Your Ultimate Guide to the Australorp Chicken Breed
Laying 250-300 eggs per year, the Australorp chicken is one of the best chickens that you can get for egg production. But if you are going to breed them as dual-purpose, these calm and docile chickens may not be the best option.
Read our guide to find out if Australorp chickens are great for your backyard homestead.
Australorp chicken breed in a nutshell
|Purpose for Breeding||Eggs, meat|
|Weight||Large fowl: 2.25-4.10kgs (5-9lbs); bantam: 790-1,230g (28-43oz)|
|Appearance||Broad and deep bodies with a rounded chest, black with a green beetle sheen, red face, comb, and wattles|
|Egg production||Average of 250-300 eggs a year|
|Egg color||Brown, light brown|
|Ease of care||Low maintenance|
|Life expectancy||6 years|
|Meat production time||16-24 weeks|
|Space Requirements||Good for confinement and free-range|
|Activity level||Active foragers|
|Temperament||Calm and docile|
|Sociability with other chickens||Good|
|Sociability with people||Excellent|
A Brief History of Australorp Chicken
Australian breeders developed the Australorps from Black Orpingtons. They kept the excellent egg-laying trait of the Orpington and mixed in features from the Rhode Island Red, White Leghorn, and heritage breed chickens, including the Minorca and Langhsan.
The result is a slimmer-figured, even more, efficient egg laying chicken that is the Australian Black Orpingtons or Australorp that we know today (1).
What Do Australorp Chicken Breed Look Like
The Australorp is a medium-sized chicken that you can get either as a large fowl or a bantam. Large fowls can weigh between 2.25 – 4.10 kgs, while bantams weigh between 0.79 – 1.23 kgs. They have broad and deep bodies with full rounded chests and a defined curve from their neck to their tails.
They have soft but compact feathers with minimal fluff. Their heads are round with a slightly curved beak, medium-sized wattles, and small elongated earlobes. They have an erect single comb type with 4-6 even serrations (2). The face, comb, wattles, and earlobes are a bright red – a nice contrast to the shiny black feathers.
The Black Australorp rooster, naturally, is larger than hens. They have more defined combs and wattles and longer tail feathers too. Australorp chicks are black with some white in their underbelly and spots on their wings and head.
Some people interchange the Black Australorp and the Black Orpington because of their physical similarity. Let us clear this up for you.
The biggest difference would be the size. Black Orpingtons are bigger than Black Australorps because Orpingtons were bred primarily for meat.
Black Orpingtons have loose plumage, shorter tail feathers, and more fluff that almost covers their legs, making them appear even bigger. Australorps have a more defined silhouette because of their compact feathers and less fluff. In terms of color, both the Orpington and Australorp have shiny black feathers with a green sheen and red combs.
There is only one variety of the Australorp accepted by the American Standard of Perfection: the Black Australorp. This variety is characterized by its uniformly black plumage, with a beautiful green sheen.
Keen about other black chicken breeds? Check out this list.
The American Poultry Association accepted the Black Australorp chicken as a breed in the 1920s. Before finalizing the name Australorp, the breed was called several names, including Australs, Australian Utility Black Orpingtons, and Australian Laying Orpingtons.
Although white and blue varieties exist and are available in the US, they are only for Australian exhibitions (3).
- White Australorps pure white plumage throughout the body, neck, tail, and fluff. A yellow tinge of any kind is a disqualification.
- The Blue Australorp has more lacing on the feathers. Clear slate blue feathers feature a darker slate blue.
Other less common varieties include buff, golden, splash, and wheaten laced in South Africa.
What It’s Like to Own An Australorp Chicken
There is much more to this Australian breed than its striking black appearance. Learn more about the Black Australorp characteristics and what it can bring to your homestead.
Australorp’s Personality and Temperament
These black beauties may look intimidating, but they are one of the sweetest and most docile breeds out there. The Black Australorp chicken doesn’t like to make a fuss and is no trouble with other chickens or around other animals.
Your problem may be that other animals may pick on the Australorps instead of the other way around! These gentle chickens are also calm, don’t spook easily, and are okay with being handled and carried.
Australorps are active and generally good-natured breed. They like to scratch around and forage. Black Australorp hens are good setters and make good mothers to their baby chicks. Roosters, likewise, are not known to be aggressive.
Australorp Chicken Egg and Meat Production
Once dubbed as Australian laying Orpingtons, the Black Australorp is one of the best egg laying chicken breeds of all time. These chickens mature relatively fast, with pullets starting to lay eggs as early as 16 weeks. A full-grown pure Australorp hen can lay 250 large eggs a year on average (4).
An Australorp hen currently holds the world record for the most number of eggs produced in a year – it laid 364 eggs in 365 days!
The Australorp’s egg-laying ability is exceptional but has since declined. Still, their egg production is at par with the other chicken breeds that lay colored eggs, such as the Plymouth Rock, which average around 280 eggs per year. The Black Australorp egg color is brown or light brown.
As for meat production, Australorps are good table birds. However, these chickens do not yield as much meat as their close relative, the Black Orpington, because they are primarily for egg production. However, the Australorp is still considered an excellent broiler (5).
The black australorp carcass actually looks pretty much like a supermarket chicken, only smaller.
Being good foragers, you can raise Black Australorps for meat as they require less feed with a free-range system.
Australorp eggs hatch around 21 days. A good-sized mature Australorp will take another 5-6 months.
Australorp Chickens Noise
With the excellent egg-laying abilities of the Australorp chickens, one would think they are the noisiest chickens. That is not the case at all! Being very docile chickens, Black Australorps are one of the quietest breeds for an urban or suburban backyard setting.
How to Take Care of Australorps
If their impeccable egg-laying abilities and amicable behavior won you over, it’s time to read up on how to care for the chickens.
- Docile and quiet
- Excellent egg production
- Good meat yield
- Quick maturity, low maintenance
- Takes confinement well
- May be hard to acquire outside the US, UK, and Australia
- Meat production not as good as Orpington
1. Put Them In Free-Range Systems, If Possible
Australorps are active birds and are good foragers, making them an excellent breed for free-range systems. These birds are not flighty and don’t need high roosts and fencing (6).
[Australorps] are not prone to flying too high above the sky making them best to be reared in a fenced location.
They also take to confinement quite well. As with any breed, having a shaded area is essential to keep Australorps comfortable and safe from the natural elements. They do like to scratch around, so if you have a small chicken coop, adding a run, if possible, would be excellent for them.
Being a good meat bird for people means that predators would also take an interest in them. Proper fencing for the yard or farm is crucial, especially for free-range chickens. Keeping them in a secured chicken coop at night is always a good idea, ensuring that the nesting area is also predator-proof. You don’t want all those eggs gone in the morning!
2. Use High-Quality Organic Feed
A good quality feed can maintain maximum egg production for your Australorp hens and a good weight for the meat birds. Free-range systems are often preferred, whenever possible, to exercise the muscles and allow them access to natural sources of nutrients.
3. Keep An Eye Out For Common Health Issues
Originating from Australia, where the weather is dry and hot, the Australorps have a naturally high heat tolerance. There are also no specific diseases that the Australorp breed is prone to.
Unlike the fancy breeds like the Polish, Australorp chickens have a simple plumage, which makes for little to no maintenance. Apart from looking out for the usual chicken parasite, these birds are easy to raise.
Where can you buy Australorp Chickens?
Since the Livestock Conservancy listed Australorp as a recovering chicken breed, you’ll have a hard time acquiring an Australorp from your local hatchery.
Your best option is to contact Australorp organizations. These clubs, more often than not, have a directory of trusted Australorp breeders. However, you should know that clubs do not endorse or promote breeders, so proceed with caution.
An alternative is to import from Australia directly. It will cost more, but you’ll have peace of mind that you’ll be getting pure Australorps.
We’ve compiled a list of places where to get Black Australorp chickens in North America and Canada. You can also check the breeders club directory in Australia for importing your birds.
- Hoover’s Hatchery (Iowa, USA)
- Cumberland Valley Farms (Kentucky, USA)
- Wild Acres (British Columbia, Canada)
- Australorp Club Australia Breeders Directory (Australia)
Australorps are the ultimate backyard chicken. Yes – thats a big call, but just think about what they give you as a backyard breed..
They are excellent egg layers with good meat yield due to smart crossbreeding from different heritage breed chickens. Docile and sweet temperament, relatively quiet and versatile with weather conditions and space requirements, it’s no wonder a lot of backyard keepers highly recommend this breed. They are practical and pretty to look at, with their black feathers shining a beautiful green under the sun.
Australorps get quite big, weighing about 4kg, and they live up to about six years. Their weight and life expectancy is highly dependent on the type of feed and the quality of life you provide. To reach their market weight, you should always give them a good quality feed. As egg-layers or pets, you will also need to provide Australorps with a comfortable environment.
It takes an Australorp to be table-ready between 5-6 months. Although this chicken takes about four months to reach maturity, their weight at this age is less than 1kg. This is not ideal for commercial consumption yet. When fully grown, an Australorp can reach a market weight of 3-4kgs. It is also not good to wait too long to butcher the chickens as the longer you wait, the less tender the meat is.
Australorps start laying eggs as early as 16 weeks and stop when they are around five years old. Compared to other breeds, this is a relatively fast maturity rate. They are very prolific egg layers who lay eggs all year round, even through the winter. Many breeders tried to eliminate the broodiness trait of these chickens by creating hybrid Australorps. By doing so, they were able to increase the egg-laying production for commercial purposes. However, in a backyard setting, a healthy and happy flock of Australorp hens should keep laying for five years after reaching maturity. To get more eggs in 365 days, you should feed hens with high-quality feed.
Yes, Australorps are cold hardy. Despite being developed in Australia’s warm climate, the Black Australorp is also a cold hardy breed. This is because of their large size and compact feathering. They can also maintain their egg production through the cold months, one of the many traits that chicken keepers love about this breed. Australorps kept in cold areas are just as easy to maintain as those in the warmer regions. However, if your hens are not broody, having an incubator would be a good idea.
No, Australorps are not known to be aggressive. Even roosters are considered docile and don’t get territorial or protective of their hens. Their calm and docile personalities make them a great addition to any farm. They also don’t mind being held and are good with children. Australorps do well in a mixed flock and with other animals. If anything, watch out for aggressive chickens bullying Australorps.
Yes, Australorps can be bred for an exhibition. They may not be the fanciest breed of chicken to keep for exhibition, but their shiny black feathers, with the green sheen, make them a quite dashing chicken to look at. It is important to note that for exhibition, the only color variety accepted in the United States is the Black Australorp, and it must not be a hybrid. True Black Australorps should not have any other color showing on their feathers aside from Black.
- Australorp Chicken. Retrieved from: https://www.livestockconservancy.org/index.php/heritage/internal/australorp
- The Standard. Retrieved from: https://www.australorpclubaustralia.com/the-standard
- Australorp. Retrieved from: https://www.openpoultrystandards.com/Australorp
- Australorp (Black). Retrieved from: https://www.aandjpoultry.uk/our-breeds/australorp-black/
- Black Australorps as Broilers. Retrieved from: https://avianaquamiser.com/posts/black_australorps_as_broilers/
- All about the Black Australorp Chickens. Retrieved from: https://www.localharvest.org/blog/26992/entry/all_about_the_black_australorp