Deeply woven into the tapestry of Delaware’s history and culture is its state bird, the Delaware Blue Hen. A potent symbol of tradition, tenacity, and pride, the Delaware Blue Hen is not merely a bird, but an embodiment of the state’s ethos. In this post, we delve deeper into the various aspects of this fascinating bird, exploring its origins, characteristics, and the role it plays as the state’s emblem.
An In-depth Look at the Delaware Blue Hen
An indigenous bird of the United States, the Delaware Blue Hen, is an intriguing variety of the American gamecock. It’s renowned for its distinctive blue color and a subtle tinge of gold around its neck hackles. These birds have a weight range between 4 and 5 pounds, with males generally outweighing the females.
They possess a single comb type, a characteristic found among various chicken breeds. However, it is crucial to note that the Delaware Blue Hen is not a recognized chicken breed according to the standards set by the American Poultry Association for a purebred chicken breed. This makes the bird even more unique in its standing.
The Historical Journey of the Delaware Blue Hen
The name “Blue Hen” finds its roots back in 1775, and there are multiple accounts about its origins. However, the most credible one revolves around the men of the 2nd company of the First Delaware Regiment during the Revolutionary War. It is believed they took along blue game chickens, from which the name “Blue Hen” emerged.
Recognizing the bird’s symbolism tied to valor and resilience, it was officially adopted as the State Bird of Delaware on April 14, 1939.
The Blue Hen as an Emblem of Pride
The Blue Hen serves a role beyond just being the official bird of Delaware. It acts as the emblem or mascot for numerous state institutions. The University of Delaware, in particular, showcases this bird as a symbol of their sports teams.
Characteristics: The Evolution of the Delaware Blue Hen
Cross-breeding has significantly influenced the current appearance of the Blue Hen. Birds maintained by the University of Delaware have been interbred with the Blue Andalusian breed from Spain, which has resulted in a notable shift in the bird’s physical characteristics. They now display a Mediterranean appearance, deviating significantly from their original fighting bird image in terms of both shape and size.
Further changes include a diminished gold coloration on the neck hackles and a shift from the original red to white in their earlobes.
The Blue Hen’s Significance in Popular Culture
The Delaware Blue Hen is often pictured on the state’s flags, license plates, and other merchandise, illustrating its importance to Delaware’s identity. Interestingly, the bird isn’t blue per se, but features a grayish-brown color.
The Blue Hen has also made its way into popular culture, symbolizing the fighting spirit that the soldiers of Delaware were revered for during the Revolutionary War. This fighting spirit is mirrored in the bird’s known aggressive behavior, a trait that made them popular for cockfighting in the past.
While the Blue Hens today are no longer used for cockfighting, they are still quite popular as backyard chickens, renowned for their easy care and good production of brown eggs. They also find favor in show and exhibition circles.
In summary, the Delaware Blue Hen, with its rich history and distinctive characteristics, is more than just a state bird. It stands as a unique symbol of Delaware’s heritage, resilience, and pride. Despite changes in appearance due to cross-breeding, the Blue Hen continues to embody the indomitable spirit of the state it represents.