“Why did you choose the Australorp chicken?” Temperament, egg laying capacity, and heritage breed.
Let me explain. The first factor is what is the purpose for the chicken, egg production or meat. Various chickens are better suited for each purpose. In this case the Australorp is a dual purpose chicken which means it can be used for both egg production and meat, however it is known for its egg production.
Between 1890 and 1900 William Cook’s Black Orphington chickens were imported to Australia. The Australians who are considered practical poultry breeders focused in on their egg laying productivity. In an attempt to enhance there utility features they were breed with Minorca, White Leghorn, and Langshan chickens. The result was very similar looking bird to the original Black Orphington but with a slightly longer body and more tightly feathered, In addition the egg laying productivity increased.
These birds soon caught the attention of the poultry world when in 1902 the Hawkesbury Agricultural College conducted a six-month egg laying contest between various breeds of chickens. These birds took 7 of the 13 top placements out of 41 pens of various chickens. Then in 19222-23 six of the birds in one pen set a world record by producing 1857 eggs in 365 days. A year latter one of the birds set an individual world record when it produced 364 eggs in 365 days.
So what where these birds called? They didn’t have an official name. Many in Australia called them the Australian Utility Black Orpingtons. Others called them Australs or Australian Laying Orpingtons. When the bird was returned to England they were called the boomerang breed. There is great debate how they got there current name, however sometime during the 1920’s they started being called Australorp. The name combines the country of origin Australia – “Austral” and the original breed Black Orpington – “orp.” The American Poultry Association in 1929 recognized them as a standard breed.
The second factor was temperament. With this being the first animal for most of the kids, we needed something that would be friendly and not aggressive or jumpy around children or other animals. The Australorps are active but gentle.
The final factor, they are a heritage breed! The Livestock Conservancy listed them at one time as an endangered breed of poultry but it is currently in the recovery stage. That means there are more than 200 annual registrations in the United States and an estimated global population of more than 2,000.