Dual-Purpose Orpington Chickens for Any Farm

Orpingtons are a good dual-purpose bird, winter hardy, an excellent layer of large brown eggs, complete with calm, loveable temperaments.

Reader Contribution by Valerie Boese
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English Orpingtons

Orpingtons are one of the most incredible breeds of chicken. If you were to take a poll, I suspect that you would find most chicken-keepers either already own Orpingtons or want to own them. Chicken-owners simply can’t resist them — they are number one in the chicken world, and their qualities are unsurpassed.

The reasons are many: Orpingtons are a good dual-purpose bird, winter hardy, an excellent layer of large brown eggs, complete with calm, loveable temperaments — sometimes even affectionate to their owners — and they’re simply gorgeous birds, available in so many stunning colors. It is easy to see why they are so sought after.

Origins of the Orpington Chicken Breed

Orpingtons originated in the 1850s with the help of poultry connoisseur William Cook. He was a successful chicken keeper, with a poultry store and he wrote two books on poultry: The Poultry Journal and The Poultry Keeper’s Account Book. He also conducted speaking engagements to educate the public about poultry.

Cook lived in the village of Orpington, in Kent, England, where he had developed the first black Orpington as a new breed of poultry. He first introduced the breed in 1886 at the Chrystal Palace Poultry Show, (the pinnacle of poultry exhibition in the United Kingdom from 1857-1936), at the show he won the grand prize. Cook established the breed by crossing black minorcas with black Plymouth rocks and then breeding their offspring with clean legged langshangs.

After Cook passed away, his family for generations continued to breed Orpingtons, developing additional colors of blue, buff, red, cuckoo, ermine, jubilee, partridge, and white.

Show-Bird Beauty

Today in United States, the Orpington chicken is one of the most popular poultry breeds owned for many of the practical purposes. They are fast becoming ever popular as exhibition birds for regional Orpington clubs and 4H shows. They make delightful show birds with their beautiful, smooth, full plumage and their proud, elegant carriage.

There are two similar lines, one is the English Orpington which is a much more robust looking, with fuller feathering and a physique similar to a cochin, but without leg feathering. The other line is the American Orpington. While also a beautiful bird, their plumage is not near as full looking, and as a result, the English line is preferred over American.

The Orpington was added to American Poultry Association in 1902, recognizing four colors for the breed standard: black, blue, white, and buff. There are many more colors not yet APA-approved but that are often pursued by chicken owners, including but not limited to lavender cuckoo, lavender mottled, black mottled, cuckoo Isabell, crele, and many more colors. Even though these colors are not APA-approved, poultry owners will often forego an APA requirement, just to own them for their exquisiteness and uniqueness that they add to their flock.

Orpington Classes

Orpintons are divided into two classes, Standard and Bantam size. Bantams are miniatures versions of their standard counterparts. Both are APA-approved with the same four colors: black, blue, white, and buff.

Orpingtons are characterized by being clean legged, sporting a single comb, and being large fowl weighing 8 to 10 pounds. Bantams weigh 3 to 3 ½ pounds, have full, thick plumage that is smooth with a deep massive body.

Where to Find Orpingtons

To learn more about acquiring this amazing breed of poultry and their owners, consider joining Facebook Orpington groups by simply searching Orpington on Facebook. There are also Orpington clubs that can be very helpful with additional information on the breed and reputable breeders. I like ” The United Orpington Club” and “The Orpington Club”.

Valerie Boese born and raised in the midwest, she manages a family-owned poultry farm in northeast Nebraska, established as TarBox Hollow Poultry in 2012 breeding heritage and rare breeds of poultry, she also is an avid gardener. Connect with Valerie on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

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