Orpington chickens are an increasingly popular breed. Classified as heavy, soft feather, they are dual purpose. This means people keep them for eggs and the meat.

They were initially developed in Orpington, England by William Cook. In the 1950s one of his sons came to South Africa and set up a branch of the family poultry business in Johannesburg.

Orpington chickens
There are many different coloured Orpington chickens.

The first birds were black. Later Cook developed white and buff coloured fowls. Today the buff is the most popular colour. However other colours include cuckoo, blue, spangled, red, diamond jubilee, partridge, chocolate, lavender, lemon cuckoo, gold laced and silver laced.

Characteristics of Orpington Chickens

This is a large breed. The cock reaches a weight of 5.5kg, while the hen reaches 4.0kg.

They are a dual purpose chicken. Hens lay 3-5 light brown eggs a week. They have a tendency to become broody and make good mothers.

They have a heavy, broad body with a low stance, fluffed out feathers, and a curved, short back.

The bird should be well feathered with broad, smooth feathers. This means that they do well in cold weather. They are fairly heat tolerant, as long as they have access to shade.

Feet and shanks should have no feathers and pinkish-white in colour, and the flesh is white.

They have a red, five pointed comb and a pinkish beak. They have red wattles and ear lobes.

By nature the Orpington is a calm, friendly breed. Some, particularly the buff ones, love attention. This makes them a good choice for a family with young children.

Their peaceful nature means that more aggressive breeds will pick on them, so it would be better to keep them separate from other breeds.

They are also a quiet breed.

Orpington chickens
Gold laced Orpingtons have beautiful colouring.

They are not very energetic, due to their large size. Because they are quite heavy feeders, they sometimes become over-weight.

They can be allowed to free range, but are also quite happy in a run, as long as they have enough space. This extends to their perches, where each needs 20-25cms space, in which to stretch its wings and fluff out its feathers.

Gauteng readers will be able to buy Orpingtons at Budgies2Bantams, 082 689 0287.

To read more in our series called Choose Your Chicken, click here.

Images: Wikimedia Commons

To read more about poultry click here.

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