Few believed at the time that Orpingtons would thrive in a commercial climate in the United States. Objections to chicken with black legs and white skin were lodged against Black Orpingtons, and later the white or pink legs and white skin of Buff and White Orpingtons were considered a serious marketing handicap as Americans demanded yellow-skinned and yellow-legged poultry.
Cook’s masterful promoting and advertising for the breed was at work in England, Australia, Africa, and America. He took full advantage of great quantities of free advertising by cleverly writing on poultry topics, and demonstrated his shrewdness as a breeder and dealer as well.
With a blind eye to its defects, and a loud voice shouting its superior qualities, the result of Cook’s efforts was that for a while Orpingtons were the most popular fowl in England, and White Orpingtons were dangerous rivals of the American Plymouth Rocks, Wyandottes , Rhode Island Reds, and Leghorns.
In Australia, the Black Orpingtons were bred with the Australian Lanshans. In a 1922-3 Papanui Test, a Orpington hen named Kismit Dot laid 342 eggs in 51 weeks. In 1923, Australorps Farms Ltd. imported the birds back to England. The Poultry Club refused to recognize them as a separate breed, first calling them Austral Orpingtons, and finally Australorps.
Elizabeth Jane Cook married R. Wakeman Clarke, and ran William Cook and Sons until 1933. She exported birds all over the world, and was one of the first to use airlines for shipping fowl.
The Orpington is a highly intelligent and docile bird and is suitable for families with small children. Hens mature at a young age, will set and rear chicks on their own if allowed to do so, and are attentive mothers.
Orpingtons are a cold-hardy breed and thrive well in both confined spaces and as free-range birds. They lay between 110 and 160 light brown eggs year round. Still considered a multi-purpose bird, it is bred for meat and egg production as well as for show purposes.
Orpingtons are listed as “Recovering” by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, “Endangered” by the UK’s Rare Breed Survival Trust, and they are at Number Five in the Rare Breeds Trust of Australia’s Poultry Top Ten.