The state of chickens

Luigi pointed me to a nice graphic poster of the officially approved bird for all 50 of the United States. Among them, I noticed two chickens, for Delaware and Rhode Island. Rhode Island might seem obvious enough, the Rhode Island Red being almost the canonical farmyard bird.

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But Delaware, not so much.

In fact Delaware was one of the biggest poultry and egg producing states in the Union. Sussex County DE, where the modern broiler industry began, still holds the record for egg and poultry sales, “with $707 million, or 1.9 percent of the total U.S. value” in 2007. That’s almost 2% of the value from 0.024% of the land. But Delaware’s state bird – the Blue Hen Chicken – is not one of the squillions (many of them carrying Rhode Island Red genes, I’ll warrant) that contribute to Sussex County’s top cock status. It isn’t even a real breed.1

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Nope; apparently Delaware’s blue hen chicken is a reminder of the Revolutionary War. Exactly how remains uncertain. Cock-fighting was common there at the time, and the Delaware Regiment may or may not have carried feisty blue gamecocks into battle, may or may not have been as feisty as a blue gamecock, and may or may not have looked like a flock of feisty blue gamecocks in their natty uniforms. There is a flock of blue hen chickens at the University of Delaware, whose mascot is the blue hen chicken, but it was created in the 1960s by H.S. Hallock du Pont, and has not been recognized as a proper breed, perhaps because it does not, in fact, breed true. Yet.

Footnotes:
  1. Photos from backyardchickens and rapideye. []

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