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Anchorage flocks to backyard Orphington chickens Part 1

Blue black splashing Orphinton puller, Walburga.  Alaska State Fair Division Champion
Blue black splashing Orphinton puller, Walburga. Alaska State Fair Division Champion
Dorene M. Lorenz

Anchorage homeowners will soon be able to enjoy fresh eggs from their own backyard.  New regulations being considered by the Anchorage Assembly will allow the average homeowner to keep up to five hens.

Which begs the question most city dwellers don't know the answer to, what is the best type of chicken for Anchorage Alaska?  We are going to offer a series that looks at rare heritage breed birds that do well in northern climates, the first is the Orphington.


In 1886, a large, bold, upright chicken stratched its way into being.  English enthusiast William Cook wrote in the Fanciers Gazette that he crossbred Black Minorcas with Black Plymouth Rock, then crossed the progeny with clean-legged Langshans to create the Black Orpington.  The end result was a table fowl with excellent meat, a prolific winter production of brown eggs, easy to breed and fast to grow.

Cook was born in St. Neots, Huntingdon, England in 1849.   He worked as a coachman in Chislehurst, Kent at the age of 14, but the poultry on a neighbor’s farm soon caught his attention.  Cook and his wife, Jane, moved to Tower House in Orpington, Kent, and began to breed chickens, two daughters, and three sons.

The business of William Cook and Sons grew to include a London office at Queens Yard, 105 Borough London SE.  Cook invested his time in publishing his magazine, Poultry Journal, giving lectures, writing Poultry Keeper's Account Book, making an intensive study of poultry diseases, and selling medicines, food, and fattening powder.

Cook’s birds were introduced into various Dairy shows in England, and won much acclaim.  At the 1886 Chrystal Palace Poultry Show, Cook won grand prize for his Black Orpington pullet.  By 1888, Orpingtons were given their own classification, and Cook’s bird took home the cup.

1890 was a big year for the Orpingtons.  The Cook family moved to Walden's Manor, which they renamed Orpington House, and Cook’s eldest child, Elizabeth Jane, took over the operation. Single Comb Black Orpingtons were first exhibited in America at the Massachusetts Poultry Association Boston Show, and the first consignment of Black Orpingtons were also imported to Australia.

 In 1894 Cook created his most popular Orpington, the Buff, which became the symbol of the Orpington Rugby Football Club. The Buff was produced from crossing the Golden Spangled Hamburg with the Buff Cochin and Dark Dorking breeds.

 Buff Orpingtons were one of the most popular varieties.  Mature Buffs typically start laying at six months, producing large brown egg every two to three days.



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