Black Australorps are good looking birds, easygoing, hardy and prolific layers, making them ideal for novice domestic keepers. Their name is a combination of Australian and Orpington, as they were developed from English Black Orpingtons by Australian breeders in the early 1900s. They were imported to America in the 1920s and recognized as a standard breed by the American Poultry Association in 1929.
Black Australorps are large, heavy, soft-feathered fowl with an upright stance and close-fitting feathers. They have deep bodies and well-rounded breasts, and they are broad across the shoulders and saddles. Both genders hold their compact tails high. Their black plumage with a beetle-green sheen makes for a striking contrast with their bright red faces, wattles and single combs. Ideally the birds' combs will have no more than seven serrations and should always be upright. Their faces should be smooth and feather free. Their beaks and eyes are dark, the eyes preferably black, and their legs are slate-blue grey or black. The only part of Australorps that isn't black or red is the underside of their feet. In good examples of the breed they are white. Large males weigh 8.5 to 10 pounds and the large females 6.5 to 8 pounds. Male bantams should not weigh more than 36 ounces and female bantams no more than 28 ounces.
Australorps make good family birds as they are calm and friendly and happy to be handled. They do well free-range but will tolerate confinement, providing they are not overcrowded. The large birds are not usually strong fliers -- the bantams can be flightier -- so keeping them penned in securely is not difficult.
Australorps are dual-purpose birds. They are well-fleshed with white skin and a good taste. They also lay an abundance of eggs, although not at the levels black Australorps reportedly laid when records were being set in Australia in the 1920s. Back then, one hen laid 364 eggs in 365 days, and a pen of six Australorps produced 1857 eggs in 365 days, both setting world records. However, they are still great layers, and healthy birds in their first couple of years are capable of laying 200 medium-size light brown eggs in a season.
Health and Well-Being
Black Australorps are extremely hardy fowl. They are long-lived, with a good resistance to most of the common poultry diseases; well-bred birds are rarely troubled by physical deformities like twisted beaks or bent toes. They also cope well with low temperatures. A simple diet of layers pellets or mash and a mixed corn scratch feed later in the day suits Australorps. There is one thing to watch for. The female birds, if kept in confinement, can run to fat, especially in their second year, so it is important they are not overfeed.
- The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy: Australorp Chicken
- Choosing and Keeping Chickens; Graham, Chris
- Practical Poultry; Buying Guide Australorp; Graham, Chris
- IT Stock Free/Polka Dot/Getty Images