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Buff Orpington: Our Favorite Backyard Chicken Breed

March 22nd, 2011 · 39 Comments ·

In my “Chickenomics” post a couple of weeks ago, I promised to share some thoughts about favorite backyard chicken breeds, but I realize now I should have said breed, singular.  Because although there are lots of good chickens out there, my choice for our own little backyard flock is–far and away–the Buff Orpington.

Marigold the Buff Orpington

We’ve been keeping chickens for about twelve years now, and have had a chance to enjoy several breeds.  Sensible chicken choosing has to take many things into account–space, climate, and your priorities (temperament? ease of care? good layers? egg color?).  Over the years, we’ve settled on our  most important chicken characteristics:  we want heritage breeds that are dependable layers and that are also sweet-tempered.  Our chickens are part of our everyday food/garden/family life.  We love to be out with the chickens, watching them, interacting with them.  Claire likes to bring her friends out to the coop, and spend time there with the hens.  Buff Orpingtons are great layers–a lovely, nice-sized, brown egg from each chicken pretty much every day–but they also the sweetest chickens on earth.

Like a cat, Marigold loves to have her chin scratched.

Buff Orpingtons are an English heritage breed, quite fat, and absolutely beautiful in golden-yellow plumage and bright red combs.  This is the classic Beatrix Potter chicken, the round barnyard beauty with the many-toed socks that Mrs. Tiggy-winkle, the hedgehog laundress, found so troublesome to wash.

"And what are those long yellow things with fingers like gloves?" "Oh, that's a pair of stockings belonging to Sally Henny-penny--look how she's worn the heels out with scratching in the yard! She'll very soon go barefoot!" said Mrs. Tiggy-winkle.

The first Opringtons were black, and now they come in several standard colors.  But for some reason, the Buffs make the best “pet” chickens.  All of our Buff Orpingtons have had unique personalities (Marigold likes to go for walks, and Buttercup patrols the yard for squirrels–chasing them mercilessly), but they all share certain qualities:  they like to be scratched, held, and carried;  they like to sit in your lap while you read a book (preferably aloud so the chicken can hear); they never peck at you unless they are trying to get your attention (so that you will scratch, hold, carry, or read to them!).  They are just the best, sweetest, dearest chickens, and we couldn’t love them more.

One more good thing about them–unlike some of the other common backyard breeds, Orpingtons are too fat and heavy to get off the ground.  While your auracana might regularly make it over the fence into the neighbor’s dog-filled yard, your Buffs will stay put.

We’ve always kept a mixed flock for beauty, variation in egg color, and to try new breeds.  But we’ve decided that our new chicks this season will all be Buff Orpingtons.

The downside to Buff Orpingtons?  I actually think they might be louder than some of the other breeds.  They are definitely very keen to announce the laying of an egg, often at great length.  This drives Tom crazy.

Some thoughts on other common breeds:

Auracanas/Ameracanas:  The blue-green eggs are gorgeous.  Gorgeous!  The chickens are funky, with long legs and ear tufts.  Good runners.  The chickens are a bit high-strung.  They are great, dependable layers, but less “friendly” than many breeds.  We’ve loved having them, but as I mentioned above, we’ve decided to go with personality over blue-green eggs.

Silver or Gold-laced Wyandottes:  Beautfiul, compact little chickens, with lovely scaled plumage, but aloof, nervous, and not even the best layers.  I’ve kept them in the past because they are so pretty, but probably never will again.

Plymouth Barred Rocks:  Great girls.  Solid layers of medium-sized brown eggs, calm, even-tempered, good with kids.

Our lovely Barred Rock, Esmeralda. Look at that pretty orange eye!

Rhode Island Red:  Classic American breed, ditto comments on Barred Rock, but slightly more aggressive.  The copper-red feathers almost glow.  Can’t go wrong with these.

Chrysanthemum the Rhode Island Red shows off my very favorite chicken part: the fluffy bum.

I’m covering just the most common breeds here, because you can get them in small numbers at feed stores, which is how most of us get our chicks.  Keeping less common heritage breeds is wonderful, but they usually come from specialty hatcheries that require a minimum order of chicks per breed, usually more than urban backyards can accommodate.  To go this noble route, hook up with some friends and do an order together.  Learn more about rare heritage breeds here.

If you’re just starting out, see my post about making your own biddy box and raising chicks.

Meanwhile–happy Spring Chick season!  Enjoy, and tell us about your own favorite breeds!

As always, thanks to Tom for the wonderful photos.

chickens, urban farming

39 Comments so far ↓

  • Lucia

    We love our Buff Orpington, too! She has a lovely personality. But I would say that she has been our least prolific egg layer over the winter. In fact, she stopped laying completely for a couple of months, and is slowly starting up again. Our Barred Rock and Rhode Island Red have been much more consistent layers. So I’m curious to know if this is common with her breed or if it’s just our quirky Luna. She’s a keeper either way.

  • michelle

    It was interesting to read about your chickens and the different personalities of each breed. It made me wonder how long they live annd how you handle the death of a chicken in your family, Maybe you can do a story on that sometime later.

  • Tracie

    I recently came across your blog after reading your book. I loved your book and have been enjoying your blog! I haven’t commented yet but love talking chickens so I think this is a good time to de-lurk! I have 5 hens right now and will be getting 6 more in a couple of weeks. I have been keeping chickens for a year now. I have a Dominique, 2 Blue Laced Red Wyandottes, a Rhode Island Red and a Cochin. I usually get 4 eggs a day from my girls–sometimes 3 and sometimes 5–but usually 4. My Cochin, which I was told would not be a good layer is my best layer. Go figure. My most skittish birds are my RIR and Cochin. The Cochin is the smartest, I think. They don’t either one like being handled but are sweet talkers and come out to visit when we are in the coop. My pretty Dominique is the most steady, even tempered bird in the flock and my Wyandottes are big dopey sweethearts! One is just lovable and follows us around like a puppy. The other is sweet –and also my broodiest hen. I am trying Marans next. You make me want to look for Buff Orpingtons now too!

    • lyanda

      Lucia–We’ve found our Buff Orpingtons to be very consistent layers, definitely keeping up with the other breeds you mention. Is Lucia older than your other girls? All these breeds lay well their first winter, much less their second. Or maybe Lucia just likes to take it easy!

      Michelle–Thanks for the idea, I will consider doing a story on the loss of “family” chickens.

      Tracie–So glad you are offically de-lurked! Wow, that’s some adventurous chicken-keeping, interesting breeds. Hope you’ll keep us posted.

      • Kaiti Grassley

        Love the pictures of the girls. We are getting our chicks on Wed and are so excited. We had decided last year to get Buff Orpingtons because they are such sweet girls. We went today and got to see a large number of cute chicks while we were getting our last minute supplies. Can’t wait to see your new ones. Kaiti

  • Green Bean

    Aw, we have a Barred Rock and an Orpington. Love both but my favorite are Cochins. Mine have been decent layers and are so sweet. They are also quiet which is nice in suburban neighborhoods.

  • Catalin

    Hi. I wonder about your experience with Buff Orps going broody. I have five hens, all one year old, and my buff Orp has gone broody twice (none of the others has). She also stopped laying all winter (I don’t have a light in the henhouse). Since each of my five lays a different color egg, and I record them every day, I know exactly who lays when.

    Rhoda, my Rhode Island Red, has been the most consistent egg layer, followed by Blanche, the white Leghorn.

    It seems to me that each individual chicken has its own personality, but also moods. Lois and Louise, my two Araucana-types (I was told they are not true Araucanas, but they lay blue-green eggs and have ear tufts), have quite different personalities (or should we say “chickenalities”?)

    I’m interested in your experience with having a flock of all one breed vs. having different breeds. Have you noticed whether they act different if they are the only one of their type vs. being among their own kind?

    Thanks for the cool post and great pictures!

    • lyanda

      Green Bean–I love Cochins, but have never had one. I worry about their feet getting muddy here in wet Seattle. I’ve heard that they are good layers, but only for a short time–have you found that to be true? It would be fun to try one sometime.

      Catalin–One of our buffs has been prone to broodiness. We keep removing the eggs through the day, and she seems to get over it within a few days. We’ve never had a one-breed flock, so will let you know how it goes.

  • Emily Baker

    Hi Lyanda – Thank you so much for all of your coop building photos and notes. We’ve been busy building today. I am wondering if you could share which feed store you buy your chicks from? Did you have to order them in advance? I think we’re just about ready bring some chicks in while we finish up the coop. Anabel is very excited!
    Thank you! Emily, Robert & Anabel

    • lyanda

      Hi Emily. Sorry it took me so long. We got our chicks from The Grange in Issaquah. They have lots of breeds, and run a nice, clean operation there. Check on their website–there is a link to their “chick schedule” telling you when and how many of each breed will be delivered. The new deliveries are tiny one or two day olds, which it’s fun to start with. And you all are welcome to come have a look at our coop anytime!

      • Emily Baker

        Thanks Lyanda! We ended up driving out to Monroe and now have 3 Buff chicks and 1 “Ameraucana”. They 3 days old and absolutely adorable. Thank you so much for sharing your coop plans and knowledge. The coop is all framed up and we’ll have a couple weekends to finish it.

  • Big Chicken, Little Chicken

    [...] Buff Orpingtons.  I love how Marigold looks entirely put out by the indignity of a chick standing on her [...]

  • Sarah Horton

    My conscience talked me into getting my first 3 chickens a few weeks ago, after recently coming to understand the nasty realities of commercial egg production. And I never in my life thought I could love a chicken. Then I met our Buff Orpington Francine. The other two (Wellsumer and Ameraucana) are adorable and funny and fine, but my Francy Pants takes the cake. Chirpy, brave, runs out of the brooder, up my arm, on my shoulder, flaps up to my head and sits there happy as a clam, talking and rummaging through my hair. LOVE her!

  • Rebecca Reid

    Hi

    Thanks for this post! Do you live in a cold climate? Do buff orpingtons do well in the cold? I live in Indiana and am looking for a sweet egg-layer that can withstand the bitter Indiana winters!

    Thanks!

  • Hannah

    My favorite chicken is the Buff Orpington. We have had Leghorns, Barred Rocks, RIRs, etc. but none of the other breeds have outdone the Buffs. Buff Orpingtons are very broody chickens!!!! They are also very hardy of cold weather. Where I live doesn’t get to cold in the winter but I read many blogs about people who have Buff Orpingtons and because of all of there fluffy feathers they can withstand the cold weather. They are probably one of the best breeds for chickens to raise in Indiana. They are also very sweet. Even the rooster has come to be a sweet guy. They don’t like to be held to much but if you sit down they hop in your lap and go right to sleep!

  • Dawn

    hi, i have a large flock of Buff Orpingtons 1 yr old rooster Casanbornova and 2 adult hen that were given to me when I moved back to Arkansas from Maine with 7 pullets that were born April 28th. Last month I went to a chicken swap a bought 4 more that are slightly younger than my 7 pullets. So I have 13 hens and a rooster. My 7 little girls as I call them are my lap dogs and followers they will even clean my legs if I have any dirt or grass on them the rest are still pretty shy but love to be talked to. I also have 6 silkie pullets and a rooster named Rusty and my grand daughter chose a giant cochin the last time I went to see chickens. We love to watch them everyday.
    My question is I caught one of my lil girls trying to lay an egg or at least laying on the nest talking like that is what she was trying to do, isn’t she too young and does this mean she is going broody? My 2 older hens ( Harriet and Henryetta) lay every day. Any thoughts on what is going on my 7 lil girls love to lay in the coop during the day and have even laid in the eggs including the fake egg.

  • Dawn

    *should have been Casanova

  • Hannah

    My 4 1/2 month old Buff Orpington pullets keep scratching and pulling the hay in their nesting boxes out and it has come to be a habit every time I put more in the boxes. How do I get them to stop? I’m scared that I am going to wake up with their first couple of eggs cracked because they have no litter in their boxes from them pulling it out. Please help if you have an opinion!!!!!

  • autumn weekly

    this is so cool i didnt know some of the thing about a buff orington. i have one of my own and i didnt know really anything about him. im using it to show this year for FFA im so happy that things get put up about these guys!

  • carlos menendez

    i am loking to buy male am female buff orpingto adult place call me 407 403 1799

  • Julia R.

    I am so thrilled to hear all of these good personality reports on the Buffs. I got my first 5 (6 weeks old) last night and spent all day with them today. I could not believe that after about an hour, out in their first sunshine that they would actually eat of of my hand. Then when I took them back to their little pen, and opened the door later to clean their water, they actually came up to my hand and WANTED scratching! These little girls that just met me…this is going to be a WONDERFUL experience!!!

  • Hannah Z

    I havn’t ever had chickens before. Im planning on getting 1 buff orpington,1 silver laced wyandotte ,and 1 brahma . But if can’t find the brahma im gonna get 1 gold laced wyandotte. The buff will be mine (cuz they are sweet and i plan on showing my chicken and because they are my favorite breed) her name will be Gurtrude ,the silver laced will be my dads her name will be Miss Sparkles(cuz i read that their feathers are shimmery) and either the brahma or the gold laced will be my moms and that chickens name will be mildred-louise!!! im so exited to get my chickens.

  • The Tangled Nest Urban Chicken Roundup

    [...] Buff Orpingtons–our favorite backyard breed [...]

  • Shawna

    I have a variety of girls, red sex links, arconda, and three reds, not sure exactly want breed and of course buff orpingtons. PJ my smallest buff is the greatest. She comes out to the garden with me an coos while we are weeding the garden. I never heard a chicken coo. She sounds like a morning dove but real faint. All of my chickens love to swarm me when I go into the run. They take turns sitting on my lap. Yes even the arcondas. It seems like they really took to me after they started laying eggs. This is my first time raiseing chickens and I enjoy them every day. There is nothing like having a egg hunt every day. They are laying an egg just about every day and they just started a month and a half ago. Wow some of them are jumbo already. Chickens are great.

  • Faith

    we have 11 chickens.. 5 of them we got this june. ordered as newly hatched. many different ones.
    the older ones we got in april some are laying eggs already. i am not sure which ones. i have seen large eggs dark and some very small light ones.. but i have of the ones from april two are buff orphingtons.. very pretty. the one buff looks sickly today and was little yesterday. i called up my sister inlaw. and she told me to move her to somehere away from the others. so i had to quick fix a place for her for the night. she’s not even 6 months yet.. this october she will be . anyway. my son is upset. wants us to take her to the vet i have to just say we can only do so much. if she’s gone , then she’s gone. but i have no idea what sickness she may have. i just know she’s not walking around or moving as much as normal. she sits in one spot or stands. and stares for hours. i can pick her up with no squirming or anything. and she had slime or drool come out of her beak today when i did pick her up

    • lyanda

      So sorry to hear your girl is ailing. There is no way for me to say for certain, but she may have an impacted crop. Try looking that up, and see if it sounds right. There are home remedies you can try…But there are so many things that can go wrong. In general, chickens are hearty, but they are also biological creatures, and as such, like all of us, frail. Good luck, and let me know how she does.

  • wayne & gypsy foster

    Love our buffs as well. We just started raising laying hens 1 1/2 yrs ago in Georgia. We seem to have a molting problem and they seem to have stopped laying. This is been going on for a few months. We have a great coop, and let them graze in the fenced yard during the day. They have a good life and appear healthy. Do you have any clues whats going on? these hens are not even 2 years old? BTW love your sight. Thanks

  • Karmyn R

    I love my Buff Orpington too – however, I don’t know if it’s a breed thing or just ours but her eggs have such a thin layer of shell. They break very easily. I suspect it is just our chicken. I suspect she doesn’t intake enough calcium. All of our other chickens lay strong shelled eggs.

    That is why I’m hesitant to get another Buff O.

    • shawna

      I haven’t seen a difference in my eggs between the breeds. It could be that she is the bottom chicken so she isn’t getting enough calcium. check her crop Not sure if I spelled that right, be sure is getting enough food. Just a thought.

    • caitlinsallen

      Keep a bowl of crushed oyster shells in the coop. You can usually buy these at the same place you get your grain. Also, feed crushed egg shells back to the chickens, as you eat the eggs. Cuttlebone is another good source of calcium.

  • caitlinsallen

    I know Buff Orpingtons lay eggs for a long time; years. But does anyone have any experience/knowledge as to how long? Thanks.

  • David Williams

    Hi I would like to now if you are selling . I am after two chicks for my two boys . And are you on or close to the central cost

  • Tammy

    I have Buff Orphintons. Mine started to moult so I turned the light on in the hen house and that stopped and they lay everyday. I have a couple that went broody so I put eggs under them, while the rest of the eggs go into an incubator and am hatching chicks everyday. I did hear if you dip their tail feathers in water, it stops the broodiness.

  • Little Chick’s Breakfast | Once Upon A Bookshelf

    [...] and picked up 5 little balls of chicken fluff to bring home, four girls and a boy. They are Buff Orpingtons, a breed that is known for being very docile and good with children, and hopefully they’ll [...]

  • Doug

    are Buff Orpingtons and yellow buffs the same breed?

  • has stop working windows

    Spot on with this write-up, I absolutely think this website needs far more attention.

    I’ll probably be returning to see more, thanks
    for the information!

  • Nancy K

    A few years ago when we restocked chickens, a very young buff hen and rooster were in the mix of reds. As they matured, they became big and fluffy, and were extremely docile and personable. After experiencing a contrary bantham rooster, the buff rooster was quite a pleasurable fellow. This year we are starting a new flock (dozen) of buff orpingtons. Like you, compared to other breeds, their docile personalities suit us best. We eagerly await the arrival of what will become big fluffy girls (and boy). Great story and information — happy to share this website with friends.

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