The majestic black Orpington breed has been a market favorite from the time they were created in the 1800s. This was around the Hen Fever period where farmers and experts had an ignited interest in some peculiar chicken breeds.
During this period, poultry collectors and breeders imported a variety of chicken species from far-flung places like China and India. Unfortunately, the breeds performed miserably in the harsh English climate.
As a result, they failed both as table birds and in meat production. Luckily, a Scientist known as William Cook had a different vision from his counterparts about advanced chicken breeding.
Although Black Orpington was previously considered endangered, a renaissance in popularity caused by backyard breeders around 2016 saved the day.
Read on and find out the unique story behind Orpington chicken breed development and why it is among the most sought out varieties in recent times.
Black Orpington Chicken History
As mentioned above, William Cook brought a breath of fresh air in an industry suffering from unproductive chicken imports. In his endeavor to make a much-needed breakthrough, Cook used a unique method that experts termed as controversial. Instead, he merged different chickens to create unique and more resilient offspring for the market.
As a result, he created the first Orpington chicken by crossbreeding Plymouth Rocks, Langshans, and Minorca species. The main reason behind the beautiful black plumage on the first Orpington birds was to hide London’s soot and dirt.
Although Cook’s technique was criticized at first, it is currently used by breeders across the world. Bear in mind that Orpington chicken is named after the Orpington, Kent town where William Cook lived. Thankfully, he was an outstanding public relations expert and frequently advertised his creations in various parts of England and above.
Black Orpington Chicken Characteristics
At first, glance, what captures your attention about Black Orpington is their striking black plumage. In addition, they have small heads, single red combs, and black beaks. Although the birds are considered heavy built, their loose fluffy feather exaggerates their weight more.
As a matter of fact, their black feathers hang loosely and almost disguise their lovely grayish legs. For this reason, Black Orpingtons are more resilient to colder climates compared to other breeds.
– Size and Weight
It is nearly impossible for a fully grown black Orpington bird to fly because of its massive weight. On average, the hens weigh 2.8 to 4 kg. On the other hand, the roosters are slightly heavier at 3.2 to 5 kg. They also have a low stance, curvy body posture, and rounded underline.
Although their fluffy plumage is a lifesaver in winter, you should provide shelters and shades during summer. Note that the bulk weight and feathers can easily trigger a heat stroke or death in the harsh hot climate.
One impressive thing about this magnificent black beauty is their great love for petting. If allowed, Black Orpington birds can easily become lappets. Thus, they make ideal pet choices even for young children. Moreover, they have a mellow and docile disposition which is an instant attraction to poultry fanatics.
In most cases, you can place Black Orpingtons with birds of similar temperament in the same enclosure. Other friendly and calm species that can get along with Orpington birds include different Orpington varieties, Cochins and Brahmas.
Black Orpington chicken lifespan varies from one bird to the other. Usually, birds fed on a proper diet and placed in less stressful environments can live for more than eight years. Furthermore, chicken with minimal genetic complications enjoys a healthier, longer life. Hence, ensure that your breeding birds are strong enough to deter hereditary ailments from affecting the entire lineage.
Besides, keep your birds away from common predators such as dogs and foxes. It is worth noting that Black Orpington birds love overeating and can become overweight as a result. Therefore, monitor their diet to avoid weight-related complications and prolong their lifespan.
– Egg Production
Most individuals prefer Black Orpingtons not only for their temperament and looks but also for egg-laying prowess. They lay approximately 200 to 250 light eggs annually. Often, some individuals wonder about the black bird’s egg color. Remember that it is not the color of the skin or plumage that determines what your bird will produce.
Instead, it happens genetically, and no special diet or maintenance tips can alter it. There are several ways that you can improve your bird’s egg production. For instance, adjust their diet formulation and add more calcium. Also, increase feeds quantity and especially on energy content. Above all, introduce your hens to a new environment two weeks before they start laying eggs.
– Meat Production
Without any doubt, Orpington’s bulky weight size is ideal for meat production. Your broiler chicken should be ready for the table from as early as 22 weeks. Note that if the harvesting gets delayed, your bird can gain excessive weight leading to life-threatening conditions.
If you want your birds to attain the proper weight during harvesting, ensure that you feed them well. If need be, a diet rich in protein goes a long way in helping your birds grow faster and healthier.
Black Orpington Chicken Care
Apart from their rather cumbersome feathers, Orpingtons are low-maintenance species. Akin to most fowls, they enjoy regular dust baths, which helps in minimizing lice and mites. In addition, monitor pest invasion on their feathers at least every week.
If the birds interact with children, consider deworming them regularly. Below are other vital care tips you should consider to keep your birds happy.
– Feeding & Nutrition
The best time to feed your birds is early in the morning before allowing them to roam around. That way, you are more assured of your chicken receiving the required nutrients. Ensure that you give them a balanced chicken mash, grain mix, and chicken pellets for eight weeks. For chicks below eight weeks, buy a Chick Starter feed to help them grow strong.
The good thing is that Black Oprongton birds are good feeders and rarely fussy. You can throw in some organic food like lettuce, kales, broccoli for proper nutrient intake. Furthermore, do not forget to add some fresh fruits and water to the diet.
On a scorching day, serve them with frozen table scraps and sliced fruit pieces to keep them cool. Feeding your birds well does not only keep them healthy, but it also gives you healthy manure for your kitchen garden.
While these large birds rarely fly over the coop, you should keep it covered because of predators like eagles. One disadvantage of the immense is that they are pretty active and may not run away when an intruder strikers.
Therefore, invest in a solid enclosure with functioning locks. A suitable coop should measure 50 cm by 50 cm. Do not forget to install comfortable nesting boxes and roosting rails approximately 1.5 inches wide.
Another significant factor is good ventilation in the summer and winter months. Experts recommend poultry keepers raise the cage a few inches off the ground to keep it dry, especially during the wet seasons. Most importantly, observe a high level of cleanliness to keep away disease-causing bacteria in the coop.
– Health Problems
Despite their hardy nature, Black Orpington birds usually catch a chill when the feathers become excessively wet. As mentioned earlier, excess sunshine can trigger the worst case of heat stroke or premature death. All in all, these birds have very few health complications apart from weight-related issues.
Nevertheless, if the bird displays a low appetite or becomes more lethargic, it is prudent to consult a reliable vet. Also, watch out for labored breathing, egg production decline, or discharge from nostrils and eyes.
Sometimes you can treat minor complications at home by adding antibiotics to their water and food. If need be, add garlic and turmeric for an impressive antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and immune boost.
Given that Orpingtons are dual-purpose birds, they delay reaching maturity and laying eggs compared to other varieties. The beauty of it all is they go broody rather frequently. Unfortunately, they are not good sitters due to their size and therefore cannot hatch successfully naturally.
Even if some hens may attempt to sit on the eggs, there is a high probability of breaking delicate eggs in the process. All in all, it takes roughly 21 days for fertilized Black Orpington eggs to hatch.
If you are using an incubator, remove the eggs on the egg turner on the 18th day. Sometimes the hatching might delay, but do not give up until the 23rd day.
Remember that temperature and timing can go awry, leading to delay or total failure on some eggs. Before discarding the non-hatched eggs, candle them to ensure that there is no live chicken inside.
Whether you aspire to raise a superior dual-purpose breed or a pleasant pet bird, you can never go wrong with a Black Orpington chicken. The bird is not only sophisticated but also calm and delightful sight in your backyard.
Most impressive, they are neither noisy nor bossy and get along with other similar temperate varieties well. Yet, when bullied, Black Orpington chicken takes it down by impressively warding off attackers with their might physique.Chickens