Looking for a cold hardy chicken breed?
Russian Orloff’s are a supremely cold weather resistant chicken variety.
And really, should it be any surprise that a chicken variety developed in Russia fits the bill for a sleet proof bird?
Russian Orloff – Rare Chickens – Features and Facts:
Extremely cold resistant, they are a good choice if you are somewhere that the tempertures drop or you have cold winter storms. The American Livestock Breed Conservatory even says of them that: ”This is a breed that will tolerate cold and foul weather and survive when other breeds cannot.”
The Russian Orloff has a very strong presence. Some of the birds here at the conservatory have been said to look like “eagles” and “hawks.” That is as much due to their upright carriage as for the unique shape of their beaks which seem appropriate for a raptor and not your typical backyard chicken. The beak doesn’t make Russian Orloffs look mean however, (unlike the Malay) just less “chicken-y” then some breeds. Orloffs also have a lovely feathered feature around their face called a “muff.” Even as chicks they seem to have a kind of “royal” presence as if they are the counts and countesses amongst the barnyard flock. Please take a look at our photos of the endangered Spangled Russian Orloffs we have at the farm.
Known to America in the 1700′s, the Orloff was one of our founding breeds.
Russian Orloffs are not very broody and not as famous for egg laying as some other heritage breeds. They are kept however as “dual-purpose” chickens with a leaning towards their meat production. However – don’t get the wrong impression – Orloffs do produce eggs regularly and year round (unlike some breeds.) Like all chickens, the more light Russian Orloffs are provided with during darker months the greater the egg production. Long “days” mean more eggs. Much of their “strength” comes in their ability to do well in cold weather.
Orloffs today are best known in the three colors Red Orloffs; White Orloffs; and Spangled Orloffs.
Here at the conservatory we maintain a beautiful flock of Spangled Orloffs. Because there is no specific standard description for what the spangling should look like, how much, or where placed, having Spangled Russian Orloffs allows you to have a flock where each bird is unique. The Black Russian Orloff variety was once very popular, yet is today is seldom seen. It is known that other color varieties of Russian Orloffs were known: Mottled Russian Orloff; Black Breasted Red (Wheaten) Russian Orloff; and Buff Russian Orloff. Russian Orloffs are known in four colors in the British Standard: Black Russian Orloff; Mahogany Russian Orloff ; Spangled Russian Orloff; and White Russian Orloff.
History: Developed by a Russian Count who also devoted time to creating a breed of trotting race horse that also carries his name – the Orlov Trotter.
Count Alexei Orlov could easily be the subject of a television mini series. He started life as a solider and took a turn for the colorful. Orlov helped Catherine the Great overthrow Peter Czar Peter III (which Alexei Orlov may have himself assassinated), seduced another Russian Princess to bring her back to Russia as a prisoner, and headed a naval expedition to the Mediterranean in 1770 which destroyed the powerful Ottoman fleet, just to name a few of his adventures.
Perhaps because he didn’t start as a royal Russian, Count Orlov had an interest in domestic animals. He is responsible not just for a royal looking chicken variety; he also shaped a breed of fast Russian trotting horses which are called “Orlovs.” It is possible that his time fighting the Ottoman fleet is when he became familiar with chickens that may have been the Chlianskaia. (As some people say that the Russian Orloff developed from Persian stock. These points might be best cleared up once Russian, Turkish, Iranian, (the sites of the Ottoman Empire / Persian Empire that the Count was on hand to do battle with) and other global poultry enthusists compare their notes with historical facts. While many people speculate about this chicken varieties origin, few people seem to mesh their ideas with what and where Count Orlov, saw, went, and did, such as the fact that Count Orlov did spend time in the areas around Turkey.) There must certainly be a strong reason this chicken breed beasr his name and there is no question that Count Orlov studiously bred the Orlov Trotter (a racing horse) from both local and, for him, far reaching international horse breeds like the Arabian – which of course come from the same part of the world people theorize the Russian Orloff chicken breed’s ancestors come from. If the Count imported horses – why not chickens?
Layer – not so much
Egg color -
Meat – yes
Ornamental – Especially the Spangled
Special Quality – very cold weather tolerant
Free Range – yes
Confined – some say -”no” , we however, have ours in confinement and they do well.
Current status – Russian Orloff is a rare and endangered chicken breed.
Russian Orloff photos: