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The Buff Orpington chicken is one of the best chickens you can raise. Whether you are experienced or just starting out, these gentle giants make wonderful additions to any flock.
Buff Orpingtons come from a long line of Orpington chickens. They are dual purpose chickens, meaning they are both great layers and large enough to be meat birds. It is not uncommon for the roosters to grow to 10 pounds! This breed is docile; making them perfect for children who are interested in chickens.
Everything About The Buff Orpington
History and Origin
The Buff Orpington is just one color of the Orpington line of chickens. The Black Orpington first appeared in South East England by William Cook of Orpington, Kent in 1886. He was intending to create a dual purpose chicken that would also hide the soot that plagued London at the time.
Cook made this new breed by crossing Langshans, Minorcas, and Plymouth Rock chickens. Not too long after this, more colors came along. The original colors of the Orpington were:
What Do They Look Like?
Orpingtons are quite noticeably large. Their bodies are bulky and stocky already and their thick plumage makes them appear even bigger. Lets dig a little deeper into the specifics of their appearance.
The Buff Orpington is a stunning bird. Both hens and roosters are almost completely a yellowy tan color, hence the name "Buff". You will also find a bit of white along their chest and under side. The roosters hackle, saddle, and tail feathers may also have a small amount of darker brown to gold coloring.
Feathering, Comb, & Wattles
As we mentioned, Buff Orpingtons have a feather color of Buff with a bit of white. Their feathers are also quite fluffy. The fluff comes from a softer under coat of feathering. It is this coat that makes them so cold hardy.
While the hens feathering is pretty tight and uniform across the body, the roosters have a bit more variety. Their hackle, saddle, and tail feathers are much longer and have a cascading look to them. Their plumage is meant to be visually appealing so they can more easily attract a hen for mating.
The hens feature a medium sized single comb and matching, short, red wattles. Roosters still have a single comb but theirs is much larger with 5 spiked ridges. They also have longer, dangling red wattles. The combs and wattles of these birds look very similar to the Rhode Island Red.
Orpingtons are a fairly large breed of fowl. The hens on their own are pretty big, usually weighing between 6 and 8 pounds. While the roosters can get to a massive 8 to 10 pounds!
They often look even bigger due to how fluffy their feathers can be. A full grown rooster weighing 10 pounds can easily look like he weighs 12 to 15 pounds because of his feathering.
There are some Bantam Orpington breeds, as well. Generally speaking, a Bantam breed is going to weigh about ⅓ of the full sized breed. So a bantam hen will weigh between 2 and 3 pounds with a Bantam rooster weighing around 2.5 and 4 pounds.
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According to The Orpington Club in the UK, the breed standard is:
The rooster should have a "broad and cobby" body with a curved back and rounded breast. Their saddle should have a bit of a rise to it with a "full hackle". Their wings should be small and held close to the body. Finally, the tail is shorter but still has a flow to it.
The rooster should have a small head with a firm, curved beak, large eyes, and a single ridged comb. Their wattles should be rounded and of "medium length". The ear lobes should be "small and elongated".
The hen should possess many of the same physical characteristics of the rooster. Their features will be a bit more subtle and more "graceful" than those of the rooster.
What Are They Like?
We like to break this down into two sections; temperament (what they do) and personality (why they do it).
These chickens are great to keep around if you live in a colder climate. They are extremely cold hardy because of their feathering. As long as they have a warm and dry place to take shelter, they will do great.
The heat is a different story. Their feathers tend to make them overheat really easily in hotter climates. If you live in an area with extreme heat, they may not be a good match for you. They can do well in more mild climates so long as they have regular access to water and shade.
Orpingtons enjoy to free-range and forage. A good portion of their daily nutritional needs can come just from foraging.
If you notice a decrease in their laying, it may be because they have gone broody. One of the biggest culprits for a broody chicken is when we leave eggs in the nest too long. Its best to pull them twice a day, if you can. When eggs collect in the nest, the hen's maternal instincts start to kick in and they go into brood mode.
Buff Orpingtons have the best personalities. If you want a loving and friendly chicken that doesn't mind being cuddled, you have found the right breed. They will not let you pick them up, they will sometimes come running to you when they see you.
This characteristic is part of what makes them great with kids. They are very docile and patient. Meaning they will tolerate a lot of the playing that other breeds would find annoying. You will definitely notice a decrease in pecking with these guys.
However, since they are so easy-going, they tend to be pretty low in the pecking order. More aggressive breeds will push them out of food and water supplies and just generally bully them. These chickens tend to do best with more gentle breeds.
What Is Their Purpose?
Orpingtons are recognized as a dual purpose breed. That simply means that they are both suitable for egg production and in use as meat birds. However, in recent years, they have also begun to be used as show birds.
Up until very recently, they were considered endangered and on the American Breed Livestock Conservancy list. However, due to a combination of their size, egg productivity, and show ring appeal, many backyard breeders were able to bring them back to a healthy population number.
Not just the Buff Orpington, but Orpingtons in general are now becoming part of the chicken show world. Their size and variety of colors makes them a fun and beautiful addition to show breeding. They join other breeds like the Polish, Ayam Cemanis, and Silkies as ornamental breeds.
Buff Orpingtons are fantastic layers; laying large brown eggs. The breed was intended for high production and it really shows. A single hen can sometimes produce more than 5 eggs a week; that's 200 to 280 a year!! They are well suited to meet the needs of a full sized family.
They join the ranks of great laying chickens alongside the The Buckeye Chicken, Sussex, or the Deathlayer.
Both the hens and roosters make great meat birds. The roosters average between 8 and 10 pounds full grown while the hens are a pretty big 6 to 8 pounds. This breed can more than cover your protein needs.
Last, but not least, these chickens make great pets. They are very gentle and peaceful birds. If you just want a few chickens in the backyard or you have young children that want to get into chickens, these guys make great companions.
They also do well with other breeds of chickens. If you want to add them into an existing flock it is a fairly easy process.
What Care Do They Need?
You will definitely want to make sure you have all your bases covered in the care department. Making sure that your chickens have the right diet and a safe shelter will ensure a happy and healthy flock.
These chickens are pretty decent foragers. They love to silently peck around the barnyard or backyard in which they live. However, due to their laid back nature, they do tend to get picked on and pushed away from the chicken feeder .
Because of that, they will sometimes stay close to the feeder and skip free ranging altogether. This can lead to a boost in your feed bill but also some health concerns over obesity.
It is best to feed these guys on a schedule with a high quality layer feed. If you have a designated feeding area, make sure to spread the feed out enough that they can get their fair share.
Other than foraging and feed, they just need access to a reliable, clean, and unfrozen waterer.
Orpingtons do really well in captivity. They seem to have a "go with the flow" mentality toward life. If you were to keep a small flock of Buff Orpingtons in a contained coop and run, or a chicken tractor, they would be perfectly happy.
The most important factors when setting up your chickens shelter are warmth, cleanliness, ventilation, and security.
Depending on where you live, the winter can get pretty cold. Orpingtons fair pretty well, even in extremely low temperatures because of their feathering. However, it is good to make sure all of your chickens, assuming you have a variety of breeds, will stay warm in the winter.
Chickens poop...A LOT! All of the chicken manure will build up over time if not kept clean. It is okay to let some manure build up a bit, it can actually keep the coop warmer when it composts. However, too much can become a major health hazard.
One of those hazards can be mitigated by having good ventilation. That just means the coop will have a way for air to circulate in and out of the coop.
No matter how large your chickens can get, they are still pretty low on the food chain. Even the biggest chicken is no match for a hungry raccoon or fox. A good shelter is one that is completely secure so that when the chickens are roosting at night, they can do so safely and without predator interference.
While researching this breed we came across a couple of reoccurring questions. Here are some of the more common ones we found.
Q1. Are Buff Orpingtons good layers?/ What color eggs does a Buff Orpington lay?/ How many eggs do Buff Orpingtons lay?
Buff Orpingtons are fantastic layers. You can expect to get 3 to 5 large brown eggs per week. That's between 156 and 260 eggs a year! And that's just from one hen. A flock can easily handle the needs of a family.
Q2. Are Buff Orpingtons cold hardy?
Buff Orpingtons do very well in the cold. Their size and dual feather coat keep them insulated and warm even in the coldest climates. On the other hand, they do not fair well in hot climates. That is likely due to the same reasons; their feathers and size keep them too warm.
Q3. How can you tell if a Buff Orpington is male or female?
You can tell the difference between a Buff Orpington rooster and hen in the same way you can tell most hens and roosters apart. Roosters are typically much larger than hens. Additionally, they will have larger and bright combs and wattles. Roosters tend to have bright and flashy colored hackle, saddle, and tailfeathers. Finally, roosters typically have large spurs on their feet.
Hens are usually much smaller than roosters. They will typically be the same primary color as the rooster of the same breed just without the flashier hackle, saddle, and tail feathers. Additionally, if you see them either laying or sitting on top of an egg, it's probably a hen. You can get more details on hens here.
Q4. How old are Buff Orpingtons when they start laying?
You can expect to start getting eggs from your Buff Orpingtons around 6 months of age. They are generally past the juvenile stage of growing and full adults. This can vary a month or two in either direction but 6 months is the average time they will start to lay. If you're feeling impatient, you can look for some clues to when your hen will start laying.
Q5. Are Buff Orpingtons loud?
This is one of the more clam and docile breeds you will find. They keep to themselves, for the most part, and do not make too much noise other than the occasional rooster crow.
Q6. What is the life expectancy of a Buff Orpington?
Buff Orpingtons will generally live up to 8 years of age. This is assuming they live a relatively well kept life with plenty of food, water, shelter, and protection from predators.
Q7. How much does a Buff Orpington cost?
Buff Orpingtons are a pretty common breed of chicken. Therefore, they are not too terribly pricey. You can generally find chicks in the $3 to $5 range. Hatching eggs are even cheaper if you want to incubate your own chicks. We have had a lot of success with the large cabinet in this post about incubators.
Q8. How high can Buff Orpingtons fly?
Chickens, in general, are not really great flyers and Buff Orpingtons are no exception. Chickens are capable of short bursts of flight usually only a few feet above the ground. Buff Orpingtons, due to their size, are only capable of flying a couple feet high and not very long distances.
However, keep in mind that a motivated chicken can fly higher if they need to. For example, if they see something they want to eat on the other side of your fence, they can easily fly over a 4 to 6 foot fence to get to it.
Q9. Do Buff Orpingtons go broody?
Buff Orpington Hens tend to go broody pretty often. You can help to keep their broodiness at bay by keeping their nesting box free of eggs as often as possible. Alternatively, if you want to try hatching eggs without an incubator, you can always try hatching with a broody hen instead.
Q10. Are Buff Orpington Roosters aggressive?
Buff Orpingtons are some of the more patient and calm chickens you will find. Their sweet and docile nature makes them a perfect breed for kids and beginners. All roosters can be territorial and aggressive. However, these roosters are some of the least likely to be overtly aggressive.
Q11. Do Buff Orpingtons lay in the winter?
Like most chicken breeds, Buff Orpingtons will show a slight decrease in laying during the winter months. This is more due to the shorter days and lack of sunlight than with the temperature.
The Buff Orpington is an all around great bird. They are gentle with you and the rest of your flock. Their egg production is right up there with some of the most productive chickens out there. Not to mention, they are gorgeous.
If you want an all around great chicken to add to your flock, this is a great breed to go with!
If you need more help with taking care of your chickens, check out The Organized Chicken Keeper for a complete system for managing their health through keeping their supplies stocked and coop clean.