Orpington

Orpington blue hen Orpington buff cock

Key Characteristics

Orpingtons have a very placid, friendly and docile nature, one that is tolerant of being handled. This placid nature does mean that it can be bullied by other birds so if mixing with other breeds make sure they have plenty of free range space. They are one of the best birds for the first time keeper and for those with children-an ideal ‘pet’ chicken. It is a fairly hardy breed but will need protection in wet weather - the heavy soft feathering can get waterlogged. They don’t like very hot weather so shade should be provided. They are not agile or flighty, a 3 foot fence is often sufficient to contain them. They make good mothers. Perches should be lower and nest boxes larger than normal. They prefer to roam free.

Orpington bantams are probably more productive in terms of number and size of eggs produced against food and housing requirements, than large Orpingtons, which often lay rather small eggs for their size.

History

  • This breed was named after the town in Kent where the originator, William Cook, had his farm.
  • In 1886 he introduced the Black Orpington produced by crossing Langshans, Minorcas and Plymouth Rocks.
  • Several more colour varieties were made, the White appeared in 1889, Buff in 1894, Jubilee in 1897, Spangled in 1899, and Blue and Cuckoo varieties both in 1907. The Jubilee, Spangled and Cuckoo had died out long ago, but have recently been remade.
  • The original, tighter feathered, practical Black Orpingtons were distributed to many countries including Australia. They were re-imported to the UK in 1921 under a new name, Australorp (an abbreviation of Australian Black Orpington) as Orpingtons in the UK had long since become a less productive exhibition breed.
  • Cook originally intended them to be a dual purpose breed, as they remained in Australia, but poultry breeding in the UK was dominated by the show scene, because that was where the biggest profits were made.
  • The biggest looking birds often won in many breeds, so Joseph Partington, from Lancashire, made his own strain of Black Orpingtons by crossing Cochins with Langshans. His huge feathery birds appeared in the 1890s, not long after Cook’s originals. Their profuse plumage undermined their productivity for meat or eggs, but no one cared in a time when a show champion might be sold for a sum equivalent to a year’s wages for a working man. 

Appearance

  • Orpingtons are large, graceful birds with a soft appearance
  • Plumage is profuse but should be close and not fluffy like in Cochins
  • Orpingtons come in 6 colour varieties: blue, black, white, jubilee, spangled or cuckoo

Uses

Eggs

Egg yield varies enormously depending on the strain, 90-175, light brown eggs in a year. 

Did you know?

Although birds look large, don't be fooled. Their size is actually made up mostly of their thick layer of feathers. 

The Rare Breeds Survival Trust is the leading national charity working to conserve and protect the United Kingdom's rare native breeds of farm animals from extinction. We rely on the support of our members, grants and donations from the public to raise the £700,000 a year needed to maintain our conservation work with rare UK native breeds of farm animals. Visit www.rbst.org.uk to see how you can help.

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