It’s an unusual choice. Don’t you think? It’s not your typical Knights or Bulldogs. It’s unique and that’s precisely why I love it. My high school had a unique mascot as well. We were the Pandas. What is it that causes these educational institutions to choose such obscure animals to represent them? Maybe it’s because they aren’t that obscure at all.
One would think that the reason why UD’s mascot is the Blue Hen is that it is Delaware’s state bird. But the Blue Hen became our state bird on April 14, 1939 and UD has been using it as a mascot since 1911. The university used it as a symbol before the state did. There must be another reason why UD chose this bird to represent it. The Blue Hen is not a recognized chicken breed, and it’s not native to Delaware. It’s not even native to the United States! So it’s not like someone saw a bunch of wild Blue Hens running around Delaware and then suggested that it be our mascot or state bird. Why would we pick an unrecognized, non-native animal to represent the university that represents the state? Doesn’t seem to make much sense – yet there is a reason.
There are a few explanations for the fame of the Blue Hen. They all go back to the Revolutionary War and a military captain named Jonathan Caldwell. Captain Caldwell was from Kent County, Delaware and bred a chicken known as the Kent County Blue Hen. These chickens were renowned for their ferocious fighting abilities back when cock fighting was legal in the US. Captain Caldwell claimed that no other fighting chicken could compare to his Blue Hens. Captain Caldwell’s company of men were also renowned for their ferocity during battles against the English. Therefore, they became appropriately compared to Blue Hens. Some also say that the nickname stemmed from the fact that the soldiers used cock fights as entertainment during the war.
Knowing this information, the choice of the Blue Hen makes more sense. Of course, we would choose a vicious fighting machine to represent our students and sports teams. We want our students and sports teams, just like the men of Captain Caldwell’s company, to be known for their ferocity and persistence in pursuing greater knowledge and winning their games. The university has a small group of the birds on campus that they breed, and they have even started bringing three live Blue Hens to football games. “The Birdgade,” as they are affectionately known, consists of Private Poultry, Corporal Doodle-Doo, and Captain Cluckers. Their presence reminds us of our history and that we should uphold the Blue Hen reputation as we fight, fight, fight for Delaware!