The big, blonde, and beautiful egg layer with its friendly nature make the Orpington the perfect pet chicken for your coop.
The Buff Orpington is also one of the most popular color varieties in the breed because who wouldn’t want such a gorgeous gold specimen in their flock?
Surprisingly, they were listed as threatened by the livestock conservancy up until 2016 but efforts from dedicated chicken breeders have contributed to the Orpingtons’ resurgence and they are no longer considered endangered.
In this article, we explore the Orpington personality, accepted color varieties, egg laying, and why they’d make a good choice for your chicken coop.
Some of the breeds that were used to create an attractive production chicken included Barred Rocks/Plymouth Rocks, the Langshan, and the Minorca.
The Black Orpington was the first type to be produced in 1886 and was immensely successful among regular poultry keepers and farmers.
The black feather color was great at hiding the soot in urban areas during this period.
Following the Black Orpington was the Buff Orpington and in no time the golden chicken became a favorite breed in the UK.
By the 1890s, the Buff Orpington chicken made its way to the US and captured the attention of breeders and farmers alike.
In 1910 around 478 Orpingtons of English origin were successfully shown at a poultry exhibition in New York despite the lack of demand for a white skinned breed at the time.
FACTThe Buff Orpingtons received acceptance into the American Standard of Perfection in 1914.
Orpingtons reached such phenomenal popularity during the early 1900s that it led to the entire family of William Cook developing Orpington ranches in New Jersey in the US and Durban in South Africa.
The South African branch started with 800 birds and soon Orpingtons were exported and sold across Africa, the US, UK, and Australia.
Now that we’ve discussed the origins of Orpingtons, we need to know how the beautiful buff color came about. To produce the Goldilocks of chickens, William Cook used completely different breeding stock to the black variety which included Gold Spangled Hamburgs, Buff Cochins, and Dorkings.
NOTESome speculated that Cook used the Lincolnshire Buff to breed the gold Orpington, but he denied this and stood by his choice to use different breeds to create the buff color.
Using various chicken breeds to create a new color for one type of chicken was not generally practiced, but the Buff Orpington was such a beautiful egg and meat bird that it received recognition as a heritage chicken in England in the 1900s.
Even Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, fell in love with the golden color of these large birds and her own flock of Buff Orpingtons won multiple awards for their appearance.
FUN FACTThe Diamond Jubilee Orpington was developed in 1897 to honor Queen Victoria’s 50 year reign.
There is no doubt that Buff Orpington chickens have a rich history that led to their popularity as today’s preferred backyard chickens. To help you pick a quality bred Orpington, we explore their breed standard in the following chapter.
The Buff Orpington must have a broad and heavy body with a slightly curved back.
They have clean feet that are pinkish white in color compared to their solid white skin and flesh.
The combs, wattles, and earlobes are red while their eyes are a reddish bay.
The Buff variety has smooth feathers that sit close to its broad body and a single comb with five points.
Interestingly, a rose comb variety exists but is only accepted in England and not in the US because it lacks popularity and is not a part of the original single combed specimens.
FUN FACTSingle comb Buff Orpingtons were first shown in 1899 at the Madison Square Gardens exhibition in New York.
These chickens should have dense feathers to insulate them against the cold. The Buff Orpington rooster has a slightly deeper gold tinge in the feathers compared to the females. For hens and roosters, the fluffy plumage across the abdomen is usually lighter than the color across the wings, head, and neck.
You can find this dual purpose bird in both the large and bantam varieties. The large Buff roosters weigh 10 lbs and the hens 8 lbs. Bantam roosters weigh 38 oz compared to the bantam hens of 34 oz.
The American Poultry Association has accepted four color varieties including the Orpington buff variety in 1902, the Black Orpington in 1905, the white Orpington in 1905, and the blue color in 1923.
They should have fluffy feathers, pale legs and shanks, and a round body shape. The buff variety should have no other colors such as gray or brown in the feathers but can be lighter in color across the abdomen.
How to Tell a Buff Orpington Hen from a Rooster
The hens have small combs compared to the very prominent combs in roosters. The wattles of the hens are very small while the roosters have large hanging wattles.
You will notice that males are much taller and broader than females with long flowering saddle and hackle feathers.
Hens do not develop saddle and hackle feathers that consist of the long and thin plumage across the back and neck of male Orpingtons.
What Do Buff Orpington Chicks Look Like?
The Buff Orpington chick should be fluffy and solid buff or gold in color. They may have some light down on the wings, chest, and abdomen but should be free of any dark brown, black, or gray patches.
How to Sex Buff Orpington Chicks?
Some use feather sexing at 3 days old in which females feather faster than the males but this is not a guaranteed way of telling the difference between young hens and roosters.
The best way to tell the difference between pullets and cockerels is to wait for changes in the color and size of the combs and wattles.
By 6-10 weeks the males develop a pink tinge in the comb and wattles (these will also be larger compared to the pullets) while females maintain yellow combs.
Roosters will develop long, thin, and pointy saddle and hackle feathers by 16-20 weeks of age which are absent in hens.
When Do Buff Orpington Chickens Start Laying Eggs?
Most hens will start laying at 6 months but this can differ depending on the individual bird and their diet.
NOTEBuff Orpington hens need a minimum of 16% protein in their diet along with a calcium supplement to lay strong eggshells.
Calcium can be provided as free choice in the form of a calcium-grit or oyster shell.
How Many Eggs Does a Buff Orpington Lay?
These great layers certainly won’t disappoint if you want daily eggs. One buff hen can lay between 3-5 eggs per week, that’s around 200-280 eggs per year. It’s not unheard of for some to lay up to 300 eggs every year.
At 4 years of age, my Buff Orpington continues to produce a beautiful light brown egg every second day but don’t be alarmed if your hen’s egg production slows down by 3 years and then stops at 6 years.
By age 3, she naturally starts reducing the number of eggs produced.
What Color are Buff Orpington Eggs?
The Buff Orpington lays a medium-sized and brown egg including beige, light brown, and medium brown shades.
Are Buff Orpingtons Broody?
If you are interested in hatching eggs then the Orpington is a superb choice! She goes broody at least once a year and is very protective of her chicks.
The roosters are just as protective and can be quite fierce when defending the hens and chicks.
Do Buff Orpingtons Make Good Meat Birds?
The Orpington chicken is one of the best birds for meat production because they are heavy chickens and tend to add weight relatively quickly.
These chickens are hardy and can thrive in most types of climates which adds to their favorability as table fare.
The only downside to raising Orpingtons for meat is that they take quite a long time to mature.
Buff Orpingtons can only be harvested at 22 weeks compared to broilers of 8-12 weeks that are specifically bred for meat. Harvest them faster with the help of a chicken plucker.
Watching an Orpington run across the yard to the sound of their name or crinkling of a treat bag is the funniest! Their fluffy bottoms and waddle-like movements create a comical sight sure to have you in stitches.
You can house them with many other breeds but they do tend to establish themselves high up in the pecking order. One heavy peck from an Orpington will quickly tell the other chickens who’s boss.
They do well with birds of the same breed or in a mixed flock provided that they aren’t challenged by other chicken breeds in the chicken coop.
They shouldn’t be paired with aggressive breeds including Cornish, Game, and Faverolles chickens that will contend for top hen. It could lead to pecking, feather pulling, and serious injuries.
Orpingtons will do very well in cold weather owing to their dense soft feathers that insulate them against harsh winters but should never get soaked to the bone by rain as this causes them to chill very quickly.
They can manage hot summers with some help from their keepers and this includes creating a cool coop with a fair amount of shade and access to freshwater.
Are Buff Orpingtons Quiet?
This fluffy chicken breed is generally quiet as they go about their business they free range in the yard or focus on their feed because Buff Orpingtons love to eat!
They do like to free range and hens can become a little bit talkative and noisy if kept confined to the chicken coop for too long.
In good weather, let them out for a few hours each day to prevent boredom and to encourage exercise. You can also entertain them with toys if the weather is not favorable.
These golden beauties can tolerate confinement, but not too much.
What Do Buff Orpington Chickens Eat?
Buff Orpingtons will free range and forage but mostly rely on their keepers for food. They will eat virtually any type of feed including crumbles and pellets that should contain at least 16% protein, particularly for laying hens.
Check out this video on some real world experience on what it’s like to feed and care for them.
Orpingtons will also eat lots of treats and table scraps that can lead to obesity, so it is up to you to limit their treats and to only give them what they need.
They do well on a nutritious poultry diet consisting of grains and fresh leafy greens that you can provide at least twice a week.
When raising chickens, you should always protect them against lice and mites.
These external parasites can cause damage to the skin, feathers, and the general health of chickens. Buff Orpingtons are susceptible to pest infestations because they are so densely feathered.
NOTEIf you notice mites or lice, apply a poultry dust every 4 weeks.
This should help to kill the live bugs and the hatched eggs across their life cycle.
The Buff Orpington chicken is a heavy bird and should be provided a roost that is low to the ground.
Continuously jumping off high perches in the chicken coop can lead to leg and foot injuries such as bumblefoot.
Bumblefoot is caused by an infection when the bird sustains an injury to the underside of the foot.
How Long Do Buff Orpington Chickens Live?
Buff Orpingtons have a life expectancy of around 8 years.
Is the Buff Orpington the Ideal Breed for You?
Orpingtons are among the docile breeds of the chicken world and have loving, friendly, and confident personalities.
They are also alert, especially the roosters, but their heaviness prevents them from evading large predators.
They aren’t good flyers because of their size and short wings, so a 4.5 ft fence will keep them secure.
As an old English chicken breed, the Buff Orpington hen was developed as a dual purpose chicken which is the reason for her large size.
Hens can lay 3- 5 eggs a week making them a stellar choice for those in search of a gentle, beautiful, and prolific egg layer.
The Buff Orpington chicken enjoys to free range, which is a natural form of exercise to keep their weight in check.
You can also prevent obesity by controlling their treats and feeding a nutritious grain, crumble, pellet, or mash diet.
They are excellent egg layers and loveable chickens, making them a great chicken breed for the backyard chicken coop.
If you know someone who is interested in the beautiful Buff Orpington breed, be sure to share our guide with them to help them choose the right chicken for their flock.