Staying with last week’s theme of dual purpose breeds in need of support, this week we look at the Australorp.
Originally from Australia, it was developed from the Orpington breed.
This legacy is acknowledged in the breed’s name, with Australorp a combination of its country of origin and roots.
Balanced, active and graceful are just some of the words that could be used to describe this great breed of fowl.
The original Australia, as produced Down Under, was later crossed with other breeds to produce a more commercial bird.
This certainly worked for the breed as it broke many laying records with birds laying more than 300 eggs a year – while remaining a great table fowl.
Large importations of the breed were made in the early part of the 20th Century and an Austral Orpington Club was set up at the start before the breed become known as the Australorp.
Today the breed is standardised in the UK in black, white and blue in both large and bantam sizes.
Australorps have been standardised in other colours across the world.
For a number of decades the bantams were very popular here, being exhibited in all three colours.
In the early 1990s I was invited to judge the soft feather section at the East Antrim bantam club show when it was still in Doagh. The biggest soft feather breed in numbers being exhibited at this show was the Australorp bantams, with black and blue varieties predominating.
The overall winner was exhibited by Eddie Blair from the Maze, Lisburn, who had a wonderful strain of black Australorp bantam.
During the next decade they remained popular to such a degree that classes for black and any other standard colour were held at the Dromore Bantam Club’s soft feather show schedule and, with big entries in these classes, an Australorp was often on championship row.
The large variety here was not as popular but would have been entered in bigger events.
However, like so many other heavy soft feather breeds, they have lost out to the great interest in true bantams.
In the past few years neither the large nor bantam varieties have been kept by many breeders, with there now being a definite need for more poultry fanciers to show an interest.
The large variety and the Jersey Giant fowl are often mixed up and sadly on occasions they have been cross bred, which does not help either breed.
Although the breeds are both large black feathered fowl, the Jersey Giants are much larger, longer birds and tend to have lighter leg colour with yellow under part of the feet compared to the black Australorp, which should have black legs with white under part of the feet.
Thankfully there is a small devout number of breeders of pure Australorps and locally the breed is well maintained by James Fullerton. He can be contacted on telephone number 07523 805844 if you are interested in this wonderful breed.
n My thanks to Caroline Fullerton for her help in preparing this article and supplying photographs.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.