Thursday, 8 March 2012


Welcome to our latest offering from 'Henny Harris'!

This month our feathery 'pin up' is Nigella a lovely Black Australorp so if you are new to all this 'hen' stuff and just starting off or just fancy adding a new breed to you brood then read on...

And... just like her sister 'Nicole Harris' you can now make friends with 'Nigella Harris' on Facebook too!!!

This breed originates from improvements made in Australia to a British breed of chickens, the Orpington.  Orpingtons were shipped to Australia during the late 1800’s and improved on by farmers there.  Many different breeds of chicken were added to the mix to produce the Utility Black Orpington. By the 1920’s, the Black Australian Orpington, or the Australorp for short, was appearing in Britain.  Although we are looking at the Black Australorp here, it is worth mentioning that there is another colour, called the Blue (grey).  A White Australorp also exists, but they are relatively new and are not universally admitted as a Standard Breed.

The Black Australorp’s most distinctive feature is her soft, glossy, black feathers, with what is called a “beetle green” sheen to them. In the sunlight she is really beautiful. Get a little closer to her and you will notice that although most chickens have an orange eye, whatever their plumage colour, she has black, or deep brown eyes - very glamorous.  She is a “heavy” breed, but not enormous.  Her rear end is rather broad, but is a mass of fluff.  Her comb is single and although it’s a good size, it is neat and never floppy. Her legs are slate grey (described as black) with white claws, and her beak is black too.  Australorps are excellent layers. In fact, a team of six Australorp hens broke the world record in 1922-23 by laying 1857 eggs over 365 consecutive days. That’s an average of 309.5 eggs per hen! The eggs, which are a good size, are described as brown, which always means buff-coloured.

Australorps will go broody easily, so in warm weather make sure that you don’t leave eggs in the nest, as this is a sure way to trigger broodiness in most hens. My Australorp, Nigella, is extremely broody. She will even sit in a completely empty nest, clucking away and screeching at anyone who comes near, and of course, not laying a single egg herself.  Fortunately, she’s a friendly bird, even when in a broody state, so I can hoike her out and make her go and run around with the others. Done often enough through the day, she will get the message.  If you ever get the chance to pick up a broody hen, make a point of feeling the heat radiating from her breast.  It’s in order to supply a good incubating heat to the eggs.  In fact, a time-honoured way of curing broodiness is to dunk the chicken’s bottom half in a bucket of water to bring her temperature down. Not something I’ve ever tried.  If I did, I would make sure I did it on a sunny day when she had plenty of time to dry off her feathers.  I can’t begin to imagine the grumpiness of a broody hen with a huge cold!

The Australorp is friendly and sweet, but not overfriendly.  She will come and have a look at what you are doing with great interest, but won’t be a pest.  She will eat gently from your hand, so is a great chicken for children, but being shy she scoots away when you try to pick her up.

With acknowledgements to:

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