Orpington Chicken All You Need To Know: Color Varieties and More…

Orpingtons are an English hen.

This breed became a superstar as soon as they were created and has remained a box office favorite ever since.

They are a delight to have and are very friendly with their keepers.

You can find them in some interesting color palettes including: blue, Diamond Jubilee, lemon cuckoo and chocolate.

However the Buff Orpington is the most popular variety.

In this article today we are going to explain everything you need to know about this lovely breed including: popular plumage patterns, egg laying and much more…

Buff Orpington Chicken

Orpington Chicken Overview

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Orpington Chickens

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Lavender Orpington

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Buff Orpington

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An Orpington Hen


The Orpington Chicken has come to be one of the true success stories of chicken breeds.

They were created back in the late 1800s by Mr William Cook who wanted to create a good dual purpose hen.

She is a gentle and peaceful hen.

They are a good choice if you have kids since they are large, fluffy and love attention.

Orpingtons also happen to be very good egg layers and can lay anywhere from 3-5 eggs each week.

If you are looking for a lovable, productive and very English hen, then this is your girl!

Just a word of caution, you can find both utilitarian and exhibition strains available for purchase.

The exhibition strains are bred by the purists who want to breed the perfect bird. Whereas the utilitarian’s focus first on egg laying and then appearance.

Orpington Chicken
Beginner Friendly: Yes.
Lifespan: 8+ years.
Weight: Hen (8lb) and Rooster (10lb).
Color: Lots! Most popular is buff.
Egg Production: 3-5 per week.
Egg Color: Light brown.
Known For Broodiness: Yes.
Good With Children: Yes.
Cost of Chicken: $5-$35 per chick.

Why We Love This Breed

  • They are big and fluffy and love being held.
  • She is a good layer of light brown eggs.
  • Orpington Chickens make great moms for their chicks.
  • Lots of color varieties to choose from.
  • Their feathers make them winter hardy.
  • They have a quiet and docile personality.

Appearance

Orpington Chicken

The Orpington is a large chicken with a single upright comb.

When viewed from the side her body is almost heart shaped and it has a curvy dip at the center. Her body is broad and heavy and she will carry herself low to the ground.

As for their feathers, they have a prolific amount! The most popular color is buff but there are many more recognized varieties (more on this later).

Regardless of their feather color they have red wattles and ear lobes with a short deep amber colored beak.

Their leg color will depend upon their feather color, but the most common leg color is a pinky white.

Size and Weight

Although Orpingtons look huge (like the Jersey Giant), most of their appearance is feathers.

You can expect the roosters to weigh around 10lb and the hens to weigh around 8lb.

Bantam varieties will weigh in around 3-3½lb.

Recognized Orpington Chicken Varieties

There are several color varieties of Orpington chickens.

Some of the more well known colors are recognized by the American Poultry Association. However some are still works in progress with more work needed to be done on breeding true to the form.

Buff: The Buff is actually the second variety of Orpington created but they are by far the most popular. Buff Orpingtons soon outpaced the Black Orpington for popularity and despite a period of dwindling popularity it has bounced back and has now found favor with many backyard poultry enthusiasts.

White: White Orpingtons were first made by Godfrey Shaw. At first they were known as Albions but the name was later changed to White Orpingtons. They are quite successful today and many folks raise them as utility chickens.

Black: The Black Orpington was the first variety of Orpington created. They were first unveiled in the early 1880s and were hugely successful.

Cuckoo: This color variation was created by Elizabeth Jane (William Cook’s daughter). Sadly however this breed did not become popular and the final embers of interest died away at the end of the first World War.

Blue: The blue Orpington first appeared in 1910. Although this color was not wildly successful early in its career, it is now very much sought after and can command a good price.

Spangled: Spangled Orpingtons first arrived in 1900 and even to this day they remain an extremely rare variety.

Red: The red variety was created by W. Holmes Hunt however it has never been overly popular.

Diamond Jubilee: The Diamond Jubilee plumage was created in honor of Queen Victoria’s fiftieth year on the throne of Great Britain. The patterning can almost be described as a mille fleur and they remains a popular variety in their homeland.

Partridge: As their name suggest this breed has a well-defined brown partridge pattern – they are not APA approved.

Chocolate: Who could resist a chocolate Orpington Chicken? They are a recent addition to the Orpington family and remain very rare.

Lavender: The Lavender Orpington is another rare bird in the family. They command a high price in the current markets as their demands is surpassing their supply.

Lemon Cuckoo: Lemon Cuckoo Orpingtons have only recently been introduced to the US in very limited quantities. Apparently there is still some work to be done on the barring so they are not very expensive at this point.

Gold Laced: The Gold Laced Orpington is rare here in the US however they have a much larger following in much of Europe.

Silver Laced: Silver Laced Orpingtons are beautiful to look at and are becoming very sought after. Hatching eggs from a reputable breeder will cost around $6-7 each.

Ermine: The Ermine is mentioned on the club site although I can find no references elsewhere to Ermine Orpingtons. This could perhaps be the Birchen Orpington that is black with silver highlighting.

What Is It Like To Keep An Orpington?

Buff Orpington

Orpington Chickens like to get out and about and free range for bugs, grass, seeds and other goodies.

However they are not great foragers and will prefer to spend their time sat around the feeder. Why work for it when feed is already available?

This breed can tolerate confinement very well as long as they have enough space.

If they do not have enough space it can lead to anti-social behaviors like feather pecking.

Personality

They are known to be very mellow chickens – she has a wonderfully placid nature.

Because they are so docile they can quickly becoming pets (especially for children).

Orpingtons are usually around the middle of the pecking order. This can lead to them being picked on by more assertive breeds.

They rarely throw a hissy fit unless you are trying to take eggs from one that is broody.

She is known for broodiness and makes a wonderful mother.

Overall this is not a high energy breed. They prefer a slower and steadier pace when taking a tour around the yard. They do like to forage to find extra goodies to snack on, but they also like to hover around the feeder.

Lavender Orpington

Egg Production

The egg production of your Orpington Chicken will depend on the color variety you get.

Buffs are well known as a very good egg layer – this is one of the reasons why they are so popular. While other varieties can be best described as fair to moderate layers only.

On average you can expect anywhere from 3-5 eggs each week (150-250 per year).

Egg Production
Eggs Per Week: 3-5 Eggs.
Color: Light Brown.
Size: Medium.

Noise Levels

This is a quiet bird so they are well suited for living in the city.

While they will occasionally have their usual outbursts (egg song and predator alerts), for the most part your neighbors will barely hear them.

Facts About This Breed

  1. This breed is named after the town of Orpington in Kent, England.
  2. Orpingtons were considered endangered until 2016.
  3. The first variety was black colored to hide the ever present coal smuts in the city air.
  4. They are very cold hardy chickens but do poorly in the heat.
  5. Australorps were bred using Orpingtons.

Orpington Chicken Care Guide

Golden Laced Orpingtons

Health Issues

The Orpington is a robust and healthy Chicken. Is it rare to find a sick one.

Their biggest problem is usually their weight.

If they are allowed to gain enough weight it can create egg laying problems such as prolapse and egg binding.

Apart from this the only concern is parasites such as worms, ticks and lice. You can treat them with either spot treatments or schedule regular treatment – it will depend on your management style. Spot treatment will require you to dust every 7 days or so until you break the parasite’s life cycle.

Worming should be done twice a year, or as you notice worms in their poop.

Feeding

Chicks should be fed a high quality feed of no less than 20% protein.

Whether or not you used medicated chick feed (for coccidiosis) is your decision. If your chicks have been vaccinated against coccidiosis then you will need to give them unmedicated feed.

It is worthwhile doing all you can to prevent an outbreak of coccidiosis since it is usually devastating to chicks.

Once your Orpingtons reach around 16 weeks old you can move them to a 16% layer feed. Just remember they have a tendency to get obese so you should monitor their weight carefully.

In addition to their feed you need to give them oyster shell and grit in separate bowls.

Clean fresh water should always be available for your birds too. You can read our complete guide to chicken waterers here.

Coop Setup and Run

An Orpington Hen

As Orpingtons are large fluffy hen they do like their space.

You should give each one at least 4 square feet of coop space however more is better.
If you have a mixed flock then give them each at least 6 square feet.

They tend to get picked on by the more assertive flock members such as Ayam Cemanis, so they need room to be able to escape from unwanted attention.

All breeds of chicken like to stretch their wings and shake out their feathers so make sure to give them 8-10 inches each of perch space. When winter comes they will snuggle up together for the warmth.

Now onto nesting boxes.

A standard sized nesting box of 12×12 inches will suit them fine.

Although they look rather large, Orpington Chickens are a mass of feathers and their body frame is not that big.

As for roaming space if they are completely confined they are going to need around 8-10 square feet each in the run. You do not have to worry about them flying over the neighbors’ fence as they are too heavy to get more than a few inches off the ground.

Make sure you give them things to occupy their time such as cabbage pinata, leaf piles, plenty of perches.

Also just remember they do like to free range so if you can allow them some supervised time out of the coop they will make the most of it.

Orpington Breed History

Orpington Chickens

This breed first came into existence in the last years of the 1800s.

Their creator (Mr William Cook) was a man of vision and practicality.

Mr Cook was not a poultryman born and bred and he came into the poultry world a little later than many.

He was by trade a coachman in Orpington town when he had his first success with his breed.

Cook was a practical fellow and wanted to make a chicken that laid well but that was also suitable for the table.

His first creation was the black Orpington.

This was a practical choice of color since much of England was covered with smog from coal burning factories. The black color was unveiled in 1886.

The black bird was almost an overnight sensation not only in the UK but in the US too.

From that point onwards the future of this breed was assured. The next variety introduced was the buff colored Orpington that was a huge success both then and now. Since then several more varieties have been added to the Orpington family giving them a much wider range of colors and patterns.

Back in the 1960s the buff was considered an endangered breed.

But thanks to hard work and a new crop of backyard chicken keepers they now enjoy widespread success again.

Summary

The Orpington Chicken is well suited to small farms and backyards.

They are a productive and attractive chicken that has proven their worth over time.

Families should consider this breed as the hens are docile enough to be carried around by children and even the roosters are considered to be mellow fellows.

Orpingtons are good foragers but prefer to stick around by the feeders!

Overall this is a fluffy and pleasant breed which just about everyone loves.

Let us know if you keep Orpingtons in the comments section below…

Chris Lesley Bio Picture
Chris Lesley has been Raising Chickens for over 20 years and is a fourth generation chicken keeper. She can remember being a young child when her grandad first taught her how to hold and care for chickens. She also holds a certificate in Animal Behavior and Welfare and is interested in backyard chicken health and care.

3 Comments

  1. I plan on getting 8 Orpington around the middle of February. I am looking forward to raising them. Thanks for showing me how to take care of them.

  2. Hi-
    This is a great article! Thanks. I am on my second flock of Buff Orpington. The first group of four lived a very long time (14 years for two of them). Now I have six who are almost nine months old. We are averaging 4 eggs/day.
    Thanks for this site-I’m happy to have found you ??

  3. We have several colors that we acquired last year. We have Isabella, lavender, chocolate, chocolate mottled, red cuckoo, lemon blue and of course, buff. We love each and every one of them. Each one has their own personalities. I have not regretted the money spent or the time traveled to get them. I highly recommend all colors. 😊

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