Apologies To The Orps

All summer I complained about my Buff Orpingtons. I have three, Amber, Beryl and Topaz. People get Orpingtons because of their calm demeanor and the large brown eggs that they lay. Besides, they’re pretty, in a way that Golden Retrievers are – blond and solid with thick coats. But (and this is the big “but”) Orpingtons go broody, and Beryl and Topaz spent much of the summer not at all calm and not providing me with large brown eggs. They huffed up. They rasped threats. They didn’t lay. I’d put them in the anti-broody pen which would break them of the spell, and they’d lay an egg or two, but then go back to being broody. I’d had it with them! I even offered Beryl and Topaz for sale on FaceBook. I was honest and described them as “useless broody hens” so it was no surprise that there were no takers.

Right now the hens are molting and so they’re not laying. Almost all of my hens look like Ruby. Just look at this tailless mess of loose feathers!

But, the golden girls have nary a feather out of place.

What’s more astonishing is that after an unproductive summer, they’re laying.

My egg basket would be almost empty if not for the Buff Orpingtons.

And so I am offering an apology to the Orps. I’m sorry that I complained about your moody, broody summer behavior. I didn’t realize that it was setting you up to be the early winter laying stars.

On a side note, Opal, my Delaware, laid all the way through the summer and continues to lay now. She’s my first Delaware. I love her steady and friendly personality. Is she true to type? Does anyone else have Delawares?


  1. My Buff Orp laid her first pullet egg yesterday, It was very exciting for me

  2. Out of my 10 pullets two are laying. I have lt.greenish/blue eggs from one of my Ameracanas and a brown egg from either a Buff Orp or Black Australorp!! It is very exciting…now if they would just lay in their brand new nest boxes that my husband built!!!

  3. Our Orp is Lady Betty Orpington, and she was broody, too, but always sweet and wishful, and she didn’t quit laying while she was at it. So, what is the deal with Orps and molting? You’ve mentioned it so much, it occurred to me that Betty has never lost enough feathers to look disheveled or without a rudder. She’ll be five years old in the spring!
    I’m glad your Orp Gems have redeemed themselves, funny girls. And I am curious to hear more about Delawares.

    • Yes, she is. Look closely and you’ll see that she’s molting. She used to go broody. But she’s an old lady now and doesn’t go broody or lay eggs.

  4. The photo of Opal is terrific. Makes me think of Lady Bracknell in the Importance of Being Earnest, for some reason – a sort of air of suppressed outrage. I have had a (wet) summer of Boring Brooders. Now I have a (wet) Autumn of Moody Moulters. For days my coop looked like there had been a pillow fight in the night. My Welsummer girl, Gretel, now looks like she has been and sat on a porcupine. No eggs, obviously. *sigh*

  5. I have always had Delawares. I have never had one go broody. They are resistant to diseases and are friendly and nice to look at and terrific layers. I love my Orpingtons. I call them my “Golden Retriever Birds”. So far, none of them have gone broody…just my little bantys..and I apologize to them as well. After a summer of 5 of them going broody (in a big pile in the corner of the barn…they all looked like their were dead!!)…I get 5 eggs a day from them…without fail…I have a lady that pays me only for the “baby eggs”…go figure….! Great pic by the way!

  6. I had an Orp go broody this summer. Broke her and a month later she was broody again. So I decided not to fight it. I let her sit on a purple Easter Egg (which is still in her nest box today, I might add) and then at 21 days, bought three day old chicks and tucked them under her. OMG, the cuteness that followed is sweet, it will give you cavities just looking at it.

    So I get how frustrating broodies can be. But if you are at all planning on adding to your flock, let one of your BO’s do it. She does all the work. She was the best mama I could have possibly imagined.

    It was so cute, I’m tempted to put baby chicks under my BO broodies and then sell them when they are grown and ready to move out.

  7. Our first hens were RI Red Orp mix and fantastic layers. I miss them.
    I’m actually excited for one of our hens to go broody in the Spring. We want to add to our flock so I am considering borrowing my brothers rooster in later winter. Your thoughts?
    ( the only problem being if we end up with little boys and I have to give them away, it will break my heart)

    • That’s exactly the problem – at least 50% will be roosters. It’s almost impossible to rehome them, so unless you are willing to “harvest” them, it’s best to stick with buying sexed chicks.

  8. You offered them for sale on Facebook! That is too funny! I’m glad they were able to redeem themselves. Opal is so beautiful, Delaware is a breed for my wish list. You’ve had the GEMS for over one year almost at the two year mark and all are well. A friend of my sister had a dozen chickens and within the first year lost 2 to health problems.

  9. We’ve had three Buff Orpingtons over the years. They do molt – there are loads of feathers about, but we always wonder how they can lose so many without it showing. The main characteristic of the British Buff Orp is how vocal they are. There always seems to be a running commentary on life in general, which gets turned up a notch if treats are not forthcoming, or if someone else is in the nestbox! It’s almost nice when they go broody as you get some peace and quiet :-)

  10. I wonder how much the weather affects the hens laying habits? I wonder if they’ll follow the same pattern next year.

  11. We had four Delawares in our first batch of chickens, which arrived in May 2008. We have one left; the others died at various times over the years to the mysterious chicken diseases that we never can figure out. She’s a steady layer, never been broody, but she does molt. She’s smallish, wiry and alert. Not super friendly but not skittish. I’m thinking we will get more Delawares someday along with Australorps. In our experience Australorps are calm, non-broody, reliable layers and gorgeous in that “shiny black with green sheen highlights and proud erect tail” kind of way. Oh and a shout out for Brahmas. We have a few light Brahmas and though they aren’t prolific layers they lay consistently through the winter, at least ours do, when the others girls slow down. I could talk chickens all day so better stop here! :)

  12. I’m sure you don’t remember since you get umpteen comments on your posts, but back in the beginning of the year I told you the mixed lot of breeds we were getting. Your prediction was that the Speckled Sussex would the our favorites and our Delawares would be at the bottom of the pecking order.

    Our Delawares ended up as the top girl in the pecking order. Nobody messes with Miss Prissy! Even the rooster gives her space. She’s not super friendly to people, but not psychotically afraid, either. The Speckled Sussex are kind of in the middle of the pack and are most notable for their awesome foraging prowess. The most friendly birds we have are the Barred Rocks. They are consistent layers, too.

    That just goes to show that chickens are indeed individuals and vary even within the breed. They are so much fun!

  13. My Buff Orphington’s are the steadiest layers. Every morning they give me a big brown egg. Even Buffy who hurt her leg has been laying again for about a month. She still hobbles around, but she doesn’t miss a beat! Got a love those dependable girls ;)

  14. I love my 2 big sweet clumsy buff orps. They are only 9 months old and haven’t gone broody yet. But next spring they might change their ways.

  15. I had Buffs for 3 yrs and I tell myself that I’d never get them again! They were SO broody and never layed eggs! They were nice and friendly of coarse (when they finally came out of the layer box) but I just didn’t appreciate them. They are beautiful birds but at this point I just want eggs! Give me the eggs! This time around I have Barred Rock, Golden Laced Wyonnetts and 2 Cochins. All have been fine. It’s interesting the difference between breeds and their locations. Sounds like finicky women:) Q: I’m wanting to put a light in the coop in the morning and/or evening. Which is best?

    • Morning. Keep in mind that chickens can’t see at all in the dark. If you have a light that turns off suddenly in the middle of the night, the chickens won’t have any warning to go roost. They’ll be stuck on the ground! My pullets laid all through the winter without a light (my coop is sunny). Using a light when they’re molting isn’t useful. So I don’t bother. I know they’ll start up again in February.

  16. Glad to here that Opal and in general that Delwares are a nice breed. Even your fake Opal came out as a good and non human attacking rooster. It is nice to see how the Buff Orphingtons have matured and showed the nuances of their personality, whether 2 out of the 3 are grouchy broodies. Or that all 3 have become steady winter layers. LIke Buffy, I am sure as the years pass you will be able to pick out each one from the others.
    I am curious about your thoughts of another varriety of the Plymouth Rock, I know you didn’t particularly like how your Barred Rocks were in personality and aggressiveness. But have you thought maybe trying another variety of the Plymouth Rock such as the White, Black or Partridge varieties ? The one White Plymouth Rock I have come to know online seems to be a great hen, and is the boss of her flock and seems to be a good leader that doesn’t boss the other bantams too much. Maybe another variety will redeem them in your view of Plymouth Rocks in a mixed flock.

  17. Love the “it’s about time I got some recognition” look on Opal’s face. And she’s gorgeous, too!

  18. Our buff Orpington (named Buffy of course) goes broody once a month from April to September. We put her in the broody box (a wire dog crate with a perch, food, and water) and her broodiness lasts from 4-7 days. Our friend says that if we left her overnight in the broody box she would stop being broody faster but the crate isn’t predator safe so she sleeps in the coop with the other hens. And then it takes her another 3-7 days to start laying again. So from April to September she only lays about 2 weeks out of the month.

    And then she starts to molt in mid September or so and doesn’t start laying again until March or so.

    I’m guessing she’d be a great mom!

    • Your friend is right that keeping her in the anti-broody coop overnight would be far more effective, but you are right to make protecting her from predators the priority.

  19. Lovely to read all the different breed experiences! I have mainly Light Sussex. They are wonderful, hard-working ladies both for eggs and help with the gardening! However we’ve had the worst ever moult… and therefore the longest wait for eggs! Last year we had 147 eggs in Oct, this year, barely one a day! They’re all a year older, of course! My little lavender Araucana stopped laying back in Sept, as did my other blue egg layer! :-(
    So good to have you back, Terry! I think Thanksgiving will have an even deeper meaning this year?
    BTW Are you aware of a slight glitch with the wrong day’s blog coming up after going to the other cams?
    All good wishes from Cornwall!

  20. I had a Delaware…but she turned out to be a he and he had to go live in the country. We can’t have roosters in the city. Teriyaki was a very friendly guy, always followed me around when he was small and the first to fly to my shoulder. He never turned mean on me, I had him for 8 months or so…we all loved him, but his constant crowing had to move to the country. Now he has a harem of ladies to watch over!

  21. I had a buff that I loved named Eleanor, after the great leader Mrs. Roosevelt. She was a great bird and ruled the coop with kindness and all my birds were at peace with her leading the way. She was the only bird that seemed to enjoy getting new birds added to the coop, she’d care for them and cuddle them. She made a pleasant sound at bed time and all the birds wandered into the coop for bed when she said it was time. She was noisy and gave out distress calls when the neighbor was up on his shed wearing an odd billowy shirt, or if a roadrunner made it’s way into the yard. She went down in a blaze of glory, one day I let all the birds out into the garden (it was off season so they could scratch anywhere they wanted). While out and away from the protection of their covered yard a hawk came in and threatened the girls. I heard the distress call, looked out the window and saw nothing. Later that evening when I went to check to see if they all made it back to the coop, I found all the birds huddling in fear inside the coop but not Eleanor. Her dear beautiful yellow lifeless body was found right at the entrance from the garden to the yard and it was apparent a hawk had been the last to see her alive. I can only imagine that she made sure the other birds were safe in the yard before she would enter it herself, which made her a bright yellow target for the hawk. The very next day that hawk was back and this time he found a small opening (that I did not know about but have now fixed) in the yard cover. Without Eleanor to guide them all into the coop for safety the chickens ran around in every direction not knowing what to do. I came running entered the coop so pissed I wanted to wring that hawks neck, but I only scared him off. Now I never leave the girls out unless I’m around to chicken sit.

  22. I love your blog…I found you when I did a search for “chickens with messy vents” and found your miracle Epsom Salt cure – thank you so much for that.

    I have my first Buff Orpington this year…Buffy’s (do we all name our Orps Buffy?? HA!) a sweet girl and is best buddies with one of the Buff Cochins, who turned out to be a rooster :) She & Louie hang out together all the time, and sit on the roost together at night. Too cute! I haven’t had any problems with her (so far), and she’s quiet and friendly. It’s hard to tell if she’s actually laying, since the other 8 girls I got at the same time at the end of May are all busy starting to lay their first round of baby eggs. We’ll see how she does!

    I adore my Delaware, Maggie…she and I had to have it out last year, since she started biting me whenever she could get in striking distance of my hand. (I think she picked up some bad behavior from a mean rooster that we no longer have.) The last straw was when she bit me on the leg from behind as I was taking them out into the yard for a treat. I picked her up, then turned her on her back in my arms like a baby & held her there awhile. She’s never tried to bite me since, and she’s as sweet as can be :) She absolutely ADORES water and comes running whenever I’m filling their waterer. I also sometimes set out bowls of water in the yard for the flock, and she’s always the first one there, poking at the bowl before I even pour the water. She’s always been a good layer too.

    • Lol, it would be funny if the reason she was biting you was to get your attention so you would pay attention to her and pick up her up. Like a chicken’s version of a cat pawing you so that will pay attention to them.

    • Buffy came with that name so I cannot take credit for it :)
      Your trick of holding a hen gently in response to aggression is excellent. I’ve heard that it works with roos as well – embarrass them into good behavior!

  23. My deleware has laid all summer and still going. I actually wish she would molt, she’s looking a little ratty.
    She is very calm, quiet and laid back hen

  24. My Buff Orp Francine was a pretty steady layer once she started last winter. Then when I added two pullets to the group in the spring, she went broody (hilarious watching her trying to “sit” on them while they were trying to nap) and she’s never come back to work since. And now she’s a bedraggled molting mess. And requires the occasional bath for her terrible personal hygiene. Good thing I’m so fond of her!

  25. I have 2 Delaware hens. The younger one I call The Diva. She is beautifully white and perfectly coifed . . every day. The older girl (my favorite hen) Miss Delaware, comes when I open the front door, follows me around like a puppy and hatched 5 little chicks this summer and fostered 5 others. . . all at the same time! While all the other birds of her hatch date look just like Ruby . . . she has not dropped one feather and continues to lay day after day. I love me some Delaware Hens! :)

    • If only Opal was beautifully coiffed, I would bring her on school and nursing home visits. She, however, is always obviously dirty!

  26. My friends have 19 chickens(I take care of them when they go away,and I get to visit them often)They have 3 delaware hens.One who is almost completely white,another who has been getting hen pecked,but is almost all white,and anothe who looks like your average Delaware hen.She is super friendly and lets me pick her up without a problem.She comes running over for treats,and they all lay many eggs all summer and fall. :)

  27. I feel your pain. Over the summer I had a Copper Maran (Coco Channel) go broody. I would do everything to keep her out of the nesting box. It would not be bad, but she would act so crazy! Of all my chickens she lays my favorite egg — dark chocolate color. She finally got over her broodiness, now she’s moulting! The trials and tribulations of chicken raising!

  28. my Delaware Ruthie is the Head Diva of our little flock of 6 and she is absolutely my favorite. She is named after my late, great Aunt who was a “real” farmer and she has really lived up to the high expectations. She is very friendly even if it is just for treats, she lays a beautiful light brown egg every single morning and she is one smart cookie. The only time she stopped laying was when she molted for a total of two weeks. If I ever have the space for a true flock with a rooster I will have Delawares and a few bantams for fun. Healthy, bright and personable!

  29. Hi Terry, I have been giving my chickens Kale everyday. They love it, but wasn’t sure I should give it to them daily. I only do this when they are confined to the run, through the winter months. ty Brenda