Thursday, August 23, 2012

Breed Profile: The Black Australorp

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by Jennifer Burcke

As a person who proudly defines herself as a chicken keeper, I find myself answering a lot of questions regarding our flock.  The first question is usually in regard to how many chickens we keep.  The second question almost always involves what breeds of chickens live at 1840 Farm.

We currently have 17 hens living in the two coops on our farm.  With the addition of our chicks this spring, we now have nine different heritage breeds represented in our two coops.  We have three Black Australorps, more than any other breed kept on our farm. 

It's no accident that we have more Australorps than any other heritage breed.  In fact, we've gone to great lengths to arrive at that point.  When we placed the order for our original batch of chicks in 2010, we ordered two Australorps.  Of the eight day old chicks that we received, one of them failed to thrive and didn't survive the first week in the brooder.  I found myself playing undertaker on a rainy September morning.

That chick was one of the Australorps.  We were saddened to lose a chick, but understood that it is an unfortunate yet realistic part of the farming experience.  We were also sorry to lose a chick that we had selected due to its incredible egg laying capabilities.

We decided immediately that our next order of chicks would include at least two Australorps.  This spring, we finally had the chance to place that order. I am happy to report that both chicks are now happy and healthy 16 week old pullets.  

The young Australorps have graduated to our main chicken coop along with three other pullets and are attempting to find their place in the flock's pecking order.  While our grown Australorp Hedwig shares their breed characteristics, she is not always so happy to have two little black shadows following her around.

Hedwig has long been one of the favorite hens in our flock.  She has a fantastic temperament and is a dependable egg layer.  Her black plumage has a lovely green undertone that is beautiful to look at, especially when she is outside enjoying the sunshine.

The Black Australorp breed was developed in Australia. The foundation of the breed were Black Orpingtons imported from England.  The goal of refining the breed was to produce a chicken that excelled in egg production without completely removing the bird’s ability to produce meat for the table.  To say that the program was a success would be an understatement.

The hens that were produced by those early breeders were amazing layers.  In fact, an Australorp holds a world record which still stands today:  364 eggs produced by a single hen in 365 days.  No wonder the breed has remained popular!  As a chicken keeper, who wouldn’t be impressed by a hen that only leaves the nest box empty one day each year?

In the 1920s, the Black Australorp made its way to the United States.  In less than a decade, the breed was accepted into the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection.  The Black Australorp was added to the APA’s standard in 1929.

The Australorp is a member of the English class of chickens.  They are a heavy bird, weighing between seven and ten pounds when fully grown.  Australorps exhibit a single, crestless comb.  They are clean legged, or without feathered feet, and have four toes on each foot.

The Australorp is categorized as a recovering breed by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. The ALBC works to educate the public about the status of the Australorp and over 180 other breeds of livestock and poultry.  If you're interested in breed history, the ALBC is a great place to learn about the breeds in your flock.

As I have already mentioned, Australorps are exceptional egg layers.  They average five brown eggs per week.  They tend to be a cold hardy breed and ours has proven to be so.  After emerging from her period of molt, Hedwig laid dependably right through the long and cold New England winter.

Australorps also have a gentle demeanor.  They are friendly and docile.  Both our adult hen and her younger coop mates have exhibited the fantastic personality that is characteristic of their breed.  All three of them are agreeable with the other members of the flock.

I enjoy keeping Australorps for their beauty, friendly personality, and incredibly egg laying ability.  I am eager to see if the younger Australorps in our flock continue to exhibit the best traits of their breed as Hedwig has during her two years here on our family farm.  I can only imagine that when our next batch of day old baby chicks arrives at 1840 Farm that there will be a few adorable Australorp chicks peeking out of the shipping box at me.

Do you keep Australorps in your flock?  What has your experience with the Australorp breed been?  I'd love to hear all about it in the comments section.

You're always welcome at 1840 Farm.  To make sure that you don't miss any of the excitement, giveaways or unending supply of cute photos during the A Year in the Life at 1840 Farm Series, follow us on Facebook to read the daily news from the coop at 1840 Farm.


  1. I have two myself...Daisy and Lilly. My grand daughter named them. They are very friendly and love the green and purple sheen. Can't wait for them to start laying. They are 4 mos and so are the rest of the flock of 9.

  2. I have two little pullets and three little roosters (all 6 weeks old) in my experiment flock right now. So far they're quite friendly and inquisitive; they're more likely to hop up and try to come hang out with me than to run away. Jury is still out on adult personalities, egg laying, and taste (yes, that's why I purposely ordered roosters), but we'll see in the fall!

  3. I have one and I love it. In fact, I want at least two more. Her feathers are so soft that I want to pick her up all the time. And she doesn't make lots of loud noise which my neighbors like.

  4. I have had black australops for years ( 16 0r so years) There were a couple in the first batch of chicks I got ( free chicks with a bag of feed) and I liked them so I have made a point of having 5-6 australorp hens in my flocks. They are nice, and lay well, even in winter. They are my favorite breed of hen.

  5. We got three chickes the middle of March. One amber white, a golden sexlink, and a black astralorp. Both the white and the sexlink are laying and have been for several weeks. Our astralorp is not laying. She eats well, runs around the coop and the yard and wants to be right where we are. She crouches when we pet her and is very friendly, but no eggs. What can we do?

  6. It sounds like I have a lot of company in the Australorp Fan Club!

  7. Lenore,

    Are you sure that the Australorp is not laying at all? If so, then you can only give her time. If she is eating, drinking, and acting in a healthy manner, then she just may need an extra week to be ready to make that first egg. Keep providing layer ration and fresh water and one of these days you will find three eggs waiting for you in the coop!

  8. I adopted a hen that I was told was a Black Copper Maran, my little marans where still chicks and I thought it would be nice to have a mama hen running my chicks grew older I could tell this hen, her name is Frannie, she was not a black copper maran. Thanks so much for the article! I now know Frannie is a Black Australorp! She is very friendly, but I think she is a bit bossy.
    P.S. her eggs are tasty

  9. One Aussie so far that I got by accident in a batch of 4 (supposed to be)Black Stars that I rescued from a well-meaning would be farmer that got in way over his head and had 100's of hens in horrible conditions. anyway, My Aussie, Fricassee, was a great layer til she went terminal broody on me and developed a temper! hilarious! Never got violent tho, just throws fits. Gave up trying to break her brood and stuck a couple HEN eggs under her that my neighbor's crazy duck was trying to hatch. One made it and now she is very happy, and excellent, momma to a 2 week old baby. She's my broody, ok, next year I will be ready for her!

  10. Thanks Jennifer! We love these three crazy chickens! They are so much fun and of course the eggs are so good! We will just be patient.

  11. Lenore,

    You're more than welcome! I hope that you see that first egg soon. We're waiting for our newest hens to begin laying here. I can't wait to see that first egg from the new hens waiting for me in the nest box.

  12. We have 2 Australorps: Sara and Julia (my 4 year old named all of our chicks, including Emma, Lizzie, and Eva, after girls he loves :) They have very mild temperaments and are very curious about us. Only 3 months old so not laying yet, but we can't wait!

  13. I have one Australorp, Hickey Pickety My Black Hen. :) We love her to pieces, with her beautiful green sheen and big brown eyes. I know that my Rhode Island girls are jealous!

  14. I picked up some Aussie pullets this spring one turned out to actually be a Roo! I am excited. This has been a great breed and would love to get some more chicks out of my girls with the help of the Roo :). The rooster still hasnt crowed like the PRock rooster that is already gotten his voice. Very quite breed I have been told. Lovem!

  15. My australorps are about 9 months old...Cinders and Midnite. Between the two of them I get about 9-11 eggs a week, and it is winter in Nebraska. They have an insulated henhouse with heat lamps and straw, and their run is roofed. Straw bales surround the pen and north side of the house. Pen is about 10-15 degrees warmer than outside, and house stays reasonably comfortable. They don't care for much petting, but are sweet and soft.

  16. I have 2 black astros in my flock Lilly and Violet they are the sweetest chickens they get along with all my other chickens .They are 5 years old still go broody and still lay eggs.Lilly was so broody last year that the bought to seabright chicks for her to raise and boy was she a good mom . I always recommend to new backyard chickens enthusiasts to get them they are a wounderful breed

  17. I've had 2 Austrlorps. One I lost to sourcrop. But she was the sweetest hen. Would sit on my knee or perch on my arm. I miss her.

    Still have the other one. And she's a sweetie too

  18. I have two, just bought. Keegan and Latif, Keegan is bigger, has stronger wings and is more aggressive than Latif. He also has already grown a tail, Latif has not though he has gained a comb which Keegan still Lack. I am currently searching to find out how to sex them as I fear one might be a roo.

  19. I have 1 Austrlorp,blackie2. My first was a beautiful layer. Seems she would lay everyday & those where the largest eggs I have ever seen. Blackie would follow me where ever I would be, just like a puppy. Now I have to keep all my laying ladies in chicken tractors. We had an episode with a female fox and a weasel all in the same month. I never did find the whereabouts of Blackie(1). My little Red gets along w/little blackie(2). She started laying a few weeks ago. I would recommend Austrlorp breed to everyone. They are excellent layers!

  20. I have 4 Australorp roosters 2 blacks and 2 Whites, and they are most docile birds also they run with 6 Ducks and 6 sheep on my 2acres. I am looking for Australorp hens now so I can breed from my roosters.

  21. We just got 6 Australorp chicks around Easter. Sounds like a good breed. Just got the chicken tractor done last night, so they will be very happy to have a real home. They seem to have nice disposition.
    Can't wait for the eggs.. Is it about 6 months for first eggs?


  22. I think it's a sad commentary on owhat our society has become when one of the first
    actions of this mother is to contact her local media outlet AND the story gets reported.


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