Here at J&R Pierce Family Farm, I think it’s important to connect my readers with valuable insight from other master farmers & gardeners. Today’s post is a guest post brought to you by Samantha Rainwater.
Australorps may have a funny name, but they may be some of the most friendly birds that you can add to your flock. Although they may initially be shy, they have been known to quickly warm up to their human family members, and make great pets, even for children.
Bred to be a dual-purpose bird, the Australorps are both good for their meat, and for their egg-laying capacity, which is around 250 eggs a year.
Perhaps one of the most distinguishing features of the Australorps is their shiny, almost iridescent coloration. I was just telling my husband how ours almost look as though they have been covered lightly in oil!
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It may come as no surprise that the Australorp originated from Australia – it’s practically in the name. The breed was initially created sometime between 1890 and 1900 and was a cross between Minorcas, Leghorns, and Langshans. At this time, they were known as Black Utility Orpingtons, as there were few differences between this breed and the Orpington breed. They were then cross-bred with Rhode Island Reds to improve laying capabilities.
Once this breed was introduced in England, the difference between this new Orpington and the current Orpingtons was clear. In England, the Orpingtons were not productive or desirable birds, but this new breed was highly productive and was a large improvement. They were renamed Australorp to distinguish the productive differences.
Although this name change took off in England and other parts of the world, Australia didn’t adopt the name until the 1930s, once the breed was known world-wide.
In 1922, the Australorp breed set a world record in the number of eggs laid in a year, at approximately 310 eggs per chicken. This gave the Australorps world-wide popularity and desire.
Reasons to Raise Australorps
The Australorp is considered a dual-purpose breed, meaning that they are good egg layers and good for meat. Although originally bred with egg-laying as a primary drive, good traits for a meat bird were also bred in.
Generally, the primary use for an Australorp is egg-laying, as they are prolific egg-layers. Australorps will lay an average of 250 eggs each year and are fairly consistent in egg-laying.
Their eggs are light brown in color and are medium in size.
Australorps make for a decent meat bird as well. They are generally larger birds and will provide more meat than some other dual-purpose breeds. Their meat is said to be tender and juicy and butchering is no more difficult than any other dual-purpose breed.
If you’re looking for a pet chicken, or just some friendly birds to add to your flock, the Australorp might be a good option for you. These birds are known for being friendly towards humans and can do well with children. Although they may act shy initially, if you handle them often, you may make a friend.
Good for Small Spaces
Australorps do well in a wide range of different environments, so if you are looking for a breed for a small yard, they may just fit in. Although they enjoy room to roam, coop-living is something they tolerate well.
They are also fairly quiet birds, so they would do well in an urban-type setting where noise levels may need to stay at a minimum.
Australorps were bred to withstand the high temperatures of the day and the cold temperatures of the night, making these birds adaptable to almost any climate. They can handle themselves in colder temperatures and do not often suffer from heat-related ailments.
Challenges of Raising Australorps
There are a few challenges to consider when it comes to raising Australorps. Although they seem like the perfect bird, there are always a few hidden flaws.
Requires Shade 24/7
Perhaps one of the most important aspects to consider when raising Australorps is the need for constant shade. Although they do adapt well in nearly all climates, they are a solid black color and will absorb sunlight more effectively. As long as the shade is available, these birds are smart enough to stand in it to stay cool. If shade is not provided, they will be more prone to heatstroke.
Aloof to Predators
Australorps are notorious for being aloof creatures, making them more susceptible to predation. The trait that causes them to be less in touch with reality, may also be the trait that causes them to be so friendly to humans. They have less drive for fear, which can be a positive or a negative depending on how you want to look at it.
Prone to Being Bullied
If you keep Australorps in flocks with other breeds, you may find that they are not generally at the top of the pecking order. In fact, you may find that your Australorps tend to be bullied by other, more aggressive birds, and due to their nature may let it happen. Watch for missing feathers or broken skin on your Australorps to make sure they are handling the pecking order well.
Health and Lifespan
The Australorp breed does not suffer from any specific illnesses and is generally a very robust bird. General, non-breed specific considerations should be made as with any chicken breeds, but no special guidelines are necessary. As mentioned previously, they are more susceptible to heat-stroke, but providing shade should remedy this potential problem.Save 30% on select product(s) with promo code 30DCS8XQ on Amazon.com
Australorps do not generally require a large amount of space to live happily. Although they can enjoy roaming and foraging, they do well in small spaces as well. As with nearly all chicken breeds, roosting bars or a roosting area will be appreciated. Nesting boxes are also a good thing to add to any chicken coop with laying hens.
If you do free-range your Australorps, keep in mind the need for shade and places to hide from predators. This may be a good breed to keep locked up overnight to help protect from predators.
In general, there are no specific guidelines when it comes to feeding your Australorps, they will not usually overeat and do not require special nutrients.
The only contingency to this would be if you are raising Australorps for their high egg-laying abilities. In this case, you may want to put your hens on a laying diet, or a specialized food for laying hens. This diet will help them with added nutrients to support healthy eggs.
Adding extra calcium to your hens’ diets may also help support healthy eggs, especially if you are expecting a high yield of eggs each year.
Raising Australorp Chicks
Australorp hens tend to be good mothers once they go broody, although they may not all go broody. These birds were crossbred with other breeds that struggle to go broody, so your Australorps may be a hit or a miss.
If you do get broody hens, supplying a comfortable nesting box for sitting will be important for the safety of the eggs. General guidelines for caring for your hens during this time are sufficient for the Australorp, they don’t usually need any extra help.
Australorp chicks are also fairly straightforward to care for. If raised by the mother, just providing adequate shelter and feed should be enough for a healthy chick. If you do raise them without a mother, make sure they have access to a heat source, such as a heat plate, until they have their feathers and can better regulate their body temperatures.
A good chick feed will help give your young birds a healthy start. Starting with small treats at a young age will help make your birds friendly.
Are Australorp Chickens Right For You?
With Australorps being such a good all-around bird, they may be the right chicken breed for several different circumstances.
If you are looking for a bird with a high egg-laying capacity, the Australorps may be a good option. These birds will do well in large settings, but also in small settings. If you have a small backyard or want to raise chickens for eggs in an urban setting, I would consider the Australorp.
Australorps are another good option for a heritage meat bird and make good dual-purpose breeds. Their meat is said to be tender and juicy, particularly if butchered at a young age. Many keep the Australorp for meat because they are quiet birds that don’t have any special requirements.
Finally, the Australorp may be a good option if you are wanting pet chickens, or if your children want a bird to show in a setting such as 4H. The temperament of these birds may them well suited for handling by children, and for showing purposes.
Overall, the Australorp is a fairly laid-back bird that won’t cause you many problems – and you may even make a friend.
Samantha Rainwater is a freelance writer, full-time business owner, and recent mom who spends her free time writing. Her degree in Biology gives her a background in science, which she likes to apply on her small hobby farm. Writing about her experiences is one of her passions, and she finds joy in sharing her experiences with others.
Do you raise Australorps? What are your thoughts? Be sure to let us know in the comments!
Want to learn more about farming? Be sure to take a look at these other articles.
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