The Black Australorp is one of the heritage chicken breeds we choose to keep. I have found heritage chicken breeds to be hardier than standard breeds. It’s our desire to help preserve them for future generations.
The ALBC defines a heritage breed chicken as a breed that meets all the following standards.
APA Standard Breed
Heritage Chicken must be from parent and grandparent stock of breeds recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA) prior to the mid-20th century; whose genetic line can be traced back multiple generations, and with traits that meet the APA Standard of Perfection guidelines for the breed. Heritage Chicken must be produced and sired by an APA Standard breed. Heritage eggs must be laid by an APA Standard breed.
A Heritage Chicken must be reproduced and genetically maintained through natural mating. Chickens marketed as Heritage must be the result of naturally mating pairs of both grandparent and parent stock.
Long, productive outdoor lifespan
A Heritage Chicken must have the genetic ability to live a long, vigorous life and thrive in the rigors of pasture-based, outdoor production systems. Breeding hens should be productive for 5-7 years and roosters for 3-5 years.
Slow growth rate
A Heritage Chicken must have a moderate to slow rate of growth, reaching appropriate market weight for the breed in no less than 16 weeks. This gives the chicken time to develop strong skeletal structure and healthy organs prior to building muscle mass.
If you’ve read any of my other articles, then you know I’ve been a chicken keeper since I could walk, thanks to my grandmother. She instilled in me a love and respect for these valuable birds on the farm. Meat and eggs are why she kept them and meat and eggs are why I keep them. But let’s face it, they are adorable with personality and entertainment value that can’t be priced.
One of the breeds my grandmother had is the Black Australorp. She valued them for their productivity. They are good winter layers. The record set by an Australorp is 364 eggs in one year. I’ve never kept that detailed of a record so I can’t say if any of mine have ever met that. I can say they are one of the most reliable breeds.
My friends in the northwest have these birds too. They have to offer light and some source of heat to keep them laying in the winter, but even in these extreme temps and lack of light, they still prove themselves to be valuable to the homestead.
Every chicken keeper, whether for sustenance or pleasure, has their favorite breed(s). You know the Speckled Sussex chicken is mine, however, the Black Australorp is a close second. The beautiful green sheen and independent personalities are a delight to me. They like their humans, although not as much as the Speckled Sussex which is what broke the tie for me between these two heritage chicken breeds.
The Rhode Island Red is another breed our grandparents had that we enjoy keeping as well. Many people who like the Australorp also like Wyandotte chickens. If you are a new chicken keeper, don’t limit yourself to one breed unless you’re sure you know what you want. Over the last 34 years, I’ve had many heritage breeds, but have settled on our favorite three dual purpose breeds.
Now, a little history on the Black Australorp:
The Black Australorp was on the ALBC Threatened list. At the time of this writing, they are on the “Recovering” list. As you might have guessed from the name, this breed originates from Australia. They were introduced to the American farmer in the 1920s. They lay large brown eggs, tolerate heat and cold, and are excellent foragers.
Because of their nice weight and predictable development, the Black Australorp proves to be an excellent meat bird. On average, the roosters will dress out between 8 – 9 pounds and hens between 6 to 7 pounds.
I’ve seen it written that these hens are not likely to set their eggs. I’ve found them to be excellent setters and mothers. We often set them and introduce eggs from the general flock for them to hatch.
The hens will start laying large brown eggs at around 5 months of age. My grandmother taught me this old bit of wisdom: “If a hen is born in March or August, they’ll start laying around 5 months of age. Those born in other months will start laying around 6 months of age.” I’ve found this to be pretty much true across the board. As I have shared, I find them to be the best winter layers along with the Speckled Sussex.
We’ve talked about the Black Australorp hen, but what about the roosters? These guys are, in my opinion, the best flock guardians. Don’t get me wrong, the Speckled Sussex and Rhode Island Red roosters do an awesome job, but the Black Australorp roo is notches above.
We call our Australorp roos “Sambo.” They are beautiful, watchful, and aggressive against anything they don’t want around their girls. They are as easily corrected as other breeds from bad behavior. They are persistent with their protection, fighting a predator until death.
When they are standing in the sunlight, their gorgeous green-black feathers and trailing tail feathers against their brilliantly red wattles and cone will cause you to stop and gaze at them. You will often see him watching the girls while they eat. He is quick to call them to goodies he finds and is often the last to eat.
Do you have Black Australorp chickens? Do you have a favorite breed? Why are they your favorite? Be sure to share with us in the comments below.
Safe and Happy Journey,
Rhonda and The Pack