In a recent edition of the Herald there was an article on the merit of changing our state bird from the Brown Thrasher to the chicken. Not a bad idea. Currently, poultry products, particularly chickens for the pot, represent a huge slice of our economy.
Two states currently have chickens for their state birds. For Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Red is a natural. The case for the Delaware Blue Hen is a bit mysterious, to this would-be pundit at least. Still, there must be a story there. I've never seen a Blue Hen, but have read that their feathers are used in tying fishing flies.
The chicken, Gallus gallus, was domesticated in prehistoric times in southeastern Asia, the parent being the bantam-sized Red Jungle Fowl. The cocks of these wild birds are a dazzling gold, red and black, and the hens a kind of straw-brown. Some speculate that chickens were domesticated to supply fighting cocks, a "sport" that is unfortunately alive and well today.
Over the centuries, chickens have come to vary greatly in size, color and bodily adornment. Some have remained the size of their ancestors, while others can weigh 12 pounds. Colors vary from white to black, from red, gold and buff to mixtures of these. Some have feathered legs. Others have bizarre feather puffs on their heads and "frizzled" feathers. Combs can be upright, flat or rose-shaped. Some are grown for meat, others for egg production.
Spaniards first brought chickens to the New World. The Indians of Georgia were raising Spanish chickens before Georgia was settled. One breed was the Dominique, pronounced domineekay. Georgia settlers couldn't get Dominique around their tongues, so they slurred it to Dominecker. The Dominique had feathers barred black and white, so any barred chicken came to be called a dominecker. By the time I came along in the 1920s, the Barred Plymouth Rock was the Dominecker of Screven County.
The White Plymouth Rock was prominent in breeding the hens that produce hatching eggs for the broiler trade, becoming, as it were, the "mother" of this poultry enterprise. Domineckers are scarce nowadays, but they are first cousins to the broiler business and prominent in our lore. So, why not make the Dominecker Hen our state bird?
Joshua A. Lee