The Orpington

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Orpingtons - The characteristics of the breed

1. Orpingtons are large ornamental birds well suited to showing.
2. They are fluffy with long soft feathers and a variety of colours and types.
3. Orps are good natured and make great pets.Good around children.
4. The males of the species are quiet and well mannered.
5. They have a smallish head with a single medium comb.
6. Heavy broad body with a low stance, curvy shape and short U shaped back.
7. 170 to 200 light brown to cream eggs per year depending on the type.
8. Good cold resistance because of the smaller comb and insulating quality of the feathers.
9. Hens are renowned broodies and tend to make good mothers.


The Orpington originates from Great Britain in the late 1800’s. A period that ignited an interest in peculiar breeds of chickens. William Cook, a coachman who lived in Orpington, Kent developed the Orpington by crossbreeding a Minorca and a Black Plymouth Rocks and then crossing the offspring with clean-legged Langshans. William Cook set out to develop a breed of chicken that has a dual-purpose in eggs and table meat. It is important to remember the feathers had considerable value at that time as well.

Below: Some of my white Orpingtons.

The history of the Orpington:

The original Black Orpington was bred by William Cook in 1886 by crossing Minorcas, 
Langshans and Plymouth Rocks to create a new hybrid bird. Cook selected a black bird 
that would exhibit well by hiding the dirt and soot of London. When the breed 
was shown in Madison Square Gardens in 1895, its popularity soared.

Cook also bred the Orpington Duck.

It was bred for superior egg laying and while retaining meat quality. It is said that the original Orpington laid over 300 eggs a year but the selection of the ornamental over the utility has lead to the decline and loss of the brown egg.

Its large size and soft almost fluffy appearance together with its solid colour and gentle contours give it an attractive appearance. It is kept more often as a show bird these days rather than a utility fowl. 

Below: My Partridge Orpingtons.

Hens often become broody and are good mothers. Some of mine have raised two or three clutches in a year and can incubate a large clutch because of their size. Although quite heavy Orpingtons are able to fly small distances but rarely do so. I have never seen mine do anything more than fly to a perch. If the roosts are high they will need a staging post hlaf way up.

Orpingtons come in both the large fowl and bantam size.


Exhibition, ornamental, meat and eggs

Useful to Know: 

Docile and calm, a good choice to have around with children. They are also good in gardens where they need to be kept confined. Their reluctance to fly means they tens to stay put inside even small fences.

The Orpington is a very large fowl with soft feathering that masks its true size. The feathering allows the endurance of cold temperatures better than some other breeds. 

The Orpington is considered an active fowl and does better free-range rather than confined. Their personality is calm and gentle and their docile disposition can lead to bullying by more aggressive breeds so they may not find a home in a mixed flock. 

This fowl has a deep breast with a curved back, short legs with thighs covered by thick feathering. The Orpington has either a single or rose comb (depending on the standards of the country), red wattles and white earlobes. The hen does tend to go broody and is thought to be a good mother. The hen is a reliable sitter.


Cockerel:4.5 Kg minimum  Hen: 3.6 Kg minimum.
Bantam Cockerel: 2 Kg, Hen: 1.6 Kg.


I have listed all the colours that I know of. Some may not be standardised in some countries.

The original colours are black, white, buff, blue and splash. Although 
there are many additional varieties recognised throughout the world, only the original 
colours are recognised by the American Standard, the Buff being the most common colour.

Blue, Black, Buff, White, Birchen, Chocolate, Cuckoo, Gold Laced, Jubilee, Lavender, Lemon Cuckoo, Partridge, Red, Spangled.

The Bantam Orpington:

In the beginning of the twentieth century, Herman Kuhn of Germany developed a Bantam variety.

The Bantam retains the appearance of the full-size bird, but in a smaller size. There 
is a large variety of colours in the Bantam version, including black, blue laced, white, buff, red, buff black laced, barred, buff Columbian, and birchen. 

The Bantam retains the friendly personality of the Standard breed, and seldom or never flies.

Breed clubs:

In the UK club dedicated to the breed is the Orpington Club, which merged with the 
Orpington Bantam Club in mid 1970’s. The United Orpington Club is the American 
breeder's club, and the Orpington Club of Australia is the Australian club for the breed.

THE ORPINGTON CHICKEN BREED STANDARDS (or standards of perfection for Orpingtons) :

There are 4 standardised colours in the UK (Black, Buff, Blue and White) the Buff Orpington is one of the most popular varieties, the Blue and Black Orpington are the largest. They are heavy birds and carry a lot of fluffy feathering. The show strains have feathering that covers their legs, almost to their feet. There are still some utility Orpingtons around that look distinctively different (see photos of Buff Orpingtons for an example) but it is very hard to find strains that will lay more than about 160 eggs per year. These days, White Orpingtons are usually the best layers, some good strains laying up to 200 eggs per year. Orpington Hens usually go broody easily and make very good mothers.

The Carriage -  is Bold, upright and graceful and the birds are active fowl.

Type - Body deep, broad and cobby with the back nicely curved with a somewhat short, concaved outline.

Saddle - wide and slightly rising with full hackle.

Breast - Broad, deep and well rounded, not flat.

Wings - Small, nicely formed and carried closely to the body, the ends almost hidden by the saddle hackle.

Tail – Somewhat short, compact, flowing and high, but by not a squirrel tail.

Head - Small and neat, fairly full over the eyes.

Beak - strong and nicely curved.

Eyes - large and bold.

Comb - single, small, firmly set on head, evenly serrated and free from side sprigs. narrowing behind to a distinct peak lying well down to the head and not sticking up.

In the black variety, comb may be single or rose, the latter small, straight and firm, full of fine work or small spikes, level on top with no hollows in centre.

Face - Smooth with wattles of medium length, rather oblong and nicely rounded at the bottom.

Ear-lobes - small and elongated.

Neck - Medium length, curved, compact with a full hackle.

Legs and feet - Legs short and strong, the thighs almost hidden by the body feathers, well set apart.

Toes - Four, straight and well spread. Toe nails are white.

Plumage - Fairly profuse but close, not soft, loose and fluffy as in the Cochin or close and hard as in the Game Fowl.

Skin - White

Handling – Firm. Despite their size they should have a solid well muscled feel generally.

Female - The general characteristics are similar to those of the male. Her cushion should be wide but almost flat, and slightly rising to the tail, sufficient to give back a graceful appearance with an outline approaching concave.

Weights - The standards differ slightly depending on which breed club has set the standards. The weights of the bird in the different standards are a prime example of the differences.

This shows up in the country standards below. Some give an ideal weight and some a range.

APA Standards:
Cock: 10 lbs; Hen: 8 lbs; Cockerel: 8 ½ lbs; Pullet: 7 lbs.

Australian Standards:
Cock: 4.55-6.35 kg; Hen: 3.40-4.80 kg; Cockerel:  1.41 kg-1.58kg; Pullet: 1.19kg-1.36kg

PCGB Standards:
Male: 4.5 kg;  Female: 3.6 kg

Poultry Club of South Africa
Cock: 5.5 kg; Hen: 4.0 kg; Cockerel: 4.5 kg; Pullet:3.5 kg

Orpingtons are big, friendly dual-purpose birds originally developed in the UK, and for many small operations Orpingtons are the only way to go.

They're friendly and cold-hardy due to their fluffy plumage. The Buff Orpington is the most popular and all varieties, especially the black and blue, are rare. The blue suffers from the usual wastage of the colour.

Breeding Hints:

1. Some exhibition males require their feathers trimming in order to allow successful mating. 

2. Fertility may suffer if the males have more than 4 hens to cover.

3. They need slightly larger and more airy nest boxes