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  • Writer's pictureBrowns' Family Farmstead

Orpington Chicken 101: A Guide to Breeding, Eggs, and Temperament

Orpingtons are known for being an extremely gentle bird that enjoys being held. Coupled with their ability to be dual-purpose, it is no wonder why they are so popular with homesteaders.

Buff Orpington Staring at the camera

Table of Contents

History

Orpington chickens originated in Britain in the late 1800's. This breed was named after the location Orpington where they were first bred by a farmer William Kent.


The goal of this breed was for a dual-purpose bird that was a productive egg layer as well as a large enough bird to produce meat.


The Orpington breed was created by crossbreeding a Minorca and a Black Plymouth Rock.


Meet the Parents

Minorca's are an ornamental bird from Spain. While this chicken has a presence in countries all around the world, it is at risk of extinction on the island where it originated from.


Black Plymouth Rock's originated in the mid 1800's in Massachusetts. This breed was considered to be one of the most popular breeds in the early 1900's due to the fact that they are dual-purpose.


Heritage or Hybrid?

Orpingtons are a heritage breed of chicken.


They were first recognized by the American Poultry Association for the Buff variety in 1902. Over the next 21 years three other varieties including Black, White, and Blue were also recognized by the APA as a heritage breed.


Appearance

Orpingtons can come in a variety of colors, some of which are even rare including Black and Blue. Regardless of their coloring, Orpingtons have several distinct features.


  • Single comb with five (5) well defined points

  • Comb is bright red and medium sized

  • Medium bright red wattles

  • Bright red earlobes

  • Bare Legs

  • Short tail

  • Broad Body

  • Fluffy Feathers

While there are numerous varieties and recognized Orpington breeds, the buff (yellow/golden) variety tends to be the most commonly recognized and associated variation with the breed as a whole.


Our Buff Orpington chickens fits the standard appearance with fluffy feathers, bright red wattles, comb, and earlobes, and bare legs.


Weight

Roosters weigh 10 pounds on average, hens are closer to 8 pounds on average. This makes them a larger than average sized breed as an average sized rooster is 6 pounds and a hen weighs 5.7 pounds.


While Orpingtons are large birds, their fluffy feathers make them look even larger.


It should be noted that varieties such as Bantams are smaller than typical Orpingtons, weighing closer to 3.5 pounds on average.


Our Orpingtons are larger or of similar size to the other breeds of chickens we have. We suspect this is due to the fact that our other breeds cold tolerant/hardy such as our Columbian Wyandotte's.


Lifespan

Orpington chickens have an above average lifespan of 8 years in backyard confinement, which is average as most chickens live between 3 and 7 years.


Since Orpingtons can be used as meat birds, it should be noted that these chickens tend to live shorter lives of 2 to 3 years due to decreased production as they age.


Egg Color & Production

Carton of light brown and pinkish Orpington eggs

Egg production starts between 20 and 24 weeks (5 to 6 months), which is typical of most breeds, but they can certainly start laying a few weeks early.

You can expect 4+ large pinkish brown eggs a week. In their first year, they can produce 200-280 eggs with proper diet and care.


Note that egg production does decrease by 10 to 15% per year as chickens age until they stop laying altogether.


Orpingtons are one of the few breeds of chickens to lay pink eggs. This makes them an excellent choice for anyone looking to add interest to their egg cartons.


Breeding

Orpington chickens are known for their broodiness and instinct to sit on a nest. Their fluffy bodies and strong maternal instinct make them great mothers.


Orpingtons are able to and breed naturally and prolifically without human intervention or insemination.


Hardiness

Orpingtons are known for being disease resistant, but they are especially known for being a cold hardy breed. A lesser-known fact is that they are also heat tolerant.

While they are tolerant to the heat, they do need access to shade in hot and sunny weather. For more tips on keeping your chickens cool in hot weather check out our article.


In the winter it is important to ensure they are warm, have access to clean water, and are not showing signs of frostbite on their combs, wattles, or feet. They likely will not require accommodations such as a heater or brooder in the winter unless there is extreme cold.


Health Risks

Orpingtons are resistant to diseases and are not ailed by any notable illnesses.


The most likely illness this breed will experience is heat stroke. While they are heat tolerant, extreme heat can be difficult for them as they have an abundance of feathers.


It is important to know how to keep your chickens cool in hot weather, view our complete guide for more tips and tricks.


We provide our chickens with vitamins in their water as a precaution to ensure they do not have any deficiencies. This is especially important for younger birds still integrating into the flock.


We also offer free choice oyster shells as a source of grit and to strengthen the shells of eggs. If a chicken (especially a strong layer) is deficient in calcium, it can lead to severe health complications and a shortened lifespan.


Of course, it is still possible for them to get parasites and other general illnesses, so it is always good to keep a watchful eye on your flock.


Meat Production

As a larger than average sized chicken they are considered good for meat production. Orpingtons make excellent roaster chickens (5 months old) due to their size at culling.


Noise Level

Orpingtons are known for being a quiet breed. This makes them a good candidate for more urban farms in populated neighborhoods.


While the hen doesn't make an abundance of noise, roosters can constantly crow and are generally noisy. We would definitely not recommend this breed of rooster for densely populated areas.


We have several Orpingtons and they seldom make noise similar to Black Sex-Link chickens.

Buff Orpington Broadside

Temperament

Gentle, friendly and docile are words often used to describe Orpington chickens. They even enjoy being held and tend to follow their owners closely.


We have had several Orpingtons ourselves and they have never been aggressive, and in fact they are some of our friendliest birds and most consistently held and they seek out affection similar to Silkies.


Cuddling chickens can even be considered a form of enrichment! For more information on keeping your chickens lives enriched, read our article.


With their gentle disposition, they are easy to hold and do well around children.


Housing Requirements

As large sized breed Orpingtons require 4.5 square feet per bird in the coop. Our coop is secure without drafts but is unheated. Our Orpingtons did not have any issues during the winter, even on days it dipped to -22 with wind-chill.

In an enclosed run 10 square feet per bird is recommended for happy and healthy birds.


During hot sunny weather we keep our chickens in a roofed run with lots of airflow and free access to the coop which tends to be shady and cooler. This was sufficient for days that got upwards of 90 degrees and sunny.


Are They Right For You?

Orpingtons can be a suitable option for beginners due to their strong egg production, cold tolerance, gentle and kid friendly personality.

Ultimately the purpose of the chicken is a key factor in this decision. Orpingtons produce an abundance of meat, and produce an average number of eggs a year.


If you are looking for pink eggs, child friendly breed, a chicken that does well in colder climates, or to produce eggs and meat they may be a great choice for you!


On the other hand, if you live in a hot climate, it may be worth considering other breeds.

Orpingtons are some of the first chickens we got, and we have not had any issues with health. In fact, we are considering expanding our flock to include Lavender Orpingtons.


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