Among the hundreds of chicken breeds strutting across the earth, each has its own set of genetic traits and dispositions. The Buff Orpington is a century-old heritage breed, a large meat bird with well-laying hens and roosters known for docility.
In the case of raising a new flock, the chicken-versus-egg question is simple: chicks come first. Buff Orpingtons are popular heritage chickens easily purchased from reputable hatcheries, but the chicks are not sex-linked -- chickens whose sex can be distinguished at hatching -- so you'll have to wait until your pullets, young hens, and cockerels, young roosters, are at least 4 or 5 months old to know which chicks will grow to be roosters. Roosters will crow, develop larger combs and grow aggressive toward the females. You'll likely have more than one in a batch of chicks, so choose the ones you like best, and either slaughter or re-home the rest.
While every bird is unique, particular breeds are expected to have certain characteristics, and the Buff Orpington possesses his own set of defining traits. Developed in England in the late 1800s, the bird was bred as a dual-purpose meat and egg-laying animal. With roosters weighing as much as 10 pounds and hens averaging a bit less, Buff Orpingtons are big birds with plenty of meat on their bones. Orpington hens lay an average of 250 eggs per year each. Orpingtons are also cold-resistant, making them ideal birds for northern areas where temperatures drop dramatically in the winter.
When considering the question of rooster or no rooster, temperament is most often the primary consideration. Roosters have a reputation for being aggressive, a notoriety earned by numerous mean roosters within the male chicken population. A protective rooster can be an asset, especially in guarding a flock against predators, but aggressiveness can present a challenge to farmers. Buff Orpingtons are notably docile roosters, with some even exhibiting relatively friendly personalities, and for this reason they're a perennial farmstead favorite.
Breeding and Show Birds
Orpingtons are popular chicken for exhibitions, contests where breeders gather to compare results of their chickens' mating habits. Show roosters are judged on physical characteristics, both in condition and underlying genetic traits like head shape, leg length and body size. The Orpington rooster is a good mate, with hearty offspring, an important point for any chicken-keeper, not just show breeders, as they're very willing to fertilize eggs and keep a chicken yard stocked with future generations of Buff Orpingtons.
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Rodney Wilson is owner and manager of Goldfinch Farm in central Kentucky, where he oversees veterinary and management practices for a diverse group of animals, from dogs and cats to pigs and chickens. He's written professionally since 2001, with articles appearing in such publications as The Cincinnati Enquirer, CiN Weekly, Baby Guide and Akron Life.