Even though this chicken breed was just developed in 1940, it may be surprising to hear that the Delware chicken has the potential to be on of the shortest-lived breeds out there. In fact, they might be headed for extinction!
Find out more about this breed, plus learn how amazing they are and how you can help them find a forever home (hint: they want to come live with you).
History of Delaware Chickens
George Ellis of Ocean View, Delaware is the father of this breed. In the 1940s 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 females and Barred Plymouth Rock roosters, 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 in the poultry world, 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.
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. That in itself makes this breed special.
Delaware chickens are friendly, large, and excellent dual-purpose birds. 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 of their plumage 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 Delaware 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 fill out into robust bodies soon thereafter.
Are Delaware Chickens Friendly?
The Delaware chicken breed is friendly and easily handled, although not considered a lap chicken. They are calm enough to be with children (under supervision, just to be safe). They are reported to be very sociable chickens, who enjoy babbling with their humans.
If you are looking for a super-quiet bird, it might not be ideal. That said, they are not super noisy, either – they are just very sociable. They are also quite curious and intelligent.
Delaware Chicken Egg Production
Delaware females 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.
They are a low maintenance breed especially if you feed them a high-quality feed to keep them happy and healthy. I don’t recommend the cheap filler type feeds, they do better with something packed full of extra goodies (like Black Soldier Fly Larvae, Fishmeal, & Herbs). Try this favorite!
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.
As with all chickens they are susceptible to lice, mites, and other parasites. If you check on your chickens daily you can catch these things early. You can also provide herbal dust baths and nesting herbs to deter parasites in the first place.
If you are looking for a friendly chicken breed with good egg production AND you want to help carry on this bloodline, then Delaware chickens are certainly worth entertaining.
Where Can I Buy Delaware Chickens?
This breed might be on the extinction watch list, but they have gained some popularity and are still available at a number of retailers. The more homesteaders and families who raise Delawares, the less likely they will go extinct!
5 Best Hatcheries To Buy Delaware Chickens
1. Meyer Hatchery
Find more information and prices here: Meyer Hatchery
Meyer Hatchery is based in Polk, Ohio, and boasts itself as the “premier Poultry Source.” Priding itself on customer service and availability, Meyer Hatchery provides a variety of chicken breeds to meet customer demands for color and diversity. They welcome the mixing and matching of breeds of the same poultry type to meet minimum order requirement for safe shipping. To help with orders, they have a calendar of hatchings.
Meyer has a variety of means of communication, including multiple phone numbers, fax, and email. They also run a blog that covers everything from breeds to plant pairing with chickens, local feed, cooking recipes, fowl entertainment, and survival tips.
Looking for more great chicken feed? Check out our herbal egg layer feed here.
- Website is up-to-date in real time.
- Accepts checks and credit cards
- Guarantees gender of chicks either through refund or store credit.
- Optional vaccination.
- Member of the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP), and provide NPIP VS Form 9-3 free of charge.
- Offer orders of over 100 brown, white, and other egg-laying chicks.
- Limited store hours that change with the season.
- Limited availability.
2. Purely Poultry
Find more information and prices here: Purely Poultry
As a family-owned business, Purely Poultry has some of the best customer service in the poultry industry. They pride themselves on their knowledge of their products, selection, and how-to details related to everything they offer, including ducks, chickens, geese, and lots of other heritage breed birds!
Located in Durand, WI, they guarantee live birds with every order, which is a good promise, indeed!
- Each order backed by live arrival guarantee
- Small order minimum on chicks and pullets
- Other kinds of poultry offered, too
- Not a huge advantage to buying multiple chicks – discounts are minimal
3. Cackle Hatchery
Find more information and prices here: Cackle Hatchery
Cackle Hatchery proudly boasts that they have been hatching and shipping since 1936. A third-generation hatchery based in Missouri, their mission is to provide customers with quality poultry for showing, meat, enjoyment, and both white and brown eggs. They ship throughout the USA, including Alaska, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii, making it one of the most widespread commercial hatcheries around. They offer nearly 200 different types of chickens at all stages.
Looking for chick starter to help your new additions get off to the right start? Here is a great option for you.
Cackle also offers many other kinds of poultry including ducks, waterfowl, heritage breed birds, game birds (like Cornishes), turkeys, and other fowl. They are also a good source of supplies and books.
- Discounts if you buy male chicks
- Vaccinations available
- Only need 3 birds to ship (or just one for male birds)
- Limited availability (February through September)
4. Murray McMurray Hatchery
Find more information and prices here: Murray McMurray Hatchery
Murray McMurray started his chicken business in 1917. As a banker, he sold his chicks to locals through the bank, and by 1919, he had developed his own stock of chickens. During the Great Depression, he devoted himself to chickens full time.
Since then, Murray McMurray Hatchery has developed into one of the largest chick hatcheries in the country. They sell more than just chickens, with ducks, geese, guineas, turkeys, other fowl, and game birds all in the catalog. They even sell hatching eggs.
Without a doubt, Murray McMurray Hatchery is one of the best hatcheries to buy Delaware chickens. Sexed male chicks tend to be the cheapest, meaning you can get some serious savings if you’re planning on raising these birds primarily for meat. You can also buy pullets, egg layers, or mix and match your order with chicks of other breeds, too.
- Males are extremely inexpensive
- Bulk discounts available
- Excellent breed availability
- Minimum order of six birds at a time
5. The Chick Hatchery
Find more information and prices here: The Chick Hatchery
The Chick Hatchery is Michigan’s “premier source for superior quality poultry.” With a creed that revolves around the sharing and joy of raising chickens, they operate in no-kill facilities. They raise their chickens humanely, with any unsold chicks going to Amish farms. Much of the experience of raising chickens is the awareness of the individual chicken and the relationship between food and our own health.
Their Delaware Chickens are available from February to September.
- Ships a minimum of 3 of each sex.
- All poultry guaranteed live delivery.
- Offers discounts on orders of larger quantities of birds*.
- Limited availability – February to September.
- Does not ship to Hawaii or outside the USA.
Delaware chicken feature image courtesy of Josh Larios, from Seattle, USA
Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.