Pros: healthy, great layers, friendly
We have had Buff Orpingtons for years and have decided that our main flock will eventually be all Buff Orpingtons. They are honestly the best breed we have ever had. Currently we have Buff Orpingtons, Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, Black Australorps, and a few mixes. Out of all of them (and the other breeds we've had, including Leghorns, Welsummers and EEs), the Buff Orpingtons are the best overall. Here's why.
- Good layers. They lay a good number of large brown eggs and their laying production keeps up long past the age most others slow down. Our Buff ladies are the oldest hens in the flock right now by several years and yet are still among the most productive layers. Some breeds, like Leghorns, may lay more but in my experience it's balanced out by other things. Also, the Buff Orpingtons do go broody occasionally, but it's not a constant thing like it is with my Australorps. And they're not mean about letting you get the eggs.
- Good health. Buff Orpingtons have always been the healthiest birds in our flock. They finish their molt cycle the fastest (and always look lovely), they are the least likely to get sick, they're the only breed I've never had serious health problems in individuals of that breed. They are tolerant of all kinds of weather (here in AZ, they tolerate heat well, maybe the best of all our birds). They age well. (This is one of the things I meant earlier by "balance" -all the Leghorns I've ever had have died relatively young from health problems, probably increased by the stress of all that laying.) Out of all our birds, the Orpingtons are the only ones that NEVER look scraggly, pale, have weird bald patches when they molt, etc.
- Very friendly. The Buffies are our friendliest chickens, both individually and when looking at different breeds. They are the ones I grab when someone visits and their kid wants to hold a chicken. They are super sweet, fluffy and cuddly and have loads of personality, which not all breeds do (personally, Rhode Island Reds seem to have the least personality of all the breeds I've had.)
- Not flighty. Buff Orpingtons are, now that I think about it, the only breed that has never wandered out of our yard. Some of them, like RIRs and Barred Rocks, are less pushy about it and will only leave when the gate's left open, but the Buffies, not even that. Certainly not the flying I have to deal with with the Leghorns and mixed breeds. The only breed I've never had to trim wings on is the Buff Orpington.
All this is just my experience, of course, but come on: excellent layers, great health, super friendly, and not flighty. Could you ask for a better bird? I've never raised them for meat, but I'd imagine you could also use them for that once they were done laying. Wonderful birds, an excellent addition to any flock. Highly recommended.
P.S. Another bonus of Buff Orpingtons we have noticed -they get fluffier as they get older! :)
Below: Summer, our oldest Buff Orpington (our oldest hen, in fact). She is still regularly found in the nesting box laying. Has never had so much as a mite, and is great for kids to hold. She is a wonderful "chicken ambassador."