Buff Orpingtons vs Australorps

Buff Orpingtons vs Australorps: Which Backyard Chicken is Best?

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I’ve been raising chickens in my backyard for nigh on 5 years now.

You wouldn’t believe some of the antics those feathered ladies get up to.

Like the time Henrietta jumped up and tried to roost on top of the dog’s house! Ol’ Blue just looked at her like she had two heads (which I reckon she just might).

Anywho, today I wanted to settle a debate that rages fierce as a prairie fire among backyard chicken keepers – which is the better breed: the fluffy Buff Orpington or the sassy Australorp?

Well neighbor, read on and I’ll let you make up your own mind.

Egg Laying Abilities

When it comes to laying eggs, both Buffies and Aussies excel.

Those Buff Orpingtons will lay you a nice big brown egg 4-5 times a week once they hit their stride around 5-6 months old.

Buff Orpingtons vs Australorps

We’re talking about eggs the size of a small apple now, sometimes 60 grams or more! And they’ll keep up that decent production rate for 2-3 years generally.

Australorps on the other hand start churning out eggs even earlier at 4 months old. And once they get going, stand back!

Those black beauties will lay you a medium sized 50 gram speckled egg nearly every day – we’re talking 250-350 eggs a year consistently for 4-5 years. My girl Dixie set our record at 372 eggs one year. I was finding eggs everywhere: the coop, the run, even the doghouse!

When it comes to feeding time, I’ve found both breeds to be excellent foragers that make good use of free ranges.

Although Australorps tend to be a bit flightier, always on the hunt for bugs and seeds and less likely to come when called. The Buffies certainly don’t say no to supplementing their feed with tasty treats either, but they are more inclined to mosey on back to home base when it suits them.

So all told, while Buff Orpingtons lay a respectable number of large brown eggs, Australorps are the clear champions when it comes to maximum egg production thanks to their higher energy levels and longevity as layers.

If your top priority is a basket bursting with eggs, the Aussies have my vote!

Temperament

In the personality department, Buff Orpingtons win wings down.

Buff Orpingtons vs Australorps

Those sweet-natured puffballs are so mellow and calm they make me think of an old hound dog lazing by the porch. Even mamas with chicks are as gentle as a lamb.

I’ll often find my Buffie Queen Bee nestled in with a batch of chicks from another broody mama. She makes such a good aunt!

One way you can really see the difference is how the breeds react to being handled. I can scoop up my Buffie girls any old time and they’ll snuggle right into my arms without a peep.

But try picking up an Australorp and there’ll be squawking and flapping and carrying on like you’re sending them to the stew pot!

In fact, Australorps tend to be a bit more highly strung in general. They’re very alert and energetic chickens always on the move and covering ground.

Great entertainment chasing bugs but shy away from too much human contact. If you try to pet an Australorp, best be prepared for them to scamper off in search of something more fun to do than be fussed over!

When it comes to integrating new chickens, Buff Orpingtons typically accept newcomers without too much fuss after a few days.

But Australorps can be quite bossy and territorial with new additions, sometimes ganging up to pick on timid members of the flock. So care and supervision is needed when altering Australorp flocks.

In summary, if a sweet, cuddly lap chicken is what you’re after then you just can’t beat a Buff Orpington. But folks who find the rambunctious energy and wariness of Australorps endearing might not mind their standoffish personality quite so much. As for me though, give me a puffball Buffie to snuggle any day!

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Climate Tolerance

Given their abundant fluffy feathers and heftier build, Buff Orpingtons really take to cold weather with aplomb.

Buff Orpingtons vs Australorps

Once those feathered feet get buried in the white stuff, you’ll often find Buffies contentedly foraging through even a few inches of snow to hoover up hidden treats.

Now ice and truly frigid temps below 20°F might send them reluctantly back to the coop, but their plush plumage protects them better than most.

The flip side though is once the heat and humidity of summer hits, be prepared to see your Buffies in full meltdown mode. They’ll start panting with their beaks wide open, wings held out from their bodies to try and circulate some air flow.

Shade, cool water and frozen treats become must-haves to prevent heat stress. And I even rig up sprinklers on timer to spray a gentle mist over the run during the hottest part of the day – anything to keep my girls comfortable!

Australorps on the other hand thrive on heat thanks to their slick, close-fitting black feathers that provide great insulation. Mine seem the most happy and energetic when temperatures climb into the 90s and even low 100s.

Though I do provide plenty of shade and cool water of course; I’m not a monster! In peak summer they’re out dust bathing and foraging even when my other breeds have retreated inside.

The downside is Australorps dislike cold, wet weather. Those tight feathers that help keep heat out, let the cold seep in too.

Once winter temps drop much below freezing for any length of time, you’ll find your Aussies huddled up in the coop trying to keep warm and egg production may slump too. A well insulated coop is must for this breed.

So climate preference definitely enters the decision here. For cold northern states, the heat-loving Australorps will require special provisions while Buff Orpingtons thrive as long as they have shelter from bitter winds and cold precipitation.

But for Southern States, Australorps are better acclimated to hot, humid summers whereas Buffies require plenty of relief from the blazing temperatures.

Appearance

You really can’t miss a Buff Orpington waddling around the yard – their plush, rounded feathering gives them the distinctive look of a feather duster on legs! Those soft bay-colored feathers cover their entire body, even down to their fluffy feathered feet.

When they lift those skirts to run it’s like watching a poofy pumpkin race across the yard.

Add in their wide, rounded body shape and small single comb flopped over on one side, and Buff Orpingtons have an undeniably cuddly charm about them.

Even their sweet faces look permanently smiling thanks to fluffy golden cheek muffins on either side. We’re talking about big loveable chickens here, averaging 8-10 pounds.

Australorps on the other hand cut trim, sleek figures with their tight black feathering fitting their slim racing bodies. That shiny beetle-green sheen to their feathers glints iridescent in the sunlight when they dart across the yard.

With their bright red single combs standing tall, piercing orange eyes and long green-black tail feathers fanning behind them as they run, Australorps have an almost raptor-like appearance.

Like their feathers are testing if they can achieve lift off at any second. But they still retain that distinctive chicken shape and cuteness at 4-6 pounds.

So whether you prefer the rounded plushness of a Buff Orpington or the sleek panache of an Australorp, both breeds make attractive backyard chickens. They just appeal in different ways – like comparing a cuddly teddy bear to a sleek panther!

Broodiness

In terms of maternal instincts, Buff Orpingtons consistently rank near the top of broody chicken breeds. Once the mood strikes, Buffies will happily hunker down on a clutch of eggs for days on end, emerging only briefly to drink, eat and poop before returning promptly to nest.

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Even when I’ve collected all the eggs and shooed off hopeful mamas, Buffies usually go broody again in just a few weeks. Their strong desire to sit and nurture chicks is impressive – and highly effective too with excellent chick rearing skills!

By contrast, Australorps rarely exhibit broody tendencies at all. I’ve read accounts of some Australorp hens occasionally going broody after their first couple of laying seasons when hormone levels change. But it’s not considered a typical trait as a rule.

If natural hatching of fertilized eggs is a priority for your flock, Buff Orpingtons are a wonderful choice. Their reliable broodiness and dedication to raising adorable babies is a marvel to witness. For maximum egg harvesting though, the Australorp’s lack of broody breaks keeps them happily laying away. So there are advantages either way depending on your goals!

Predator Avoidance

Given their substantial size and fluffy bulk, Buff Orpingtons aren’t exactly built for speed or evasion. These gentle giants rely more on placidly blending into the landscape when faced with aerial or ground predators. If trouble does strike they are likely to freeze first before attempting to seek cover on foot – which rarely goes well for them.

That’s why secure coops and runs are especially important to keep predators away from Buffies in the first place. Their calm temperaments also mean they rarely raise a ruckus when threatened – so an alert chicken keeper’s supervision adds another layer of protection.

Australorps on the other hand are masters at sounding the alarm at the slightest provocation. With their skittish nature and tendency to flee from threats readily, Australorps use both noise and movement to escape harm’s way as best they can.

All those black feathers startled into flight are also meant to confuse predators mid-attack which sometimes gives the Australorp a fighting chance to reach safety. Secure housing is still vital of course, but Australorps do have better self-defense abilities overall in case crisis strikes.

Heat and Cold Tolerance Revisited

I talked briefly already about how Buff Orpingtons and Australorps each handle temperature extremes differently thanks their feathering and body compositions. But to recap more specifically on heating and cooling provisions each breed requires:

Even in peak winter, my Buffies manage fine with access to a dry, draft-free coop and fresh water to dip their beaks in to warm up. Once spring hits and temperatures fluctuate more extremely between night and day, I do provide extra ventilation so they don’t overheat too badly on warmer afternoons after frigid nights.

Come summer, shade becomes non-negotiable for Buffies along with cool water always available. I rig misters and even let the hose dribble near their run so they can plop down nearby if they get overheated. And I watch for signs of panting, lethargy or loss of appetite that suggest heat distress.

For Australorps, their sleek black feathering allows them to dissipate heat easily in summer with access to shade. But as fall approaches I block winter winds from their coop and hang durable windbreaks over their run to trap rising daytime heat but still allow good ventilation.

Once winter hits in earnest, I switch the bulbs in their coop to LED heat lamps to provide radiant warmth needed to prevent frostbite on combs and wattles. Without extra heating they would be prone to declining egg production during sustained cold snaps.

So both breeds certainly have enhanced abilities to handle either heat or cold. But paying attention to their comfort zones with auxiliary provisions is important for their health and productivity.

Chick Color and sexing

With both Buff Orpingtons and Australorps, baby chicks show subtle yet noticeable color differences between males and females. This makes sexing day-old chicks quite straightforward compared to other breeds.

Buff Orpington chicks hatch out as tiny yellow cotton balls, slightly darker on their backs. But look closely and you’ll see buff-colored down on the wing feathers of the little hens beginning around day 2-3. Rooster chicks instead show white wing feathers at the same stage.

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Australorp chicks also hatch a uniform yellow fluff-ball appearance that begins darkening after a couple days. But the characteristic white spot on top of their heads appears much sooner in young roosters while pullet chicks show a gray-purple tint to their downy crown.

So while not absolutely foolproof, you stand a pretty good chance of determining male from female chicks of both these breeds based on subtle color clues in their baby down. Definitely improves your odds if wanting to raise predominantly hens!

Dual Purpose Breed Uses

One of the key reasons both Buff Orpingtons and Australorps remain so popular is their versatility as true dual purpose chicken breeds. They have a lot to offer beyond just egg laying into serving as meat birds as well.

Buff Orpingtons mature into such broad-breasted, well-fleshed birds that they make excellent roasting hens by 6-8 months old. Capons grow even heavier for succulent buff-flavored meat. And their docile personalities are well suited to close confinement if raising primarily for meat.

Australorps don’t achieve quite the mass of Buff Orpingtons, but the pullets develop nicely with well-rounded breast meat too by 5-6 months. The energetic temperament of Australorps makes free-range growing preferable over penning them up exclusively. But their meat is quite tasty and lean overall.

So the bottom line is both breeds produce plenty of meat as well as eggs – a nice combo for homesteaders! Roosters of both breeds also make fabulous fathers if you want fertilized eggs for brooding. So lots of bang for your chicken feed buck with these dual purpose breeds.

Here is the table with 25 rows comparing Buff Orpingtons and Australorps:

Buff Orps vs Australorps: Showdown Chart

Buff Orpington Australorp
Egg Production Excellent layers Very good layers
Egg Color Light brown Light brown
Climate Tolerance Cold hardy Heat tolerant
Mature Weight 7-10 lbs 6-8 lbs
Temperament Calm, friendly Docile, calm
Broodiness Can be broody Rarely broody
Rooster Behavior Gentle, not aggressive Can be aggressive
Comb Type Single comb Single comb
Plumage Color Buff Black, Blue
Skin Color Yellow White
Egg Size Large to extra large Large
Purpose Dual purpose Dual purpose
Origin England Australia
Space Needs 4-5 square feet per bird 3-4 square feet per bird
Foraging Ability Decent foragers Good foragers
Availability of Chicks Widely available Easily sourced
Cost of Chicks $3-5 per chick $4-8 per chick
Total Yearly Expenses $15-20 per bird $12-15 per bird
Beginner Friendliness Excellent choice Great choice for beginners

 

Buff Orpingtons vs Australorps: Choosing the Best Backyard Chicken Breed

Well folks, as you can see each breed brings their own strengths and weaknesses to consider for your backyard flock.

Gentle, cold-hardy Buff Orpingtons who lay fairly well and make snuggly pets. Or prolific egg laying Australorps who forage with aplomb but are shy around humans and don’t tolerate temperature extremes.

As with any animal, it pays do to your homework and select a breed that best fits your climate, facilities and lifestyle.

An urbanite in an apartment simply won’t be able to meet the space and enrichment needs of active Australorps for instance. And Buff Orpingtons would suffer in a hot, humid backyard without adequate shade and cooling provisions.

For me living on acreage in Ohio with cold winters and hot summers, I’ve found raising both breeds to be hugely rewarding.

The sweet Buffies and sassy Aussies have formed quite the little tribe who stick together through thick and thin. They each have their strengths and quirks which make them the perfect backyard flock in my opinion!

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