Black Orpington chickens from the poultry yards of William Cook and Joseph Partington were imported into Australia between the years 1890 - 1900. In England during this same period, Black Orpingtons were being refined strictly for their meat qualities. The Australians immediately valued the breed for its egg-laying ability however and continued to breed along the lines of the original type. The Australians were very practical poultry breeders, and so with egg production as a singular goal they made outcrosses to Minorca, White Leghorn, and Langshan chickens (even as William Cook had in the creation of the Orpington). The end result was an excellent production chicken, one which little resemblance to the Orpingtons as bred in other countries.
In 1902, during Australia’s winter season, the Hawkesbury Agricultural College held a six-month egg laying contest between various chicken breeds. With 41 pens in total, Black Orpingtons took seven of the thirteen top placements. This was the first of many egg-laying contests, in which Australian-bred Orpingtons would compete. By 1922-23 “Australian Laying Orpingtons” were setting egg laying records. At Geelong Victoria, a pen of six “Australorp” hens set a world record by laying 1857 eggs in 365 days (an average of 309.5 eggs each). At the Grafton contest in 1923-24 an Australorp hen had laid 347 eggs in 365 days. Soon after a hen of the Burns bloodline broke the world record by laying 354 eggs in a year. Another hen set a new world record, when she laid an amazing 364 eggs in a year!
One can say that the Australorp became distinct from the Orpington by a combination of divergent breeder goals (meat production for Orpingtons, egg production for Australorp’s, and the competition to win egg-laying contests). Five primary bloodlines of Australorp’s were developed during the period between 1900 and 1922 (Graham, Burns, Christie, Bertelsmeier, and Drewitt). While these breeders utilized different crosses on the imported Orpington, all had in mind the general type originally released by William Cook. They also all bred to eliminate broodiness, which had much to do with the commercial success and the establishment of the Australorp as their own breed.
With such great successes in the egg laying contests, poultrymen worldwide, became interested in this breed. Many of these chicken were imported into England and America in the early 1920s. Breeders struggled to distinguish them from Orpingtons, and many names were applied (such as: Austral’s, Australian Utility Black Orpingtons, and Australian Laying Orpingtons). Finally, during the early 1920s the breed was identified and given the name Australorp’s.
Australorp’s are a medium weight breed with fairly close-fitting feathers. They lay an abundance of large tinted eggs, often averaging 26 - 27 ounces per dozen. Australorp’s were recognized as a standard breed by the APA (American Poultry Association) in 1929 and are found in only one variety, black with Roosters weigh 8.5 lbs and Hens weigh 6.5 lbs.
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