Around our house, my wife cares most for what things look like. I, on the other hand, really want things to work well. The Australorp chicken, we’re happy to say, does both very VERY well!
The Australorp is a breed of chicken that works remarkably well in both homestead and small backyard situations.
It has the physical size and egg production to benefit those who are looking to produce their own food. And it’s unique plumage allows it to look good while it’s doing it.
Aside from one small quirk, the Australorp is about as perfect a chicken as one could ask for.
This breed of chicken is about average in size, with roosters weighing in around 8lbs and the hens weighing around 6lbs. They have the standard single comb and the leg color of the Black Australorp matches its feathers, giving it a sort of stylish monochromatic look.
What really makes this breed stand out though is its’ plumage.
An adult Black Australorp has a greenish sheen to its all black feathers; a sheen that seems to change according to the angle of the sun. This amazing attribute is best noticed up close and, in my opinion, must be seen in person to fully appreciate.
Australorp Chicken Variants
In the United States there is only one recognized breed of Australorp – the Black Australorp. Australia, however, recognizes blue and white versions of the Australorp, while South Africa recognizes buff, splash (speckled), wheaten laced and golden versions of this breed.
There is also a bantam version (think miniature pony) of the Black Australorp – which I, personally, found to be ‘uber’ adorable.
The Australorp chicken is a dual purpose breed – meaning they are good egg layers, as well as having enough size to fill the freezer. But where the Australorp really stands out in the flock is in their eggs.
Australorp chickens tend to lay eggs that are slightly larger than most. And they lay more of them.
For example, in our last batch of chicks, we raised one Australorp. Originally, we had concerns for her as she was very slow to develop, being notably smaller and at times almost lethargic. But despite all of this, she did eventually ‘catch up’ and started laying laying a full 2 weeks before anyone else.
An Australorps’ egg shells are solid dark brown and, if fed a quality feed, are not prone to breakage.
The Black Australorp is labeled as ‘quiet & docile’ – making it ideal for those who like a lot of interaction with their birds. However, it has been our experience that Australorps are not exactly push-overs when it comes to interaction within the flock.
Of all the breeds we’ve had, it has been the Australorp who is most likely to ‘throw down’ with another bird. That’s not to say that fighting amongst the flock is common or that the Australorp is an instigator. It just seems that the breed has a bit of an attitude and will not take any guff.
And while that might be a little bit of turn off for some, we can honestly say that none of our Australorp’s has ever shown hostility towards people.
### Important Note ###
All of our birds are hens. Roosters of any breed can be hostile and should always be treated with respect.
Free-range vs Caged
The Black Australorp will probably do well in a small environment if space is limited. However, I would not recommend putting as many birds in a small area as some of the other breeds, simply because of their ‘attitude’ issues.
Like most chicken breeds, the Australorp is happiest in environments that are spacious and full of stimulation.
It’s worth remembering that this breed of chicken really excels at egg production. And the best way to capitalize on this inherent characteristic is by giving them lots of exercise – something that is offered in a free-range situation.
Cold Weather Vs Hot Weather
The Black Australorp is labeled as being both heat and cold hardy. However, this is where I take exception with the established norm.
Our Australorps have proven to do very well in our colder northern winters. They can get frostbite on their combs, but not any more so than say a Barred Rock. With proper care, an Australorp should be just fine in sustained freezing temperatures.
However, the same can not be said when it comes to heat. Our Australorps have always been the first to show signs of heat stress. So much so, that I consider them my ‘canary in the coal mine’. If the temperature is high and I am concerned about the flock, the first bird I look for is an Australorp.
For this reason, it is advised that Australorps should have easy access to lots of shade. Those beautiful black feathers can really draw in the heat. And if they can not find a way to escape the sun, they could very easily overheat.
The Black Australorp is definitely one of my favorite breeds. This bird is an egg-laying machine! It has proven to be well mannered around family and guests, and it looks good while doing it. It has just enough of an ‘attitude’ that it seems to fair well in free-range situations, but could easily get by in smaller environments if space is limited.
If not for fact that the Black Australorp overheats sooner than other breeds, I would recommend it to anyone.
I give this breed 4 out of 5 stars.
One of the most interesting things about raising poultry is occasional interaction with the native species.
Sometime back, we had a small flock of just five Australorps. I was working in the back when I noticed a flock crows raising a ruckus.
Initially, I thought there must be a hawk nearby, so I immediately came to investigate.
After a quick ‘look-see’ I realized that the crows weren’t upset by a predator, but rather by the ‘newcomers’ that were walking around, scratching and pecking in their territory.
Fortunately, crows are fairly smart, so it didn’t take them long to realize that – despite the similarities in appearance and size – my Australorps weren’t going to be a problem. But I had to laugh. Can you imagine what those crows must have been thinking.
“Mommy, what is wrong with that crow?”
“Don’t stare Johnny. It’s rude.”
“They’re just soo fat!”
“That’s what happens when you eat too much of the farmer’s corn.”