Australorp Chicken

Gallus gallus domesticus

Last updated: July 12, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Kathy D. Reasor/Shutterstock.com

Australorp chickens are among the best egg producers in the world, Hens in Australia set consecutive world records with one laying 364 eggs in a single year!


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Australorp Chicken Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Galliformes
Family
Phasianidae
Genus
Gallus
Scientific Name
Gallus gallus domesticus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Australorp Chicken Conservation Status

Australorp Chicken Locations

Australorp Chicken Locations

Australorp Chicken Facts

Prey
Insects and larvae; worms; other invertebrates; small animals such as lizards, frogs, and mice
Main Prey
Insects
Name Of Young
Chicks
Group Behavior
  • Flock
Fun Fact
Australorp chickens are among the best egg producers in the world, Hens in Australia set consecutive world records with one laying 364 eggs in a single year!

Australorp Chicken Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Grey
  • Blue
  • Black
  • White
  • Beige
  • Golden
Skin Type
Feathers
Lifespan
6 to 10 years
Weight
6.5 to 8.5 pounds for large varieties; 24 to 42 ounces for bantam sizes
Age of Sexual Maturity
5 to 7 months
Venomous
No
Aggression
Low

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Australorp chickens once held world records for egg production, with one bird laying 364 eggs in 365 days!

The Australorp chicken was once one of the most popular chickens in the world. This Australian breed was crafted from Black Orpington chickens crossed with a variety of other breeds with the goal of increasing egg production to the max. By the 1920s, Australorp hens were indeed outproducing all the other birds. They set one world record after another, and demand for the breed exploded.

Australorps were exported to multiple countries where, sadly, they proved to be a bit of a disappointment. For whatever reason, they did not produce as well in other parts of the world as they had in Australia, and so their popularity began to quickly fade. Today, these chickens are still among the best egg producers one can find, averaging about 250 to 300 eggs each year at their peak. Their popularity is once again increasing, thanks in large part to their friendly and easygoing nature and their quiet and calm presence in backyard flocks.

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Incredible Australorp Chicken Facts

  • Australorp chickens are an Australian breed created in the 1890s.
  • They come from Orpington chickens crossed with other birds from all over the world.
  • Australorps are only recognized in black plumage in the United States.
  • Hobbyists who prefer quiet birds would do well to choose Australorp chickens.
  • These chickens are friendly and docile, and they make good show birds.
  • Australorp hens are often culled when their egg production diminishes.

Where to Find Australorp Chickens

Australorp chickens are uniquely Australian. They were bred in Australia from Black Orpington chickens which originated in England. Orpingtons were named for the town in which they originated. These hybrids were created around 1886. A breeder named William Cook crossed a mix of large, meaty birds including Minorcas from Spain, Plymouth Rocks from the United States, and Langshans from China. He aimed to develop a new line of birds with excellent meat and egg laying qualities. On both counts, Cook’s efforts succeeded.

Australians imported Black Orpington chickens from England beginning around 1890. They crossed the birds with Rhode Island Reds from the United States and White Leghorns from Italy. They made further crosses with Minorcas, Plymouth Rocks and Langshans, too. The resulting Australian Black Orpingtons, or eventually, Australorps, had a truly international heritage.

As record-setting egg layers, Australorps were in high demand in the 1920s. Importers brought them to the United States, England, South Africa, Canada and Mexico. Their popularity declined over time, possibly because hobbyists preferred more colorful poultry, but they are on their way back.



Scientific Name

The Australorp chicken shares the same scientific name with all of the other domesticated chickens in its ancestry. These birds are known as Gallus gallus domesticus. They descended, primarily, from the Red Junglefowl of southeast Asia.

The common name of the Australorp chicken was a matter of contention for some time. Throughout the 1920s, breeders fought over the official name of these birds. Some suggestions included Australian Utility Black Orpingtons, Australian Laying Orpingtons, and simply Australs. Most agreed that the name should include at least some reference to the chicken’s origins, both the breed that it came from and the place where it was created.

Breeders and judges reached a compromise. They chose Australorp as the name of this new breed. The Austral- prefix, of course, honored Australia where the chicken was first bred. And the -orp suffix paid homage to the Orpington, from which the new breed primarily descended. In 1929, with the name agreed upon and the breed standards confirmed, the Australorp was officially accepted into the American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection.

Australorp Chicken Appearance

Australorp chickens are medium to large birds. The hens weigh approximately 6.5 pounds and the roosters average about 8.5 pounds. Bantam sizes are considerably smaller, weighing between about 24 to 42 ounces. They stand with a tall and erect posture, holding their tail upright and their head above their tail. They have full and rounded breasts with a robust and active appearance overall.

Australorp chickens have single, straight, bright red combs. The combs have up to seven points and are upright and evenly serrated. They also have bright red wattles and red faces with large brown eyes and oblong earlobes. They have a strong, slightly curved beak that fades from black to off-white near the tip. Australorps have black to slate-colored legs and feet with four toes. Their feet feature white toenails and pinkish-white soles.

Australorp Plumage

In the United States, the American Poultry Association officially recognizes only black Australorp chickens. Their sleek, black feathers are closely placed and should be shiny with a green or purple iridescent sheen in the sunlight. Males have long hackles and long, curved sickle feathers, while the hens have tails of medium length with full, broad feathers. Both have medium-sized wings which do not droop and minimal fluff.

The Australian Poultry Standard recognizes three colors. These include the traditional black, as well as white and blue. South African officials recognize seven colors, including black, white, blue, wheaten laced, splash, golden, and buff.

A black Australorp hen with broad tail feathers forages in the tall grass.

©Andrea J Smith/Shutterstock.com

Behavior

Despite their relatively large size, Australorps generally behave in a docile and friendly manner. They are among the quietest chickens currently inhabiting backyard flocks. Breeders say that they are gentle and calm, and that even the roosters do well with children. They are easy to train and make good show birds. Australorps get along with most other chicken breeds, but they have a tendency to get bullied by more aggressive birds. Some owners suggest keeping them separated from unfriendly or pushy breeds.  

Australorps do not fly well. Their medium-sized wings are not strong enough to carry their large and heavy bodies long distances through the air. They are tolerant of confinement, and just as happy to free range. They will do equally well in enclosed runs as in open yards, but they definitely need a clean and secure coop for roosting and nesting.

Australorp chickens, particularly those with black feathers, do not do as well in hot climates as in cooler regions. If you plan to raise these birds in hot weather, make sure to provide plenty of shade, lots of fresh water, and maybe even a fan to keep their coop well-ventilated.

Diet

Australorps need a diet high in protein and calcium. They are among the best egg-laying chickens available. However, that high rate of production must be supported with adequate nutrients so that the eggs don’t come out soft-shelled or otherwise defective. As such, owners should provide high-quality commercial chicken feed as the main source of food for these birds.

If allowed to range freely, Australorps are great foragers. They can easily supplement their diet by eating weeds, seeds, and other green plant parts. They also eat insects, larvae, worms, and other invertebrates. These chickens also sometimes catch and eat mice, lizards, or even small snakes.

Australorps are curious and friendly birds that are highly motivated by treats. Owners may choose to further supplement their diet with treats like leafy greens, mealworms, bits of meat, or fruits and vegetables. They should also consider offering extra calcium from crushed oyster shells or other sources. But remember that this breed is prone to obesity if it is overfed, so keep treats to a reasonable level.

Reproduction

Let’s talk about eggs! In the 1920s, Australorp chickens in Australia established consecutive world records for egg production. One bird produced 364 eggs over a 365-day period. Today, Australorp chickens average between about 250 and 300 eggs per year. Hens begin laying at about five to six months of age, and they lay medium to large size eggs. The eggs usually appear light brown in color.

Australorps, like most other chickens, lay most proficiently when they are young. By the time an Australorp hen is a couple of years old, she may be laying up to seven eggs per week. But just a few years later, her numbers might drop to just one or two eggs each week.

Despite early attempts to breed out the broodiness from Australorp chickens, hens today do have a tendency to go broody. They are content to sit on their nests. The eggs generally hatch after about 21 days. After that, the hens become attentive mothers who take good care of their chicks.  

Predators

Predators such as foxes, weasels, and raccoons can pose threats to Australorp chickens both on the ground and at the nest. Birds of prey, such as hawks and owls, might have a tougher time taking adult, full-size Australorps, but chicks or bantam-size birds would be at risk. Animals such as domestic cats or snakes could easily prey on chicks or eggs in the nest if owners do not keep the coops secure.

Australorp roosters provide a good defense for their flock. These attentive birds watch carefully over their hens as they forage. With their large size and upright, alert appearance, these roosters can often discourage predators from making an approach. Despite their friendly and docile behavior toward humans and other chickens, Australorp roosters will put up a fight if their flock is threatened.

Lifespan & Conservation

Australorp chickens live a little longer than many other breeds. These chickens live 6 to 10 years on average, but individuals can live much longer under the right conditions. Unfortunately, because owners often raise Australorps for their egg production, many hens are culled as their numbers decline.  

Australorp chickens were in highest demand around the 1920s, when hens were setting egg-laying records year after year. They were exported from Australia to countries around the world. Since then, however, their popularity has waned. They were not able to produce in the same quantities in other parts of the world, whether due to climate differences or other factors. Other chicken breeds proved to be better egg producers, and the popularity of Australorp chickens rapidly declined.

Today, thanks to continued popularity in their native Australia and increased interest from hobbyists in other countries, the Australorp is listed as recovering on the Livestock Conservancy’s Conservation Priority List. That means that although the breed was once listed in one of the endangered categories, it now exceeds 10,000 individual birds worldwide. Australorps are still being monitored, and conservation efforts are still encouraged, but things are looking up again for the breed.

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About the Author

Tavia Fuller Armstrong is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on birds, mammals, reptiles, and chemistry. Tavia has been researching and writing about animals for approximately 30 years, since she completed an internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Tavia holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology with a wildlife emphasis from the University of Central Oklahoma. A resident of Oklahoma, Tavia has worked at the federal, state, and local level to educate hundreds of young people about science, wildlife, and endangered species.

Australorp Chicken FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What do Australorp chickens look like?

Australorp chickens are robust birds. They stand with a tall and erect posture, holding their tail upright and their head above their tail. They have full and rounded breasts. Their single, straight, bright red combs have up to seven points, and are upright and evenly serrated. They also have bright red wattles and red faces with large brown eyes and oblong earlobes. They have a strong, slightly curved beak that fades from black to off-white near the tip. Australorps have black to slate colored legs and feet with four toes. Their feet feature white toenails and pinkish-white soles. Most Australorp chickens are black with shiny feathers that have a green or purple sheen. This is the only color recognized in the United States. Black, blue, and white variations are recognized in Australia, and additional colors are recognized in South Africa.

How big are Australorp chickens?

Australorp chickens are medium to large birds. The hens weigh approximately 6.5 pounds and the roosters average about 8.5 pounds. Bantam sizes are considerably smaller, weighing between about 24 to 42 ounces.

How well do Australorp chickens fly?

Australorp chickens are not good at flying. They have medium size wings which are not strong enough to carry their heavy bodies over long distances.

How many varieties of Australorp chickens exist?

Australorp chickens are members of the Gallus gallus domesticus species. They come in large size and bantam size. In the United States, only one color variation is recognized. It is black. In Australia, three color variations are recognized, including black, blue, and white. In South Africa, up to seven different colors are recognized.

What makes Australorp chickens special?

Australorp chickens once held world records for egg production, with one bird laying 364 eggs in 365 days.

Where do Australorp chickens live?

Australorp chickens were first developed in Australia, and that is where they are still most popular today. They were also exported to the United States, Great Britain, South Africa, Canada, and Mexico.

What do Australorp chickens eat?

Australorp chickens rely on a high-quality, high protein commercial feed with added calcium to support egg production. If allowed to forage, they will eat weeds, seeds, green plants, insects, larvae, worms, other invertebrates, mice, lizards, or even small snakes. They love treats such as leafy greens, fruits and vegetables, and bits of meat or mealworms.

How many eggs do Australorp chickens lay?

Australorp chickens are among the best egg producers, laying from 250 to 300 eggs per year on average. The hens are most productive when they are young, with productivity slowly declining after they are about two years old.

Do Australorp chickens go broody?

Australorp chickens do tend to go broody. They are good at sitting on their nests, and the hens are attentive mothers when the chicks hatch.

How long do Australorp chickens live?

Australorp chickens have an average lifespan ranging from about 6 to 10 years. Individual chickens can live much longer if kept in optimum conditions.

Are Australorp chickens rare?

Australorp chickens are listed as recovering on the Livestock Conservancy’s Conservation Priority List. The breed was once listed in one of the endangered categories, but it now exceeds 10,000 individual birds worldwide. They are most common in their native Australia. Australorps are still being monitored, and conservation efforts are still encouraged, but things are looking up for the breed.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Rare Breeds Survival Trust, Available here: https://www.rbst.org.uk/australorp?gclid=Cj0KCQjw1
  2. American Poultry Association Breeds and Varieties, Available here: https://amerpoultryassn.com/accepted-breeds-varieties/
  3. The Australorp Club of Australia, Available here: https://www.australorpclubaustralia.com/the-standard
  4. Livestock Conservancy, Available here: https://livestockconservancy.org/heritage-breeds/heritage-breeds-list/australorp-chicken/

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