Blue Hen of Delaware
While it is not a currently recognized chicken breed, the fame of the Blue Hen can be traced back to the Revolutionary War. On December 9, 1775, the Continental Congress resolved that a military battalion was to be raised from Delaware, then known as the Lower Counties on the Delaware. Thus, the Delaware regiment was born—a group composed of eight companies representing New Castle, Kent and Sussex Counties. Col. John Haslet's first Delaware regiment reported for duty near the outset of the American Revolution in January 1776.
Although often referred to as "The Fighting Delawares," the Delaware soldiers also won the nickname, "The Blue Hen's Chickens." Within the regiment, the second company was composed of men from Kent County and was under the command of Capt. John Caldwell, who was an avid fan and owner of gamecocks. The troops often amused themselves by staging cock fights with a breed known as the Kent County Blue Hen, recognizable for its blue plumage. The renown of these chickens spread rapidly during the time when cock fighting was a popular form of amusement, and the "Blue Hen's Chickens" developed quite a reputation for ferocity and fighting success. Capt. Caldwell's company likewise acquired a considerable reputation for its own fighting prowess, in engagements with the British at Long Island, White Plains, Trenton and Princeton, and soon it was nicknamed "Caldwell's Gamecocks." Caldwell died at Princeton in 1777, and the Delaware Regiment was reorganized. After the disastrous Battle of Camden in August 1780, the surviving Delaware units were joined with the Maryland regiment in a brigade, and Captain Robert Kirkwood, the senior surviving Delaware officer remaining, was in charge of Delaware's now-battalion. In August 1781, remnants of the regiment were still battling at Eutaw Springs, South Carolina. Captain Kirkwood led the remnants of the regiment home, and acquired the nickname "Blue Hen" as well.
In 1939, the Delaware General Assembly named the Blue Hen Chicken the official state bird. It is one of only three US state birds that is not a species native to the United States.
The University of Delaware's College of Agriculture & Natural Resources maintains a breeding group of the Blue Hen Chicken on the campus farm.
- Sammelwitz, Dr. Paul H., "The Delaware Blue Hen: Fact and Fancy," University of Delaware Department of Animal Science and Agricultural Biochemistry. http://www.udel.edu/research/kids/challenge/bluehenimages/bluehenfactsheet.pdf
- Federal Writers Project Delaware: A Guide to the First State, page 48.
- Ekarius, Carol (2007). Storey's Illustrated Guide to Poultry Breeds. 210 MAS MoCA Way, North Adams MA 01247: Storey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-58017-667-5.
- University of Delaware