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The Australorp is a wonderfully good-natured bird and the national chicken of Australia. It was first developed from Orpington stock that came from the United Kingdom and was cross-bred with other strains. The name Australorp or Black Australorp was derived from Australian Black Orpington.
Despite originating in Australia, the breed became very popular elsewhere for its delightful nature, overall hardiness, and prolific egg production. Combining all of this with its suitability as a dual-purpose bird, it’s not surprising that it created such a large following.
This article will take a detailed look at all aspects of the Australorp breed – their heritage, temperament, traits, lifespan, appearance, laying ability, health, and hardiness. We will also guide you to sources where you can buy your birds, allowing you to become the proud owner of this exceptional chicken breed too.
Is the Black Australorp right for your flock?
- World record egg layer – in the 1920s, an Australorp chicken was the egg-laying world record holder.
- Dual-purpose – these birds were created to be good for both egg and meat production.
- Hardy – The Black Australorp is tolerant of heat and cold, making them suitable for most climates
- Friendly – Although shy to begin with, once they become used to you, they are a very calm and friendly breed
- Good for beginners and children – Their good nature, hardiness, and utility qualities make them an ideal choice
Table of Contents
Australorp Background and History
The Orpington was a popular bird in England during the early part of the 1900s, created by William Cook.
Cook cross-bred the Black Minorca, Black Plymouth Rock, and Croad Langshan to create the Black Orpington. Some of Cook’s birds were imported into Australia, along with others raised by Joseph Partington.
One of the reasons for their introduction to Australia was a belief that they would adapt well to the climate.
When Black Orpingtons first arrived on Australian shores, it was decided that despite their dual purpose, a bird that produced more eggs would be preferable. This led to attempts to improve their egg-laying abilities.
Initially, the chickens were crossed with Rhode Island Reds, and the first incarnation of the later named Australorp was created.
Additional breeds were then introduced to the mix, including White Leghorns, Minorcas, Langshan, and Plymouth Rocks. The result was a bird capable of laying over 300 eggs a year.
As news of the new breeds exceptional egg production spread, contests sprang up all over Australia, pitting it against other well-established varieties. The game was eventually won hands down by the Australorp when one laid the greatest number of eggs ever produced by a single bird in the 1920s, an astonishing 364 eggs in 365 days!
During the 1920s, the Black Australorp quickly found its way to North America and other parts of the world, including the United Kingdom and South Africa. Its reputation as an exceptional egg layer and other traits such as its hardiness and docile temperament was responsible for driving its popularity.
Cross-breeding continued in other parts of the world to further develop traits desired in the Australorp. This resulted in many different colors being created, although only the Black Australorp was ever recognized by the American Poultry Association back in 1929.
Over subsequent decades, interest in the breed began to wane, and by the 1950s, it had declined substantially. The cause of the decline had several reasons. The birds that were exported never quite lived up to those first Australian specimens’ incredible egg-laying results. It was also due in part to the Black Australorps successor.
When a White Leghorn was introduced to the breed to increase egg production further, the hens became far more prone to broodiness and the laying of tinted eggs. Over time, other species, particularly the inbred hybrid crosses, became more popular, and the Australorp fell into commercial obscurity.
In recent years the Australorp has had something of a revival, and its numbers are steadily recovering. It is now a heritage breed and remains an exceptional layer even by today’s standards.
The Black Australorp is an active, friendly breed that enjoys human contact once they overcome their shyness. Both the hens and roosters are easy to handle and tame.
Being fast-growing, docile, prolific layers, the Black Australorps are ideal for beginners or children to keep as backyard chickens.
They tolerate cuddles and petting once they have been tamed, and it is not unusual for them to follow you around looking for treats.
Black Australorps do sometimes display broodiness but are not incredibly reliable at incubating eggs to term. Birds that do sit on their eggs to term go on to become excellent mothers.
Australorps are not flighty due in part to their weight. They do enjoy being busy pecking and scratching. Generally, they are thought to be a quiet bird, although some owners say they are prone to chatter when kept in greater numbers. The roosters, like most, will crow.
When kept in a flock with other breeds, the Black Australorp usually settle into the middle of the pecking order and can sometimes be bullied by more aggressive birds.
As mentioned earlier, for a while, the Australorp held the record for producing the most eggs in a single year.
Today’s birds are not quite as prolific as their predecessors but still manage to keep you well supplied for all your baking and omelet needs. The Black Australorps average between 250 to 300 large brown eggs per year at their peak.
Because of the speed at which Australorps grow, they tend to start laying sooner than many other breeds, usually beginning around the six-month mark. The Black Australorp can better this by a full two months and start her egg production as early as 16 weeks.
Breed Standards and Desired Features
The Australorps desired features:
- Color – In Australia, black, blue, and white varieties are permitted. In South Africa, the colors have been expanded by selective breeding. They now include variations such as golden, wheaten laced, blue, and blue splash. In the United States, only the Black Australorp is recognized.
- Carriage – A well-balanced bird that is upright, graceful, and alert with a high tail carriage
- Body – The ideal Australorp is a large, compact bird with legs of medium length. It should have a full rounded breast and a body that is deep and relatively long. As a whole, it should appear to be in proportion and symmetrical
- Feathers – The feathers are soft, close-fitting, and Jet black in color with a blue-green iridescent sheen. Excessive fluff is to be avoided
- Legs and Feet – These should be featherless and black or slate blue in color. Four toes to each foot with white skin on the underside
- Neck – This is well arched and of medium length. In male birds, the hackle should be well-developed
- Back – Flat and broad with no inclination to roundness, the widest part should be well back towards the tail
- Head – This must be fine and of medium length, with a broad and moderately flat appearance
- Comb – A bright red single comb with a fine texture. It is of medium size, with an erect horizontal blade of more than seven points and even wedge-shaped serrations. There should be no beefiness or projection over the beak
- Beak – A short, fine black or dark beak that is broad and thick at the base and well curved
- Face – Bright red, with a bold appearance and free from excessive feathering or wrinkles
- Eyes – Expressive, full, bright black eyes that are large and without drooping lids. They should not be sunken or have projective feathering over the brow
- Ear-lobes – Medium-sized with smooth, with an elliptical appearance and bright red coloration
- Wattles – These should be of medium size and in proportion to the comb and head. Each should be bright red in color, well rounded, and even. In pullets, slight black pigmentation is permitted in the face, comb, lobes, and wattles
- Movement – like its Orpington ancestor, the Australorp has a proud walking gait and is graceful and serene
- Size – A standard-sized male bird should weigh between 8.5 and 10 lbs, a hen between 6.5 and 8 lbs. Bantam birds are also available and are considerably smaller, with males weighing between 2 and 2.7 lbs or 1.7 to 2.2 lbs for hens
Health and Special Care
As they originated in Australia, it is fair to say that the Black Australorp is relatively heat tolerant. Although, like all chickens, they do require constant access to shade and water.
Being black means they can be prone to heatstroke. They are also quite tolerant of the cold and survive equally well in northern or southern states when provided with appropriate housing and conditions.
On average, the Black Australorp can live for six to ten years and require no special attention, being a healthy and robust heritage breed.
As with any creature, appropriate care must be provided, along with a suitable diet and constant access to clean, fresh water. It is also necessary to keep the birds free of worms, lice, and mites with a regular treatment program.
Like any bird, especially one that can’t truly fly, the Australorp is prone to predator attacks. Although unprotected fowl always fall prey to foxes, dogs, coyotes, bobcats, or owls, they seem to be less prone than other chickens to attacks by hawks.
The reasoning for this is that due to their black color, the Black Australorp resemble crows, and crows are known to attack hawks, so the hawks leave them alone. To find out more about how you can prevent your chickens from being attacked by predators, read our blog.
Where to Buy
An excellent place to purchase your chickens is from a reputable professional hatchery. Baby chicks range in price according to sex.
Average prices for baby chicks:
- Males average $2.50 each
- Females average $3.50 each
- Straight run (unsexed) average $3.00 each
You can also buy pullets that are 15 to 22 weeks of age. They start at around $30 per bird, but the shipping costs are often more than $100, so it isn’t always a practical option.
Buying fertilized eggs is another possibility. But then you will need an incubator to hatch them. The average price for fertilized eggs is $4.50 each.
You can buy Black Australorps for an affordable price from Cackle Hatchery.
Cackle Hatchery is our preferred and recommended hatchery. While most hatcheries require orders of at least 25 chicks, you can buy as few as 3 chicks from Cackle. They are also highly rated on Google and have been in business since 1936.
The Australorp is a genuinely delightful bird and an absolute pleasure to have in any flock. With their good looks, easy-going temperament, hardiness, and exceptional egg-laying ability, they are a perfect bird for any keeper, new or experienced. Whether you’re looking for a few backyard hens or a show bird, Australorps are sure to fit the bill.
|Type||Dual Purpose, heavy|
|Average Weight||Rooster 8.5 to 10 lbs, hen 6.5 to 8 lbs|
|Weeks To Maturity||16 to 20|
|Average Life Span||6 to 10 years|
|Color variations||In USA black only. In other countries – white, blue, blue laced, golden, splash, wheaten laced, and buff Orpington|
|Egg Production||200 to 280 per year|
|Temperament||Docile and friendly|
|Flightiness||Active but not flighty|
|Unique Traits||Black feathers with green/blue iridescent sheen|