are australorps good meat birds

Why did the Orpington chicken cross the ocean to Australia? To become an Australorp, of course! Australorp is a contraction of Australian Orpington. But this chook breed is no mere contraction. It’s a distinctly Australian layer with Orpington-like sweetness and beauty.

Australorps are technically a dual-purpose chicken and can be used as a meat source. However, these lean, laying machines take more time and feed to fatten than typical meat breeds. So, you’ll want to use them primarily as power layers on protected pasture. They also make perfect pets if you give them part-time free-ranging privileges.

The Australorp story began in Kent, England. There, in 1886, a chicken enthusiast named William Cook crossed Minorca roosters with Black Plymouth Rock hens. Then those offspring were bred to the clean legged Langshan chickens to make black Orpingtons. [1]

Those docile, fast-growing meat birds that laid some eggs in winter became an instant favorite in the chicken world. They were such a hit, in fact, that chickens from the original Orpington breed lines were exported to Australia in the 1890’s.

Once across the pond, Australian breeders began out-crossing black Orpingtons with more Minorcas, Leghorns, and Langshans.[2] Some reports also say they were crossed with Rhode Island Reds.[3] With the single-minded focus of increasing year-round egg production, Australian breeders transformed the dual-purpose Orpington into a world record breaking, egg-making machine.

Australian Orpingtons were averaging 304.9 eggs per year in competitions. With the use of lights and expert care, one hen laid 347 eggs in 365 days. Soon after a hen of the Burns bloodline broke the world record, laying 354 eggs in a year. Then, another Australorp hen laid an astounding 364 eggs in 365 days!

Meanwhile, back in England and other parts of the world, Orpingtons were being bred for better meat production with less focus on egg production. As the breeding goals diverged in those two countries, so did the similarities between the English Orpingtons and the new Australian Orpington.

By the 1920’s the Australian-bred Orpingtons had such distinctive laying capacities, and notable body-type variances, that they were declared a new breed. That’s the backstory of how the black Orpingtons crossed the ocean to Australia and became the Australorps we know and love today.

These lovely layers and their barbie-worthy rooster companions have earned honorary recognition as the national “chooks” of Australia. There, you can find the original black Australorps, and also white and blue Australorps. Those three colors have all been accepted as breed varieties in the Australian Poultry standards.[4]

In South Africa, four additional colors have been recognized including buff, splash, wheaten laced and golden. In the UK, the three Australian accepted colors of black, white, and blue are included in the standard.

In 1929, the black Australorp was accepted as a breed by the American Poultry Association (APA). Presently, black is still the only accepted color by US standards. However, in the US, you can still find some specialty breeders carrying the white and blue color variations for novelty.

Black Australorps are noted for having distinctive black feathers with beautiful iridescent green sheen. For show, dark brown or black eyes are preferred. Plus, beaks should be mostly or completely black. However, there are plenty of black Australorps with beautiful golden-brown eyes and partially black beaks found in backyard flocks.

White Australorps are a genetic variation of the black Australorps. The white-feathered offspring are repeatedly crossed to produce a consistently white colored bird, with no yellow. Note, there is also a hybrid called an Austra White that gets confused with a white Australorp. This is a hybrid cross between a black Australorp and a production white Leghorn.[5]

Blue Australorps originate as crosses of white and black Australorps. Then, blue Australorp roosters are often crossed to black Australorp hens. That outcrossing results in chickens born with blue, black, and splash color variations. As such, breeders of blue Australorps may also offer black or splash varieties with more mottled coloring.

Australorps also come in both full and bantam sizes. However, since Australorps don’t have exceptionally fancy feathers, it’s harder to find bantams of these than it is for fancier breeds.

Pros and Cons of Raising Australorps

I’ve listed some advantages and disadvantages of Australorps based on my personal experience in case you need help making that decision.

  • Terrific Temperament
  • Good Egg Production
  • Smarter than the average chicken
  • Predator resistant and good for pasture
  • Not the fanciest breed
  • Not great for total confinement
  • Not the most productive meat bird

All things considered, Australorps rank among the sweetest heritage layer breed chickens that are suitable for pasture. They’re not a particularly good choice for a tiny backyard coop, though.

Here are some additional fascinating facts about Australorps.

Heat and Cold Protection

The Australorp, the national chicken of a continent with diverse climates, can withstand a broad range of environmental factors. If they have cool water and shade, they can withstand hot, dry weather. When given a place to dry off, they can withstand rain as well.

If you provide them with some wind protection, they can even withstand cold and alpine conditions. On the other hand, they will require thick bedding and frost protection for their feet and combs in extended subfreezing temperatures.

The Australorps are well-aware of potential predators, in contrast to Orpingtons who frequently ignore them. The dark green sheen of the black Australorp’s feathers aids in their ability to blend in with the greenery around them. However, predators will be able to identify and target Australorps in other colors more easily.

The main predator weakness of the Australorp is their poor flying ability. This makes it harder for them to flee to higher ground in the event that ground predators become a problem, like up in a tree. All things considered, Australorps make an excellent choice for a covered pasture with a nighttime shelter.

This breed doesn’t seem to have any special roosting requirements. To avoid injury and stress on the ankles, older, heavier Australorps will benefit from low, wide roost bars.

Australorp roosters aren’t as laid back as their Orpington ancestors. They can be tough on hens. In addition, they are effective protectors, which may or may not be advantageous based on your requirements. Some Australorp roosters are apprehensive of strangers, and not all of them are kid-friendly.

For this breed, a ratio of one rooster to ten roosters works well both in confinement and on pasture.

are australorps good meat birds

Are Australorp chickens good layers?

The Australorps were initially distinguished from their ancestors, the black Orpingtons, by their breeding emphasis on laying ability. But with time, some of that laying capacity has been lost.

The majority of Australorp breeders in the US list 200–250 eggs as their annual egg volume. This places this breed slightly ahead of the Orpington and between other popular dual-purpose breeds for homesteads, such as the barred Plymouth Rock and the Rhode Island reds.

Brown-colored Australorp eggs occasionally have a pearly sheen.

The Australorps’ feathers are tighter and hug their bodies closer than those of Orpingtons. They don’t appear as fluffy overall. They also have longer tail feathers. Plus, their feathers don’t hang down covering their legs.

Like the Orpingtons, Australorps are docile, easy to handle chickens. They can be domesticated and taught to follow you around the garden or out to pasture. However, they are also vigorous foragers and thrive on pasture as free-range chickens.

There have been reports that other breeds may over-peck Australorps. That hasn’t been the case in my coop. But the Australorps are more independent than some other breeds. In my opinion, they are more likely to avoid conflict than to be bullied.

Australorps are also one of the quieter backyard chicken breeds. Most don’t fuss over found treats and only make modest announcements after laying an egg. Additionally, they sing and chat less than some boisterous breeds, such as the Sussex

Overall, they are still quite endearing as pets due to their peaceful, quiet, and independent nature.

are australorps good meat birds

Australorps are generally hardy and healthy. However, they aren’t well-suited to total confinement. When compelled to live in close quarters with other poultry friends, they appear to experience more enigmatic illnesses and parasite issues.

Like many Australians, I surmise that these chooks have adapted better than their English ancestors to a smaller population and greater land area per capita. Allow them to spend some time in a wooded area or on a grassy lawn to preserve their physical and mental well-being.


At what age do you butcher Australorp chickens?

Australorps reach sexual maturity quickly, often in less than 5 months. However, it will take a bit longer than that for them to reach harvestable weights for meat production. They tend to only fatten after they’ve reached reproductive readiness. Males will be ready for processing in 5-6 months.

What are the disadvantages of Australorps?

Cons: The roosters get quite a bit larger than the hens, if you have a good rooster that is not aggressive he won’t be a problem, frostbite in the winter can be an issue on the roosters large combs if temperature drops below -16. We have several Australorps in our flock, they are very friendly sweet birds.

What are the best chickens for meat?

Cornish, Plymouth Rock and New Hampshire breeds are the most economical meat strains. These crosses feather rapidly and mature early and have the most economical conversion of feed to poultry meat. Some flock owners use White or Barred Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds and New Hampshires for meat.

Can you eat Australorp roosters?

They are a brown egg layer of, tolerate heat and cold, and are excellent foragers. Because of their nice weight and predictable development, the Black Australorp proves to be an excellent meat bird. On average, the roosters will dress out between 8 – 9 pounds and hens between 6 to 7 pounds.