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Lavender Orpington: All About This Beautiful Chicken Breed

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The Orpington chicken has been around since the late 1800s, but the Lavender Orpington is a far newer type of this much-loved hen, first appearing on the scene in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It is still a “work in progress” for many breeders as they strive to stamp the perfect Orpington characteristics onto the bird. Let’s find out more about this beautiful chicken breed, the Lavender Orpington.

Is the Lavender Orpington right for your flock?

  • A very friendly breed, they often make good lap chickens for children and adults
  • Lays a light brown egg numbering up to 280 per year
  • Cold and heat hardy, they do well in a variety of climates
  • The Lavender Orpington is still a hard to find breed and may be expensive

Background and History of the Orpington Chicken

Before we can discuss Lavender Orpingtons, we must first look back at the history of the Orpington breed. It originated in England when, in 1886, William Cook, a man of humble beginnings, first developed the original black Orpington chickens at Tower House in Orpington, Kent. 

In 1890 he and his family, comprising three, two daughters and his wife Jane, moved to Walden’s Manor, renaming it “Orpington House.”

It took some time for the Orpington breed to find popularity, but they became very popular when it did. Eventually, William opened an office in London with his sons and did a lot of writing for “The Poultry Journal.” He also traveled widely, giving lectures about poultry, and became an expert on poultry diseases, medicines, and foods.

Elizabeth Jane Cook, the eldest daughter of William and Jane, managed the farm at Orpington House with the help of her other siblings. She, too, became a poultry expert.

The Poultry Club Medal was awarded to William Cook in 1902, which was a great honor, and he went on to open more poultry farms around the world in the USA and South Africa.

After returning from a visit to one of his farms in America, he fell ill and later died from emphysema in 1904.

Original Orpington Colors

Unlike other “created” chicken breeds, the different color varieties of Orpingtons are not all from the same breeds. Completely different breeds were used to create the various colors, as we can see here:

1886 – Black Orpingtons

This gorgeous black bird was created using black Minorca, black Plymouth rock, clean-legged black Langshan, and black cochin.

1889 – White Orpingtons

White Orpingtons came from the white cochin, black Hamburg crossed with white leghorn, and white dorkings.

1894 – Buff Orpingtons

The Buff Orpington was created by breeding gold-spangled hamburgs, dark dorkings, and buff Cochins.

1897 – Jubilee Orpingtons

The Jubilee Orpington was a cross between buff Orpingtons, dark dorkings, and gold-spangled Hamburg.

1900 – Spangled Orpingtons

These were created using the same breeds as Jubilee Orpingtons.

1907 – Blue Orpingtons

The Blue Orpington is a simple cross between white and black Orpingtons.

1907 – Cuckoo Orpingtons

The Cuckoo Orpington is a cross between a white and a black Orpington and then a barred Plymouth rock

We will look more at how Lavenders came about later on.

William Cook’s original vision was to create a utility bird that was a good winter layer, producing brown eggs and had white skin that was excellent for the table. He achieved his goal, and not only did the black Orpington fulfill these criteria, but they were also fast-growing and easy to breed.

The original Orpingtons were a good mix of Asian, Mediterranean, and American breeds, but a lot more of the Asian hallmarks are found in the birds today.

Lavender Orpingtons are still “in development” in the US, but they have been popular in the UK and Europe for some time. 

They were developed by a prominent and highly reputable breeder – Priscilla Middleton, in the 1990s, and it took her years of cross-breeding to perfect the birds.

Orpington Recognition

Today there are breeders in the UK, Europe, Australia, and the US. Although Lavenders are still relatively rare in America, they are growing in popularity, and the number of good quality stock adhering to Lavender Orpington hen standards is increasing.

Currently, in the United States, only Blue, Black, White, and Buff Orpingtons are recognized by the American Poultry Association.

The Orpington is considered a heritage breed, and although for some time they were on the endangered list, they graduated in 2016 and are no longer considered to be at threat.

Lavender Orpington Temperament and Behavior 

As with other Orpingtons, Lavenders are also known to have a friendly and easy-going temperament. If handled well as a chick, they often make good pets, and being soft and cuddly, the hens can often be great lap chickens for kids.

They are a hardy dual-purpose breed and easy to look after, making them suitable for new poultry keepers or the more experienced enthusiast. 

The Lavender Orpington rooster can sometimes become territorial and protective over their hens, eggs, and young, but this is more the exception than the rule. Providing your rooster doesn’t see you as a threat, but more as a food service, then generally they are also quite friendly. 

If you have many young male roosters, it is better to separate them as early as possible, as they may well fight each other, which is normal behavior.

Although Lavender Orpingtons can be very large birds, they are generally quite docile with other chickens. As with any creature, it all comes down to each individual bird’s temperament. They are, like us, all different.

Most Orpingtons are well known to easily become a broody hen, and make excellent mothers. They will cluck softly to their chicks almost continually, and the baby chicks are pretty adorable too.

The Lavender Orpington hens are not known to be particularly noisy, but roosters will crow, which can be quite loud, especially first thing in the morning.

Breed specifics and Traits of the Lavender Orpington

Although Lavender Orpingtons can seem quite huge, a lot of their size is provided by their soft feathers. They are excellent dual-purpose birds suitable for providing a good quantity of eggs and meat for the table. 

Weight and Demeanor

The weight of Lavender Orpingtons depends on where they are from. In the UK, a much larger bird is preferred, and roosters often weigh in at more than 10 lbs, while hens are 8 lbs or more.

In Holland, the roosters are between 7.7 lbs and 8.8 lbs, and hens are 6.6 lbs to 7.7 lbs.

In Germany, roosters average between 8.8 lbs and 10 lbs, while hens are 6.6 lbs to 7.7 lbs.

American Lavenders are still being established, and a mean weight for them is not set, but it is expected that they will be heavy and fall somewhere between the German and British birds.

Because they are so heavy and don’t fly, their docility makes them easy prey for predators

Like other Orpingtons, the Lavender Orpington pullets mature early under favorable conditions, at around 22 weeks. They usually live for eight years or more.

The Development of the Lavender Orpington

An article called “Ladies in Lavender” in the British “Practical Poultry” magazine published in May 2008 was written by the original British breeder of Lavender Orpingtons Priscilla Middleton. In it, she wrote about how she had long been pursuing the perfect Lavender Orpington chicken, and although it had taken much trial and error, she had managed to breed a chicken that she was happy with.

She explained that although the color is called lavender, it isn’t really. It is a pale gray with a very subtle iridescence that gives the impression of a lavender color.

Lavender Orpington chickens have a completely recessive gene that affects the spread of dark pigment throughout the birds’ feathers, and this lavender gene is passed every time if you breed one lavender bird to another, so they always breed true. This is not the case with blue Orpingtons. 

Some of the problems Priscilla encountered while perfecting her birds included feather weakness of the tail feathers and hackles in roosters. They also sometimes had the appearance of “fret marks,” dark horizontal lines running across their feathers or completely frayed or crumpled feathers.

Another problem she had was maintaining a good size. She often found that the Lavenders were small, but this has now been rectified.

To create her Lavender Orpingtons, Priscilla started by buying high-quality black Orpington stock. A friend of hers spotted some Leghorn-type birds that were lavender at a sale in Ross-on-Wye, a small market town in England. These birds had had white legs and laid slightly tinted eggs.

She bred a black Orpington hen with one of these lavender roosters, which resulted in chicks that grew into largish chickens. She chose the most Orpington-like ones from the batch and bred them to each other the following year.

For a good number of years after this, she continued to breed the second-generation Lavenders back to her good stock of pure blacks and then, in turn, their progeny to each other. She introduced some new stock of black Orpingtons to reduce inbreeding further. She eventually succeeded in producing birds as close in every way but color to the black Orpingtons.

Other Lavender Orpington Colors

Subsequently, Priscilla has introduced other Orpington colors too, some blue and some barred, which have produced beautiful additional colors, including Barred Lavender, Blue Lavender, which has an incredible metallic sheen, and Blue-Barred Lavender.

A Lavender Orpington chicken can also sometimes have yellow in its feathers, and these must not be bred from.

Roosters vs Hens

As with other colors of Orpington chicken, the roosters are usually docile with a pleasant personality and are gentle with their hens. However, it is wise to remember that a rooster’s job is to protect his hens, eggs, and young, so although uncommon, they may sometimes appear aggressive when doing their job.

Hens are typically calm, quiet, docile, and friendly and go broody easily. They like to be fed treats, but care must be taken not to allow them to become overweight. 

Both the hens and roosters are hardy and can tolerate heat and cold when provided with adequate well ventilated, waterproof shelter. It may be necessary to protect their combs from frostbite in winter.

Due to the open fluffy feathers of the Orpington, they can become waterlogged quickly, so care must be taken to ensure they can remain dry and warm in wet weather.

Appearance

The Lavender Orpington is a large breed that has a rather square, box-like appearance. 

The head is small compared to the body, and it has a single red comb of medium size, not too big, and red ear lobes and wattles. 

The back should be broad and curve fluidly up to the neck and tail, and the breast is full and wide. Feathers should be soft and abundant but well ordered, the lower half of the legs should be visible and clean of feathers with four toes. 

Chicks

Lavender Orpington chicks are a soft pale gray color mixed with very pale yellow. They have black or black and pale yellow beaks, gray legs, and yellow toes.

Lavender Orpington chick

Health and Disease

Orpingtons are not prone to any particular diseases or health conditions. Due to their dense open feathers, they can be prone to mites and lice, so care needs to be taken to ensure they have adequate dust bath provision and that they are treated regularly against the pests as a precaution.

To help prevent disease, the chicken coop should be cleaned out regularly and bedding replaced. Feed and water containers should be sterilized often and water changed at least once every few days. A watering system can be a good investment and help ensure the birds always have access to clean, fresh water.

Orpington Eggs

Like other Orpingtons, the Lavenders are also an excellent egg layer. A single pullet can produce around 280 light brown eggs each year. They are also often good winter layers, although this isn’t always the case. The eggs are large in size, and hens that don’t produce a large egg should not be used for breeding. 

brown chicken eggs

Cost of Lavender Orpington Chicks

Due to their current rarity in the US, finding good quality Lavender Orpingtons can be tricky. The best way to find breeders is by searing on PoultryFinder.com.

Cackle hatchery is one of the few hatcheries that sell Lavender Orpington chick and hatching eggs. Fertile eggs for hatching are often a better choice for longer shipping routes.

Summary

Lavender Orpingtons, just like other color varieties of Orpington, are delightful birds. Their delicate lavender feathers appear like fluffy clouds and can have a noticeable lavender sheen in certain light.

They are excellent birds for any backyard flock, suitable for children and beginners due to their docile, easy-to-handle natures or as show and breeding birds for more experienced enthusiasts.

These birds are large, so they take up a little more room in the coop than many other chicken breeds. It’s important to ensure they have a little more space on the roost and in the nesting boxes

FAQ

What color eggs do Lavender Orpingtons lay?

Like other Orpingtons, the Lavenders are also an excellent egg layer. A single pullet can produce around 280 light brown eggs each year. They are also often good winter layers, although this isn’t always the case. The eggs are large in size, and hens that don’t produce a large egg should not be used for breeding. 

Are lavender Orpingtons rare?

Today there are Lavender Orpington breeders in the UK, Europe, Australia, and the US. Although Lavenders are still relatively rare in America, they are growing in popularity, and the number of good quality stock adhering to Lavender Orpington hen standards is increasing.

Is a Blue Orpington the same as a lavender Orpington?

No. The Blue Orpington is a simple cross between white and black Orpingtons, while Lavender Orpingtons are bred from Black Orpingtons. Lavender Orpington chickens have a completely recessive gene that affects the spread of dark pigment throughout the birds’ feathers, and this lavender gene is passed every time if you breed one lavender bird to another, so they always breed true. This is not the case with blue Orpingtons.

How often do Lavender Orpingtons lay?

A single pullet can produce around 280 light brown eggs each year. They are also often good winter layers, although this isn’t always the case.

At what age do Lavender Orpingtons start laying?

Like other Orpingtons, the Lavender Orpington pullets mature early under favorable conditions, at around 22 weeks. 

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