Australorp Chickens: A Comprehensive Care Guide

Australorp Chickens A Comprehensive Care Guide Blog Cover

The Australorp is a fairly recent arrival on the chicken scene, but in it’s relatively short history it has made a huge impression on chicken keepers and the poultry industry the world over.

The name is a contraction of Australian black Orpington. The breed was called by several different names before Australorp was settled upon.

Since the major development of this breed was done in Australia, the Australorp is the honorary National bird of Australia.

In this article we will look at their temperament, egg laying ability and breed standard, before addressing how to properly care for them and common health issues.

History of Australorps

In the early 1900s, William Cook’s Orpingtons were imported to Australia with the intention of creating a good dual purpose bird suitable for the Australian climate. They were crossed with
Rhode Island Reds to improve the egg laying ability.

Australorp

In England, the Orpington was being refined to produce good quality meat, but the ever practical Australian poultry breeders of the 1920s wanted a good utility bird with the emphasis on lots of eggs and secondary, meat production.

To this end Cook’s Orpingtons were crossed with Rhode Island Reds, Minorcas, white Leghorn, Langshan and possibly some Plymouth Rocks.

The result was a bird that was a phenomenal layer – probably the combination of Orpington, Leghorn and Rhode Island Red genes made this bird a laying superstar!

In 1922-23 six Australorp hens laid 1,857 eggs, averaging 309.5 eggs per bird over a 365 day period.

Regular egg laying contests were held all over Australia and the following year a hen laid 347 eggs in 365 days. The current record stands as 364 eggs in 365 days – an amazing achievement, especially when you consider this was done without extra lighting for the hens.

The poultry industry soon became interested in the Australorp because of its’ prolific egg laying ability – it was a breed they didn’t have to coerce into laying.

The interest waned in the 1930-1940s as the Australorp was crossed with the white Leghorn creating the Austra White, an even more productive hen.

The Australorp went into a decline which has been reversed over the last few years. It is listed as a recovering breed. The Australorp remains a top layer to this day and is well suited for the smaller backyard environment.

Backyard chicken folk love them for the same reason – and a few more besides.

Australorps also go by the names Black Australorp (there are white and blue also), Australian Orpington or Australs.

Breed Standard

The American Poultry Association recognizes the Australorp in its’ original color only – black.

However, The Australian Poultry Society recognizes the black, blue and white varieties.
South Africa has also buff, splash, wheaten laced and golden in addition to the other colors.

The Australorp is a large, heavy bird with close fitting, soft feathers. It is classified as a heavy, soft feathered English bird.

Australorp Rooster

It should have a very upright stance, carrying the tail high. The breast is full and well-rounded with a deep, solid body. Wattles, earlobes and comb should all be red in color. The comb should be upright and have no more than seven points.

The legs should be clean of feathers, black or slate blue in color. There are four toes to each foot and the skin on the bottom of the foot should be white as is the skin of the body. Eyes are a shiny jet black and the beak is dark in color.

The standard sized birds are heavy, with a male weighing between 8½-10lb and a hen between 6½-8lb.

Bantams weigh in at 2-2.7lb for males and 1.7-2.2lb for hens.

Australorp Temperament and Appearance

The feathers of the black Australorp have a beetle-green sheen in the sunlight giving a stunning iridescence to the feathers.

The Australorp is somewhat ‘stately’ in walking – a trait it got from the Orpington which sort of glides across the barnyard much like a Duchess at a tea party.

They will tolerate confinement well, but like most of the heavier, larger breeds will also enjoy free ranging and searching for bugs and morsels in the yard as they really do like to be active.

The exercise aspect of free ranging is good for them since they can be slightly prone to obesity if kept solely in confinement.

They are a fast growing breed with a slightly shy demeanor initially, but once they settle in, they are likely to follow you around the yard in case you have any treats in your pockets!

Flock of Australorps

Egg Laying

As we have noted above, the Australorp is an egg laying machine. Although not as prolific as their forebears, the current Australorp hens will give you an average of 250 eggs/year. Individuals may lay more or less, depending on the hen.

This equates to around five light brown, medium sized eggs/ week – not too shabby!
In an industrial setting they do produce more eggs since their lighting and feed is strictly controlled for maximum output.

Depending on the line of Australorps you have, they are generally known to be average to good nest sitters and good mothers to their chicks. Some articles say they aren’t good sitters, but other folks have said they are good sitters and mothers, the ‘yeas’ seem to outnumber the ‘naes’.

They are average in broodiness, unlike their parent bird the Orpington.

Health Issues and Special Needs

This is a robust and healthy heritage breed. There are no special considerations for this easy going hen. The average life expectancy is between 6-10 years.

The usual attention to parasites and other minor issues of chickens is all you need to be diligent about.

Is The Australorp Right For You?

Australorp Close Up

If you are looking for a hen that’s easy to care for, will lay an abundance of eggs and fit in well with your current flock, the Australorp may be your hen.

Although they can initially be a bit on the shy side, they will warm up to you and will be a friendly and loveable barnyard companion. They have a gentle and sweet disposition, not a mean bone in their little bodies, including the roosters.

They are a calm and quiet breed, not pushy. They will likely be in the middle of the pecking order. They can get bullied by more aggressive breeds so keep an eye on the more ‘pushy’ birds in your flock.

They are a breed that is very easy to handle and this makes them a perfect candidate for farm programs such as the 4H here in the US.

Once they get used to the noise and fuss they also make good exhibition birds, frequently winning ribbons for their owners.

They are tolerant of a wide range of temperatures and types of weather – from hot climates such as Australia to cooler places such as the American mid-West. This bird really is an all-rounder as far as the weather goes.

Summary

The Australorp is a delightful bird to have in your flock.

They are easygoing and friendly, a great bird for beginners since they require little in the way of ‘special care’ and are easy to deal with as they acclimate to being handled very quickly.

The Australorp is a delightful, quiet bird to have in your flock. They aren’t flighty or noisy, are cold hardy, make good flock-mates and lay an abundance of delicious eggs…

Who could want for more?

If you have Australorps, we would love to hear from you. Please let us know in the comments section below…

Comments

  1. chris james says

    I now have 4 Australorps in my flock
    I find them very friendly nosey and curious .
    I also have 3 RIR and 3 Plymouths and 3 others no one seems to be able to tell me about. I think at the moment I consider my Australorps my favourites . A Beautiful bird

  2. elaine says

    I have an australorpe hen. Not sure how old she is as she came to me over a year old, and sick with a chronic repiratory disease. She spent 5 months on my porch in quarantine, but for the past year has been out free ranging as a member of my mixed flock. She is so friendly and talkative. She hatched a clutch of eggs last May, and she is a fantastic mother. Even better than my cochin! She lays 5 – 6 eggs per week. She is pretty near the bottom of the pecking order, but she is fine, gets enough to eat and is always first running to me when I go out into the garden.She has beautiful black feathers with green sheen, large black eyes, gray/blue legs and bright red comb and wattles. And she loves foraging. I think she is my favourite!

  3. Emily says

    When we started, we wanted 3 Rhode Island Reds but the feed store sold the ones I had “on hold” so they gave me 4 black Australorps and what a bargain! We love them, they are our first chickens and they are super easy, great layers! We were getting 4 eggs a day all week long until it got cold, now we average 2 eggs a day from the team. Their names are Eggna, Amelia Egghart, Audrey Henburn, and Princess Lay-a!

  4. Tamara Huffman says

    We started our backyard flock 1 1/2 years ago with 8 hens. The grandkids named them after Santa’s reindeer. We were supposed to have two Australorps, Donner and Blitzen, but when Blitzen started growing feathers on her feet, we knew we had an imposter.(we eventually identified her as a Langshan, and we fell in love with her). Last year someone gave us their year old Austrlorp, so we finally had the two we planned on. She was molting when she moved in, so she looked pretty scraggly. She has filled out now, but her comb and wattles are a pale red (almost pink) as compared to the bright red on Donner. In fact, all of our girls have bright red combs (we now have 16 girls, including 4 Ameraucanas, 3 Wyandottes, 2 Langshans, 1 Marans, 3 Wellsummers, and 1 Faverolle). We are concerned that Dasher’s pale red comb may indicate she is not as healthy as our other girls. Is this something we should be worried about? Other than this, she is a sweet girl and a perfect addition to our friendly flock!

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Tamara,

      Please send me a photo so I can take a look 🙂

      However, if the comb has always been this way I wouldn’t be too concerned. Its when there has been a sudden change that indicates problems…

      Claire.

  5. RoseAnn Simpkins says

    I have one old Australorp. She is known as Aunt Penny. She tries to lay but I think she is done. I have 3 young hens that are now laying. I think one of them is a Jersey Giant. How do I tell them apart?

  6. Robert says

    I have six white Australop hens, purchased from Sutherlands Building Supply. They are extremely curious and sometimes get in the way. Egg production has been better but since the weather has turned colder, eggs have dropped off. I will get more of the Australops if I can find them, especially the black variety.Great hen to have around.

  7. Sue D. says

    I currently have four and I find them to be incredibly sweet, curious and well mannered birds. They each have their own little personalities and one, ms Sassy, follows me around like a lil puppy as she’s happily chatting nonstop about something!?. Love them! They do, however sign loud and proud~ their egg song!… otherwise they’re pretty quiet. ??

  8. Anita says

    We inherited a RIR and an Australorp. The Australorp is a champion! Great temperament (not at all flighty) and lays consistently, 5~6 eggs a week. Meanwhile, the RIR goes broody every 5 weeks or so and creates so much more fuss generally!

  9. Carol says

    Mine is top hen and very vocal. I almost lost her 2 years ago to a blocked crop. I was lucky and found a vet that operated on her and removed the blockade. She is one of my layers . Out of the 9 chickens I have she is one a mine favorite.

  10. Kathleen says

    I started my flock with a mail order of 10 Rhode Island Red and 5 Buff Orpington hens. I ended up with 2 Rhode Island roosters in the mix but that’s another story.
    I raised them in the brood box and then placed them in a large coop with their own private perimeter fence equipped with solar electric for overnight safety. During the day I have an additional movable mesh fence for safe free roaming.
    All of the hens were laying in approximately 5 months.
    All was going perfect until a stray black Australorp roo showed up and moved himself right in and took total charge of the hens.
    ” He’s the boss”.
    Over the summer a couple of the Buff’s and one Rhode island hens became broody, so I allowed some hatching to go on. The Buff’s make spectacular mother hens and hatched quite a few chicks. I gave away 2 Rhode island/ Australorp mix and 2 Buff/ Australorp mix and I still have a Buff /Australorp which is doing well, I can’t wait to see what kind of a layer she will be.
    Unfortunately neither of my beautiful Rhode Island Roos became a father, maybe next summer.
    All of the hens are great layers and have a great disposition.
    So far so good with 3 roos living together. I guess space is the key.

  11. Tammy says

    We are new chicken owners! started our adventure in Sept. of 2017. we have 6 Austras. I love these girls. they are so comical! in fact we named one WRONG WAY because she kept going the wrong way! LOL we have 18 girls altogether. 3 barred, one RIR, 6 Golden Stars, one Black Star, and one Wynodette. plus my australorps.

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