I am trying not to argue for or against fast feathering in the breed Delaware. It is my opinion that they should have it, but is it reasonable to consider a strain without it acceptable? I would say so. So my opinion is that it should be up to the individual flock owners. It is not as if everything can be dealt with immediately.
I see the breed as the sum of its parts. Each strain being a contribution to the whole. I see the strain here, as a much needed contribution to this breed. A genetic resource.
My view of breed definition is not centered on type alone. Type certainly defines a breed, but not exclusively. I think a breed should play the part as much as they should look the part. But, I also understand that there will be no perfect strain.
I think a strain can descend so far that it is no longer a representation of a given breed, but the body as a whole is preserved by the sum of it's parts. Not by any individual, less that individual is all that is left, and in that case, I believe the breed is lost. I am not convinced by simple re creation. When the genetic resource that we have in a breed is lost, then it is lost.
I say this to say that the value of this strain is in its potential contribution to the breed as a whole.
Concerning the fast fathering gene being lost or not . . . . You can't breed for something that you cannot see, measure, or prove. We cannot breed hypotheticals. So if no one among you has seen fast feathering birds, then it is necessary to secure a bird with the gene.
As I stated in another post, you can improve the rate of feathering in slow to feather strains. It would be simple enough to cull slower to feather growers. You can realize some improvement like this. This had been done in some lines. Some are slower to feather, but not as slow as some Orientals and Barred Rocks. You may never enjoy New Hampshire or Leghorn fast, but faster than you see now.
I do not see the slow feathering gene as necessary to achieve decent barring. Barring does not have the same impact on this color pattern as it does the Barred Rock. The width of barring is less important here. What is important is boldness and crispness of the barring. The aesthetic effect on this color pattern is in the contrast. The bars can be wider if they are crisp and bold. I would prefer it with equal amounts of white.
As a reference (for the Delaware). Consider the winning English Barred Rocks. They are not slow to feather. The quality of Barring of these birds is very good, even if very different.
But . .. . after saying all of the above. I would not recommend any of you even considering rate of feathering at this point. It makes for good conversation, and something to consider. Even if the point is an important point, is it important to address right now? I think it is more important to master the type and color.