Bubbles Feathered Beauties
The American Poultry Association admitted the Orpington colors to its standard as follows:
Orpingtons come in two sizes – large fowl and bantams.
The original Orpington was created in England back in the 1880s by a fellow called William Cook who lived in the village of Orpington in Kent, England.
His vision was to create a bird that was a decent layer and was good for the table too. Up until this time the average English chicken was a pretty scrawny and unappetizing affair.
He succeeded in his endeavor starting with the Black Orpington which guaranteed him the success he desired on both sides of the Atlantic.
From the Black Orpington, he went on to create several other Orpington colors – Buff being the most well-known and loved to this day.
Mr Cook really created a ‘brand’ rather than a breed initially. When he created the Buff Orpington, he used different breeds of fowl from the Black Orpington. The Black was composed of Langshan, Barred Rock and Minorcas while the Buff was composed of Cochin, Dorking and spangled Hamburgs.
This was a bit controversial in its day but is widely accepted practice now.
The Orpington was on the endangered list of the American Livestock Breed Conservancy until fairly recently. Recent years have seen a great surge in folks keeping poultry and the Orpington has benefitted greatly.
The Lavender Orpington is a relatively new variety of the Orpington family, in fact – you could probably say it is a ‘designer bird’.
In the UK it really started with the renowned and respected breeder Priscilla Middleton in the mid-1990s’. It has taken her many years of cross – breeding to get the exact size and type she wanted, but she has a very impressive and successful line of Lavender Orpingtons now.
The bird is now widely bred throughout the UK and Europe having breed clubs in several European countries as well as the UK and USA.
The USA started with Lavender Orpingtons a bit later than the UK and the Lavender is still relatively hard to find in many areas.
Although described as ‘rare’, while searching through the internet I was amazed at how many people are breeding and selling Lavender Orpingtons! I suspect the ‘rare’ refers to good quality stock that complies with the standards set for the Orpington hen in general.
Orpingtons should be well feathered with broad, smooth feathers. The feathers should be ‘close’ but not ‘tight’ or ‘fluffy’. ‘Tight’ feathers follow the body contour – best seen in game birds and ‘fluffy’ would be loose such as a Cochin hen.
Orpingtons come in a large variety of colors and patterns.
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.
The Lavender Orpington chickens is a large chicken, low to the ground, with an upright stance and medium-sized single comb. They are a cold hearty and have full and fluffy plumage. Though they are not recognized by the APA they are a rare variety to add to your flock. They are a fair egg layer of medium to large size light brown eggs. Therefore making them a better choice for someone interested more so in their uniqueness. They are super docile and great with children, making them one of the best options for your backyard flock.
Although they are a large bird it is quite compact in its physique. A mature rooster will weigh in around 10lb with a mature hen weighing 8lb or so. The Lavender Orpington is a beautiful friendly breed that can lay up to 200 eggs each year.
The lavender gene is different than the blue gene in genetics in that it will produce consistent lavender color in all the offspring. The "lavender" gene (lav) in the chicken causes the dilution of both black and red/brown pigments, so according to color background, dilution due to "lavender" gives a sort of plumage color patterns: On an extended background, this condition causes the entire surface of the body an even shade of light slaty blue, which is the typical phenotype known as '"self-blue"'.
Feet and shanks are clean, slate/blue in color. Occasionally a bird will have a few feathers on the shanks, this is not acceptable in show circles, but rigorous breeding can eliminate this.
The beak is dark/ horn colored, eyes a reddish bay color. Comb, wattles and earlobes are red.
They are a single comb variety sporting five points.
As with most Orpingtons, they are a fairly steady layer. They should produce around 170-200 light brown, medium sized eggs per year.
Since Orpingtons are known to be broody, you can expect them to go broody about once a year. They make wonderful mothers, so if you have any eggs that need hatching, slip them under your Orpington!
They are a heavy bird, so perches should be a bit lower for them in order to avoid any leg injuries.
As they are a ‘feather duster on legs’, they are prone to lice and mites underneath all that fluff. They do enjoy a good dust bath but keep a close eye on possible infestations especially around the vent area and under the wings. Winter is the hardest time for them to stay clean unless you have an indoor dust bath for them.
Lavender (self-blue in US) and (pearl grey UK), is a recessive, diluting gene. Diluting simply means that it modifies the base color. As an example – black is diluted to lavender and red is diluted to straw color. This is very simplistic but gives you an idea of what the lavender gene does.
In order to breed lavender offspring, each of the parent stock requires a copy of the lavender gene.
The process of creating your own line of Lavenders is fairly straightforward but time consuming.
You would need to buy from at least two or three unrelated bloodlines to ensure some measure of success in your project.
A note of caution here: The lavender gene is closely aligned to a gene that causes retarded feather growth (known as the ‘tail shredder’ gene) and this occasionally pops up in the breeding process.
As for tolerance to the cold, they are very cold hardy however they don’t do well if they get wet, they can chill and die pretty quickly. A blow dry after a rub-down is usually enjoyed by the hens!
High temperatures and heat can be a problem for Orpingtons because of their dense feathering. They need shade, cool water and dust bath areas readily available to help cool them down. Another problem with excessive sunlight is that it will make the Lavender color fade a little into tan/yellow overtones in mature birds.
Although the Lavender color is not accepted by the American Poultry Association yet, it does not preclude you from exhibiting if you so wish. Orpingtons are great as show birds – they have a calm almost bomb-proof demeanor and tolerate a great deal of fussing and handling.
This also makes them a great project bird for the 4H club too, something that many young adults enjoy.
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.
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.
Black Laced Golden Orpington
Black Laced Golden Orpington
Gold Laced Orpingtons , as they are called in the USA, they are known as Black Laced Buff Orpingtons in Germany where they oriiginated.
Gold Laced in Orpingtons is standardized in Germany and Holland. They were first shown in the National Show in Frankfurt for recognition in 1965. They were added to the Germany Standard in 1972, and where originally created by Mr Jobst Veltheim.
The Gold Laced bird is a striking bird with beautiful distinct lacing The eye color is brown - red, the beak is light horn - colored in the male and horn colored in the female. The legs flesh colored are white, and the bottom of the feet are white. In the female, slight grey shinning is allowed.
Chocolate and Chocolate Cuckoo Orpington
Chocolate and Chocolate Cuckoo Orpington
The original Cuckoo Orpington LF was bred and introduced by William Cook’s daughter Elizabeth Jane in 1907 not many years after his death. The stunning Cuckoo pattern on the chocolate color makes this breed stand out. As with all English orpingtons the chocolate cuckoo has a mild temperament and is a good layer of large eggs.
Chocolate Cuckoo Orpingtons are beautiful, huge chickens. They are good dual purpose birds. On average, they will lay 175-200 medium to large size eggs per year. They lay a light brown egg and can be quite broody.
Male Chocolate Cuckoo Orpingtons can be single or double barred (often times it is difficult to tell the difference just by looking at them. The double barred males are usually a bit lighter in color. The barring is important because it dictates what percentage of chicks you will get genetically. Also note, you can use a solid chocolate male of barred (chocolate cuckoo females) or solid chocolate females under barred (chocolate cuckoo males).
The deep, rich beautiful color of the English Chocolate Orpington is taken up a notch will the gorgeous English Chocolate Cuckoo Orpington. The rich, dark chocolate is paired with white cuckoo stripes making this an absolute must to your backyard flock. Like the Chocolate Orpington, the Chocolate Cuckoo is available in large fowl and bantam varieties. Chocolate Cuckoo and Chocolate Orpingtons are one of the more unique varieties, as they can be bred together. This creates new bloodlines as well as helping to add type and color to your birds. Below is a chart to help out with the genetics if you should choose to breed Chocolate Cuckoo's to Chocolates.
Double barred male x barred female = 50% double barred males, 50% barred females
Double barred male x solid color female = 50% single barred males, 50% barred females
Single barred male x barred female = 25% double barred males, 25% single barred males, 25% barred females, 25% solid females
Single barred male x solid female = 50% single barred and 50% solid
Solid male x barred female = 50% single barred males, 50% solid females
Double barred males are typically lighter in color than a single barred male. Recognizing whether a rooster is single barred or double barred is difficult to tell as chicks but does become more clear as they grow.