Russian Orloff

General Information

Breed Purpose
Dual Purpose
Climate Tolerance
All Climates
Egg Productivity
Egg Size
Egg Color
Breed Temperament
Friendly,Easily handled,Calm,Bears confinement well,Quiet
Breed Colors/Varieties
The Russian Orloff comes in Spangled (which is the only color found in the USA) but can be found also in white and black.
Breed Size
Large Fowl

The Russian Orloff is again becoming a popular duel purpose breed after becoming nearly extinct in the last century. The “Orloff” is a bearded, muffed, walnut combed breed. There is mention of this breed in literature that is thought to have been published in 1774. The description was obviously that of the Orloff, but at the time the breed was called “Chlianskaia” and later as “Russians”, which was probably a corruption of or based on Ghilan, the Persian province where the breed was most common and of it’s probable origin. Its present name is taken from Count Orloff-Techesmensky who was quite an Orloff enthusiast and brought them to the eye European and American public.

Early importations were principally black. Early APA standards refer to the Orloff as having a “rose comb”. It's true the APA did call the comb rose, but when you read the description it was clearly what today would be called a walnut or strawberry comb and not a true rose comb.

When first imported from Russia, Orloffs were heavy boned, hard muscled, meat fowl that look similar to many popular game types. In the early part of the century a hatchery in Pennsylvania is said to have hatched Orloffs in seven colors and nothing else. It is believed to have operated for more than twenty years and closed around the time of World War II.

The ABA currently recognizes three varieties. The British Standard lists four varieties--Black, Mahogany, Spangled, and White. There are at least three others--Black Breasted Red (with a Cinnamon hen), Mottled, and Buff. Today this is a very rare fowl in the United States and Canada but gaining in popularity due to its calm nature and often winter production of eggs.

Russian Orloff chicks

Russian Orloff juvenile

Russian Orloff hen

Russian Orloff rooster

For more information on this breed and their owners' and breeders' experiences with them, see our breed discussion here:

Latest reviews

Pros: Docile, friendly, robust, hardy, affectionate, playful, beautiful, intelligent (most of them, at least), great in mixed flocks, weather-proof, kid-friendly
Cons: Big bird = big appetite, currently a cull-heavy breed
From now on whenever I see someone asking for breed recommendations I jump up and shout "ORLOFFS!" I have a lot of friendly breeds (silkies, cochins, OEGB, d'Anvers, modern game, etc) but none are as all-around, overall friendly as my Russian Orloffs. The one I hatched from an egg is the most affectionate bird in the world, she's more cuddly than my cats, and follows at my heel more loyally than the dogs. If I crouch she launches into my lap and burrows her head against me. Those I didn't raise as early on follow me around and beg for attention like puppies. My roosters jump onto my shoulders and preen my hair. Even the hen I just recently added comes running to me and runs around under my feet. I cannot say enough good about them. They're so easy-going and gentle. My big 6 pound cockerel is as gentle as can be with newly hatched chicks, and all my boys love to find special treats and safe nest spots for the hens. Not to mention they are stunning with their intense eyes, bodacious beards, massive size, and eagle beak. They're a favorite of any visitors. Mine live very peacefully in a mixed flock including teeny tiny d'Anvers and massive Langshans. They're not pushovers at all, but they're far from bullies.
The hens are infrequent layers of medium, light-brown eggs but production increases gradually with age. Right now I'm getting three eggs a week from each pullet. They are slow-growers. My 6 months old range in weight from 4 to 6 pounds and my biggest boy, 24" tall, is far from done growing. Very muscular, impressive birds that carry themselves proudly. They're also very playful and goofy. Most roosters are probably going to challenge me if they coming running up behind me, but not the Orloffs. If I hear the distinct thud thud thud of my Orloffs coming up behind me I can expect to hear some very insistent "honking" shortly demanding that I scratch under their beards.
I really cannot say enough good about Russian Orloffs.

I will be honest with my cons:
-They are big birds so they eat a lot. Not as much as production hens, but obviously more than the bantams.
-This is a cull-heavy breed with an active breed group working hard on getting them APA accepted, don't expect a warm welcome if you're purposefully breeding birds without paying any attention to the proposed standard.
-Right now crooked toes and cross-beak is somewhat common, most good breeders have weeded these defects out of their lines, but it still crops up and these birds need to be culled (meaning kept from breeding) for the breed to progress.
-You will fall in love with them and become desperate for more.


Pros: Beautiful, calm, sweet natured, friendly, lays well, extremely cold hardy, great foragers
Cons: may be picked on by more aggressive birds, hard to find good stock
I ended up with three Spangled Russian Orloff hens after ordering a chick assortment from Sand Hill Preservation center. I love my three girls so much I am now embarking on starting a breeding program. These are amazing birds. They are so calm and gentle they may be picked on in a mixed breed flock, but give them room and they will find a way to avoid the more aggressive birds. They love to forage even in the middle of winter. When the other birds are drinking from a heated water dish these guys would be outside eating snow. If you live in a cold climate you need these birds. These birds need more people passionate about preserving their breed and I promise you if you give these birds a chance they will win you over. I've had a lot of breeds over the past few years and these, by far, are my favorite.
Purchase Date
Pros: Alert, intelligent, great foragers, stunningly smooth and attractive plumage, great with other gentle breeds
Cons: Really want to free-range every day & will give you dirty looks if you don't let them
We got a pair of Orloff hens to add to our flock because we heard they would cheerfully eat fire ant colonies. Well, add centipedes and earwigs to the list, among others. They love to free-range, and can be picked up and carried back to the coop, but are also easily trained to return for a treat. They are gentle and friendly. They get along with our mixed flock of gentle breeds (Ameraucana, Orpington, Silkie, Polish, Australorp, Welsummer), many of whom are quite small; they don't pick on anyone. They will fly up to eat from your hand on your lap or to ride on your forearm like a falcon. They have very pretty voices and are unafraid of cats. Their eggs are somewhat small but they taste good! I am a big fan, and hope to get an unrelated rooster to breed them to soon.


Oh, and I wish to add that they thrive in both the harsh Alabama heat and in temperatures below freezing. They lay some during winter and I have yet to see any sign of frost bite on these birds in my unheated coup. When other birds came down with illnesses, none of these birds got sick.
Why are they only in the ABA and not the APA standard...this is why I couldn't find them...
I have fertile eggs on the way!!!

Good morning Melinda;
I do not know why it is they are available in the Bantam Standard only.
I know the process that is required to be admitted and perhaps not enough breeders got together and made an effort have the LF admitted to the APA Standard?
Good luck with your eggs. Did you get them from a reliable breeder who could send you pics of their stock? I have eggs from 2 different sources in my incubator right now and am waiting another day to check them, they are at the fragile 5 day point where the embryo is easily dislodged.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I may actually be able to answer!
If they are not old enough to lay yet, you must not have had them long. So how do you know from firsthand experience how they will do in the winter?
Over the years I have bought some of the egg's from e bay to hatch out some I keep and some I bought from BYC members to widen my blood/DNA line but my original ones came from the
San Louis Obispo County Fair held in Paso Robles Ca. that pair won best of show so I bought
some chicks from the owner as he brought a dozed or so chicks with him ......
I used too have about 8 of these, They were friendly, but weren't the best layers. They DID lay right threw the winter which was impressive, I'm asumming it was because the size of there walnut comb.
No, mine have not gone broody. If you are looking for broody, my Speckled Sussex are great brooders.
Best to get a related cock if you like what you have...much better chance of keeping things going as you seem to appreciate.

They certainly are beautiful birds!
If they pass on the heated water for snow, you might think about cleaning the waterers or turning down the heat a bit. Chickens will eat snow only if forced to it...Perhaps you should put a little cheap vodka in the water...JUST KIDDING They are very handsome birds.
We had no way to find the original breeder of our girls (who we got on Craigslist!), but found another breeder out of state and got a gorgeous rooster and a third hen. They share their coop with a pair of Seramas, a very small Silkie hen, and a bantam White-faced black Spanish roo, and everyone gets along quite nicely. The Orloffs will get to free range during daylight in a day or two, as they have excellent memories and do respect fence lines, and our cat definitely respects them. One of the hens has the longest memory in our flock, recognizing the cup I used to feed mealworms from over a month ago on sight, and leaping for it!
Although they are recognized by the ABA, they are more rare than the Large Fowl Russian Orloff. We have an organized group that is currently working on increasing the Bantam and LF numbers as well as trying to get APA acceptance. Do you still have Bantam Orloff?
From the descriptions of the ROs they sound very similar in temperament, looks, and cold hardiness as our Ameraucana. The RO descriptions can almost be about our Blue Wheaten Ameraucana (my avatar at 5 mo). Our Amer loves the cold weather and the slightest heat or humidity will make her pant and look for cool plants to sit out the discomfort - yet not for long before she's on the move again. In 2 years she's never been confrontational or combative, not even in self-defense preferring to avoid conflict at all cost. Her stance is often erect, alert, wary, yet allows handling and petting where other breeds are not too keen on human touch. Rather than being a flock leader her best position is as sentinel/guardian - always alert, will awaken to check out noises after roost, runs/flies like the wind toward shelter at the sound of the barnyard alert, and chases cats out of the yard (teaching the Silkies to join the charge). The only difference I see between our Ameraucana and ROs is that perhaps our Amer lays more and bigger eggs than ROs. Our BW Am as a pullet layed 5-7 blue eggs a week and in her 2nd year 4-5/week at 2.33 oz. The ROs don't seem as prolific or have eggs as large as the Amer. I have read that the RO production is short-lived and the production drops significantly in their 2nd year. I'm not looking for extremely prolific egg production but I don't want to be feeding/caring for a bird, although sweet natured, that is not somewhat productive in return for more than 2 years. I mean, even our little broody Silkies continue being fair egg layers well into their 4th year now. I love everything about the looks and temperament of ROs except the scanty egg production (possibly a throwback from their less productive Malay ancestry?) Any input?

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