Even many chicken enthusiasts have not heard about Australorps. This is somewhat of a surprise and shame, because it’s a wonderful breed of chicken with many great qualities. Here is a little bit about it, and why it would be a good addition to any home or farm.
This large breed is black, with black legs and black eyes. They are known for their beautiful, shiny feathers, which can look green in the sunlight. Often people confuse them with the Black Jersey Giant, but there are two noticeable differences. For one, the Australorp is smaller, weighing between 6 to 9 pounds, depending on if it’s a hen or a rooster. They also differ from Black Jersey Giants in the color of the bottoms of their feet. Jerseys have yellow on their feet, whereas Australorps have a pinkish-white color.
Its name comes from its breeding background. It is an Australian breed derived from English Orpington stock. It was deliberately bred as a utility chicken with a dual purpose of providing meat and eggs. It became recognized officially as a breed in the late 1920s.
This breed is renowned for its prolific egg laying. Rumor has it that one hen set a record by laying 364 eggs in 365 days. The record is under dispute, but one thing is not: hens of this breed that are happy will typically lay anywhere from 250-300 eggs per year, which means they keep laying in winter! The eggs are a pretty light brown and will be medium to large in size.
As a dual-purpose bird, they are also good for meat. This is great if you plan on having chickens as part of a subsistence farm. These birds are good brooders as well, meaning they will sit on eggs and care for them diligently until they hatch. With them being meat chickens, you can make good use of any old laying hens or extra roosters.
Besides being great meat and egg providers, this breed has a truly wonderful temperament. They are very friendly, a little shy, and so completely docile that they are often kept as pets! If you think they might be too heavy for your kids to pick up, look for the bantam version of the breed.
This is really an excellent breed to choose no matter what your needs might be. They are exceptionally winter-hardy, great layers, brooders, and good meat birds. Another bonus is that they do not generally like to fly too high, so you can keep them in a fenced area without worrying about them escaping.
If you want to get some Australorps, there are many online hatcheries that will be able to send you day-old chicks. They ship them via mail as a perishable item (the chicks do not need food or water the first couple days as they get the nutrition from the egg). Make sure you are able to take them home as soon as they arrive, then just follow whatever directions the hatchery sends with the chicks. Enjoy these truly wonderful chickens!