If you are looking for a glorious, stately, dignified backyard chicken with incredible egg-laying capability…look no further than the Australorp.
The breed goes by many names: The Australian Black Orpington, Black Australorp, Australian Orpington or Australs, this beautiful bird would make a stunning addition to any flock. Not only are they superb layers and striking in looks, they are easy-keepers and remarkably friendly. Interested? Read on!
A brief history
A flock of birds deemed “William Cook’s Orpington’s” were imported to Australia in the early 1900’s; they were cross-bred with a plethora of breeds including Rhode Island Reds, white Leghorn, Langshan, Minorcas, and Plymouth Rocks. The intent was to make a nice, dual purpose chicken with excellent egg-laying ability which would be suitable for the Australian climate.
How good of layers are they? Well, the current record stands as 364 eggs in 365 days. That’s pretty outstanding. That was a busy bird! (Though—luckily for the hens—not necessarily the norm.)
The breed has had some ups and downs over the years, falling out of favor, then back in, but they persevered.
Today, Australorps are a popular, prolific layer with a laid-back, low-maintenance demeanor perfect for children or first-time chicken parents.
They’ve got the looks
Australorps are large, heavy birds—males can top out at 10 pounds whereas the girls usually round out at a solid 8 pounds. They flaunt a thick frock of soft, black, iridescent feathers that shimmer in hues of blue and green in the sunlight. Truly stunning! Hens carry their rather puffy tails high on their backs whereas roosters have quite splendid tail feathers that flow like a fountain.
They maintain a very upright stance and basically glide across the backyard in a royal manner. They enjoy free-range where they can scratch and peck for bugs at their leisure; also, they are prone to obesity, so having enough room to roam will keep them both healthy and happy.
These birds are popular in the 4-H or fair communities. Once they get used to hustle and bustle of these events, they are award-winning contestants.
Sweet, quiet, and easy keepers
Australorps tend to introduce well to existing flocks. They are usually in the middle of pecking order and don’t throw their weight around, so keep an eye on the pushier members of the flock to make sure your mild-mannered chicken is not getting picked on.
They have sweet and gentle dispositions—even the roosters—and, though shy at first, readily open up. Australorps often like to follow their humans around, looking for treats.
Australorps are robust birds. They do not have many known health issues aside from being prone to overheating. Though heat-tolerant, they will need access to shade—those dark feathers are dense! This breed is very susceptible to heatstroke, more so than most other breeds; however, they are wily enough to seek out cooler patches of ground to chill out.
They are also rather aloof to predators. They tend to rely on their feathers for camouflage, which doesn’t always work in every environment.
Their average life expectancy is around 6-10 years.
But they’re known for eggs
As noted already, these chickens are egg-laying superstars. You can count on approximately 250 eggs a year, which equates to around five eggs a week! Their eggs are light brown in color and medium-sized.
The verdict is torn whether the hens are good sitters or not. Some owners claim that they are supreme nest sitters and good mothers to chicks, while others claim the opposite. So, it would seem that it can alter from chicken to chicken. They are considered average in terms of broodiness which is a sharp contrast to their parent bird, the rather broody Orpington.
A bird that checks every box
Australorps may be known by many names, but they are all calm, distinguished and productive. They are great birds for practically every climate (keeping shade in mind) and have few health issues.
Whether you are backyard bird advocate looking for your next award-winner, or just want a friendly, feathered friend, Australorps can check every box!
About the author
Shelby Stone is a writer and communications mechanic at Small Pet Select, when she isn’t busy with her chickens, her horse Percy, Mango the parrot, and the many other animals in her family