Our recent article on the Buff Orpington was well received and prompted folks to ask about Lavender Orpingtons – it seems that Lavender is the ‘in’ color at the moment!
Orpingtons come in a large variety of colors and patterns, these past couples of years have seen a steady rise in interest for not only Lavender but Blues too.
The Lavender Orpington is a beautiful friendly breed that can lay up to 200 eggs each year.
In this article we will discuss all you need to know about Lavender Orpingtons, their disposition, egg laying capabilites, broodiness and crucially, is it right for your flock?
Let’s start by looking at the history of the Orpington breed to give you some background information.
Lavender Orpington Background
The original Orpington was created in England back in the 1880s by a fellow called William Cook who lived in the village of Orpington in Kent, England.
His vision was to create a bird that was a decent layer and was good for the table too. Up until this time the average English chicken was a pretty scrawny and unappetizing affair.
He succeeded in his endeavor starting with the Black Orpington which guaranteed him the success he desired on both sides of the Atlantic.
From the Black Orpington, he went on to create several other Orpington colors – Buff being the most well-known and loved to this day.
Mr Cook really created a ‘brand’ rather than a breed initially. When he created the Buff Orpington, he used different breeds of fowl from the Black Orpington. The Black was composed of Langshan, Barred Rock and Minorcas while the Buff was composed of Cochin, Dorking and spangled Hamburgs.
This was a bit controversial in its day but is widely accepted practice now.
The Orpington was on the endangered list of the American Livestock Breed Conservancy until fairly recently. Recent years have seen a great surge in folks keeping poultry and the Orpington has benefitted greatly.
The Lavender Orpington is a relatively new variety of the Orpington family, in fact – you could probably say it is a ‘designer bird’.
In the UK it really started with the renowned and respected breeder Priscilla Middleton in the mid-1990s’. It has taken her many years of cross – breeding to get the exact size and type she wanted, but she has a very impressive and successful line of Lavender Orpingtons now.
The bird is now widely bred throughout the UK and Europe having breed clubs in several European countries as well as the UK and USA.
The USA started with Lavender Orpingtons a bit later than the UK and the Lavender is still relatively hard to find in many areas.
Although described as ‘rare’, while searching through the internet I was amazed at how many people are breeding and selling Lavender Orpingtons! I suspect the ‘rare’ refers to good quality stock that complies with the standards set for the Orpington hen in general.
Appearance and Temperament of Lavender Orpingtons
They are a large fluffy, friendly hen – they have a profusion of feathers which makes them seem much larger than they actually are.
They are known to be curious, docile, cuddly and quite smart, which makes them adorable!
As they are so calm and quiet they are often lower in the pecking order than the more assertive ladies of your flock. They do get picked on by other hens, so be aware of this and deal with it as needed.
They are said to be good foragers although they are more likely to hang out near the feeders – being a bit on the lazy side.
The Lavender Orpington is not an officially recognized color variety in the US or the UK currently.
As with all Orpingtons the Lavender should appear as a heavy, broad bodied bird standing low to the ground. The back should be short and curvy. The tail is a bit on the short side.
Although they are a large bird it is quite compact in its physique. A mature rooster will weigh in around 10lb with a mature hen weighing 8lb or so.
Orpingtons should be well feathered with broad, smooth feathers. The feathers should be ‘close’ but not ‘tight’ or ‘fluffy’. ‘Tight’ feathers follow the body contour – best seen in game birds and ‘fluffy’ would be loose such as a Cochin hen.
Feet and shanks are clean, slate/blue in color. Occasionally a bird will have a few feathers on the shanks, this is not acceptable in show circles, but rigorous breeding can eliminate this.
The beak is dark/ horn colored, eyes a reddish bay color. Comb, wattles and earlobes are red.
They are a single comb variety sporting five points.
If you’re a free-range fanatic and love to let your birds roam free the lavender sits in the middle of the pack as far as savviness.
They love to forage, and won’t go hungry when they have plenty of vegetation, bugs, and grubs to devour. But they are a tad clueless when it comes to keeping an eye out for predators.
The Orpington breed, in general, tends to get caught up in whatever it is doing while free-ranging and may miss the warning signs of a looming predator. I’ve actually chased a hawk or two off my Lavender Orpingtons. This issue can often be solved with the addition of a rooster to your free-range flock.
Lavenders are extremely friendly, in most cases, and will choose to spend time near you while you are out doing the chores. If you’re looking for a friendly companion free-ranger, the Lavender is a great choice (especially because the roosters do not tend to be aggressive).
Lavender Orpington Egg Laying and Health Issues
As with most Orpingtons, they are a fairly steady layer. They should produce around 170-200 light brown, medium sized eggs per year.
Since Orpingtons are known to be broody, you can expect them to go broody about once a year. They make wonderful mothers, so if you have any eggs that need hatching, slip them under your Orpington!
They are a heavy bird, so perches should be a bit lower for them in order to avoid any leg injuries.
As they are a ‘feather duster on legs’, they are prone to lice and mites underneath all that fluff. They do enjoy a good dust bath but keep a close eye on possible infestations especially around the vent area and under the wings. Winter is the hardest time for them to stay clean unless you have an indoor dust bath for them.
How to Breed the Lavender Color
We have talked about the lavender gene briefly in the Blue Laced Red Wyandottes article quite recently.
In a nutshell – lavender (self-blue in US) and (pearl grey UK), is a recessive, diluting gene.
Diluting simply means that it modifies the base color. As an example – black is diluted to lavender and red is diluted to straw color. This is very simplistic but gives you an idea of what the lavender gene does.
In order to breed lavender offspring, each of the parent stock requires a copy of the lavender gene.
The process of creating your own line of Lavenders is fairly straightforward but time consuming.
You would need to buy from at least two or three unrelated bloodlines to ensure some measure of success in your project. If you want to find out more about this, read this.
A note of caution here: The lavender gene is closely aligned to a gene that causes retarded feather growth (known as the ‘tail shredder’ gene) and this occasionally pops up in the breeding process.
Is The Lavender Orpington Right For Your Flock?
The Lavender Orpington might take a little time to get to know you, they can be shy at first, but they will soon enjoy following you for treats or lap cuddles!
They are very docile and calm – even the roosters, so they are ideal for small children to be around, although I would never leave a small child alone with any rooster.
As for tolerance to the cold, they are very cold hardy however they don’t do well if they get wet, they can chill and die pretty quickly. A blow dry after a rub-down is usually enjoyed by the hens!
High temperatures and heat can be a problem for Orpingtons because of their dense feathering. They need shade, cool water and dust bath areas readily available to help cool them down. Another problem with excessive sunlight is that it will make the Lavender color fade a little into tan/yellow overtones in mature birds.
Although the Lavender color is not accepted by the American Poultry Association yet, it does not preclude you from exhibiting if you so wish. Orpingtons are great as show birds – they have a calm almost bomb-proof demeanor and tolerate a great deal of fussing and handling.
This also makes them a great project bird for the 4H club too, something that many young adults enjoy.
The Orpington in any color is a steady, dependable hen. They are friendly, non-aggressive and will provide you with a decent amount of eggs.
The only disadvantage is their broodiness. If you don’t want broody hens, the Orpington is not for you.
On the other hand, if you want a hen that will sit on just about any and all eggs, the Orpington may be the best girl for you.
They are not inexpensive – the average price of a chick here in the US is around $21.00 or $45.00 for a dozen hatching eggs. As always – shop around, you get what you pay for!
They are most definitely a calm and stately bird to add to your flock, they will reward you with eggs, chicks and love!
Do you keep Lavender Orpingtons? Let us know your experience with them in the comments section below…
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