When you're starting a small farm flock of laying hens, meat birds, or dual-purpose chickens that will provide both eggs and meat, choosing the breeds can be overwhelming. So I've put together information on some of the most common small farm and homestead chicken breeds, including the Buff Orpington, a great, friendly, Big Bird type breed that will add charm and sweetness to your flock.
Large/heavy (7-8 lb). Also come in bantam.
Buff, black, blue, white. Buff is common, others rare.
Dual purpose, originally for meat.
History, Origins, and About the Breed
Orpingtons were originally bred in the United Kingdom. They are one of the top choices for small farms and homesteads because they are docile, sweet, and grow nice and large. They are a wonderful dual-purpose bird, laying eggs and producing tasty meat, and since the mothers go broody easily, you can have a natural setup where your flock reproduces and continues for generations.
Orpingtons are also very cold-hardy and lay well through frigid winters and dark, short days. They are large birds with thick feathering that helps keep them warm and toasty through the winter months. On our farm here in northern Vermont, Orpingtons have been one of our very favorite breeds for both their gentle, pet-like temperament and their excellent winter hardiness.
I have had four or five Buff Orpington roosters and all have had exceptionally gentle temperaments. I would recommend them if you want a rooster in your flock. They are also very beautiful roosters with striking gold plumage.
Gentle and docile, calm and patient. Great with kids.
Buff Orpingtons are, in fact, so gentle, that they can be "beat up" and bullied by more dominant hens in the flock. So you may want to be aware of this tendency when mixing breeds.
Orpingtons are a heritage breed, a breed that existed before modern industrial meat and egg production. Many small farmers find heritage breeds to be hardier and healthier than their industrial, hybrid counterparts, and they tend to exhibit more "classic chicken" behaviors like foraging, dust bathing, parenting their young, and sometimes going broody.
Heavy, particularly well-suited for cold.
Can be quite broody. This is good if you want a natural hatching of chicks, but not so good if you want consistent egg-laying. Buff Orpingtons have been the broodiest in my flock. I have also had one hatch a clutch of eggs, and she was an amazing mother and one of the Buff roosters made an excellent, protective and gentle father.
Good, about 3 eggs per week.