Your Ultimate Guide to the Orpington Chicken
As far as the line up goes for the most-favored chicken breed, the Orpington Chicken is a front runner. This chicken breed is low maintenance, very productive, and has a pleasing personality. But before you buy from your nearest hatchery, you may want to consider your current backyard chicken flock and outdoor space. Are these golden beauties really for you? Read our guide before you decide.
Orpington breed in a nutshell
|Country of Origin||England|
|Purpose for Breeding||Meat, Eggs, Exhibition|
|Size / market weight||Large Chickens, 8 – 10 pounds|
|Notable Features||Rounded chest, deep back, short legs with thick thigh feathering|
|Egg production||150-200 eggs|
|Egg color & size||Light brown, medium-large|
|Broodiness level||Highly broody, good setters|
|Ease of care||Low maintenance|
|Earliest meat production time||10-25 weeks|
|Pullet Maturity time||20 weeks|
|Space Requirements||Needs lots of space|
|Activity level||Relatively active|
|Sociability with other chickens||Good with other docile breeds|
|Sociability with people||Very good with people and kids|
|Conservation status||No longer endangered|
A Brief History of The Orpington chicken
The Orpington is a large heritage chicken breed developed by William Cook in Orpington, England, during the 1800s. The first Orpington was black with lineage traced to Minorcas, Plymouth Rocks, Langshans. Popularity spread quickly across the UK for this dual-purpose breed and was eventually exhibited in the Madison Square Gardens, making them even more popular in the United States. In 1902, the breed was officially admitted into the American Poultry Association and became a favorite breed among chicken keepers (1).
What Does An Orpington Look Like?
Orpington is included in the largest chicken breeds, weighing between 8-10 lbs on average. They are big-breasted birds with a deep back, a broad frame, and lush plumage.
Their feathers are soft, loose, and poofy, especially on their thighs, making them look even bigger.
They have a bright red single comb type with 5 points that stand upright, medium-sized red wattles, and earlobes. Their skin is white (something the Brits preferred in their chickens) with pinkish-white shanks and feet (2).
Orpington Chickens Colors: The 4 Recognized Varieties
In North America, there are four color types of Orpington chickens, each with its unique lineage.
1. Black Orpingtons
The Black Orpingtons’ plumage color is black throughout their entire body that shines a bit of green when hit by rays of light.
Related: 17 Cool Black Chicken Breeds
They were the first chickens of this breed. They have since been used to develop other breeds such as the Australorp.
2. White Orpingtons
White Orpingtons were developed differently from the black variety. White Dorking chickens were bred with Silver Spangled Hamburgs, creating a chicken type with a slightly improved laying ability. Both roosters and hens are pure white throughout, making their bright red comb, wattles, and earlobes stand out.
3. Buff Orpington
Contrary to what you may think, Buff Orpington is not a breed in itself but rather a variety of Orpington. No one would blame you for considering the former because it is the most popular variety of the breed. This variety was created using Gold Spangled Hamburgh, Buff Cochin, and Dark Dorking chickens, resulting in a chicken with a beautiful and even golden plumage color. Buff Orpingtons are highly sought-after in Europe and America.
4. Blue Orpingtons
Blue Orpingtons were the last to be developed, created by breeding the black and white varieties of Orpington. Roosters have two-toned slate plumage, with its hackle, saddle, wingbow, back, and tail in a darker slate. The rest of the body is a lighter slate with dark lacing. The hens are similar, but lighter tones and dark lacing throughout. Breeding this variety is difficult since the chickens usually produce either darker or lighter than required (3).
A pure or true Orpington chicken will always lay light brown eggs, which then hatch into cute little Buff Orpington baby chicks that are light yellow fluff balls with no streaks of other colors on any part of their bodies.
Splash and cuckoo are other types of Orpington, but you’d want to be in the UK if you need official recognition. Different varieties include partridge and lavender – both of which have yet to be recognized.
What It’s Like To Own An Orpington
Despite the differences in the lineage of the varieties, all varieties have the same behavioral characteristics. Since the Buff Orpington is the most famous variety, let’s use them as the poster-bird for the breed. Get to know more about them below.
- Good egg production
- Excellent meat quality
- Low Maintenance
- Make good pets
- Very cold hardy
- Large space required
- Consumes a lot of feed
- Easily bullied / injured
Orpington’s Personality and Temperament
Buff Orpingtons are docile, friendly (some would even say affectionate), and hardy birds. Just like Silkies, these golden birds don’t have an aggressive bone in their bodies. They are easily handled, making them ideal for homesteads with children. Given this characteristic, Buff Orpingtons don’t do well in a mixed flock with competitive or aggressive breeds like Rhode Island Reds or New Hampshire Reds. Despite their size, Buff Orpingtons are easily bullied and will not hold well in a fight. Best to keep them amongst themselves or with other docile breeds like Barred Rocks.
These beautifully golden chickens make excellent mothers (4).
Buff Orpington hens will go broody. This is not a question of if – but when.
Broodiness is an excellent trait for breeding, but broodiness can be a problem if you’re keeping this chicken for eggs. One hen that goes broody can trigger others to do the same, and next thing you know, none of the hens are laying! Don’t worry. You can prevent broody-palooza by collecting the eggs regularly, isolating those for hatching, and placing them in a good incubator.
Buff Orpington Chicken Egg And Meat Production
If you’re wondering why these chickens are popular backyard chickens, a lot of the appeal lays in their productivity (pun intended). They are true dual-purpose breeds and one of the best chickens for eggs.
The Buff Orpington chicken is quite known for its egg-laying ability. They are a breed that lays brown colored eggs. The Buff Orpington egg production is an annual average of 180, with a single Buff Orpington hen laying between 150 – 200 eggs per year – the brown egg size medium to large. Although this is nowhere near the Speckled Sussex production or the White Leghorns , which can produce around 300 and 280 respectively, Buff Orpingtons can give you a good amount of eggs.
As for their meat yield, Buff Orpingtons are known to produce plump and juicy meat. Unlike other heritage breeds, Buff Orpington grows fast. As broiler (chickens that are between 8-10 weeks old), they already weigh around 2 pounds. If you’re looking for more meat, you can also wait a little longer. Your patience can get you a Buff Orpington as a roaster that can feed an entire family, with a full-grown bird weighing about 10 pounds! Don’t worry about meat quality declining too much over time; older birds are still good for the table. (5).
Many will put their 2 year old chickens in the stew pot and retain the 1 year old hens for laying eggs.
Nowadays, Buff Orpingtons are being bred as much for exhibition as they are for production. As such, some strains may be less productive than others. Careful selection of your flock is vital to achieving your goals for keeping this breed.
Orpington Chicken Noise
Buff Orpington is a quiet bird, making this breed the ideal backyard chicken in a suburban setting. However, they can get clucky, especially when you have a hostile flock. So make sure that you always separate them. You can learn more about the coop and run needs of this chicken breed below. If they get a bit too noisy, you can always bribe your neighbors with some fresh eggs!
How to Take Care Of Buff Orpingtons
If you’ve come this far, you’re probably already thinking about getting a flock of these gentle giants. Hold on a moment and first get some info on caring for the Buff Orpingtons.
1. Give Enough Space To Move
Being big birds, the Buff Orpington chicken needs quite a bit of space to move. They bear confinement well and are active foragers making them adaptable to both coop and free-range systems. Keep in mind that the Buff Orpington breed is heavy, not particularly flighty, requiring low roosts (6). You don’t want them jumping off high places and risk them breaking a leg or a wing! You can lower the fencing, but it should be high enough to prevent predators from making a meal out of your plump chickens.
If you are keeping Buff Orpington hens, a nesting box in a predator-proof coop is a must. For a quicker and hassle-free egg collection, you should consider setting up or buying a nesting box that is big or spacious but with enough protection to keep the predators at bay.
2. Give Good Quality Feed
As with all chickens raised for production, giving good quality feed is essential. Just remember that feed for meat chickens is different from layers, and there are various feeds available for each. Find out the best chicken feed for layers to help you achieve the best egg yield from your Orpington buff hens.
Since this chicken is big and excellent egg layers, you should increase your bird feed expenses. They consume more feed than other breeds to sustain their growth, health, and ability to produce brown eggs.
If you’re on a tight budget but have a spacious backyard, you can let the Orpington buff roam and forage. But don’t forget to provide them vitamins! Even natural supplements like herbs can aid in their health and nutrition. Before picking one up, a consultation with your local poultry veterinarian can give you an idea of what supplements are necessary for this breed.
3. Exercise Regular Chicken Care
The poofy feathers of the Buff Orpingtons help them withstand cold temperatures. If you live in a hot country, there’s no need to worry. You can still raise this chicken breed, provided that you give them a coop that is spacious and away from direct sunlight. If you’re going to raise them as free-range backyard chickens, your backyard should have ample shade. Placing several bowls of fresh water can also help keep themselves cool and avoid heatstroke.
If you intend to raise Buff Orpington chicks as well, you need to keep your eyes on them. When first hatched, their chicks need constant care, including easy accessibility to food and water. They also need a large space to grow. Once they start to feather around a week after hatching, they will be easier to care for.
There aren’t any particular diseases or health issues that are prone to Buff Orpingtons.
Regular chicken care is necessary, regardless of the buff color or type. You will need to watch out for poultry lice and parasites in the chicks and the adults’ lush feathering. Overall, they are low maintenance chickens.
Where Can You Buy Buff Orpington Chickens?
Since these chickens are so popular, it’s not hard to find a supplier. There are several places to source these Golden Beauties. As mentioned earlier, be sure to determine what you will be raising your Buff Orpington chicken for, as breeders have different strains bred for specific purposes.
Here are some reputable breeders/hatcheries in North America:
- Townline Hatchery (Online)
- Happy Feet Hatchery (Online)
- Cackle Hatchery (Online; Missouri, USA)
- Murray McMurray Hatchery (Online; Iowa, USA)
- United Orpington Club (USA & Canada)
- Claborn Farms (Texas, USA)
While not the most expensive chicken breed, Buff Orpington chicks cost between $4-$5. Other color, like black or blue, can cost up to $25 a chick.
With its endearing personality and reliable productivity, it’s no wonder that the Buff Orpington is a favorite among chicken keepers of all levels. Being low maintenance and cold-hardy are bonus traits that make these chickens more appealing, not to mention a flock of Buff Orpingtons foraging in a green field is a sight to behold. They are beautiful and practical birds to have around, without the added drama of dealing with attitude problems.
You can tell the difference between a Buff Orpington male and female based on their size and comb. Buff Orpington roosters are bigger with a prominent comb, while the hens are smaller and have a less defined comb. Although color usually differs between sexes in most breeds, Buff, together with white and black, is a color variety that is almost always uniform in color for both males and females, making it harder to tell them apart, especially as juveniles. If in doubt, check the comb.
Buff Orpington hens start laying at about 20 weeks. Some may lay earlier, some later. When they start laying, their eggs are usually still small but will get larger as they get older. A proper diet specifically for layers also helps them produce more and better quality eggs. A healthy hen will keep laying until she is about 4-5 years old.
Yes, a Buff Orpington hen lays in the winter. This chicken breed is very cold hardy and thrives in cold climates. One of the characteristics that chicken keepers like about them is that they are excellent winter layers. Most breeds tend to slow down egg laying (some stop laying altogether), but Buff Orpington hens are reliable layers all year round.
Yes, Buff Orpington chicken eggs are always brown. If your Buff Orpington is not a pure breed, then it may lay different colored eggs. For example, if you crossbreed Buff Orpington with an Easter Egger, their offspring may lay different colored eggs. It is important to check the lineage of your initial flock to ensure you have pure Orpington strains.
A Buff Orpington chicken can live for six years or more. The lifespan of your chickens will depend on their quality of life – happy chickens live longer lives. When raising any chicken breed, make sure to provide your flock with quality feed and are kept in a safe, comfortable environment with access to fresh water. In the case of Buff Orpingtons, you will also need to separate them from other hostile chicken breeds. By doing so, your flock can live harmoniously. Lastly, this chicken breed is also known to be affectionate so showing them some love now and then wouldn’t hur
- Orpington Chicken. Retrieved from: https://livestockconservancy.org/index.php/heritage/internal/orpington
- Storey’s Illustrated Guide to Poultry Breeds Complete. Retrieved from: https://ia800501.us.archive.org/9/items/Storeys_Illustrated_Guide_to_Poultry_Breeds_Complete/Storey%27s%20Illustrated%20Guide%20to%20Poultry%20Breeds%20Complete.pdf
- Blue Orpington Chickens. Retrieved from: https://www.orpingtonchickens.co.uk/product/blue-orpington/
- About Buff Orpingtons and How to Care for Them. Retrieved from: https://www.lcnfarm.com/bufforpcare.html#/
- Buff Orpington Chicken. Retrieved from: https://www.cacklehatchery.com/product/buff-orpington/
- An outline regards acquiring and then caring for the breed. Retrieved from: https://www.thecuckoopoultrystudofaustralia.com/acquiring-and-caring-for-your-orpingtons.html
Tana grew up around island farms and pine forests. Her love for nature lead to her degree in Biology and mission to lessen her environmental impact. Now she grows food in her backyard and shares what she learns from Eco Peanut with others.