Pros: gentle, sweet, cold hardy, good layers
2 Buff Orp Hens got out sometime at the tail end of a big storm - foot of snow w/ up to 2 foot drifts. Glanced out the window and saw one pushing a path through the snow -- wind still high, temps abt 10 degrees, flurries. Ran out and got her, returned her to the pen - counted, and yep, another one missing. Tried to search but - nothing but a clear field of snow. Followed her tracks and they 'ended' half way between where I found her and the pen---- a hollow and wing marks--- looked like she was tired, bedded down, and while she rested her tracks obliterated and she was covered with snow, flapped to get free. Kept a patrol and an eye out, but no sign of the other hen all day. Next morning at dawn saw a golden blob on top of the corrogated plastic roof - 5 degrees, that roof was COLD. Ran out and sure enough, it was the missing hen, her feathers crackly with frost. In my other hand I had their hot oatmeal, and she gobbled it down as I carried her back around to the door and put her inside under the 3-sided straw bale shelter they use. Two weeks later and both are fine, they never missed a beat. I was looking for hardy hens, and it looks like they are! Hope they stay put, though, and don't try that stunt again. Clipped their wings, and they're staying inside now...
Update: 2/3/12 Hens are 6 month old today, and to commemorate it one of the Buff Orpingtons laid a 2.95 oz egg! At six months! Ouch! If a Large is 2.25 oz, a Jumbo is 2.5 oz, what do we call a 2.95 oz egg? That's almost two sizes bigger!
update: 5/27/12 The 2 biggest orp hens went broody together on a nesting shelf. In the beginning I limited them to a couple of eggs - then I got busy, and - there were 30 eggs of all ages in the nest, 3 orps and a wyandotte setting them. Wondered what would happen when they started the prolonged hatch....3 hatched, I snatched them and put them with same-age Java babies in a brooder. Then another 5, and the 2 Big Orps decided to mama them - they left the nest to the remaining 3 hens (now an orp and 2 wyandottes), who continue to sit the eggs. Together they tend the babies. They're adorable, very careful and loving, a bit skittish w/ me but not the least aggressive. (I saw one of the nesting wyandottes struck out viciously at one of the babies - this may be what drove the Mama Orps to vacate.) Once again - the orps win over the wyandottes - I really love these girls! When the wyandottes go I won't replace them, but the orps are high on my list to have forever. Might be nice to have some Isa Brown layers plus 2-3 Orps for brooding eggs when I need help.