I just wanted to to tell you great things about the Buff Orpington and why you should get them.
The History of Orpingtons
In the late 1880s ‘chicken fever’ in England was dying down.
People had turned from the novelty of breeding and keeping all sorts of exotic and strange birds for fun and curiosity, to breeding a more practical and useful bird.
One such person was William Cook a coachman living in the town of Orpington in the county of Kent, England.
He didn’t start his interest in chickens until later in his life, but he was fascinated by the possibility of breeding a better fowl for both the table and egg production.
He began by selecting birds that were good layers and of suitable table size. The three breeds he originally used were Minorca, Langshan and Plymouth Rocks.
In 1886 he ‘unveiled’ the Black Orpington breed – which became an almost overnight success in England thanks to great publicity. It was bred to be black to hide the dirt and soot that was prevalent in cities at that time.
The next color to be revealed was the Buff which remains to date the most favorite color of Orpington chickens. Also following along there was the White and Blue and Splash colors of bird.
When Mr Cook revealed his birds to the general public he received rave reviews in the UK. It rapidly became the most popular breed in the land and within ten years was being exported to other countries, including the US. There was even an Orpington ranch in South Africa!
When Cook himself went to the US to sell his lines of birds he met great success. Apparently he was a great salesman and very quickly got farmers and poultry folks interested in his dual purpose breed.
Buff Orpington: The Creation
Now, if you can cast your mind back to the beginning of this article, you will remember that the original black Orpington was created from the Langshan, barred Rock and Minorca.
None of those breeds have anything remotely buff about them So Mr Cook used gold spangled Hamburgs, Dorkings and buff Cochins to create the Buff Orpington. There is also speculation that an old breed known as the Lincolnshire buff was used, although this was refuted by Cook.
At the time this was extremely controversial and to this day is unusual to use several different breeds to create different color birds of the same name! If you think of the ‘Orpington’ as a brand rather than a breed, it makes more sense.
The buff was created to fulfill a need for a buff colored chicken at the time. It is a heritage chicken that has since become a favorite to many people.
They were the favourite breed of Queen Elizabeth the Queen mother and her flock won several awards for their beauty and grace.
Orpington Breed Standard and Appearance
Until 2016 the Orpington breed was considered endangered.
Thanks to many backyard chicken keepers the breed has now been removed from the American breed list. Renewed interest in this favorite has seen the numbers of Orpingtons – particularly buffs rise steadily.
The appearance of the bird should be a heavy, broad body with a low stance, fluffed out feathers and a curvy, short back.
The bird should be well feathered with broad, smooth feathers. Feet and shanks should be clean and pinkish white in color and the flesh is white. The beak also is a pinkish white. Eyes are reddish bay color; wattles, comb and earlobes should be red.
The single comb should have five points – there is also a rose comb variety.
Orpingtons come in two sizes – large fowl and bantams.
Large fowl should be around ten pounds for the male and eight pounds for the female. Bantams weigh in at 38 oz. male and 34 oz. female. In all other respects the bantam should reflect the large fowl. The bantam Orpington is one of the largest bantams available – if you can find them!
The American Poultry Association admitted the Orpington colors to its standard as follows:
UK standards are subtly different and state that the body should be deep and broad, curvy with a shortish tail. The plumage should be ‘close’ – not ‘fluffy’ like a Cochin or ‘tight’ like a Game Fowl.
- Buff color – 1902
- Black color – 1905
- White color – 1905
- Blue color – 1923
Disposition and Egg Laying
All Orpingtons are said to be docile and friendly, but this is especially true of the buff.
They are very calm and stately – they sort of glide across the barnyard – unless they are running for treats, in which case they hike up their ‘skirts’ and run like crazy!
They love to be cuddled and will often seek you out to let you know they need attention.
Their fabulous feathering makes them very cold hardy although if their feathers get sodden they can chill and die quickly. They tolerate warmer climates but need to have access to shade during the heat of the day.
They make great broodies & good mother’s they will usually accept hatching eggs being placed under them. The buff roosters are said to be fiercely protective of their offspring and will even take a spell on the nest to give mom a break!
They are a top choice for many families because the buff is superb with children, tolerating all sorts of things that kids do.
However, do keep a watchful eye since they have a strong beak that can deliver a mighty peck if needed.
Being so laid back and friendly makes them a great project bird for the 4H clubs since they tolerate handling and confinement so well. These same qualities make for a great show bird also as they are not upset by frequent handling, strange environments and unusual noises.
They tolerate confinement very well and although they will free range they rarely forage relying mainly on the feeders.
They are reliable layers of large brown eggs around 200–280 per year. If you are raising them as a meat bird, they are table ready at around 22 weeks. They are often considered the perfect dual purpose chicken.
Is the Buff Orpington Right For You?
If you are looking for a big fluffy chicken that lays well, has a sweet disposition and tolerates small children, this may be your choice!
Their calm, docile and friendly nature lends them to a family oriented flock. They interact well with people and I don’t believe they have a mean bone in their body.
Because of their non-aggressive nature, they should not be put with more aggressive breeds such as Rhode Island Reds or Welsummers – they are likely to get picked on and be at the bottom of the pecking order.
If you are a town/city dweller, the buff is a very quiet bird, ideally suited for confinement in a smallish yard. They are a great bird for beginners as they are so easy to handle and are fairly low maintenance.
The only downside to this beauty is their tendency towards broodiness. However, if you wish to raise your own chicks, then the buff is a perfect fit for you! They are good mothers and care very well for the chicks.
High temperatures are not well tolerated, so shade, ventilation and lots of space should be provided for these large birds. Winter is a breeze for them with their extra fluffy feathers; they simply shake off the cold.
Because their feathers are so dense they should be checked regularly for lice and mites and treated accordingly. Many folks treat them with poultry dust regularly because it’s hard to spot little creepy crawlies amongst all those feathers.
As they are such large birds, they have a tendency towards laziness and they should be allowed to exercise as much as is possible.
They can be heavy feeders with a tendency towards obesity – this needs to be monitored for the health of the bird.
The Orpington breed changed the world of dual purpose chickens. Until they came along, the regular table hen was usually fairly scrawny and was not the best layer of eggs.
Of all the varieties of color available, the buff is the stand out favorite.
Perhaps this is because of the warm color of the feathers combined with a calm and friendly disposition. They aren’t noisy like some other breeds, nor are they pushy.
Despite controversy and family feuds, the Orpington has endured.
Declining numbers were halted and reversed by backyard chicken enthusiasts such as yourself. Now the breed (especially the buff) is enjoying a resurgence in popularity and proves that heritage birds most definitely have a place in everyone’s home and heart.
If big birds are mated, it may be taken for granted that size at least has been secured in a fair proportion of the progeny. I have obtained very satisfactory results from mating a medium-sized cockerel with big hens and strapping pullets, but he was from stock much larger than himself, and he had great substance. The mating of equally big birds sometimes leads to comparative legginess in the offspring, if great depth of body is not a characteristic of both. The mating of a massive low cockerel to big strapping pullets has with me yielded splendid results, as has the leathering cockerel put to low-set, big-framed hens. But the mating of massive birds on both sides is certain to be best. The offspring will vary a bit both ways, but the best will better than [sic] is likely to accrue from either of the other variations. I don't agree, however, with mating very low-set birds however big in body.
Theoretically, an Oprington's legs cannot well be too short—if the body is big enough—practically they can, although they seldom are. Unless you maintain a sense of proportion in the framing of your birds you will not be able to strike the eye with the full sense of your success, while your failures will become depressingly apparent.
You must, in breeding big birds, give them ‘something to stand upon.' That is to say, you must not endeavour to carry a big body on stunted legs. A very short-legged cockerel, or one with a tremendously low body, should not be mated to extremely shortlegged females. Phenomenal features of this sort are best used for corrective purposes. Otherwise the result may be a good lot of breeders, but none to take first place in high competition at shows where symmetry and proportion decide the verdict.
The sense of size is not quite apparent in a show pen unless it be accompanied by proportion. And remember that the bird which looks like a triton amongst the minions of your yard falls back very quickly into the commonplace when it is placed amidst the pickings of other breeders' stock—such as show entries are.
This seems a convenient point at which to warm a young breeder from expecting too much from a low-legged massive hen which he has bought. I like to get my breeding stock young, for I know that as many a slim young maiden develops into an obese middle-aged lady, so do some leggy pullets swell out and let down into typical show hens. These are the sort which may possibly give you a good show cockerel but will seldom satisfy in pullets—for like begets like. It is a hen of this description which should be mated to a massive extra-low cockerel.
If you wish to breed big show pullets—and who does not—see that your hens have been big low pullets themselves. What the mother has been the daughter will very probably also be—if not corrected or improved upon by mating with a male whose females have been better or bigger. I am a firm believer in the influence of the female size on the female line—all things being equal. I am also a firm believer in the big hen theory. All other matters being even, the hen, in my experience, has exercised the greater influence on the size of the progeny. I have mated an experimental pen, including a big pullet sister to a smaller pullet of different conformation (also running in the pen) put to a big and big-stocked cockerel. Every pullet out of the big mating was as big or bigger than the mother, but every pullet from the smaller was little if any advance in size on its parent.
I have in my callow poultry days mated a strapping big cockerel to ordinary hens and pullets, and never got a bird as good as the father, while the tendency in the pullets was to legginess rather than size.
When mating Opringtons , never lose sight of substance. Substance will redeem the smallest specimen. I never kill a big-boned cockerel, however small. Somebody who knows something is willing to take him from me. I never yet saw a big-boned, heavy-framed pullet that was not a good breeder irrespective of size. A big pullet deficient in bone and substance is almost certain to throw very ordinary, if not decidedly leggy, stock, unless wonderfully well mated. A smallish pullet of great substance will lift the weediest cockerel's stock out of the common, on her side at least, if she comes from good stuff.
Don't, however, mate squat birds under the impression that you are securing ‘club type.' The club type Orpington is a bird moulded in proportions, such a proportion as you quickly appreciate by visiting a leading show and following the judge's awards with an inquiring and absorbing mind. Although the standard insists upon ‘short legs,' the term is merely comparative. You may find the first prize cockerel with a leg half an inch longer in shank than the third prize bird. But you will probably also find that the longer leg looks shorter to the eye, because the bird it supports has greater size and substance. It is this proportion which so deceives the novice, that he looks at the first prize pullet and remarks to himself , ‘Well, that isn't a great one. I have something very nearly as big at home.' And only when he ventures into the show arena and puts his big bird into direct contrast, is he aware of the magnitude of his error.
Orpington Exhibition Tips
By Doug Akers
UOC District 3 Director (Indiana, Ohio, Michigan)
Sometimes new exhibitors wonder why their birds don’t place as well at the show as they had hoped. The three main criteria that the judge looks for shouldn’t be overlooked:
1)good breed type (shape and size common to the breed),
2) good condition (health including cleanliness and brightness of plumage, head parts, legs and feet), &
3) good color.
When my son, Pete and I first started in exhibition poultry, Bill Bowman, an experienced Brahma breeder from Ohio told me to “get a bucket, sit down and observe your birds”. He advised making a copy of the ideal male and female of my breed(s) from the Standard of Perfection. I follow that advice. Sometimes I substitute the bucket for a nice lawn chair and accessorize it with an ice cold diet cherry coke. I sit out in the grass among my birds, occasionally tossing them a treat of cracked corn or other feed to keep them nearby.
As you look your birds over, compare the pictures from the standard with your birds. Read the Orpington description in the standard. For example, it calls for a broad, deep head on both the male and female. As my mentor, Jack Patterson says, “I look at the head first”. If an Orpington has a narrow skull, it is not desirable. I especially want good broad heads on the males, but it is also important on the females.
Exhibitors sometimes overlook the importance of good condition. If the bird has rough plumage, missing or broken tail feathers, more than one broken primary feather, or is dirty, one needs to realize that the bird won’t be place well unless there is not much competition. Sometimes I will show a bird that has lost some critical feathers or is a little past prime in overall feather condition because I already paid the entry fee. But, I don’t expect it to place well if there is competition.
I will discuss buff orpington color because that is the only color of orpington that I raise. It is more important to have even color than the exact shade of buff. You want the buff color to look the same on the hackle, wing bow and the back. If those areas are significantly different in color, I wouldn’t advise breeding from them. Sometimes the color that appears in the Standard, of certain breeds, is a bit exaggerated, especially in the newer versions. However, the buff in the buff orpington pictures, appears good.
I don’t want any black in the tails of the males. A little “pepper” (small black or gray spots) in the tails of females isn’t a bad thing. You want to keep some of those females in your breeding pen, according to some long-time poultry breeders. They say that you will eventually lose your good buff color if you cull all those females with any pepper in the tail. Those are a few basics that I use in my buff orpington breeding and showing. There’s lots more for you and me to learn. Study that Standard of Perfection.
How I got stated with Blue Wyandotte Bantams
By: Wilmar F. Vorwerk
Back in 1948 I used to keep a pen if mixed bantams, seems there was always a market for “just bantams”. This particular year I had an extra white Leghorn male with several pure bred hens of different breeds. One of these was a B. B. Red Old English Game hen. Which set herself and came forth with seven chicks and to my surprise on was a beautiful blue.
In 1949 put this blue pullet in my mixed pen. This year had a Golden laced Polish Bantam cockerel in this pen and decided to raise some mixed bantams. Among the chicks hatched of this mating where several red necked cockerels and one solid blue pullet. She had slate colored legs and a small crest.
Was so fascinated by this color that in 1950 decided to raise blue Wyandotte bantams. Looked through all the publications I had but could find no breeder of blue Wyandotte bantams. Then decided to create my own. The only Wyandotte’s I had were whites and used one of the males on this pullet and they produced ever color you could imagine, of which one pullet was barred of a light blue shade. She was large and of Leghorn type.
In 1951 decided to use a pure black on this pullet. My good friend Harry Plagge offered me one of his nice males. This mating produced whites, blacks, red and buff mixtures plus five blue pullets and several blue males. Felt I was on the right track, but always discarded all the males and used only pure bred black males for the next four years.
Then in 1955 started to breed brother and sister, blues to black and splashes. Continued this inbreeding for another eight years, than used a pure black again. Since than have not used outside blood.
Now after 25 years of breeding have almost eliminated the smoky color of the first crosses to a beautiful blue laced bantam. I am still trying hard to improve the dark lacing which is so highly prized in the blue colored fowl, but a quality which seems so hard to obtain.
To create a new variety it takes many years of patience and a good measure of luck.
Matings of Blue Wyandotte Bantams
By: Wilmar F. Vorwerk
The blue color in domestic fowl is a mutation and will not breed true to color. This follows Mendel’s law of inheritance.
Each chick will receive one gene from its mother and one from its father.
The chick receiving the black gene and one splash gene will be blue.
The one that receives 2 black genes will be a black chick.
And the one to receive 2 splash genes will be a splash chick.
This blue color is not sex-linked and therefore the sexes can be switched in any of the following:
Blue to Blue fig A
This mating will average 25% black, 50% blue and 25 % splash chicks of either sex.
Blue to Splash fig B
This mating will average 50% blue and 50% splash chicks of either sex.
Blue to Black fig C
This mating will average 50% Blue and 50% black chicks of either sex.
Splash to Black fig D
This mating will produce 100% blues, but only 50% will be of the correct shade for showing. 25% will be of a too light a color & 25% will be of too dark a shade, but any of these may be used in the breeding pen with success.
Black to Black
This mating will only produce blacks.
Splash to Splash
This mating will only produce splashes.
A pure black can be used in place of a black out of blues and will produce the same results as shown above, as far as color is concerned, but, will bring in both good and bad qualities from this out-cross, yet this new blood is sometimes desirable to increase vitality or some other trait which may be lacking in you present strain.