Delaware State Bird - Blue Hen Chicken


Blue Hen Chicken

(Gallus gallus)
Adopted on April 14, 1939

Adopted on April 14, 1939, the Blue Hen chicken had long been used as a motif in numerous political campaigns and in many publications. During the Revolutionary War, the men of Captain Jonathan Caldwell's company, recruited in Kent County, took with them game chickens that were said to be of the brood of a famous Blue Hen and were noted for their fighting ability. When not fighting the enemy, the officers and men amused themselves by pitting their Blue Hen chickens in cockfights. The fame of these cockfights spread throughout the army and when in battle, the Delaware men fought so valiantly that they were compared to these fighting cocks.

Gallus gallus is native to Southern Asia, particularly the jungles of India. Gallus gallus spread all over the world when people domesticated the chicken. This account primarily discusses the wild species (Philips 1999, Stevens 1991, Peterson and Brisbin 1999)

Gallus gallus ' plumage is gold, red, brown, dark maroon, orange, with a bit of metallic green and gray. There are also some white and olive feathers. Two white patches, shaped like an ear, appear on either side of the head. Gallus gallus can be distinguish from other chickens not only by these white patches, but also by the grayish feet. The red junglefowl can measure up to 70 centimeters in length. They have a total of fourteen tail feathers. Gallus gallus rooster tails can be almost 28 centimeter in length.

The red junglefowl rooster is said to be more brilliantly colored that its tame relative. During June to October, G. gallus moults into an eclipse plumage. An eclipse plumage is, for male, black long feather across the middle of his back and slender red-orange plumes on the rest of his body. For a female, an eclipse plumage cannot be distiguished, but she does moult. The female red junglefowl is leaner than tame hens. (North and Bell 1990, Ponnampalam 2000, Stevens 1991, Peterson and Brisbin 1999)


The breeding season of the red junglfowl is spring and summer. The chicks will start their lives in the warmth of the summer sun. An egg is laid each day. For twenty-one days before hatching, the chick will develop inside of the egg. On the first day, the heart and blood vessels of the chick develop and start to work. At the end of the first day, the head starts to take shape. By the fourth day, all organs of the future chick are present. On the fifth day, external sex structure developed. By the thirteenth day, the skeleton begins to calcify using the calcium from the eggshell. From the time when the egg is laid until hatching, the chick feeds on the yolk that surrounds him. The yolk penetrate in the chick body by the umbilicus. On the twenty-first day, the chick, now fully developed, starts to break through his thin shell. This action can take anywhere from ten to twenty hours. (North and Bell 1990)

By four to five weeks of age, the chicks are normally fully feathered. Their first adult wings' feather will take another four weeks to grow. When the chicks are twelve weeks old, the mother chases them out of the group. They will then go on to form their own group or join another. At five months old, the chicks reach sexual maturity. The females reach sexual maturity a little later than the males. (Limburg 1975)


Gallus gallus has very distinctive social system involving a pecking order, with one dominating all, and one submitting to all. There is one pecking order for female and one for male.

The physical action for dominace is to raise the tail and head. Submission is shown when a G. gallus lowers his tail and head, crouches, and tilts the head to one side. Hens feed safely under the protection of the dominating cock. In order to fight, hens need to go at least ten feet from the dominating cock. When a dominating cock dies, the next higher cock in the pecking order takes charge immediately. The pecking order is introduced to chicks when they are just a week old. An order is accomplished in about seven weeks. The dominating cock's sphere of influence is about sixty to seventy feet. (Limburg 1975, Ponnampalam 2000)


Delaware Code
§ 304. State bird.
The "blue hen chicken" is the official bird of the State. (42 Del. Laws, c. 128; 29 Del. C. 1953, § 504.)  


Taxonomic Hierarchy 

Kingdom Animalia -- animals
   Phylum Chordata -- chordates
      Subphylum Vertebrata -- vertebrates
         Class Aves -- birds
            Order Galliformes -- fowls, gallinaceous birds
               Family Phasianidae --
                  Genus Gallus --
                     Species Gallus gallus - chicken