Black Australorps are a breed of chicken that was developed in Australia beginning around 1890-1900.
They were based on Black Orpingtons from England, which were mainly being raised for meat production. Breeders crossed the Orpingtons with several other breeds, all known for their egg-laying ability: Minorcas, White Leghorns and Langshans. Some sources say that Plymouth Rocks may have also been bred in.
The breeders were mainly interested in improving the egg-laying ability while maintaining a large body size for meat. By the 1920s, in an egg-laying contest, one group of six Black Australorp hens produced an average of 309.5 eggs per hen in a 365-day period. Another record was set by a single Australorp hen that laid 364 eggs in a year.
Our Experience with Black Australorps
We began raising a heritage strain of Black Australorps in 2015. They are excellent winter egg layers. We don't see the kind of egg production mentioned above, but we do see egg-laying rates as high as 85-90% during their peak production.
The males are large-bodied and ready to begin processing for meat at 16-20 weeks of age. At this stage, the meat is tender and flavorful.
We often harvest them at 6 months or older, at times over a year old. We've gotten dressed weights as high as 6 pounds from the older roosters. The meat is much more firm and requires slower, longer cooking times, but has an excellent flavor.
At least a few of our hens go broody each year. We will normally set some eggs under them to hatch, and we also hatch in incubators. They don't have as strong of a broody tendency as some other breeds, but we have had hens that hatch chicks well and make excellent mothers.
Overall, we've found Black Australorps to be an excellent all-around bird for the family homestead.
Frequently Asked Questions
Although they are fairly calm, I wouldn't describe them as friendly. They don't seem to mind you being nearby (as long as you're not trying to catch them), but they don't seem to like being handled. And they lack the curiosity that some chickens seem to have that would make them more friendly.
Ours typically begin laying at around 6 months of age (26 weeks). But that's going to be somewhat dependent on the time of year that you hatch them, the weather, and other factors.
For a more in-depth answer, please see my article on when do Black Australorps start laying.
Egg color is typically a medium brown. Neither extremely light nor extremely dark. But that said, egg color varies quite a bit. We occasionally have a hen that lays nearly white eggs.
With Black Australorps, it's really hard to tell at first, but as you gain experience raising them, you can start to tell at younger and younger ages.
Regardless of gender, they look pretty similar. When I first began to raise them, I couldn't tell males from females until they reached about 12-14 weeks of age. Now I can tell much more accurately starting around 4 weeks old. There will be a few that are hard to tell until they are older.
Once you've been raising them for a while, you start to recognize the subtle differences between both behavior and appearance. The males are more aggressive. They are more likely to spar with each other at a young age. Their comb also begins to develop more quickly.
Often the ability to tell them apart is somewhat intuitive. You may not be able to exactly put your finger on how you are telling the difference, but when you look at one and take into account how he looks and behaves, you are fairly certain he is male.
That said, there are still some slower-to-mature males that are really hard to distinguish from the females until they are older.
It varies. I wouldn't say that they are exceptionally loud, but we have occasionally had a much louder than normal hen.
Normally the hens are pretty quite.
The roosters are loud and crow a fair amount, like most breeds. Their crowing is not just restricted to sunrise, but they crow throughout the day.