Backyard flocks are possible in hot and cold weather if you choose the right breed of chicken.
If you live in a warm area, will Delaware chickens be able to tolerate the heat?
Delaware chickens have many characteristics to help them handle the heat, including large combs and white feathers. In general, repeated exposure to temps over 100° degrees Fahrenheit (38° C) will hurt the bird. But they are a great breed if you live in a warmer climate.
Keep reading to learn more about why these birds can handle hot weather and their cold hardiness and dispositions.
How Do Delaware Chickens Handle Heat?
If you live in a warmer climate, you must consider a few different factors before choosing chickens for your farm or homestead.
Luckily, chickens have a higher body temperature than humans, making them more tolerant to heat than we realize.
Their typical body temperature range is from 105 to 107° degrees Fahrenheit (42° C).
How Do Chickens Deal with Heat?
Chickens handle heat differently than humans do.
Instead of sweating, they use their wattles and combs to eliminate excess heat.
These parts are different from the rest of their bodies.
The obvious difference is they don’t have feathers to use insulations.
Under the surface, though, wattles and combs have a lot of capillaries.
These are like blood vessels and arteries but run closer to the skin’s surface.
Because of the amount of capillaries, heat dissipates much quicker from these areas.
Different breeds have different sizes of wattles and combs.
Breeds with larger wattles get rid of heat more quickly, making them more heat tolerant.
Chickens also handle the heat by lifting their wings and increasing airflow, and panting.
What Characteristics Make a Heat Hardy Chicken?
When considering chickens for your flock, look for these characteristics if you live in a warmer area:
- Large comb and wattle to get rid of excess heat
- Fewer feathers, which insulate the body, and no feathered feet
- Lighter colors, since dark colors trap heat
- Smaller body, as larger bodies retain more heat
Which Characteristics Do Delaware Chickens Have?
Delaware chickens have all these characteristics, making them incredibly well suited for heat tolerance.
These dual-purpose birds have large combs and wattles, white body feathers, less dense feathering, and medium size of the build.
Their bantam varieties trump them in size and dealing with the heat, but the standard version is still much smaller than some of the meat breeds weighing more than 10 pounds.
Although they tolerate the heat well, they still need access to cool water and shade, especially on hot summer days.
How Do Delaware Chickens Handle Cold?
Delaware chickens do well enough in the cold as long as they are properly cared for.
They don’t have feathered feet, so they do not have the same risk of frostbite on their legs some breeds are susceptible to.
However, one of the reasons they tolerate the heat so well makes them less tolerant of the cold.
Their large wattles and combs will eliminate body heat even when it is cold out.
Owners deal with this by putting Vaseline or petroleum jelly on them.
This helps keep them warm and prevents frostbite.
Other than this, Delaware chickens have a large enough body mass to stay warm, although they have less dense feathers to insulate themselves.
During the winter, make sure they have a warm area to stay in.
Add extra bedding or heat lamps to the chicken coop to keep the temperature comfortable for them.
Delaware Chickens’ Appearance
This medium-sized bird has light body feathers with black tail feathers and black feathers dotting its neck.
Their body feathers are a mixture of white and silver.
They have large, deep red wattles, earlobes, and combs.
Roosters reach 7 to 8 pounds at maturity and have a stocky build.
Hens are a little smaller, reaching 6 pounds.
They also come in a bantam variety.
What Is the Personality of a Delaware Chicken?
These active birds are friendly and overall calm.
They are curious creatures and enjoy spending time around their humans, even spending time in their laps.
As foragers, they spend a lot of the day pecking and scratching in the dirt, looking for bugs and other food.
They are also intelligent chickens.
Overall, they are rather quiet, but they do make some noises to talk to each other.
As less assertive birds, they are not high in the pecking order.
Their sweet disposition and friendly demeanors make them an excellent choice for a beginner chicken keeper.
Caring for Delaware Chickens
Mostly, this breed is relatively healthy and doesn’t require much maintenance, except for caring for their combs during the winter.
Originating from George Ellis breeding Rhode Island Reds, this heat-tolerant chicken breed developed many of the same positive characteristics as this heritage chicken breed.
As a dual-purpose breed, they are good for both egg production and meat.
Compared to other meat birds, they don’t have circulatory and lung problems, sometimes plaguing large meat breeds.
They start laying as early as 16 weeks old as productive egg layers.
Maturing early means they risk developing health issues later in life, usually before 5 years old.
As we discussed earlier, this heat-hardy bird does not have dense feathering, especially compared to other breeds of chickens.
This means they are more likely to suffer feather damage from roosters, pecking, and parasites.
If you have a mixed flock, keep an eye out for bullies.
Delaware chickens are often low in the pecking order, so the bullying will lead to bare backs.
This will affect their ability to be heat-tolerant chickens since bare skin is prone to sunburn in summer.
It will also affect their health in cold climates, as they don’t have much body fat to compensate for damage from feather loss.