I have the amazing Large Fowl, English Orpington in 2 color varieties: Chocolate and Isabel. Although not currently accepted colors by the American Poultry Association (APA), they are so stunning they are worth considering. These colors of Orpington can compete in shows as an AOV (All other variety) until the breed color is accepted by the APA.
My Chocolate Orpington were obtained from Northwoods Poultry and Papa’s Poultry and is from the Ewe Crazy line. They are a medium to deep solid chocolate color. I have no red bleed through and are excellent show quality.
My stunning Isabel Cuckoo Orpington were obtained from Walt Hicks at Sandy Feet Farms and from A Different Chick Farm. Genetics are from Fancy Chick who started many years ago from Sandra Hildreth in the UK. They are a stunning golden cuckoo on a lavender background. They have very soft colors reminiscent of water colors.
Having 2 distinct blood lines insures sound genetics and maintains the true large fowl size known to the English Orpington.
The English Orpington is a wonderful dual purpose bird prized for both egg production and meat on the table. They are great layers of light brown to dark brown large to extra large eggs averaging 3 to 4 a week and often lay through the winter months. My eggs are a beautiful pale brown with a pinkish tinge. They weigh approximately 51 grams placing them in the medium to large USDA Classification.
Orpington’s have an excellent rate of growth with roosters reaching an impressive 8 pounds as a cockerel (young rooster, under 1 year old) and pullets (young hen, under 1 year old) will reach 7 to 8 pounds. At maturity the roosters will reach 13 to 15+ pounds and females are around 9 to 12+ pounds
English Orpington chickens are a delight in your flock. They have a very friendly, docile and calm disposition making them easily handled. They make great 4H projects. They do well in most climates, bearing both heat and cold temperatures well. Orpington’s bear confinement well but like all chickens love to forage.
The Orpington chicken is a general dual purpose bird that is used for both eggs and meat production. Because of their large size and soft appearance giving it an attractive appearance, the Orpington is also grown as a show bird by many.
They are excellent layers of large to extra large, light to medium brown eggs. They average 200 eggs per year laying 3-4 per week. They will often lay through the winter months. The hens do get broody and are great mothers.
They have an excellent rate of growth in some lines providing large heavy birds. Roosters reach an impressive 8 pounds as a cockerel (young rooster, under 1 year old) and pullets (young hen, under 1 year old) will reach 7 to 8 pounds. At maturity the roosters will reach 13 to 15+ pounds; females are around 9 to 12+ pounds
Orpington is a docile bird with a calm and friendly disposition. They are easily handled. They bear confinement well. Although this is a rather heavy fowl, Orpington is able to fly small distances but rarely do so. Orpington is cold hardy and tolerates heat well.
The English Orpington is a heavy soft feathered bird. They carry themselves in a graceful and bold, upright position, that of an active fowl. The plumage of Orpington’s body feathers should be broad and smooth fitting on the deep and massive body of the bird. The undercarriage feathers should be thick and downy. It requires high levels of protein year round to keep it’s downy plumage in excellent condition.
The Orpington has a deep and broad body. The Back has a nice curve with a somewhat short, concaved outline. The rooster’s saddle is wide and slightly rising, with a full hackle. The hen’s cushion should be wide but almost flat, and slightly rising to the tail, sufficient to give the back a graceful appearance with an outline approaching concave. The breast is broad, deep and well rounded, not flat. The wings are somewhat small and nicely formed and carried close to the body. They have a rather short and compact tail. The rooster’s tail is flowing and high, but not a squirrel tail. The Orpington has a medium length curved and compact neck. Orpingtons have white skin.
The Orpington has a small and neat head with a smooth face. They have distinctive large and bold eyes. The beak is strong and nicely curved. The Orpington has a single, medium size comb that is perfectly straight and upright with five well-defined points. Wattles are of medium length, rather oblong and nicely rounded at the bottom. The Ear-lobes are small and elongated.
Orpington legs are short and strong. The thighs are almost hidden by the body feathers and are set well apart. The legs are silvery white or pink. They have four toes that are straight and well spread.
Orpington comes in a wide variety of colors. The American Poultry Association recognizes the Buff, Black, White, and Blue Orpington in the large fowl classification. Unrecognized colors can compete in shows as an AOV (All other variety) until the breed color is accepted by the APA.
The Chocolate Orpington although not recognized in American does have a standard of perfection in England. They were first bred in England by Dr Clive Carefoot between 1993-94. The chocolate gene is a recessive gene that is a dilution of the black gene. Hens present as chocolate when carrying only one of the genes (but can carry two), whereas males require two genes to present with the chocolate coloring. It is important to note that a male can carry one chocolate gene and pass it to his offspring. Their color is a rich chocolate brown all over. There should be no red presenting in the feathering. The beak is brown, eyes are dark brown. Comb, face, wattles and ear-lobes are bright red. Legs and feet are pale. Chocolate chicks are brown with yellow on their tummies, under their chins and on their wing tips.
Isabel Cuckoo Orpington: This color variety can be a challenging to breed and get the color and pattern correct. Their beauty is rewarding and well worth the effort. The Isabel is lavender based with a shimmery champagne barring. They have a lavender cuckoo base color with straw/buff high lights. The Isabel cuckoo is in the Crele family. Isabel is Lavender Cuckoo over Crele Partridge. The Lavender (self-blue) gene is diluting and will dilute the gold gene and barring gene from the Crele color to Isabel. Chicks can be a variety of colors from pale buff (as the lavender gene is a diluting gene) to lavender with buff overtones. It is noted that after generations of breeding, the Isabel’s will begin to fade and loose some of their pastel overtones. Every few generations it is advised to breed to a Partridge (Crele) to introduce new color. They are quite stunning in their pastel colors!
History: During the late 1800s, William Cook was a humble coachman living in the Kentish town of Orpington, in England. He began crossing Minorca roosters with Black Plymouth Rock hens, and then the offspring to clean-legged Langshan chickens. His goal was to develop a hardy, fast growing chicken that laid well and yet had the table qualities the British market sought. In 1886 he introduced his creation to the public – it was a success and within 10 years Orpington chickens were well established in England and began to be exported to other countries.
William Cook focused his breeding efforts on developing the body and productive traits of his poultry; in the process many birds came as they might in color pattern providing many varieties of his Orpington chickens. He first introduced the Black, and then the White Orpington, the Buff, the Jubilee [Speckled], and the Spangled [Mottled]. His son-in-law, A.C. Gilbert, created the Blue and the Cuckoo Orpington.
The first Black Orpington came to America in 1890, and was exhibited at the Boston Show the same year. It was in 1895, however, that the Black Orpington was made into a large exhibit at the Madison Square Garden in New York, and its popularity soared. In 1903 William Cook himself brought over a large importation and showed them in America. Farmers of the mid-western states favored the Buff Orpington chicken for its generally superior table-qualities, and its unique color. Orpingtons continued to boom until the poultry industry experienced a depression about 1912.
Wallace p. Willett of East Orange, New Jersey wrote of the early Orpington History. He noted one importation early in 1898 of Black, Buff and White Orpington eggs, direct from Mr. Cook's farm. Up to that year, 1898, no Buff or White Orpingtons had been brought into the United States, but perhaps a dozen Blacks had come in. In 1898 C. E. Vass of Washington, N. J., brought over a pen of Buff Orpington from 'a successful breeder in England,' not from Wm. Cook direct, and exhibited them at Mount Gretna, Pa. This was the first exhibit of Buff Orpington in America. The exhibits of 1899 called attention to Orpington’s merits increasing demand for Orpington eggs. Numbers continued to increase and at the New York show, in 1900, there were 43 entries. Mr. Willett made his first exhibit at this show, entering two Blacks and two Buffs, winning two firsts on Blacks but nothing on Buffs. The 'Cook Type' of Buffs had not been judged before and differed somewhat from the 'Vass Type' which had already been judged. It was the only type known previous to the showing of the 'Cook Orpington' but the latter came to the front immediately after.
The Orpington chicken had many desired qualities winning all the varieties recognition. These qualities include a fast rate of growth, excellent egg production, and excellent table-quality. Orpington chickens make excellent broilers weighing 2 to 2.5 lbs at 8-10 weeks of age and excellent roasting chickens at 5 months of age. They are first-rate layers of large to extra large light to dark brown eggs.
The original Orpington colors are black, white, buff, blue and splash. Although there are many additional varieties recognized throughout the world, only the original colors are recognized by the American Standard, the Buff being the most common color. Orpington chickens were recognized by the American Poultry Association as a standard bred in four varieties: Buff, 1902; Black, 1905; White, 1905; and Blue, 1923. Males weigh 10 lbs and females 8 lbs. Although considered endangered, the Orpington graduated from The Livestock Conservancy's priority list in 2016 and is no longer considered endangered.