Orpington chickens are a wonderful addition to any backyard chicken flock. Cute and cuddly, they are also dignified and graceful – and they are powerhouses when it comes to laying eggs! They are also wonderful pets and you can’t go wrong when you adopt some into your family.
What are Orpington Chickens?
The Orpington is a British hybrid chicken breed – though it may be better described as a “brand” than a breed, as different forebears were used to create different varieties!
The Black variety was bred in 1866 in Orpington, Kent, by William Cook (who also bred the Orpington Duck), and was created to be a dual-purpose bird, providing both meat and eggs. It soon was favored almost exclusively as an exhibition chicken and was exported widely. By the end of the 1870s, there were Orpington ranches from the USA to South Africa.
The original Black Orpington was created by crossing Plymouth Rock, Langshan, and Minorca chickens; the black coloring was selected to show well and hide the soot that was so prevalent in London at the time. It was first exhibited publicly in 1895.
In the early 1900s, German Herman Kuhn developed the Bantam Orpington.
Characteristics and Appearance of the Orpington
They are cuddly and heavy-set with soft contours resembling fluffy, feathery soft toys.
They are a large chicken, averaging between 3.2 and 4.8kg in weight. Bantams are 1.6-2.0kg.
Physical characteristics include:
- Curved broad body and short back
- Low stance
- Small head with a pinkish-white beak
- Eyes are reddish-bay
- Medium-sized single red five-pointed comb (rose comb)
- Red wattle and earlobes
- Soft, dense and fluffed feathering
- Feet and shanks unfeathered with white flesh
- Legs almost hidden by body feathers
- Short tail
There are numerous color varieties, however, the original colors are the only ones accepted by the American Standard and include:
Bantam Orpingtons have a large variety of colors, including:
- Blue Laced
- Buff Black Laced
- Buff Columbian
Orpingtons are among the best mothers of all chicken breeds – and perhaps of all animal breeds! They are a loving and gentle chicken, and when it comes to raising their chicks, they are stern and disciplined with their young, teaching and guiding them well.
Good-natured and incredibly kind, if somewhat lazy (unless they are scurrying for treats!), They are a fantastic family pet, even for young children, and they love nothing more than curling up in your lap for a snuggle.
Due to their kind and gentle nature, some may be vulnerable to bullying from other flock members – but will never be the flock bully.
Bantam Orpingtons share the friendly disposition of the Standard chickens. They rarely, if ever, fly.
They are a hardy breed which was created to withstand cold winters and keep laying throughout the year. They are very reliable egg layers and a hen in her prime will provide you with around 300 fresh eggs per year, even in the middle of winter when many other chicken breeds go dormant in terms of laying. Some hens will provide up to 340 eggs per year!
The eggs are light brown and medium to large.
Interesting Facts About Orpingtons
- Buff (golden) is the most popular variety. This color was created by crossbreeding Buff Cochins with Gold Spangled Hamburgs and Dorkings.
- They are ancestors of the Australorp – an Australian-bred chicken which is the most prolific commercial egg layer in the world.
- They are very personable. Will bond closely with their human family, more readily even than they will with other chicken breeds. They will follow you around and even seek you out when they want a cuddle. If you’re dining on the patio, they will likely join you and seek out a nibble.
Caring for Orpington Chickens
- They are very resilient in the cold but can chill and die quickly if their feathers get too wet. They need plenty of shade, space, and ventilation in summer.
- Don’t combine these chickens in a flock with aggressive breeds like the Rhode Island Red, Aseel, Malay, Sumatra, and Welsummer. Orpingtons are vulnerable to being bullied and will be at the very bottom of the pecking order with aggressive breeds.
- Check regularly for mites and lice – their dense feathering is a haven for unwanted critters.
- Don’t overfeed – this is a “lazy” breed which will put on weight easily. It is not, however, a lazy forager!
Benefits of Raising Orpington Chickens
- Friendly and gentle
- Prolific egg layers
- They are wonderful mothers to baby chicks
- Gorgeous appearance
- Handle confinement well
- Do not fly – even the bantams – so high fences and wing clipping are not required
- They bond with their human family
- Tolerant of kids
The Orpington is the quintessential British barnyard hen and an ideal family chicken. Quiet, calm, beautiful and not too active, these hens are happy to just hang out with their flock mates and human family members. This is a big fluffy hen that will love you back.