What do you know about
Delaware's Blue Hen
University of Delaware athletic teams have one of the most unusual nicknames in all of college athletics -- "The Fightin' Blue Hens.” It is a name that can be traced back more than 200 years, to the American Revolution.
On December 9, 1775, the Continental Congress resolved that a military battalion be raised from the lower three counties along the Delaware River. Thus, the Delaware regiment was born--a group of eight companies representing New Castle, Kent, and Sussex counties.
The second company of this regiment was composed of men from Kent County under the command of Capt. John Caldwell, who happened to be an avid fan and owner of gamecocks. Although illegal now, cockfighting was a popular form of amusement at this time in history.
Capt. Caldwell’s troops are said to have staged cockfights with the male offspring of a particular hen with blue plumage. The renown of the "Blue Hen's Chickens" -- for their ferocity and success in fighting -- spread rapidly.
Likewise, Capt. Caldwell’s men became well known for their valor and fighting prowess, as part of Colonel John Haslet’s regiment, in engagements with the British at Long Island, White Plains, Trenton, and Princeton. Fittingly, Col. Haslet’s regiment won the nickname “The Blue Hen’s Chickens.”
Delaware’s Revolutionary War soldiers and the fighting gamecocks for which they were named have remained important to Delaware’s folklore. On April 14, 1939, the Delaware General Assembly formally adopted the “Blue Hen Chicken” as the state’s official bird.
The University of Delaware's College of Agriculture and Natural
Resources maintains a breeding group of Blue Hen Chickens
on the campus farm.
We’ve barely “scratched the surface” on this topic. To learn more, read this two-page fact sheet by Paul Sammelwitz, professor emeritus of animal science and agricultural chemistry at UD. Download the fact sheet here.