Our Favorite Heritage Chicken Breed – Buff Orpingtons
Orpingtons are a famous dual-purpose breed of huge, fluffy, gentle chickens. They were introduced from the U.K in the 1800’s and were once one of the most popular breeds across North America. They come in many colours with Buff being the most beautiful (subjectively, of course). They are docile, active and long lived. The roosters are friendly but remain very protective of their flock, the hens make great mothers and the chicks are hardy. They do well in confinement and will forage for much of their own food if allowed to free range. They are not flighty or aggressive except to escape a predator. Hens do have a tendency to go broody and will hatch their own clutch, raising the chicks to maturity for you. Their large size and fluffy feathering makes them suitable for colder climates and their smaller combs are less likely to suffer from frost bite. They are calm, beautiful birds that make for easy to raise, entertaining animals that are good with children and newbies. Hand raised chickens are very tame and will be happy to perch on your lap for a cuddle.
Eggs: Hens will reach point of lay around 20 weeks and lay about 5 large, creamy-beige eggs a week. They will continue to lay up to 6 years at a lower rate after each annual molt. If kept as pets, these chickens will live 10+ years.
Meat: As large meat birds, they can be processed as tender market weight roasters between 3 and 6 months and make good stewing birds after that. The skin is white and the light colored feathers make for easy dressing.
Both sexes of Buff Orpington chicks generally hatch totally buff and can only be sexed by the vent, a process I am not willing to learn. Some, however, have a dark head spot at hatching and they are pullets. Others may have off-white streaks through the buff down at the upper wing joints (shoulders), and these are cockerels. The male marking is more common than the female, but is also more difficult to detect.
In a straight run hatch you will be able to sex them between 6 and 14 weeks: cockerels will grow larger faster, they have larger feet, their combs and wattles appear earlier, they posture like roosters, they develop the pointed hackle and saddle feathers that are golden coloured and of course, cockerels will eventually crow whereas pullets will eventually lay eggs.
Breed Preservation and Sourcing
The Buff Orpington is classified as a ‘recovering’ heritage breed. Much work has been done by breeders to revive this famous breed that was once the most popular chicken in North America. Our lines originate from Cindi Quinlan’s breeding flock, a dedicated Buff Orpingtons breeder in B.C.
Prior to joining our Awesome Family Farm our chickens were the resident breeding flock of Buff’s at Greendale Heritage Farm.
American Poultry Associations “Standard of Perfection”
The feathers should be broad and smooth fitting on the deep and massive body of the fowl. The appearance of great massiveness, however, should not be secured by developing extreme length of feathers in the plumage. The sides of the body sometimes erroneously referred to as the “fluff,” should be comparatively straight with full but not profuse feathering.
ECONOMIC QUALITIES A general purpose fowl for heavy meat production and for eggs. Color of skin, white; color of egg shells, light brown to dark brown.
DISQUALIFICATIONS Yellow beak, shanks, feet or skin. (See general Disqualifications and Cutting for Defects.)
Cock ……………. 10 lbs. Hen ………… 8 lbs. Cockerel ………. 8½ lbs. Pullet ……… 7 lbs.
COMB: Single; of medium size, set firmly on head, perfectly straight and upright; with five well-defined points; those at front and rear smaller than those in the middle; fine and texture; blade closely following shape of head. BEAK: Short, stout regularly curved. FACE: Clean-cut and free from coarseness. EYES: Large, round, prominent. WATTLES: Medium in size, well-rounded at lower edges. EAR-LOBES: Medium size, oblong, smooth. HEAD: Medium in length, broad, deep. NECK: Rather short, slightly arched, with abundant hackle. BACK: Broad, Flat at shoulders, rather long, width carried well back to base of tail; rising with a slight concave sweep to tail. Saddle feathers – of medium length, abundant. TAIL: Moderately long, well-spread, carried at an angle of twenty-five degrees (25°) above horizontal, (figs. 10-11): forming no apparent angle with back where those sections join. Main Tail Feathers – broad and overlapping. Main Sickles – of medium length, spreading laterally beyond main tail feathers. Lesser Sickles and Coverts – of medium length, nicely curved, sufficiently abundant to cover main tail feathers. WINGS: Of medium size, well-folded carried horizontally. Front – well-covered by breast feathers. Points well covered by saddle feathers. Primaries and Secondaries – broad and overlapping in natural order when wing is folded. BREAST: Broad, deep, well-rounded and well filled in all parts. BODY AND FLUFF: Body – Broad, deep, moderately long, straight, extending well forward. Lower body feathers, not to profuse. Fluff – moderately full, showing profile of hocks. LEGS AND TOES: Legs set well apart, straight when viewed from front. Lower Thighs – large, moderately short, well feathered. Shanks – moderately short, stout, smooth. Toes – four on each foot, of medium length, straight, well-spread.
SHAPE — FEMALE
COMB: Single; of medium size, set firmly on head, perfectly straight and upright; with five well-defined points; those at front and rear smaller than those in the middle; fine and texture BEAK: Short, stout regularly curved. FACE: Clean-cut and free from coarseness. EYES: Large, round, prominent. WATTLES: Medium in length, fine in texture, well-rounded. EAR-LOBES: Medium in size, oblong, smooth. HEAD: Medium in length, broad, deep. NECK: Rather short, slightly arched, nicely tape ring to head, having moderately full plumage. BACK: Broad, rather long, width carried well back to base of tail; rising with a gradual incline to tail. TAIL: Moderatly long, well-spread, carried at an angle of fifteen degrees (15*) above horizontal, (figs. 10-11). Main Tail Feathers – broad and overlapping. Covers – abundant. WINGS: Of medium size, well-folded carried horizontally, fronts well covered by breast feathers. Primaries and Secondaries – broad and overlapping in natural order when wing is folded. BREAST: Broad, deep well-rounded; well-filled in all parts. BODY AND FLUFF: Body – moderately long, broad, deep, straight, extending well forward; lower body feathers, not too profuse. Fluff – moderately full, showing profile of hocks. LEGS AND TOES: Legs set well apart, straight when viewed from front. Lower Thighs – large, moderately short, well feathered. Shanks – moderately short, stout. Toes – four on each foot, of medium length, straight, well-spread. Note—See interpretation of Standard – “Quality of Feather.” Page 29
COLOR – MALE AND FEMALE COMB, FACE, WATTLES AND EAR-LOBES: Bright red. BEAK: Pinkish white. EYES: Reddish bay. SHANKS AND TOES: Pinkish white. PLUMAGE: Surface throughout—and even shade of rich golden buff. Male — head, neck, hackle, back, wing bows and saddle showing greater luster. Female – hackle, some luster. Undercolor – matching surface as near as possible. Definition of Buff: A medium shade of orange-yellow color with a rich golden cast; not so intense as to show a reddish cast, nor so pale as to appear lemon or light yellow. The term is generally used in referring to the plumage color of all Standard “Buff” varieties of poultry.