The Ultimate Guide to the Orpington Chicken Breed

True confession – I’m looking to add more chickens to my flock.

Not seriously, of course…I think my husband would kill me if I suggested bringing home a new type of chicken! We’ve already discussed the possibility of us raising Cornish Cross chickens for meat next summer, and we already added 50 new Golden Comets to our flock this year.

We already have about 70 New Hampshire chickens, too.

That being said, I’m always on the lookout for a new breed of chicken to raise, and the Orpington is one that has always caught my mind.

When you think of backyard chickens, you think of a plump, refined, fluffy chicken that goes about her egg-laying business like its her main mission in life, too. 

That defines the Orpington chicken perfectly

This chicken is a relatively young breed, and while it’s highly regarded as a dual-purpose chicken breed, you should also consider it for its exceptional temperament and other breed characteristics.

Ready to learn more? Here’s everything you need to know about the Orpington chicken breed.

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What is the Orpington Chicken Breed?

orpington chicken
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

This chicken breed was developed by a man named William Cook, a coachman who lived in the town of Orpington in county Kent, England. Drawn to raising chickens in the latter portions of his life, he realized that there was a need for a chicken breed that would be good for meat as well as egg production.

Cook began by researching birds of good laying ability and adequate table size. Specifically, he looked closely at Plymouth Rock, Langshan, and Minorca chickens. By 1886, Cook was able to reveal the Black Orpington breed, a chicken that rapidly grew to fame and became a backyard staple in England. 

This chicken was uniquely bred to conceal the soot and dirt that was prevalent in English cities at the height of their Industrial Revolution – but later, Cook revealed new shades of Orpington chickens that became even more popular than the Black. 

Today, the Buff Orpington chicken is one of the most popular variants. Later, Blue, White, and Splash variants were released. These chickens were all incredibly popular and began being exported to other countries – as well as bred commercially abroad – like the United States, South Africa, and more. 

To create the other colors that we know and love in the Orpington breed, Cook began by adding Dorkings, Hamburgs, and other breeds to the mating process. Several different breeds are, as a result, used to create different colors of the Orpington breed.

This is extremely unique in chicken breeding – and despite this bizarre creation process, the Buff Orpington in particular is regarded as one of the most popular heritage chickens. 

In fact, this chicken was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth! 

Sadly, until 2016, this chicken was considered endangered. As commercial interests in raising non-heritage breeds arose (even today, almost all egg and meat production in the United States comes from just a handful of breeds, like White Leghorns and Cornish Cross chickens) fewer people raised Orpington chickens in their backyards.

Now, though, this heritage chicken is finally off the American Breed Livestock Conservancy list. More and more backyard chicken keepers are choosing to raise Orpington chickens – and that is good news indeed!

What Does the Orpington Chicken Look Like?

orpington chicken
Photo: Pixabay

The Orpington chicken has a distinct appearance. It is heavy and broad with a short, low stance and stature. It has feathers that are compact to the body, not quite tough like a game bird but also not fluffy like a Cochin. It also has a short, curved back. The Orpington will have plenty of feathers, each of which is smooth and broad, along with feet that are whitish pink and completely clean.

The flesh of this chicken is white, and the beak, too, is a pale pink-white shade. The eyes will be reddish, and combs, wattles, and earlobes are also red. To be truly recognized as a member of the Orpington chicken family, a bird must have a comb with five points, but there is also a variant that has a rose comb.

You can find Orpingtons in two sizes – regular and bantam. A bantam chicken is simply an Orpington that is smaller than the regular size. 

In general, a large Orpington will be around ten pounds for a rooster and eight pounds for a female. Bantams will be fewer than three pounds. Otherwise, they will look exactly alike. 

The American Poultry Association has recognized the following Orpington shades, but there are other recognized colors as well. Here are the most popular recognized variants:

  • Buff
  • Black
  • White
  • Blue 

How Does the Orpington Chicken Behave?

orpington chicken
Photo: Pixabay

The Orpington chicken is one of the friendliest chicken breeds you will find. For whatever reason (probably due to the fact that multiple breeds of chickens were used to create different color variants) the Buff Orpington is one of the most docile of all Orpington chicken breeds.

This chicken is relaxed, calm, and sophisticated – it will move across the run in gliding motions and absolutely loves to be cuddled. This is one of the best chicken breeds to be kept as a pet – it will let you know when it needs attention by emitting a soft little cry. 

The luxurious feathering these chickens makes them not only lovely to hold and cuddle, but it also makes them quite cold-hardy. These chickens do have a tendency to succumb to the heat if you don’t provide them with ample shelter and shade. If you’re looking for a better breed of chicken for the heat, make sure you check out this list here.

If you raise Orpington chickens, make sure you provide them with plenty of shelter and places to dry out. Because these chickens have such intense feathering, if their feathers get wet they can chill quickly. 

Orpington chickens easily become broody and are also excellent mothers. They will even hatch the eggs from other chickens! Roosters are unique in that they tend to be quite protective of their young, and they’ll even sit on the nest from time to time if the brooding hen needs a break.

Orpington chickens are so easygoing and docile that they are an excellent choice for a chicken to raise if you have children. Even the roosters are not aggressive. Many people choose to raise Orpingtons as show breeds for this reason, as well as due to the fact that they aren’t upset by frequent handling and unusual environments. 

Orpingtons do quite well in confinement, and while they aren’t the best at free-ranging, they will do so if they feel the need.

Is the Orpington Chicken Good for Eggs?

orpington chicken
Photo: Pixabay

Orpington chickens were developed as dual-purpose chicken breeds, so they produce ample quantities of both eggs and meat. Orpingtons will lay at least 200 eggs each year, but many produce even more – over 280 in some cases. 

Orpington eggs are usually a light brown in color, and they are exceptionally large. While Orpingtons are known for going broody, this isn’t always a bad thing, particularly if you want to raise your own baby chicks without having to incubate your own eggs.

Besides an occasional tendency towards broodiness, Orpingtons are relatively predictable in their laying patterns and won’t go “off” laying for any reason besides broodiness or molting.

Is the Orpington Chicken Good for Meat?

orpington chicken
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Again, as a true dual-purpose breed, the Orpington is a great choice as a chicken breed for the dinner table. These chickens can be bothered at around 22 weeks of age, which is sooner than many other meat bird breeds. 

As a result, you will be able to spend a bit less on feed and housing for these chickens while you are raising them to maturity  – they are also excellent candidates for being raised in chicken tractors.

While Orpingtons grow out quickly, you do need to watch them for obesity. Providing unrestricted access to feed is a good idea when you are raising most kinds of chickens, but it might not be a bad idea to put your feed on the opposite end of your water supply – this will encourage your Orpington chickens to get up and exercise a bit more, rather than parking themselves at the feeder all day. 

You can feed your Orpington chickens a regular egg or broiler feed, depending on your ultimate goals in raising this breed. Otherwise, you can also supplement with healthy treats like mealworms and fruits. Just avoid feeding them any of these foods.

Does the Orpington Chicken Have Any Health Problems?

orpington chicken
Photo: Flickr

Orpingtons have few health issues. While all chickens will need to be checked regularly for conditions like bumblefoot, spraddle leg, and impacted crop, Orpingtons of any kind are not predisposed to any specific health conditions.

The one thing you do need to be aware of is the condition of your Orpington chickens’ feathers. Because the feathers are so thick and dense, you will want to check the wings of your birds regularly for lice and mites. These can easily be prevented with access to dust baths and regular poultry dust treatments

Even if you don’t think these parasites are problematic, it doesn’t hurt to get on a good treatment schedule, especially because it will be hard to detect the buggers if they do hunker down in those dense feathers.

There are some good natural remedies for parasites here, but you can also purchase commercial solutions like poultry dust, diatomaceous earth, and insecticides.

Orpingtons aren’t flighty birds, so you shouldn’t have to clip their wings.

However, since they are so large, they can be heavy feeders. They might begin to tip the scales toward obesity if you provide them with unrestricted access to feed and limited opportunities for exercise – consider buying a chicken toy like this or allowing your birds to free range to provide them with extra exercise. 

Why Should I Raise an Orpington Chicken?

orpington chicken
Photo: Flickr

There are so many reasons as to why raising an Orpington chicken might be the right choice for you. Not only are these chickens friendly and love to be cuddled, but they also have a gorgeous appearance that truly sets them apart among the rest of your backyard chicken flock. 

Orpingtons are not noisy, nor are they overly bossy – they will get along well with other members of your flock and will not bully them around. On the flip side, though, your Orpington chickens will not allow themselves to be bullied. Since they are so large, they will be able to hold their own during disputes among the rest of the flock. 

Orpingtons produce a fair amount of both eggs and meat, making them a good dual-purpose option. Despite their size, they handle confinement well, making them a good choice for most backyard setups. They’re even quiet if you want to raise them in the city!

What are the Challenges of Raising an Orpington Chicken?

orpington chicken
Photo: Pixabay

There are very few downsides to raising an Orpington chicken. They don’t tolerate high temperatures that well, so if you live in a warm environment, you’ll want to think about how you are going to provide your Orpingtons with adequate shade and ventilation during the hot months. You may want to add a coop fan to help keep your chickens cool in the summertime.

Winter, however, will be no problem. If your chickens get cold, they can hunker down and stay warm with their super-dense feathers.

Should I Raise an Orpington Chicken?

orpington chicken
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

If you want to raise a friendly, large chicken that has an excellent disposition, you might want to consider raising the Orpington chicken. This bird is not only easy to care for, but it also produces adequate amounts of meat and eggs to feed your family. You’ll love cuddling this fluffy bird, and it is suited for confinement if you have a small yard or coop – city dwellers, this chicken is for you!

While these chickens have a tendency to become broody -which can be frustrating if you are raising chickens to lay eggs – they are excellent mothers and can acclimate easily to any setting.

So what do you think? Should I invest in some Orpingtons? And tell me – have you ever raised an Orpington chicken? If you have, let me know your favorite tips, tricks, and recommendations in the comments below!

Want to learn more about raising chickens? Be sure to check out these articles!

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Author: Rebekah PierceI'm a writer and small farm owner, and lover of everything outdoors. I'm hoping to share my passion for farming, gardening, and homesteading with you on my blogging journey.

(4) Comments

  1. Bettie says:

    Hi can you help me with a guideline we want to buy good quality orpingtons.

    1. Hi Bettie! What kind of guideline might you be looking for? Do you have questions I can answer for you?

  2. Hi Rebekah, I have a pullet I’m still trying to identify. She came as part of an assortment of rare/heritage breeds. I’m wondering if she might be a Black Orpington. She’s hugely fluffy like a basketball with soft feathers, and quite dignified and sedate. Her feathers are iridescent black that shine emerald green in the sunlight. Some things don’t quite fit the description though. Her feet are black as is her beak and her eyes are chocolate brown. She’s at 33 weeks now and still no sign of laying and I understand that Orps can be late to lay. Any ideas of where I could get confirmation of what breed she might be? Thanks!

    1. Hi Pam! Have you checked with the American Poultry Association? They might be able to help. Could be a mixed breed?

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