Orpington - Chicken

Modern Exhibition type Buff Orpington with large body, profuse feathering, small tail.

Orpington Details

Moderate egg layer, small table bird, exhibition, docile pet
Orpington, Kent
Large fowl, Heavy, Soft feather
Black, White, Blue, Lavender, Splash, Jubilee, Partridge, Red, Cuckoo, Lemon Cuckoo, Chocolate, Silver laced, Gold laced, Blue laced and others. Most are not standardised with the Poultry Club of Great Britain.
Upright and single. Single or rose in th
Pale brown
Weight, cock
4.5 kg
Weight, hen
3.6 kg
Varies dependent on colour variety
A reliable and persistent broody.
Breed Club

The Orpington Club

Breed Ratings
Egg Laying
Table Value

Orpington Description

The Orpington breed was created by Mr William Cook of Orpington House (previously named Walden’s Manor), St Mary Cray, Orpington, Kent. The first colour being black which was first launched in 1886. The breed was intended to be a dual-purpose and hardy breed but later became more suited for exhibiting. The quest by many exhibitors to produce more desirable show birds has meant many strains of each variety have been created, in many instances it is likely other breeds have been used. The rise and fall of some colour varieties and the close resemblance with other native breeds means it is likely existing birds may have been amalgamated or influenced at one time or another with other breeds. Jubilee, White and Red Orpington’s for example, may have been mixed with Speckled, White and Red Sussex. Today it would be very hard to know the precise origin of any Orpington strain because of the influence of other breeds or foreign strains. However, the Orpington remains a firm favourite of newcomers, for its calm, docile nature, soft profuse feathering and reliable brooding ability. Indeed, Orpingtons are magnificent birds, particularly when seen in small flocks roaming freely, however, their colours are usually poorly defined as a result of having such profuse feathering. A great threat to potential Orpington owners today is the shear desire of some to purchase Orpingtons from the show elite. Giant birds, excessively feathered and slow natured. These birds are reported to be very infertile. Their exaggerated size has made mating more difficult and extensive inbreeding and line-breeding does not aid their vigour either. It would seem low fertility and hatching rates are accepted by some breeders because although only perhaps a dozen chicks hatch from a hundred eggs, all that they need is one ‘Golden’ bird to win at a show.
There are plenty of Orpington breeders who breed purely for the enjoyment and breed in large enough flocks to avoid problems.


Despite being established as a unique breed, the Australorp is in fact merely a utility version of the black Orpington and derived from the original stock and further bred with the same parent breeds. Australorp were first imported into Great Britain from Australia in 1921, some 34 years after William Cooks original Utility black Orpington were exported to Australia. There was a need to protect and distinguish the utility black orpington that was maintained and improved in Australia from the common exhibition black Orpington in Great Britain. Therefore the Australorp was first standardised in Great Britain in 1928 and then later in Australia in 1930. The Australorp was originally black but can now also be found in white and blue. There are also bantams. Unfortunately the Australorp remains a very rare breed in Great Britain. Like the Orpington the Australorp is a calm and docile breed. They are a productive dual purpose breed suited to a secure free range pen or confined rearing. They are not so profusely feathered as the Orpington.


   The following table indicates key points in the Orpington breed history.





Birth of William Cook at St Neots, Cambridgeshire


Black Orpingtons exhibited for the first time at the London Dairy Show


Orpington Club formed, then later renamed Black Orpington Club


White Orpington


Buff Orpington


Jubilee Orpington, exhibited the year of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee


Buff Orpington club formed


Spangled Orpington. (Black with white spots)


William Cook died aged 55


Cuckoo Orpington, Created by Arthur G. Gilbert


Blue Orpington, created by Arthur G. Gilbert


Red Orpington, created by W. Holmes Hunt of Hellingly, Sussex.


Orpington bantam club formed


Orpington Club formed as an amalgamation of the Black Orpington and Orpington bantam clubs

This table below shows the parentage of the first colours developed.





William Cooks original strain was developed from Black Minorca cocks x Black Plymouth Rock, the female offspring were mated to Black Langshan cocks to yield the Black Orpington.  Other strains using different breeds were soon created by other breeders for the exhibition scene.


White Leghorn x Black Hamburgh, the resulting white pullets were crossed with a white Dorking cock. White Cochins were probably latter added.


Gold Spangled Hamburgh x Dorking, the resulting reddish-brown pullets were mated to a Buff Cochin cock.


Original strains were created from Dark Buff Orpingtons, Red Dorkings and Gold Spangled Hamburghs.


Probably created by crossing Black Orpington with Jubilee Orpington


Probably created by crossing Black Orpington with White Orpington


Probably created by crossing Black Orpington with White Orpington, resulting in Blue, Black and Splash offspring


Selected from Dark Buff Orpingtons

Following on from the success of the black and white Orpington, William Cook created the Buff Orpington in Kent, England in 1894. The Buff was later created using different parentage to Williams original black and white Orpingtons. Like the original Orpington the buff was created as a multi-purpose bird but in the years after its creation like the black and white varieties, the buff quickly became a breed more commonly used for exhibiting. The buff has long been recognised as an excellent brooding hen due to its large size, brooding instinct and profuse feathering. The buff was often a preferred breed for brooding on farms during the early to mid 20th century and is still being used today by hobbyists. Egg laying ability is reasonable but nothing special, egg size is medium to large and table value is poor. For a bird of its size the Buff Orpington does not develop large quantities of breast meat and no longer has any value as a table bird. The reason for the Buff Orpington’s poor dual-purpose ability is its long term development in to a show bird. Many decades of selective breeding have in effect seen the Buff Orpington become a feather duster. The desire for profuse feathering, even colour and an even greater sized frame has meant that all the qualities that would make the breed worthy of use as a commerial farm bird have hugely diminished. From observing photos and drawings of the early 20th century, various conclusions can be drawn. In the first instance, when the Buff Orpington was created the breed had tighter feathering perhaps more like a Sussex. The buff colour, like many unimproved buff varieties would probably have consisted of many shades of buff. The breed did not have such a pronounced cushion as it does now and the overall stance was more upright. Certainly for this point, it is important to note that other breeds such as the Dorking were once very upstanding, this being derived from Old English Game ancestry/involvement. It would appear that breeding for exhibition purposes and natural evolution has led to breeds like the Buff Orpington, Dorking and Scots Grey becoming less upright in habit. This can particularly be seen with the Red Dorking, whereby its rarity and persistent use in the exhibition arena during the 19th and 20th centuries has seen the breed become almost horizontal in habit. Indeed, once it was upright and vigorous and now it lacks hardiness and vigour. Can the same be said of the Buff Orpington now or in 10 years or are there enough birds to avoid similar problems?


Orpingtons have a deep and broad body, with a short curved back giving a concave outline. The tail is short. Plumage should be 'fairly profuse but close, not loose and fluffy or close and hard'. The cushion (rump) 'should be wide but almost flat'

Black birds have a green sheen to the plumage, no purple should be seen. Black and blue varieties have a black beak, red ear lobes, black or dark brown eyes and black or blue legs and feet with white toenails. Soles of feet are white in the black variety. White Orpingtons have a white beak, skin, legs and feet. Eyes and earlobes are red.

The Orpington standard states the carriage of an Orpington should be, ‘Bold, Upright and graceful, that of an active fowl’.
Upright, grace and active would not seem to apply to any modern Buff Orpington.
Upright would suggest a tall standing posture this is no longer the case as birds are more rounded.
Buff Orpington’s are certainly not graceful, despite their profuse feathering they bound along rather than glide.
It is in the Orpington’s very nature to be calm, docile and slow. ‘Active’ certainly no longer applies. Particularly when looking at a renowned active, energetic and flighty breed such as the Old English Pheasant Fowl.  The OEPF standard states the breed carriage should be, ‘Alert and Active’. The two breeds are worlds apart if comparison of habit were to be made.
Buff Orpington’s have a single comb with evenly spaced serrations. Ear lobes and face are red. Legs are white. Red-brown markings can sometimes be seen on the outside front edge of the leg. Browning to the tail is acceptable but Mealy coloured birds with white flecking are not ideal for breeding and should be avoided. Repetitive breeding of pale buff birds may lead to the loss of colour and to the creation of mealy coloured birds. Feathering should be buff throughout without any black or white, skin is white. Tails are short and compact.
There is also a bantam variety of the Buff Orpington that was first created prior to 1898 by Mr John Wharton although other strains have since been created.
Bantam versions exist in most large fowl colours and are very popular.

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