University of Delaware teams have one of the most unusual nicknames in all of college athletics. The name "Fightin' Blue Hens" has its origins in the Revolutionary War and has been used by University teams since 1911.
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 was from Kent County and commanded by Capt. John Caldwell, an owner of gamecocks. The troops often amused themselves by staging cockfights with a breed known as the Kent County Blue Hen, recognizable for its blue plumage.
The renown of these chickens spread rapidly during this time when cockfighting was a popular form of amusement, and the "Blue Hens" developed quite a reputation for ferocity and fighting success.
Capt. Caldwell's company likewise acquired a considerable reputation for fighting prowess in engagements with the British at Long Island, White Plains, Trenton and Princeton, and soon was nicknamed "Caldwell's Gamecocks." The company was part of Col. John Haslet's first Delaware regiment, which reported for duty near the outset of the Revolutionary War in January 1776. In August 1781, remnants of the regiment were still battling at Eutaw Springs, S.C. Although often referred to as "The Fighting Delawares," Haslet's regiment also won the nickname "The Blue Hens." It was formally adopted by the Delaware General Assembly in 1939 when the Blue Hen was named the official state bird.
UD's College of Agriculture & Natural Resources maintains a breeding group of Blue Hen Chickens on the campus farm.
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