Orpington chickens are, in my opinion, some of the best backyard chickens. Like Rhode Island Reds, these chickens are a dual purpose breed and can regularly produce great eggs! There are several full sized and bantam varieties but one of the most common is the Buff Orpington, a golden yellow full sized chicken. Other varieties include black, white and the fairly rare blue Orpington.
This breed was first developed by an Englishman named William Cook in 1866. Cook crossed Minorca, Lanshan, and Plymouth Rock breeds to get a full-sized Black Orpington but it wasn’t long until other varieties and bantam Orpingtons came to be. The breed’s name comes from Cook’s town, Orpington in Kent County in England and they were widely popularly from the beginning!
The Black Orpingtons were the first variety and bred to hide in the dirt and soot that was common in urban areas, which combined with their size and egg production, made them popular within cities. Buff Orpingtons also have ancestry in breeds like Hamburgs, Dorkings, and Buff Cochins.
FUN FACT: Buff Orpingtons were apparently the favorite breed of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother! She supposedly kept Orpingtons and some of her flock won awards for their beauty and grace. Additionally, the Diamond Jubilee Orpington was developed to honor Queen Victoria’s 50 years on the throne in 1897.
As far as their temperament, Orpingtons are hardy, friendly, and docile. Buffs are especially friendly! They’re usually calm, stately, and can glide across the coop or yard. However, if treats are involved, they will run like crazy! Plus, this breed responds well to attention and are fairly quiet, making them great additions to an urban backyard flock.
If you’re looking for a 4H chicken or just one for your flock, Orpingtons are a great choice, especially the buffs. In addition to being friendly, they’re also a hardy breed and can keep warm in cold winters. They do have dense feathers, which are great in the winter but can cause issues during warm weather. However, access to shade, ventilation, and water during the hottest parts of the year will immensely help these birds!
They’re a large dual-purpose breed and can be 7-8 pounds when fully grown. If you’re raising them for eggs, they’ll usually start laying when they’re 4-6 months old and will lay 200-280 large brown eggs each year. If you’re raising them for meat, they’ll be ready for the table when they’re 5-6 months old.
Ultimately, Orpingtons, especially Buff Orpingtons, are great chickens. They’re friendly, quiet demeanor will make them a great addition to any backyard flock, especially if you’re in an urban area.