Friday, February 17, 2006

The Delaware Chicken

I've always been interested in preserving rare breeds of livestock. Those of us who advocate localized small scale agriculture and economics must give some thought to how we can be good stewards of the livestock breeds that have been devoloped and handed down to us from past generations. Many of these breeds that were the bread and butter of localized agriculture have been all but forgoten by modern, specailized industrial ag. One of John and Noahs projects for the next year is to choose a breed of chicken to preserve and husband. Little John insisted that the breed be of the setting varity, and that narows the pool of canditates a bit. He brought over a catolog the other day and asked "Do these chickens set on there own eggs, dad?" The chicken was a Delaware. I did some research and she will set. John wants to keep a breeding flock of Delawares. We did some digging and found out that they were once one of the most popular broilers grown on the east coast. They were replaced by the cornish rock cross in the 50s and have fell out of favor with growers. They are good layers of brown eggs as well as fast growing meat birds. This is what the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy has to say about the Delaware......

Delawares, originally called "Indian Rivers," were developed by George Ellis of Delaware in 1940 and were used for the production of broilers. 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 very 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 Delaware’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 feathers are growing in. Both the Delaware and the Delaware x New Hampshire were replaced in the late 1950's by the Cornish x Rock cross (solid white) that has come to dominate the industry.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 fast feathering of the chicks. Cocks grow to 8 pounds and hens to 6 pounds.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.

Status: Critical


While not a very old breed, the Delaware seems like a fine dual purpose bird that should be saved. It would make a fine "homestead chicken" and might fit the bill for those looking for an alternative to the cornish rock crosses.

16 Comments:

At 2/17/2006 11:06 AM, Blogger JFC said...

I love to hear about the younger Reformed Farmers, and am also appreciative of your posting material on truly sustainable ag. While I have huge appreciation for Joel Salatin's material on pastured poultry, I think it is certainly prudent to be maintaining a line of chickens that does not depend on the viability of the hatchery. Thanks for posting on this!

 
At 2/17/2006 11:24 AM, Blogger Emily said...

I'm glad you posted this information, Scott. We've been holding off on our decision as to which breeds to get for layers and meat while we do some more research, and the Delaware sounds like a contender. We'd like to raise our own, too, so we don't have to buy a new batch of chicks every year. You mentioned a catalog, and as I am still trying to locate a reliable source, may I ask where you purchase your chicks?

 
At 2/18/2006 7:28 AM, Blogger Matt said...

Scott,

I think I mentioned this to you before, but there's a 'farm' in Rhode Island that preserves (cryogentically)rare breeds of all types of farm animals. The link's below

www.svffoundation.org

 
At 2/18/2006 3:27 PM, Anonymous Scott said...

Jon

I agree.

Emily

We get birds from a couple places. I think the catalog Little John was looking at at was Murray Mcmurry. They are don't always have the best birds confirmation wise and they can be a little pricey, so always shop around. I love their catalog though, best pictures and always some breed history. They might be the only hatchery selling them, I don't know. They started selling them last year.

Matt

Thanks for the link. Interesting place. I'm hoping that folks will start using some of these breeds for production in the areas that they were devoloped from. This would be the best long term way to insure there survival. I'm glad to see folks taking an interest and happy to see places like that doing there part.

 
At 2/24/2006 9:05 AM, Blogger Missouri Rev said...

In doing some research on the settling of Pella, Iowa, by the Dutch Reformed in the mid 1800’s, a breed of chicken was mentioned, though the name was not given, that was particularly hardy and savvy, as it would roost high up in the trees above the wagons at night and come down everyday as the wagons would move on. Perhaps this is normal chicken behavior, but the author indicated that this was the bird of choice by homesteaders, since its mortality rate was reasonably low compared to others. Does anyone know of this breed and is it available today? Of course, I do not know whether it was a good meat or egg-laying breed, which may negate it as a good choice, but it seems to me that its hardy qualities would be useful, as it certainly was to homesteaders.

 
At 7/28/2006 8:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sandhill Preservation Farm http://www.sandhillpreservation.com/index.html has Delawares as well as many other breeds needing preservation.

 
At 4/21/2007 4:23 PM, Anonymous Debbie said...

Hi,
Cackle Hatchery also sells Delawares, and other rare breeds. http://www.cacklehatchery.com/delaware.html

 
At 7/17/2007 8:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, everybody.

As I type this, I have 29 little Delawares chirping away in a brooder in my study:) I got them from Meyer Hatchery in Polk, Ohio. I was really surprised, their prices are very reasonable and they have a lot of the heritage type breeds available (Delawares, Campines, New Hampshires, Buckeyes, etc). My chicks were very healthy and adjusted to brooder life without missing a beat. http://www.meyerhatchery.com/

 
At 4/07/2008 4:37 PM, Blogger Dorie said...

I have Delawares. What I like most about them is they are friendly and not tempermental at all. They make good pets.

 
At 6/12/2008 11:26 AM, Anonymous Leigh said...

I've been researching alternatives to the meat frankenchickens and have been impressed by the Delaware chickens. Does anyone know how long it takes to grow them out? I haven't found that anywhere and am wondering if I'm too late to get some this summer. Many of the hatcheries have already sold out of them too. Are there any other laying chickens or heirloom chickens that are worth considering for meat?

 
At 6/24/2008 11:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone else suggest a good source for Delaware Breeding Stock chickens?

 
At 7/04/2008 10:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've got Delawares (from Sand Hill) very healthy and at 10 weeks... I'm probably going to butcher the roosters... they grew REALLY fast... nice birds. The hens will be a little behind. -Ryan

 
At 7/21/2009 8:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the Delaware is a breed on the rise. I saw about 50 nice Delaware pullets and a dozen cockerels go through an auction recently. I used to never see them.

 
At 3/26/2010 5:09 PM, OpenID l0rdsservant said...

A question for those of you who have the Delawares...

After creating our own cross reference chart to choose heritage breeds that will thrive on our farm, we ordered a straight run dozen of Delawares. By some small fortune, the hatchery sent us 13 instead (along with our Buff Cochin, Silver-Penciled Rocks, and Golden-Penciled Hamburgs). They're two weeks old and feathered out nicely. Here's my possible predicament... one of the chicks has darker wings while the rest are nearly white. Please tell me we have one cockerel and a dozen pullets! My dear husband keeps teasing me that my breeding set is one pullet and a dozen cockerels instead. Any thoughts? How did yours appear as they feathered?

A second question... when breeding them, did they breed true? Any generational issues even after proper culling?

Thank you in advance,
Kirsten in MN

 
At 4/09/2010 7:39 PM, Anonymous Stacy said...

Kirsten,
I'd be happy to help you with your sexing issue... send me a pic (stacy@exceptionalchickens.com). Sometimes, hatcheries may cross breed Dels with Columbian patterned birds to sell more "Dels". There are ALOT of bad quality Dels out there. I would have to see the bird in question. Roosters do have more black, so tell your husband that his suggesting that they are mostly roos isn't going to upset you! lol.
Yes, they will breed true. I don't want to take over the blog, so just email me and I'll be happy to help!


PS. Delawares are my absolute favorite breed and I'm so happy to see people getting excited about them. There is no better small farm chicken, in my opinion.

 
At 2/17/2011 9:37 PM, Blogger karen said...

I have one rooster and one hen together and she is not laying yet. She is only one year old. IS it because of the cold weather or when is she more likely to lay.

 

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