Are you a smallholder/homesteader considering Orpington chickens? Great! We’ll be letting you in on everything you need to know in a jiffy.
But, hardly does a single chicken breed sum up the definition of “pure class” than Orpington chickens do. It might have something to do with the fact that they’ve always been darlings of the English royal family.
More importantly, though, Orpington chickens are a big-bodied breed – larger than most utility breeds. They’re meaty. And they’re very good layers.
They lay eggs that are usually larger than your average dual-purpose chicken. In fact, if “bigger and better” was a chicken breed, it’d be an Orpington chicken.
For a beginner, you’re not just getting a massive and fleshy bird that struts around with poise and lays like it’s no one’s business. You’re also getting a hardy breed that’s extremely gentle and easy to raise.
In life, there are a thousand and one things that could always go wrong. But, none of them involves raising Orpington chickens. If you’re considering Orpington chickens, here’s everything you need to know.
Where Do Orpington Chickens come from?
Orpington chickens originally come from England. The creation of the breed was the doing of William Cook. At the time, raising chickens had become quite an unpopular and soulless activity.
And he began experimenting with different breeds to produce a dual-purpose chicken unlike any other – one with exceptional egg-laying qualities but still very large and meaty.
So, he first bred black Minorca chickens with black Plymouth Rock chickens. He later mated their female offspring with the clean-legged variety of black Langshans.
The black color variety of Orpington chickens was thus first made known to the world in 1886. William Cook named the birds after the town, “Orpington,” his hometown.
The birds became a major hit. And he enjoyed great success in England. He later developed the white variety of Orpington chickens in 1889.
In 1894, he combined buff Cochins, Dorkings, and gold-spangled Hamburgs to develop Buff Orpingtons. Arguably the most popular color variety you’re going to see Orpingtons come in today.
Orpington Chickens and the American poultry association
In less than 10 years after introducing the very first Black Orpington, the breed’s fame spread like wildfire across the globe. The Black Orpington was first introduced into the U.S. in 1890.
In 1895, the breed was exhibited at the Madison Square Garden in New York, USA. This exhibition made the breed even more popular than it was before. And in 1902, the APA officially admitted the bird into the Standard.
Orpington chickens come in a variety of colors including splash, cuckoo, and lavender. But, here in the U.S. the only colors the APA recognizes are black – in 1905, white – in 1905, buff – in 1902, and blue – in 1923.
What do orpington chickens look like?
Orpington chickens appear immediately heavyset. They look stout. And they sport very thick feathers that accentuate their stocky nature.
Orpington chickens are on the large side. Roosters weigh about 10 lbs while hens measure about 8 lbs in weight.
Cockerels – male chickens under 1 year – will weigh about 8 1/2 lbs. Their female counterparts will be in the region of 7 lbs.
Orpington chickens sport a chunky, broad body with a low center of gravity. Their stature is curvy and they have a rather short, arched back.
They have breasts that are deep, broad, and round. Wings aren’t large and lie horizontally against the body. The birds carry small heads on thick necks that are of medium length.
Orpington chickens have red, medium-sized, single combs that are evenly serrated. Wattles are also red, ovoid, and of medium length.
eyes/ear lobes/ Beak
White and Buff Orpington chickens sport reddish-bay eyes that are expressive. On the other hand, Blue and Black Orpington chickens sport dark-brown eyes. Ear lobes are red. But beak color depends on the plumage color.
So, while Black Orpington chickens have black beaks, Blue Orpington chickens sport horn beaks. White and Buff Orpington chickens, on the other hand, have beaks that appear pinkish-white.
Orpington chickens have dense plumage that makes them appear quite massive. Feathers are soft, loose, and puffy.
Orpington chickens are clean-legged. Though, because of their heavy body feathering, large portions of their shanks appear hidden by the feathers.
Black Orpington chickens have shanks and toes with a dark slate color. Blue Orpington chickens come in leaden blue shanks and toes.
Buff and White Orpington chickens, though, have shanks and toes that are pinkish-white.
Note, though, that all Orpington chickens regardless of their plumage color have white flesh/skins.
The tails of Orpington chickens appear rather short and compact in both males and females. Tails, though, should be carried vertically to the body.
how do orpington chickens behave?
Orpington chickens are incredibly mild birds. Of course, personalities among birds of the same breed may vary.
But, generally, Orpington chickens aren’t high-spirited birds. Still, they may take a while to trust you. So, you want to spend a lot of time around them as chickens can recognize faces.
Once they get comfortable with you, they’ll respond to attention from you really well. You’ll soon find that they love to be handled and petted.
Because they’re easy to handle, taking care of them is generally easy. Plus, they’ll be able to bond well with kids without causing any trouble.
Because they’re generally placid, you shouldn’t add them to a flock that consistently shows signs of aggression. More dominant breeds may make life unbearable for your Orpington chickens.
Orpington chickens are good foragers. They still won’t mind being confined. They’ll adapt well to whatever living arrangement you’ve for them.
are orpington chickens good layers?
Orpington chickens are good layers. They’ll give you about 180 to 200 eggs every year. Female Orpington chickens will usually start laying when they’re around 22 weeks or 5 months old.
Orpington hens lay light brown eggs that are medium-sized to large. Eggs usually appear smaller when first laid. However, they’ll start getting up to size in about 3 weeks.
What’s special about Orpington hens is that they continue to lay through the winter. And they’ll only take a break from laying when they begin molting or brooding.
Orpington hens often go broody and make excellent mamas. Caring for Orpington chickens
Taking care of Orpington chickens is pretty straightforward. They’re a hardy breed and will not be plagued by diseases out of the ordinary.
You may have to determine if you’re going to confine your birds permanently or if you’re going to allow them to forage extensively.
In constructing a coop for your Orpington chickens, allow for spacing of at least 4 to 6 square feet per bird. They’re large, so you want to make sure there’s enough room for each bird.
For roosting perches, about 10 inches of space per bird would be ideal. Don’t position perches too high. Because they’re heavy, they may injure their legs if they don’t land properly from the perches.
There’s a real tendency for Orpington chickens to become lazy. So, if you’re going to keep them confined, do well to place feeders and water troughs a bit far from where they usually roost. That way, they’d be able to keep themselves a bit active.
Allowing your birds to free range is also an excellent choice. You must take care, though, to protect them from predators. Setting up electric fencing of about 3 to 5 feet high should be enough to keep your chickens safe from lurking meat-eaters.
You should also do well to provide enough spacious nesting boxes for your birds. Standard nesting boxes that are 12 inches deep, wide, and tall should be enough.
Don’t go for nesting boxes that are too large. You don’t want more than one hen in a nesting box. Eggs might end up getting dirty or even cracking.
Orpington chickens love their food! The kind of feed you primarily provide will depend on your goals for them.
Ideally, high-quality and well-balanced commercial chicken feed should be the cornerstone of their diet. These come in mashed, pellet, and crumbled forms.
When raising Orpington chicks, begin with a chicken starter till they’re about 16 to 18 weeks old.
At 18 weeks old, introduce your pullets permanently to layer feed. They contain 16% of protein and enough calcium to get her eggshells hard.
You may also crush oyster shells and make them available for your hens in separate feeders as an extra supply of calcium. Don’t mix them with the original feed.
For the other birds in your flock, an all-purpose feed containing less calcium and more protein would be ideal.
If you allow your birds to forage, they’ll be able to supplement their main diets with insects, seeds, and foraged greens.
Treating your birds to some snacks occasionally is also welcome. Watermelon, strawberries, lettuce, cucumbers, and pasta are all healthy snacks for the birds. But, you must do this in moderation. And treats should not form more than 10% of their diet.
Orpington chickens aren’t prone to any special ailments. They’re prone to suffering the same internal/external diseases as other chickens. When buying chicks, you want to make sure you’re getting them from reputable sources.
It’s usually a good idea to buy chicks that have already been vaccinated – especially for Marek’s disease. If you’re buying chicks that haven’t been vaccinated, it’s usually safer to buy and feed them with medicated starter feed.
Dust baths are also necessary to fend off external parasites. Dust baths should contain fine sand and wood ash from a fireplace.
Orpington chickens do very well in cold climates because of their dense plumage. In very warm climates, they may not fare very well.
Again, their thick feathers will prevent them from cooling down as much as they’d love to. When temperatures are high, provide them with enough cold fresh water, plenty of shade, and enough ventilation for their coops.
You may also freeze their feed an hour before making it available to them. You should also try and keep their coops and beddings as clean as possible.
Are orpington chickens good meat producers?
Orpington chickens have large bodies and tender skins, making them good meaty birds. Generally, they make good table birds.
But, if you want a bird purposely for meat production, it’d be cost-effective to go in for a breed like the Cornish Cross.
This breed has an amazing feed conversion ratio, grows very fast, and will reach a weight of about 12 lbs in a matter of 8 weeks. Orpington chickens, on the other hand, will reach table weight in about 22 weeks.
how available are orpington chickens?
If you’re in the market for Orpington chickens, you’ll find dozens of hatcheries specializing in their production.
They are quite popular. And they’re available in many color varieties. Buff Orpingtons, though, are rifer than Orpingtons of other color varieties.
You may purchase hatching eggs or chicks for just under $5.00 per chick. From very high-quality breeders, though, you may have to cough up to $15.00 per chick.
how long do orpington chickens live?
Orpington chickens will generally live till they’re about 5 to 10 years old. They may live longer. It depends on the bird’s genetics, environment, diet, and whether she’s prone to predators.
Orpington chickens are visually appealing birds. While there are few captivating things as watching the rich, gold feathers of Buff Orpingtons glisten in the sun, the other color varieties of the breed are beautiful too!
But, it’s not just about the breed’s aesthetic appeal. It’s about the bird’s usefulness, too. In Orpington chickens, you’re getting good table birds, good layers, easy-to-handle birds, and hardy birds.
In many circles, Orpington chickens are described as, “The perfect dual-purpose breed.” Whether you’re a first-timer, a homesteader, or a pro, Orpington chickens are the perfect dual-purpose breed to raise.