few months (there ARE some tell tale signs earlier, but they’re not 100% surefire). When feathers start replacing the chick’s down, the job becomes a bit easier, but precious time is likely lost by this point. 

Breeding sex link chickens help to speed up this process. When they’re born, the males have different down than the females – so you can immediately tell who is a rooster, and who will lay eggs. Typically, these are hybrid birds that are a mix between two different chicken breeds – usually heritage breeds that have very consistent bloodlines. The most popular type of sex-link chickens are Black Sex-link chickens and Red Sex-Link chickens. 

Golden Comet Personalities

A lot of potential owners wonder “Are golden comet chickens friendly?” Golden Comets are very docile, as long as you’ve raised them to be people friendly. They don’t put up much of a challenge to owners and enjoy spending time with their humans. Sweet and gentle so accurately describe them, that they are even good with children. These birds are among the best layers on the planet, but they are not very broody. This actually works well – it’s pretty hard to collect eggs from a broody hen. 

Do Golden Comet Chickens Breed True?

It is impossible for Golden Comets to breed true. They are a hybrid chicken, which means that the traits bred into them through their two parent breeds might show in different ways – maybe with more white feathers, maybe a lighter golden chest, among other features. If they have offspring with another Golden Comet, their offspring will be as varied as the parents, and the result might even look nothing like either parent.

Are Golden Comet Chickens Good Layers?

Golden Comets lay brown eggs, and they’re so prolific (they drop between 250 and 320 eggs per year), that you can expect to have a fresh egg in your coop for every hen you have – almost every day. If you’re not planning on eating all these eggs immediately, having a suitable storage unit for them all is a must. Unlike other breeds, Golden Comet chickens are cold hardy (in fact, they do great with extremes of both heat and cold) and you’ll likely have eggs year round. 

What age do golden comets start laying eggs? Keep an eye on them, because when they hit 16 weeks, they just might surprise you with your first egg! (This article will tell you some tell tale signs your hen is laying).

How Long Do Golden Comet Chickens Live?

Like other chicken breeds, their life expectancy depends on the individual bird, and how well you care for them. If they have a good diet with a high protein layer feed, you can expect them to live quite long. However, some people have reported that their Golden Comets tend to die young – at only 4-5 years. This might be due to their prolific egg laying. It’s something to keep in mind when choosing this breed. 

Where Can I Buy Golden Comet Chickens?

  • Cackle Hatchery in Lebanon, MO, offers them from early February through the end of September. You can read our review of Cackle here.
  • Purely Poultry in Fremont, WI, also has seasonal batches of Golden Comets: 
  • Tractor Supply Co offers them
  • The Chick Hatchery of Lansing, MI, offers Golden Comets
  • The Chicken Outfitter offers Golden Comets in batches

If you’re looking for a hen that can bring in the proverbial bacon – as long as that bacon is really eggs – you will find no better chicken than Golden Comet chickens! 

Why Ayam Cemani Chickens Are So Rare

Why Ayam Cemani Chickens Are So Rare

The Ayam Cemani chicken is the “Lamborghini” of the backyard poultry world. Like the car, the Ayam Cemani (“Ayam” translates into “chicken” in Indonesian. “Cemani” is both the name of the village it is from and “completely black” in Sanskrit) is sleek, shiny, and financially out of reach for most buyers. So, what is it about the Ayam Cemani that makes it such a rare and expensive commodity? 

What Do Ayam Cemani Look Like?

These chickens are a black chicken breed. Black feathers, black beak, black legs, black tongue, black eyes, black comb. But it doesn’t stop there. This “hyperpigmentation” continues to their bones, organs, skin, and internal workings – they’re also black. Some people have incorrectly claimed that their blood is also black. It isn’t – it’s just as red as a normal chicken’s blood. 

But rather than exist as a dull or matte black, their feathers have a greenish sheen that really sparkles in sunlight. As a result, these birds are remarkably beautiful because of their coloration. They stand tall and proud, like they are always alert. With the sheen of their feathering, they are a very regal-looking bird. 

ayam cemani rooster

How did Ayam Cemani Become Black?

Ayam Cemani’s coloration comes from a pigment mutation called fibromelanosis. It is a mutation that is present in more than 25 avian breeds. It is touted as being a “complex rearrangement in the genome”, and is directly responsible for the totality of black pigmentation in the bird’s body. Essentially, fibromelanosis is the opposite of albinism; instead of the pure white resulting from a total lack of pigmentation that is albinism, Ayam Cemani become pitch black from an overabundance of pigmentation.

Where Do Ayam Cemani Come From?

Ayam Cemani are a breed of chicken that has been around for a relatively short amount of time. They are believed to be an offshoot of the Ayam Kedu breed where darker coloration was the focus. Ayam Cemani got their start on the Indonesian island of Java. 

Their peculiar coloration marked them as targets of legend, lore, and mysticism. Seldom were they eaten, or their eggs used for the dining tables. Instead, they were used in ceremonies (and still are in some areas). Their blood was considered to possess healing qualities when rubbed over the face or arms, or in conjunction with mystical recitations. With the advent of Islam as the dominant religion in Indonesia, much of this practice has fallen to the wayside, yet there are still individuals and social minorities who use these birds for mystical means. 

How Did Ayam Cemani Chickens Spread Around The World?

Were it not for Dutch chicken breeder Jan Steyerink, this remarkable bird might never have left its native Indonesia. He first imported these birds to the Netherlands in 1998. Since then, Ayam Cemani have found homes in Germany, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and the USA. They continue to be one of the rarest breeds of chicken on the planet, with a population counting only an estimated 3500. However, with more dedicated breeders devoting themselves to this unique bird, those numbers should increase in years to come. 

How Big Are Ayam Cemani? How Long Do Ayam Cemani Live?

These are medium-sized chickens. Roosters weigh about 5 to 6 pounds. Hens usually weigh between 4 and 5 pounds. The average lifespan is 6 to 8 years. 

ayam cemani chicken hen

What is the Ayam Cemani Temperament?

These are docile chickens that might start out skittish or untrusting of humans, but with enough interaction and attention, they can be very trusting. Roosters are also friendly and can even become more involved with the raising of chicks than many other roosters tend to be. Your Ayam Cemani might get bored easily, and could do with some distractions in the pen, or by making the pen large enough to give them room to explore. The hens tend to become broody, and are excellent mothers. 

Are Ayam Cemani Weather Hardy?

Coming from Indonesia, which is a very hot archipelago in the South Pacific, Ayam Cemani might be expected to be poor in colder climes. Oddly, though, they are as excellent at adapting to colder weather as they are to scorching temperatures. Part of this is because they naturally absorb sunlight and heat because of their black feathers. Another possible reason is the tightness of their feathering, which acts as a natural barrier from cold temperatures

Are Ayam Cemani Good Egg Layers?

They are alright with this job, and are capable of laying about two to three medium-sized eggs a week. They sometimes need breaks from laying, which can reduce the number of eggs you can expect from them. On average, you can expect about 80 eggs per year, though some sources claim that they might lay up to 140 eggs per year. Strangely, their pigmentation does not carry on into their eggshells, which are white, or white with a slight tint of coloring. 

Are There Any Problems That Ayam Cemani Breeders Should Be Aware Of?

impure ayam cemani

This rooster has specks of cream in his feathers and his comb isn’t pure black. He’s probably a mixed breed Ayam Cemani.

The black pigmentation is not absolute. It could be diluted through the appearance of other colors in their offspring, or through an appearance of two recessive genes (the black is dominant, and should breed true with careful attention). If, for example, one of the offspring should have a tongue that is not completely black, this bird should be removed from the breeding pool. Such potential abnormalities in a breed that mostly breeds true is a possible bother in keeping these birds. You should breed Ayam Cemani carefully so you produce the best possible – and blackest – versions.

Until now, the Ayam Cemani has not been approved by the American Poultry Association – probably in part because of the strong standard of perfection, and in part because of the relative difficulty in breeding these birds. The Ayam Cemani Breeders Association is an official breeding group founded in 2015 that is dedicated to the promotion of this bird. They are a good resource of Ayam Cemani enthusiasts that can help you raise and breed this unique chicken. 

ayam cemani chicken baby

Where To Buy Ayam Cemani?

This is perhaps the biggest challenge with regard to these striking birds. Their rarity and coloring make this one of the most challenging birds to get ahold of (at least purebred chickens – you can find diluted genes anywhere). While this breed is advertised in the locations below, stock is incredibly limited. Even worse, they carry a hefty price tag outside Indonesia. On Java, they are comparatively expensive, with a rooster costing between $45 and $70. However, this is nothing compared to the $2500 price tag initially applied to the first Ayam Cemani in the USA. Since then, the rates have declined quite substantially (this will depend on where you get them and how much you can trust whether the chickens are purebred), but they are still considered a very expensive fowl. 

When looking into these birds, you will find that availability is very limited. As a result, you might have to come back to the sites below at various times of the year. You should also check each website for its most current pricing.

  • Greenfire Farms (one of the original importers, and a trustworthy source) in Florida offers unsexed Ayam Cemani for $199.00. 
  • Cackle Hatchery in Missouri offers unsexed Ayam Cemani for $99.00.
  • Northwoods Poultry in Wisconsin offer day-olds for $45.00. 
  • Buchanan’s Barnyard in Tennessee offer one dozen Ayam Cemani eggs for $100.00

Why Buy Ayam Cemani?

This is a big question. Pound for pound, the Ayam Cemani is probably one of the most expensive chickens on Earth. This distinction alone could put off potential owners from owning one. They are not the biggest chickens on the planet, so they might not be ideal for dining purposes. They possess an average egg production, but this will not set any records. 

On the positive side, they are very docile birds that can endure and thrive in nearly any weather. Without a doubt, they will be an excellent addition to your home flocks. The real reason to splurge on one lays in the aesthetic value of the Ayam Cemani chicken. These birds are striking to behold, and will add a tremendous prestige to your flock.