Just after World War II, the Delaware was originally bred for the production of broilers in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, along the Delmarva Peninsula. In the 1940s, it was common to cross Barred Plymouth Rock roosters with New Hampshire hens to produce commercial broilers. A Delaware poultryman, George Ellis, discovered several white offspring having black barring only on their tails and necks. They fascinated him because white-colored chickens are more appealing, lacking dark bumps where new feathers are about to appear. He experimented to see if these light-colored chickens would duplicate this color on their offspring, and they did. Ellis first called them “Indian Rivers,” and they appealed to commercial poultrymen. They were the dominant commercial poultry along the Delmarva Peninsula for the next 20 years.
Because of its commercial beginnings, the Delaware is quite a productive breed. The birds are famous for a quick growth rate, reaching broiler size in approximately 12 weeks. The pullets lay early in the season and are known for high egg production. Many breeds slow their egg production in response to shorter days in the winter but the Delawares do not. This breed is an excellent example of a dual-purpose chicken — producing lots of meat and large brown eggs under a moderate amount of care.
“Delawares are real personable,” says breeder Jord Wilson of Prairie Grass Poultry in Lexington, Okla. “As chicks, they come right up to you. They are curious and gentle, not flighty as adults.” Because of their even temperament, Delawares will adjust to a variety of living conditions, including confined spaces, and will do well in moderate climate zones. This breed is a good choice for anyone looking for a very productive, hardy and friendly chicken.
To learn more about this interesting breed, read "Enjoy Heritage Chickens" at Mother Earth News.