The state bird of Delaware is the Blue Hen chicken. Use of this bird as representative of the state is based on some historical documentation and state legend regarding the reputation of the soldiers from Delaware during the Revolutionary War. This bird was often associated with cockfighting, and the strength and ferocity of Delaware soldiers on the battlefield is supposed to have been compared to the birds which fought in the rings.
This domestic chicken became the official state bird of Delaware on 14 April 1939. It was already popular in use throughout the state in a variety of publicity materials, such as political posters and state memorabilia. This decision by the Delaware General Assembly came as an upset to members of the State Federation of Women's Clubs of Delaware, who had previously recommended the scarlet cardinal. The Blue Hen chicken is technically not a recognized breed of bird, nor is it particularly indigenous to the state.
The origin for the use of the Blue Hen as the state bird of Delaware is supposed to have begun during the Revolutionary War. Men of that state are believed to have brought several Blue Hens with them from home as they traveled between battles. The men would then pit these birds against one another in cockfights to relieve the tensions of war that surrounded them. Rumor spread that these birds were descended from a famous Blue Hen living in Kent County, Delaware, and that their prowess and fierceness in the fighting ring was unparalleled.
Some stories name the owner of these birds as Captain Jonathan Caldwell, a resident of Kent County. Various historical documents reference his fame as a breeder of gamecocks. It is thought that he refined the Blue Hen chicken breed, and that this particular gamecock fought more ferociously in the ring than most other types of hen.
When the men of Delaware fought in battles, they soon became likened to their fighting Blue Hens. They were vicious and fearless, much like the birds they showed for sport and entertainment. The comparison between the fighting men of that state and their fierce fighting birds became a source of pride for the citizens of Delaware.
The Blue Hen rooster, which is typically featured as the state bird of Delaware, displays an underbelly of light blue or soft gray feathers. The plumage across his back is dark in color, often appearing black, and ends in a light blue tail. His head is capped by a traditional red comb and wattle.