The Orpington Chicken Breed

Buff Orpington Hens
Above (Left-to-Right): A pair of my Buff Orpington hens (Lotty Dotty & Sandy) foraging in the grass

The Orpington is a very popular chicken breed. It is primarily known for its all around exceptional meat quality, egg production and friendly disposition. These qualities make the Orpington a popular addition to backyard chicken-keepers’ flocks…

Orpington Hen
Above: Dusty, one of my pet Buff Orpingtons… She is obviously not shy of the camera ūüėČ

Orpington Breed Information

Temperament

The Orpington chicken breed is one of the best tempered breeds out of all the breeds I have ever experienced. This factor alone makes them exceptional pets in small back-yard flocks. However, Orpingtons can be prone to squabbling amongst themselves and are notorious for their ‘space-bubble’ personality with other chickens. For this reason, they may need up to twice the amount of perching as some other breeds. However, Orpington chickens are usually very friendly and tolerant toward¬†people. They are also very curious, mellow ¬†and, in my experience, rather intelligent.

Orpington hen
Above: Buff Orpington Hen (Dusty)

Size

Orpington roosters usually weigh ~8-9 pounds and hens weigh ~7 pounds. However, these chickens aren’t ¬†just large, they grow fairly quickly. An Orpington chick may reach ~2-3 pounds in ¬†~8-12 weeks.

Above: Orpington Rooster (Buff colored)

Egg-laying & Meat Quality

Orpingtons are fair egg layers. A healthy Orpington hen will lay ~150-200 eggs per year (which is exceptional for a large breed). However, since Orpingtons where originally bred for meat, some Orpingtons (particularly heritage strains) get get overweight rather easily. Overweight hens often lay poorly are more prone to soft shelled eggs and other reproductive issues than healthy weighted hens.

Heritage Orpingtons are widely known for their exceptional meat quality. To be honest though… I have never tried Orpington… I am quite attached to mine as you might have noticed.

Above: My mixed flock of chickens (Orpington hen in front)

History

Orpingtons¬†where named after their town of origin (Orpington, England). The breed was first introduced to the world by an English Coachman (named William Cook). His intent was to create a variety of chicken that would make an excellent meat bird, while still being an avid layer. According to the Livestock Conservancy, he crossed Minorca Roosters with Black Plymouth Rock hens. Then, he crossed the end result with clean-legged Langshans. He released his creation to the general public in 1886. The breed became very popular in England ¬†for its exceptional taste and egg laying abilities. However, the Orpingtons’ popularity was not restricted to England for long. Orpington chickens reached America by 1891 and shortly following, became very popular in the mid-west.

Above: Buff Orpington hen

Color

Although the first Orpingtons to be introduced in England where black-feathered, William Cook quickly set to work at creating other color variations… He later introduced white, followed by Buff (the most common variety in the U.S), Jubilee and Spangled. However, Mr. Cook’s biological son is due credit for the introduction of Blue and Cuckoo (a barring variation) color variations. Now, many other color variations are available (including crele, partridge and lavender). However, all Orpingtons have the same skin color (which is yellow tinted). The Orpingtons’ feet also remain the same color (which is usually a pale yellow/Ivory).

Above: Buff Orpington Hen

Plumage

Orpingtons are known for their abundantly present, soft, fluffy feathering, However, because of this trait, Orpingtons are susceptible to getting uncomfortably wet. They are also poor fliers. Both of these characteristic mean that Orpingtons need adequate protection from rain and potential predators. Because of their limited flight, Orpingtons often benefit from perching areas that are low to the ground (~2-3ft high).

Above: Buff Orpington Hen trying to jump up on the retaining wall (don’t worry, she made it… barely)

Hardiness

Orpington chickens are not exceptionaly hardy. They do very poorly in¬†temperatures over 90ňöF and below 20ňöF. They also have medium-large pointed combs that are somewhat prone to frostbite.


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