"When someone originates or produces something new it is usually with an idea of making money out of it, but the originator of the Orpingtons had no idea of making money out of them says Percy A. Cook in Poultry Success. However, he did make money, but his prime object was to produce a bird that would help improve the poultry industry, and in this he was successful.
"William A. Cook is said to have originated the Orpingtons in England, and they have proven a popular bird. Mr. Cook found the demand so great in this country that he established a business here, besides one in England, two in Africa and one in Australia.
"When Mr. Cook started out in 1876 to produce a new fowl he had high ideas. He desired a fowl that would lay more eggs in a year than any other breed, especially in the winter when eggs are scarce; one that would not suffer from climatic changes; one that would mature early, laying at five months old; moreover, she was to be a hardy bird, a line table bird, and as if this were not enough, she must be of handsome appearance. But Mr. Cook succeeded in uniting all of these desirable qualities in the Orpingtons.
"The Black Orpingtons were put on exhibition in 1886; the White appeared three years later; the Buff Orpington appeared in 1894, followed in three years by the Diamond Jubilee and by the Spangled in 1879.
"The name Orpington was the name of a village about three miles from Mr. Cook's home and also the name he had given his home.
"One advantage of the Orpington is the variety of color. One color is just as good as another for general purposes, so one may have his favorite color. Then there is the single comb and the rose comb. The Orpington is a higher-priced bird than many of the other breeds, and hence makes more money for his owner. A thousand dollars has been refused for a single specimen, while two hundred dollars is often realized for one bird. This title naturally suggests a black fowl, but the Black Orpington is a beautiful beetle green, so bright that one must see a good specimen to appreciate the color. In 1876, Mr. Cook saw that there was room for a better breed of fowls—one that would unite weight, eggs, general usefulness and handsome appearance. So, after thinking out his ideal, he started to make the first Orpington. At that time Mr. Cook was keeping a large number of pure-bred fowls of different breeds. He noticed that the barred Plymouth Rocks often bred black birds. These he found, laid about forty more eggs in a year than the Barred Rocks, besides starting in to lay much earlier. So, he chose to use these as one of his breeds to cross.
"The Black Minorca were fine layers of eggs, and their flesh was white and tender. He selected cocks of this breed and mated them to the black Plymouth Rock pullets. The Langshan, which laid a brown egg, was at that time the best winter layer in England. They were then short-legged with a fine grain flesh. Pullets produced from the first two breeds were mated to Langshan cocks. In making a new breed the last one used dominates the character of the new fowl.
"It took nine years of careful breeding to get rid of the feathered legs of the Langshan, the white ear lobe of the Minorca and the yellowish legs of the Rock and to bring the birds to his Ideal, doing away with the light body of the Minorca.
"Black Orpingtons breed very true, as a rule. Although people do not favor a black fowl, they are won when they see a black Orpington. They went to the front at once after their first public appearance in 1886, and still hold an excellent reputation. The black is larger than the other Orpingtons; their meat is a very fine grain, full of flavor. They lay a huge brown egg and plenty of them. They have won many first prizes in official laying contests, and altogether are very popular birds."
(excerpt from The Poultry Yard, Los Angeles Herald Sunday Magazine, December 26, 1909)
We breed to a mix of the APA and UK standards. In our opinion, the trend to leggy, flat-chested birds with too high a tail in the APA show is as incorrect as the overly fluffed, no backed birds seen shown in the UK and Europe. We breed to reproduce the winning birds of the early 20th century.
The Orpington is a dual purpose bird for heavy meat production and for eggs. Color of skin, white; color of egg shells, light brown to dark brown. Egg production averages around 200 annually.
DISQUALIFICATIONS : Yellow beak, shanks, feet or skin.
Cock ……………. 10-12 lbs (4.5 kg UK)
Hen ………… 8 - 10 lbs (3.6 kg UK)
Cockerel ………. 8½ lbs
Pullet ……… 7 lb
Carriage: Bold, upright and graceful; that of an active fowl.
Type: Body deep and broad. Back nicely curved, somewhat long (Somewhere between a Wyandotte and a RIR). When viewed from above, the bird is as wide in the shoulders as the tail. Saddle wide and slightly rising, with full hackle. Breast broad, deep, and well-rounded, not flat. Keel Bone extended well forward, long and straight. WITHOUT the "forward tilt" of a cochin.
Wings: medium size, nicely formed and carried in a horizontal position, the ends almost hidden by the saddle feathers.
Tail: Moderately long (again think somewhere between a Wyandotte and a RIR), fairly well spread. From behind it should look like a triangle shaped tent, carried at an angle of twenty-five degrees from the horizontal, top line is a smooth transition from back to tail; sickles: medium length, spreading laterally beyond main tail feathers; lesser sickles and tail-coverts: medium length, nicely curved, sufficiently abundant to cover the main tail feathers.
Head: Medium length, broad, deep. Not pinched or crow shaped. Should be in proportion to the body.
Beak: Short, stout, nicely curved
Eyes: Large, oval, bright
Comb: Single, not too large, set firmly on head, follows the curve of the skull, straight and upright, 5 well-defined points without serration, those at the front and rear smaller than the middle ones, fine in texture, free from side sprigs or thumb prints.
Neck: Of medium length, curved, compact and full with full hackle.
Legs and feet: Legs short and strong. The thighs large, rather short (cobby) almost hidden by the body feathers, well set apart. Shanks: short, stout in bone, thick in proportion to the rest of the bird's bone, smooth. Toes: four, straight and well spread. Shanks and toes free from feathers and down.
Plumage/Fluff: Abundant, soft, moderately loose. Somewhere between a Cochin and a Wyandotte. Fluff: moderately full, not too profuse. Follows the outline of the thigh. Minimum of 2" from the ground. Toes and lower shanks visible.
Handling: Firm in body. Well muscled in the breast as for a table bird. Wide in the pelvis, reflective of a good egg layer.
The general characteristics are similar to those of the male. Her cushion should be wide but almost flat, and slightly rising to the tail ,and with no tendency to a ball cushion sufficient to give back a graceful appearance. Tail carried at a 15 degrees above horizontal.
Color - the same in male and female
Eyes: Black or dark brown
Comb, Face, Wattles & ear lobes: red
Shanks and toes: Black or slate, web and bottoms of feet are white
Plumage: Shiny, rich black with good beetle color, under-color of fluff is black
Disqualifications: white in more than 1/3 of the earlobe, 1/2" or more of white in any part of the feather, yellow skin.