The Black Orpington
Black birds of any breed have a special beauty that can not be rivalled by any of the other colours and Orpingtons are no exception. The deep intensity of the plumage is highlighted by a metallic green sheen which makes the feathers shimmer in sunlight.
The Black Orpington was the first to be introduced by William Cook in 1886 at The London Dairy Show.
The Black Orpington was created by William Cook in 1880 to fill a gap in the market. His idea was to create an all-round utility bird that would lay consistently year round and also being deep bodied would provide excellent white meat for the London meat trade. To excel his new breed had to be winter hardy to survive the hard English weather and rival the other popular breeds of the time in both egg and meat production.
In reality the Orpington was the original hybrid, bringing together all the best bits of carefully chosen breeds to produce a bird that would appeal to the back yard poultry keeper and also the commercial poultry farmer. It must be remembered that poultry breeding and production at that time was a different world from the commercial mass-produced heartless world it is today. But the Orpington had an advantage over many of the other breeds at the time and that was William Cook's marketing and business skills. He managed a first in the English poultry world by producing a new modern hybrid, mass producing them and cleverly marketing them to the rest of the world.
It is a true testimonial to his genius that the Orpington has survived until modern times and continues to be one of the most popular English rare breeds ever kept by either the back yard poultry keeper, the commercial egg and meat producer and the poultry show man.
The Black Orpington was created by mating Black Minorca cocks with Black Plymouth Rock hens and then mating the offspring of this cross with Black Langshans. Out of these the first Orpingtons were formed and were created in both a Rose comb and single comb variety. Due to most poultry keepers only being able to keep one variety the single comb variety took popularity and eventually the Rose comb lost favour and ceased to be seen.
These two drawings of both the single and the rose combed Black Orpington are from William Cook's own book of poultry from the early 1800's. →