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

Top 10 Largest Chicken Breeds That Are Also Great Pets

Top 10 Largest Chicken Breeds That Are Also Great Pets

You might be surprised at the largest chicken breed, or you might already have an idea of the winner.

 

Giant chicken breeds are a great addition to any backyard flock! They have presence, they’re usually very beautiful, they definitely resemble tiny dinosaurs, and you’ll enjoy watching them!

 

With each of the breeds in this article, you’ll have the finest selection of dual purpose kings or egg-cellent egg layers.

 

If you’re considering adding some gentle but big chicken breeds to your flock, then this article is for you. You’ll discover the largest chicken breeds that are also great egg layers – and despite their size, they’ll easily fit into any backyard flock!

 

Top 10 Largest Chicken Breeds

  • Jersey Giant
  • Cochin
  • Brahma
  • Cornish
  • Buff Orpington
  • Malines
  • Maylay
  • Langshan
  • Barred Rock
  • Dong Tao

 

Jersey Giant

The Jersey Giant chicken is one of the biggest chicken breeds out there. However, they are more than just their size: Docile and mellow, they’re also great pet breeds! Jersey Giants are a heritage chicken breed that was developed in New Jersey in the 19th century as an alternative to turkeys. They’re good layers at 150 to 200 large eggs per year. The Jersey Giant egg color is brown.

 

How Much Does A Jersey Giant Chicken Weigh?

What Is The Heaviest Chicken Breed? The Jersey Giant! The roosters can weigh up to 15 pounds (they’re called Jersey GIANTS for a reason), with the black variety usually just a pound heavier than the white.

 

How Big Is A Jersey Giant Chicken?This huge chicken breed is usually between 16 to 26 inches tall.

 

Cochin

Cochin chickens are fluffy giants who are also one of the most popular chicken breeds. They’re friendly, cold hardy, and lay eggs consistently. If you add one to your flock, you can choose between a full-sized Cochin or the bantam variety (or get both. Definitely get both).

 

Standard sized Cochins are about 5 pounds, and are well-loved for their fluffy, soft feathers. They do have feathers on their feet, giving them a fun and unique appearance. They do like to be handled, especially the bantam variety (which weighs about 2 pounds – perfect for children.)

 

All Cochins love treats, and you can expect about 160 eggs per year. You can learn more about Cochins here.

 

Brahma

How Big Can A Chicken Get? Brahmas are well known because of a video of a giant rooster that went viral (owned by a man named Fitim Sejfijaj, based near Kosovo) and boasts the title of “Biggest Chicken In The World” (Guinness Book of World Records). Suddenly, everyone wanted Brahmas!

 

There’s several different varieties of this chicken breed, including:

  • Light
  • Dark
  • Buff
  • Bantam

 

In terms of their size, there’s no difference between a light and dark Brahma, although the bantam version won’t get very big.

 

When it comes to a Brahma vs. Jersey Giant, the Jersey Giant is usually bigger than a Brahma. However, both types of chickens make great pets.

 

The full size Brahmas are an old breed that can be as tall as 30 inches (although this is rare and depends largely on the breeder). Many people love that Brahmas are feather footed. They’re also great egg layers, and lay up to 300 eggs per year.


You can learn more about Brahmas here.

 

How Big Can A Brahma Chicken Get? How Big Is A Brahma Chicken?

Some can grow to around 30 inches tall, however, this will vary from chicken to chicken and breeder to breeder. Because of its size, it’s sometimes called the “King of Chickens.”

 

Cornish

Developed in the UK during the 19th century, the Cornish chicken as a squat, square body and weighs in at around 10 pounds. They come in several varieties including:

  • Dark
  • White
  • White-Laced Red
  • Buff
  • Black

 

They’re also the parent stock of modern Cornish Rock chickens, which are bred to grow extremely quickly for their meat (Cornish Rock chickens also make docile pets, if you can keep them alive long enough. They tend to have heart issues).

 

Orpingtons

The Orpington chicken breed is a heritage strain of dual-purpose chicken that was developed in the town of Orpington, in the UK. This type of chicken comes in several varieties, including:

  • Buff
  • Black
  • White
  • Blue
  • Chocolate Cuckoo (unrecognized)
  • Jubilee (unrecognized)
  • Lavender Columbian (unrecognized)
  • Columbian (unrecognized)
  • Lavender (unrecognized)
  • Chocolate (unrecognized)
  • Splash (unrecognized)

 

This docile and friendly breed is great for families because they’re calm around children and is laid back with confinement. They’re large, topping out at about 10 pounds. The hens tend to go broody, so they’re great for families that want to hatch chicks (if your hen doesn’t go broody, you can see the incubators we recommend here.)

 

As some of the best egg layers out there, you can expect about 280 eggs per year. You can read more about Orpingtons here.

 

Malines

Originating in Belgium in the 19th century, this chicken breed is one of the largest in the world (rivalling Jersey Giants for heft). The roosters can reach 12 pounds, and both male and females sport cuckoo-patterned feathers. These chickens have a calm temperament, and don’t mind being picked up. They’re fair layers that produce 150 eggs per year. While there is a bantam variety, they’re not readily available.

 

Malay

What Is The Tallest Chicken Breed? The Maylay! While not as hefty as the Jersey Giant, the Malay chicken IS considered the tallest chicken breed in the world, reaching 30 inches in height. (Although the current “Tallest rooster in the world” record is held by a Brahma). Developed in Europe from local chickens and birds from India and the Malay peninsula, they became popular because of their height. Maylay roosters weigh about 9 pounds, and the hens are fair layers. You can expect about 100 eggs per year. Today, they’re mostly kept for ornamental purposes.

 

Langshan

Langshan chickens originated in China, and made their way Westward in the 19th century. They’re feather footed, and lay dark brown eggs. They’re a hardy black chicken breed that’s heat tolerant, and is friendly towards humans. They can weigh up to 9 pounds, and lay about 180 eggs per year.

 

Barred Rock

With sharply defined barred black and white feathers, Barred Rocks are an old American breed that’s been popular since the 1700s. The roosters weigh about 7 pounds, with friendly personalities. As great egg layers, you can expect about 280 eggs a year.

 

Dong Tao

Also known as the “dragon chicken,” Dong Taos have a very unique appearance. Weighing in at about 12 pounds, members of this breed sport enlarged legs and feet. They originated in Vietnam, where they’re prized for their meat. Their big legs make it difficult to lay eggs and move around, so they’re not kept for their eggs.

 

Other Large Chicken Breeds

Rhode Island Reds

Rhode Island Red chickens are one of the most popular and well known breeds available. Although they’re fallen in popularity the past few years in favor of ornamental breeds, they’re very cold hardy, and aside from regular feed, water, vet care, and housing, they require little care. Roosters weigh approximately 9 pounds.

 

Note: There’s two types of Rhode Island Red breeds: Industrial strains, which are bred for high egg production, and heritage strains, which trace their roots back to the first Europeans in America. The heritage strains tend to be bigger, while the industrial strains are bred with only egg production in mind.

 

Delaware

Delaware chickens are also popular, and are very easy going. They’re not the heaviest birds out there, topping out at about 6 to 8 pounds. They’re great egg layers, and you can expect about 280 eggs per year.

 

Australorp

Australorps are gaining popularity (especially black Australorp chickens) because they’re excellent layers. Originating in Australia, they’re parent stock are Orpingtons, Its name is a mixture of “Australia” and “Orpington.” Males weigh up to 10 pounds, making them fairly heavy. The average hen will lay about 300 eggs per year.

 

What Is The Most Aggressive Chicken Breed?

While you will likely hear different opinions from different owners, the Silver Laced Serama rooster is fairly aggressive, and not recommended for children. Hens can become aggressive when they’re broody and their nest is disturbed. Roosters can become aggressive in the first year of their lives (when hormones kick in) and in early spring. However, most roosters chill out as they age.

 

What Chicken Lays Largest Eggs?

Breeds that lay large eggs include:

  • Rhode Island Red
  • Barred Rock
  • Jersey Giants
  • Orpingtons
  • Langshan
  • Marans
  • Welsummer

 

What Are The Largest Chicken Breeds?

  • Jersey Giant
  • Cochin
  • Brahma
  • Cornish
  • Buff Orpington
  • Malines
  • Maylay
  • Langshan
  • Barred Rock
  • Dong Tao

 

What Chicken Breeds Lay Extra Large Eggs?

  • Rhode Island Red
  • Barred Rock
  • Jersey Giants
  • Orpingtons
  • Langshan
  • Marans
  • Welsummer
5 Heritage Chicken Breeds Our Grandparents Kept

5 Heritage Chicken Breeds Our Grandparents Kept

Heritage chicken breeds play an important part on our homestead.

 

Did you know humans have raised poultry for meat and eggs for almost 10,000 years?

 

While I’m a big fan of industrial breeds such as production reds, who lay an egg every day like clockwork, I’m turning more towards keeping pure blooded heritage chicken breeds on our homestead, in part to preserve a piece of American history that might otherwise be lost.

 

We also use them in our breeding program, to improve the chicken breeds we’re developing, and so we can start hatching sex links to bring some income to our farm.

 

This year, we added several heritage chicken breeds to our flock – both hens and roosters so we can continue the terrific bloodlines of these breeds.

 

Now, according to the Livestock Conservancy:

A heritage chicken “can only be produced by a Standard-bred Chicken admitted by the American Poultry Association. A Heritage Chicken is hatched from a Heritage Egg sired by an American Poultry Association Standard-bred Chicken, whose breed was established prior to the mid-20th century, is slow growing, naturally mated with a long productive outdoor life.

 

Why bother with heritage chicken breeds?

 

One advantage to heritage breeds is, when it comes to hatching them, you know what you’re going to get.

 

After all, the purpose to breeding pure bloods is the genetic traits are predictable. Generation after generation of heritage chicken breeds show the same traits, whether it’s a certain color egg, a specific size, or plumage.

 

Centuries ago, when heritage chicken breeds were first developed in America or otherwise introduced to our country, for the most part they were developed as dual purpose breeds.

 

Buff orpingtons, for example, were specifically bred so they would consistently produce eggs but were also white skinned, making butchering easier, and were a hefty weight.

 

So, which heritage chicken breeds are good for a homestead?

 

I’m glad you asked. Let’s take a look.

 

In this article, we’ll look at 5 heritage chicken breeds and why they’re great for any homestead.

 

Orpingtons

 

The first of the heritage chicken breeds we’ll look at are Orpingtons. We personally keep several Buff Orpingtons on our homestead, and they lay wonderful brown eggs regularly.

 

They’re a great dual purpose chicken, bred for both meat and eggs. If you’re off grid, they’re particularly advantageous because the hens like to sit on eggs, making them ideal for a sustainable flock of heritage chicken breeds.

 

Orpingtons come in several colors, including black, white, buff, blue and splash, and the buff color is the most commonly seen.

 

Orpingtons have a wonderful history, and were developed in 1886 by an English man named William Cook, who was a professional coach man.

 

To meet the need for a dark chicken that could be exhibited in London at shows without soot showing (London was a dirty place in those days!) and to meet market demand for a chicken that was large, white skinned, and good for the table, he developed Black Orpingtons.

Heritage chicken breeds were just as important to our grandparents as they are today. These 5 heritage chicken breeds all make great dual purpose birds, and fit into any homestead, regardless of size. From FrugalChicken
These heritage chickens are named after the town they were developed in, Orpington, and were produced by crossing Minorcas, Langshans and Plymouth Rocks heritage breeds.

 

Later, the buff color was developed, and only the original colors are accepted by the American Poultry Association. 

 

As a heritage chicken, Orpingtons are perfect for any homestead because they grow to good harvestable weight, lay large brown eggs regularly, and are attractively colored birds.

 

Rhode Island Reds

Heritage chicken breeds were just as important to our grandparents as they are today. These 5 heritage chicken breeds all make great dual purpose birds, and fit into any homestead, regardless of size. From FrugalChicken

Photo by Livestock Conservancy

 

Rhode Island Reds (RIR) is one of the oldest heritage chicken breeds in America. When it comes to RIR, there’s industrial strains, bred for egg production as well as the heritage strains.

 

For this article, we’re talking about the heritage breeds, which look different from an industrial chicken strain.

 

According to the Livestock Conservancy, heritage Rhode Island Reds are listed as “recovering”, thanks to efforts by breeders and homesteaders who want to preserve this piece of Americana.

 

Directly descended from the heritage chicken breeds our ancestors developed in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, Rhode Island Reds originated in Adamsville, which is a village in Little Compton, Rhode Island.

 

They are larger than industrial strains, and perfect for either the table or for their eggs. They’re also the foundation for more modern “breeds”, such as Production Reds and Sex Links.

 

If you want to raise heritage Rhode Island Reds, do your homework to make sure the bloodlines are indeed true to this heritage chicken breed.

 

These heritage chickens are hearty birds that weather winter well, and are great with children. 

 

the better egg ad final

 

Delawares

 

Delawares are next on our list of heritage chicken breeds. They’re beautiful, striking birds that make a gorgeous addition to any backyard flock.

 

Heritage chicken breeds were just as important to our grandparents as they are today. These 5 heritage chicken breeds all make great dual purpose birds, and fit into any homestead, regardless of size. From FrugalChicken

 

This heritage chicken originated in Delaware in the 1940s by crossing  Barred Plymouth Rock roosters and New Hampshire hens. They’ve been important in creating modern broiler breeds, and for a while were the most popular meat chickens in the Mid-Atlantic area largely because of their color.

 

Delawares are critically endangered according to the Livestock Conservancy because their usefulness as broilers has been surpassed by Cornish Crosses, but they still make a wonderful dual purpose bird for any homestead.

 

We have a couple Delaware roosters on our farm and they’re friendly, hearty birds that grow well.

 

Plymouth Rocks (Barred Rocks)

 

The fourth on our list of heritage chicken breeds are Plymouth Rocks, also popularly known as Barred Rocks.

 

I talk in depth on this heritage chicken breed in one of my podcast episodes, so I’ll just briefly recap here.

 

Heritage chicken breeds were just as important to our grandparents as they are today. These 5 heritage chicken breeds all make great dual purpose birds, and fit into any homestead, regardless of size. From FrugalChicken

 

The Plymouth Rock originated in America in the middle of the 19th century, and is one of the most popular heritage breeds in part because the barred birds are very showy and beautiful.

 

They’re also excellent egg producers. This type of heritage chicken was first exhibited in Boston, Massachusetts as a breed in 1849 and were developed from hybrid chickens with Spanish, White Cochin, Dominique, Buff Cochin, Black Java, and Brahma bloodlines.

 

And the original Plymouth Rocks were of the barred variety.

 

According to the Livestock Conservancy, the Plymouth Rock seems to have disappeared for 20 or so years until 1869 when this heritage breed appeared at a poultry show in Worchester, Massachusetts.

 

The Plymouth Rocks we know today are heritage offspring of the second set of Plymouth Rocks.

 

This heritage breed was accepted into the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Excellence in 1874.

 

The Plymouth Rocks we have on our farm are friendly birds that we’re raising to breed both purebloods and black sex links. 

 

I like them because they lay nice brown eggs consistently and they’re a popular meat birds among our neighbors.

Sultans

 

Heritage chicken breeds were just as important to our grandparents as they are today. These 5 heritage chicken breeds all make great dual purpose birds, and fit into any homestead, regardless of size. From FrugalChicken

 

I’ve never kept Sultans one of the heritage chicken breeds we raise on the homestead, but after learning about them, I would like to!

 

Sultans are one of several heritage chicken breeds that are critically endangered,according to the Livestock Conservancy.

 

They’re natives of Turkey, where they were likely developed as ornamental birds for the gardens of the Sultan.

 

They have been rare since they arrived in England in 1854 when Mrs. Elizabeth Watts of Hampstead, England, the editor of the Poultry Chronicle (a British publication) received heritage chickens from a friend living in Constantinople (now Istanbul).

 

Their actual name is Serai Taook, which in Turkish means Sultan’s Fowl, which is where their name derived.

 

They’re very pretty ornamental birds, possibly the most among the heritage chicken breeds.

 

They don’t lay very well, but if you are not looking for a high efficiency bird and just enjoy having friendly companions, then preserving these heritage chickens might be for you!

 

Helping to save heritage chicken breeds is a wonderful pursuit for any homesteader. These breeds are a piece of American history, and we’re happy to continue preserving them!

 

I’d like to hear from you!

Which heritage chicken breeds most interest you? Email me at [email protected] or comment below!


Sultan photo by “A White Sultan (chicken)” by Eunice. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons.