The Orpington is a breed of chicken named after the town of Orpington, Kent, in south-east England. It was bred for superior egg laying while retaining meat quality. Its large size and soft appearance together with its rich colour and gentle contours give it an attractive appearance, and as such it is grown more often as a show bird rather than a utility breed. Hens often become broody and are good mothers. Although rather heavy, Orpingtons are able to fly small distances but rarely do so.
The original Black Orpington was bred by William Cook in 1886 by crossing Minorcas, Langshans and Plymouth Rocks to create a new hybrid bird. Cook selected a black bird that would exhibit well by hiding the dirt and soot of London. When the breed was shown in Madison Square Gardens in 1895, its popularity soared. Cook also bred the Orpington Duck.
The original colours are black, white, buff, blue and splash. Although there are many additional varieties recognised throughout the world, only the original colours are recognised by the American Standard, the Buff being the most common colour. In the beginning of the twentieth century, Herman Kuhn of Germany developed a Bantam variety. The Bantam retains the appearance of the full-size bird, but in a smaller size. There is a large variety of colours in the Bantam version, including black, blue laced, white, buff, red, buff black laced, barred, buff Columbian, and birchen. The Bantam retains the friendly personality of the Standard breed, and seldom or never flies.
In the UK club dedicated to the breed is the Orpington Club, which merged with the Orpington Bantam Club in 1975. The United Orpington Club is the American breeder’s club, and the Orpington Club of Australia is the Australian club for the breed.