Delawares, originally called “Indian Rivers,” were developed by George Ellis of Delaware in 1940 and were used for the production of broiler chickens. The breed originated from crosses of Barred Plymouth Rock roosters and New Hampshire hens. A few off-colored sports were produced that were almost white with black barring on the hackles, primaries, secondaries, and tail. This coloration is similar to the Colombian color pattern, but with the barring substituting for the black sections.
For about twenty years, the Delaware and the Delaware x New Hampshire cross were the most popular broiler chickens on the Delmarva Peninsula because of the breed’s ability to produce offspring with predominately white feathering. This is an advantage for carcass appearance since white feathers don’t leave dark spots on the skin when they grow in. Both the Delaware and the Delaware x New Hampshire were replaced in the late 1950s by the Cornish x Rock cross (solid white) that now dominates the industry.
Delaware males may be mated to New Hampshire or Rhode Island Red females and produce chicks of the Delaware color pattern. Delaware females mated to New Hampshire or Rhode Island Red males produced sex-linked offspring; the males having the Delaware color pattern and the females having the solid red color of the sires. Chicks from this second cross can even be sexed by their down color when hatched.
Though its economic dominance was short-lived, the Delaware still makes an excellent dual-purpose bird. It has well-developed egg and meat qualities, and a calm and friendly disposition. The breed is noted for rapid growth and chicks have fast feathering. Cocks grow to 8 pounds and hens to 6 pounds. They have moderately large combs and a medium-sized head and neck. Their body is moderately long, broad, and deep. The keel is also long, extending well to the front at the breast and rear of the legs. The legs are well set apart and are large and muscular.
Did you know:
The Livestock Conservancy is America’s leading organization working to save over 150 heritage breeds from extinction. We rely on the support of our members, grants, and donations from the public to raise the $700,000 a year needed to maintain our conservation work with rare breeds of farm animals. Click here to learn how you can help.