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.
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 fast feathering of the chicks. Cocks grow to 8 pounds and hens to 6 pounds. They have moderately large combs and medium sized head and neck. Their body is moderately long, broad, and deep. The keel is also long, extending well to front at the breast and rear of the legs. The legs are well set apart and are large and muscular.