The Orpington chicken is considered one of the most attractive chickens. It comes in rich colors, features soft contours standing out from most other breeds. More and more people have warmed up to the idea of keeping them as backyard chickens, and this has resulted in a growth in popularity.
If you are looking for a beauty to add to your backyard flock, the Orpington is probably one of the best. But, is it adaptable in any environment, and will you have an easy time raising it? Find out about these and more below.
The Orpington breed originally developed in England in the mid-1880s. The name came from the popular town of Orpington, Kent, located in South-east England. At the time, the Orpington was developed for both egg production and meat production.
Around this time, people have stopped breeding and keeping all types of exotic birds and started to look for more practical birds. One man William Cook was fascinated by the possibility of breeding a better chicken for both excellent egg and meat production.
He selected birds that he thought were good layers and of suitable table size. He settled on Minorca, Langshan, and Plymouth Rocks. In 1886, he unveiled the Black Orpington, which quickly grew in popularity all over England. The black color was preferred to hide the dirt and soot from the environment at the time.
After a while, farmers then unveiled the Buff Orpington, which to-date remains the most favorite of all Orpington chickens. White, Blue, and Splash colors followed but did not dim the shine of the Buff Orpington. Cook later went to the US to sell his chicken and was such a huge success, and this contributed to the popularity of this bird.
Today, these birds are among the best for small backyard farms. They are sweet, docile, and grow relatively large, which every poultry farmer is looking for. This, in addition to their excellent brooding capability, makes them quite popular as backyard chickens.
Orpington Appearance and Characteristics
This chicken breed is relatively large and considered some of the more massive birds. They feature loose feathers, which makes them look even more massive than they are. They feather better than most other breeds, and this makes them adaptable to cold weather conditions.
There are two similar yet different varieties of Orpington chicken breeds; large fowl and bantams. The first one weighs from 3.6 kg to 4.55 kg for roosters and 2.7 kg to 3.6 kg for the Orpington hen. These birds are quite heavy and with the fluffed out feathers, they appear much bigger. The feathers cover most of the body and grow down to the legs making them super feathery.
Bantams are smaller, with the male weighing about 38 ounces and the female weighing 34 ounces. In all other aspects, the bantams should look like the large fowl. The bantam Orpington is one of the largest bantam available but quite rare to find.
The body of the Orpington chicken comes in a curvy shape with a short back. It also features a U-shaped underline and a small head with a medium-size single comb. The single comb has five points. The skin of these chickens is mainly white, while the feet and shanks are pinkish white.
Orpington Behavior and Personality
Orpingtons are generally docile and friendly, and this is particularly true of the Buff Orpington. They are calm and will hardly run around unless they are after treats. They are cuddly owing to the fluffy feathers but enjoy a little bit of attention from time to time. On this note, you will notice one wanting to sit on the lap for a brief rub.
The excellent feathering of this bird makes it hardy, especially when the temperatures drop. However, the soft, light feathers can easily get sodden, which can leave them too cold. They are great during warm weather also, but they need access to shade in extremely sunny conditions.
Buff chicken make good mothers and good broodies. The Orpington hen accepts sitting on eggs placed under them and patiently wait for them to hatch. The hens are the sweetest but not as protective as the roosters. They can be fierce and super protective of the chicks, which sometimes works best to give the hen a break.
Many people prefer Buff Orpingtons for their calm and friendly personality. They are great for families with small children and pets. As sweet as they are, you want to be careful and watchful as their strong beak can be a pain to handle. The friendly personality makes them great for 4H clubs, thanks to their high tolerance to frequent handling and confinement.
If you want an Orpington to add to your flock, you can keep one in the coop. They handle confinement pretty well, although they might need a few hours to free-range. They are poor foragers and mainly rely on the feeds you provide.
When it comes to Buff Orpington egg production, this is an excellent egg layer and kept as a dual-purpose breed. On average, the hen can lay anywhere between 175 to 200 eggs per year. In favorable conditions, the Orpington hen is capable of laying up to 340 light brown eggs per year.
Buff Orpington chickens are considerably large and yield a fair amount on the table. Most people keep them for eggs, but if you decide to breed some for meat, you will have quite a lot of white meat from mature Orpingtons.
Like most other breeds of chicken, an Orpington chicken needs a secure and comfortable place to stay. This will help them stay healthy and keep them safe from predators and adverse weather conditions.
Ensure the coop has a good ventilation system to ensure a fresh and consistent flow of fresh air. Orpingtons are fluffy, and the larger plumage makes them prone to overheating. If indoors all through, they need an airy place to cool off. Considering the size of these birds, each will need about 5 square feet of space.
These dual-purpose chickens are not the best foragers; therefore, they will need a consistent feed supply. This will keep them healthy and ensure optimal productivity, especially if you are keeping them for eggs. You want to ensure they have access to enough and nutritious food. Provide enough feeders according to the number of chickens you have in your coop.
You can start with ready-made poultry feed from your local mill or prepare the food of your own. You have to make sure the food is nutritious and wholesome. Also, ensure you provide enough clean and freshwater each day. This will depend on the number of chickens you have in the coop, but a rule of thumb is to change the water daily and clean the water feeders properly.
This chicken breed is easy to care for, but like other chickens, you need to keep an eye to ensure they stay healthy. One, you need to inspect them regularly for any signs of disease or illness. There is no specific disease associated with Orpingtons, but anything can happen as a result of feeds, weather, or overall conditions.
Also, check for external parasites. The fluffy feathers can be a good breeding site for mites and lice. Make sure to check for any parasites and provide a dust bath where your chickens can dust off and keep external parasites at bay.
How to Breed Orpington Chickens
Orpington Buff chickens are generally easy to care for and do not need any special treatment. If you are looking to start raising these dual-purpose chickens for business, it is essential to understand how to breed them for optimal productivity.
Start by purchasing healthy and disease-free Orpington chickens as the pioneers of your business. You can either buy a mature hen and rooster or start with day-old baby chicks. This is dependent on the availability and the price in your area. You can find chicks at a breeding center near you or visit an existing farm for mature ones.
You can also search online to find the nearest chicken breeding centers and websites that sell Orpington chicks online. Orpingtons are available in many countries worldwide, so you will probably find some in your local area.
Once you have your baby chicks, you need to keep them in a safe and comfortable brooder. Start them on chick mash to ensure they get the nutrition they need. If you start with mature Orpington chickens, make sure you provide a safe and comfortable shelter.
Generally, Orpingtons are good breeders and will naturally reproduce. You just need to ensure the conditions are favorable for the natural process of reproduction. Avoid keeping your Orpington rooster with other roosters as they might not be too friendly. Try and maintain a good ratio of hens and roosters for consistent reproduction. One mature rooster is enough for breeding up to 10 hens.
The Bottom Line
Orpingtons, Buff, or whichever variety you get are ideal backyard chickens. They are calm, friendly, and do well with other members of a flock. With a little care and maintenance, these dual-purpose chickens can stay productive and supply a consistent number of eggs each week. The friendly personality, beauty, and productivity make them a great addition to any coop.