Sunday, August 1, 2010

Blue Orpington Chickens

I've been wanting to get chickens for a long time now.  I've had my breed of choice picked out, literally for years.  But things just never came together for me to feel ready to get some.  Until last week.

 Even though I wasn't planning to get chickens right away, I do sometimes still look up information about them online.  I wanted to get Buff Orpingtons because:

1.  They're a good dual purpose breed that you can use for both meat and eggs.
2.  They are docile, heavy, and not flighty.
3.  They are quiet, and when they do make noise their voices are low and pleasant, not shrill and screechy like some breeds.
4.  Unlike a lot of modern breeds, they will set their own eggs, so the moms can raise their own chicks for me without the need for an incubator.
The only minor drawback I saw with them was that although they were a pretty color, they were all the same solid golden color, so they all looked alike.  I like to use pretty farm animal photos on my farm's website, and the Orpingtons were just not as showy as some other breeds.  Yes, I knew the breed also came in solid white and solid black as well as the buff, but all of those looked like each other too, so that didn't exactly solve the problem.  Sure, it's a very, very minor drawback, but it did cross my mind.
So anyway, two weeks ago I happened to be browsing online for information about Orpingtons and suddenly I discovered that I'm apparently not the only one who had this thought.  People are now breeding Orpingtons in all sorts of different amazing colors.  Check out all the varieties on this page.  And this one.

Unfortunately, many of the fancy colors are extremely rare, and some exist only in Europe.  Also, many of them are being bred for show qualities rather than utility.  But I discovered that the Blue variety was one of the original Orpington colors (with the buff, black, and white), so that is at least one of the heritage varieties.
I mentioned some of this info on my farm's Facebook page.  And just one week later, one of my farmer friends who read that comment noticed some blue Orpington chickens advertised for sale---in my area---on Craig's List.  She forwarded the ad to me and, since Ken and I just happened to be driving out in that direction anyway last weekend, we stopped by to look at the chickens.

The lady only had a few young adults available for sale, but the ones she had were gorgeous.  There were a couple of blues, and a couple colored in a beautiful blue/buff mix, which answered my question of what happens if you cross breed the different colors to each other.
To make a long story short, we fell in love.  We told the lady we had to go home and build a chicken pen, but we'd be back the following weekend to buy the chickens.  And that's exactly what we did!

We got the chickens yesterday afternoon:  a blue hen, a blue rooster, and two blue/buff hens.  They're about 4 months old right now, so they won't start laying eggs for another couple of months.  We'll eventually want a larger flock, but we wanted to start small for now.

I've been looking up chicken color genetics online and, while it is a very complex subject that I am far from grasping fully, I THINK that I have determined that our multicolored hens are the genetic pattern called "Blue Patterned Buff Columbian" (the "columbian" being the part that gives them the black heads and black speckles on their necks).
I realize that there are probably lots of Orpington breeders somewhere who have worked long and hard breeding strains of buffs, blues, and other colors that come out a pure, clean, solid color.  But personally, I LOVE the weird color variation on my two-tone hens.

I have no interest in taking my chickens to shows.  I just want a healthy, hardy bird that has good qualities for a small homestead-type farm.  Over time, as I get more chickens and get my flock established, I'll be breeding and selecting for utility traits like build, hardiness, growth rate, and egg production. 

But as a matter of personal enjoyment, I'll also try to encourage a variety of interesting colors!


Marie said...

So amazing! I love these chickens! Thanks for sharing these photos! I enjoy your posts so much, keep up the great work!

Nancy Chase said...

Thanks Marie!

V.R. Leavitt said...

How pretty!!! :-)

Knights' Score Farm said...

I have to agree, I want my chickenn to be nice eye candy as well as being hardy, healthy, and happy - and I think your blue-buff chickens are beautiful! We have a Buff Orpington and I am looking for a local source of Blues to add to the flock in the spring.

BrokenRoadFarm said...

Would you mind sharing where you got them? I am located south of Martinsville, just over the VA/NC line. I am looking to get some chickens (my first foray) this summer and Orpingtons were a breed I was considering. I have not had much luck finding pullets - I cannot start from chicks indoors with 2 large dogs and 3 cats....thank you!

Nancy Chase said...

I found them through Craigslist. If you do a search for "Orpington" on Craigslist, you can usually find a few listings. This is the email address of Jennifer, the woman I got mine from: I don't know if she has any available now, but it wouldn't hurt to check.

BrokenRoadFarm said...

Thank you very much!

Nancy Chase said...

Try Gregory Poultry. Since I replied to your earlier comment, I found out he has a few Orpington pullets available right now. I just got 10 of them today! Here's his website:

THOMAS said...

Very nice chicken!

Jamie in Ohio said...

I would love to hear updates. I have all buff Orps too, and recently bought blue and lavendar chicks. 3 of the blue are blackish with scalloping- I assume those are blues. Nothing looks all black, so I suppose we will be purchasing more. I love the personality of these birds, they actually compete with the Buffs in excellent manor. and they are huge

Nancy Chase said...

Hi Jamie! If you go to this link: you can see everything I've posted about the chickens so far.

In addition to the 4 blue and blue/buff orpingtons, we now have 10 buff orpington hens.

The latest news on the chickens is that we have one hen setting a clutch of 12 eggs and we have another 42 eggs in the incubator. So in a couple of weeks we should have our first chicks. Exciting!

Anonymous said...

Try for some common & rare breeds. You can order chicks or eggs. We're getting some rare breed eggs to put under our broody Orpington hen.

Anonymous said...

I am new to having chickens also and I just bought a pair of the blue orpingtons at an auction they were beautiful, didn't know what they were until I came home and looked them up on line. He stays with his hens side all day. Has adjusted well with my other chickens. Wish I could find baby chicks to buy, but am having trouble finding them. But I too love having a verity of chickens in my yard to look at!