Buff Orpington ducks are a friendly and docile multi-purpose breed of poultry bird. These attractive ducks are often kept solely as farm pets or “pond ornaments” due to their affable nature and graceful beauty.
A Buff Orpington duck (sometimes called just Buff, for short) is also a quality meat bird. While the Pekin duck breed reigns supreme in the United States from a duck meat perspective, this breed has also traditionally been kept globally for its robustly flavored meat.
Buff Orpington ducks, as is the same with all domesticated breeds, cannot truly fly. At best, they can flap their short wings quickly enough to lift their webbed feet a few inches off the ground and then bolster themselves forward for roughly one foot.
History Of Buff Orpington Ducks
Buff Orpginton ducks hail from England. Orpington, Kent renowned poultry breeder William Cook is credited with originating this duck breed. The breed was created by crossbreeding Rouen, Indian Runner, Aylesbury, and Cayuga ducks.
Cook’s deliberate breeding tactics created the Buff, Black, White, and Blue Orpington duck varieties. The Kent duck breeder was attempting to create multiple colors of the orpington duck to capitalize on the buff-colored plumage fad that was raging in Europe during the early part of the 20th Century. The White Buff Orpington duck variety did not garner nearly as much popularity as the other breed varieties William Cook created.
In 1908, Cook brought his Buff Orpington ducks to America to display them at the Madison Square Garden Show. By 1914, the Buff Oprington breed was allowed entry into the American Standard of Perfection books listed simply under the name, Buff. The labeling of the breed by the poultry association was quite unusual, it is perhaps the only known instance of a breed being listed only by its color.
The Buff Orpington duck breed was standardized in Great Britain in 1910. In 1926, the Blue Orpington variety was standardized. Members of this breed were far more popular on a commercial farming scale in Europe than they ever became in the United States.
Buff Orpington Physical Characteristics
- Members of this duck breed are deemed “light class” but their six to eight pound weight places them at the upper level of the size class designation.
- Buff Orpington ducks have a medium length bill and an oval head.
- These ducks are broad in shape but also have a long curved neck which is often described as “graceful” in style.
- The body carriage on a Buff Orpington duck is 20 degrees above horizontal.
- The tail on members of this duck breed is distinctly curled.
- The wings on both drakes and hens are short and small.
- The feet and shanks are a shade of yellow to orange.
- Buff Orpington ducks boast a bill that is yellow on a drake and a shade of brown to orange on a hen.
- Both hens and drakes boast buff plumage.
- The pin feathers on Buff Orpingtons are light and the buff plumage is often a shade of “fawn brown.”
- Buff Orpinton ducks are prone to putting on weight rather quickly, a trait that is extremely desirable in a meat duck. A member of this breed, be it male or female, can reach a butchering weight in a mere 8 to 10 weeks.
- Hens typically weigh between 5 to 6 pounds and drakes weigh between 6 and a half to 8 pounds once mature.
Buff Orpington Demeanor
- These ducks are perhaps one of the most social and docile breeds. They seem to have less of a startle response than some other popular duck breeds, which can help keep the noise level down – especially when keeping a large flock.
- Buff Orpington ducks are excellent free ranging birds. When permitted to patrol on land around their duck house – coop, or run and in a pond members of this breed routinely forage for about half of their diet from spring through the late fall.
- Some of a Buff Orpington duck’s favorite free ranging finds include: tadpoles, young frogs, mosquitoes, small lizards, slugs, snails, wild greens, and little crustaceans.
- Buff Orpingtons are known not only for being calm and affable with their keepers, but also for their hardy nature. They adapt well to both cold and hot climates – as long as they have constant access to a clean water source to cool off in.
- Drakes are loyal to their hens and keep a pretty watchful eye on the flock when out free ranging.
- Members of this breed tend to be intelligent and can be trained easily to free range and to learn their boundaries. I highly recommend training the Buff Orpingtons with some lettuce or millet to teach them their free ranging routine.
- Buff Orpington ducks can live happily on a small homestead or in a backyard if they have a safe, clean, spacious duck house and run – with a water feature. A baby pool or hand dug small garden pond will give them all the water they need to clean themselves and to satisfy their need to both swim and play.
- This breed will also thrive living on a large homestead or farm with a pond they have access to when free ranging. Their procreation rates may increase when left to their own devices outside of the coop and run environment. It is best to keep one drake for every five hens.
Buff Orpington Egg Production
- Buff Orpington hens lay between 180 to 245 large white eggs per year.
- A quality mature Buff hen typically lays three to four eggs per week.
- Hens of this breed may have a tendency to turn broody. The hens can be prone to gathering up any duck egg that was laid and left unattended inside of the duck house or run, and claiming it for herself.
- Buff Orpington hens are decent sitters, but you may still need to invest in an incubator if you want to increase your flock numbers.
- Once the ducklings hatch, Buff Orpington hens make pretty good mommas. They are protective of their young and watch over them diligently while teaching them how to be a duck both on land and on water.
Buff Orpington As Meat Birds
Because of the light pin feathers on Buff Orpington ducks, they make an easy to clean and highly attractive table bird. Although ducks of this breed were traditionally used as meat birds, they are rarely kept commercially for that purpose anymore.
Commercial farms have elected to raise the larger Pekin duck because it grows more rapidly – making it cheaper to keep. Some maintain Buff Orpington meat is far superior to the meat generated by Pekin ducks and raise the breed on residential farms and homestead just for that purpose.
Buff Orpington Breeder Selection Tips
It is doubtful that you will find Buff Orpington ducks for sale during a “Chick Days” even from popular agriculture retailers like Rural King and Tractor Supply. You will likely have to order members of this heritage duck breed from a hatchery – like Meyer or Murray McMurray.
Whether or not you will be able to purchase fertilized eggs, ducklings, juvenile, or mature birds will depend both upon hatchery availability and time of year.
When reviewing mature drakes and hens to use as breeding stock, pay careful attention to the activity level of the birds when they are either free ranging on running loose inside of a duck house run. You want a bird that is not showing either any signs of lethargy or is overly excited and anxious.
The potential breeders should have strong legs that are evenly formed without any visible signs of abnormalities or deformities.
Ask questions from the breeder or nursery about egg production of the mature breeder birds or the hens that spawned them. If you are hoping to breed the Buff Orpingtons as part of a money making endeavor on your own homestead or farm, always keep both egg laying and live hatch success rate records to share with your customers and to track the overall health of your flock.
Regardless of the age of the breeders you are considering, they should neither be more than one pound under or over the recommended weight for their age.
The bills on the Buff Orpington ducks should be very straight and attached high on the head.
If you are seeking Buff Orpington ducks to show them, look for breeders that boast as little non-buff feathering as possible. If the ducks will be used as meat production birds, look for breeders with as many white pin feathers as possible to make picking the meat to the bone a clean and fast process.
According to the Livestock Conservancy, there are roughly 1,088 Buff Orpington breeding stock in North America – as of the 2015 domestic waterfowl census. The breeders who responded to the waterfowl census report indicated they kept flocks containing 50 or more Buff Orpinton ducks.
This beautiful breed of ducks is largely considered to be rare, at least in North America, and will be more difficult to find and perhaps cost a little more per bird than other more conventional duck breeds.