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The Buckeye Chicken is a great chicken to add to your flock no matter what you’re looking for. They are big, productive, and some of the most docile and friendly chickens you can find!
If you want to add in a reliable layer that will give you large brown eggs, the Buckeye Chicken is perfect. They can also make great meat birds due to their large size.
This breed is especially cold hardy and great for any backyard flock! Let’s dig a little bit deeper and learn some more about this breed’s history, appearance, behavior, and more!
Everything About The Buckeye Chicken
Origin And History
The Buckeye Chicken is a purely American Breed of chicken. It was first developed around 1896 in Warren, Ohio by a homesteader named Nelly Metcalf. She tended the poultry for her family and wanted to have a breed that was large, productive, and could stand up to the cold Ohio winters.
After different attempts that were not to her liking, she eventually crossed Barred Plymouth Rocks, Buff Cochins, and some local black breasted red game birds. The result was what we now know as the only APA recognized breed created by a women; the Buckeye Chicken.
There is a bit of confusion behind the name of the chicken. It is often assumed the name comes from the state of origin. Ohio is known as the Buckeye State. However, this breed is also a deep mahogany color which is the same color as the seed from the Buckeye Plant.
The American Poultry Association officially recognized the Buckeye Chicken in 1904. They assigned their own “Standard of Perfection” meaning these chickens could be entered into various poultry competitions across the United States.
The breed has varied in popularity over the years. In the past it was confused with a Rhode Island Red, or dismissed as a strain of the Rhode Island Red. This passive attitude and fluctuation in public interest toward the breed led to a steep decline in the population.
Buckeye chickens were included in the Slow Foods USA Ark of taste list. The Ark of Taste is a list of heritage foods that are in danger of becoming extinct. Conservation groups have been working to improve the breed and, hopefully, have them removed from the list some day.
As it currently stands, there are around 5,000 breeding pairs in the United States and just 10,000 world wide.
If you want to become involved or are interested in adding some to your flock, there are some organizations dedicated specifically to the Buckeye Chicken. You can see if they have any information for you locally.
- American Buckeye Club
- American Buckeye Poultry Club
As we mentioned earlier, the Buckeye Chicken is officially recognized by the APA and has a breed standard. If you want to show your chickens, they will have to conform to those guidelines explicitly.
However, if you are just interested in a production bird, a good layer, or just a nice chicken friend, you do not have to worry about the APA’s Standard of Perfection.
Color & Feathering
The Buckeye Chicken is a rather large breed. It has yellow skin, yellow legs, with four toes on each leg.
The feathering is a deep Mahogany color. It is said that the color of their feathers is the same color as the seeds of the Buckeye Plant. This is one of the theories behind the breed’s name.
In addition to being almost completely mahogany, they will also often have black tail feathers.
For the most part, the hens and the roosters look very similar. The roosters will generally have more feathering, with a bit more pizazz to their plumage. At times, their black tail feathers may even have a iridescent green sheen to them.
The hens are also mahogany with black tail feathers. Their feathering tends to be a bit less extravagant and more neat and trim. As with most chickens, the hens do not need the extra plumage to attract a mate. That is why the roosters look much flashier.
There is not a lot of variation in color for the Buckeye Chicken. It is believed that is one of the leading reasons it has gotten to close to extinction. Not enough color variety is a deterrence to those who want to show their chickens.
There is quite a bit of size difference between the hens and roosters of the breed. As we mentioned, they are considered a large breed. Even the hens are large all the while being considerably smaller than the males.
A standard Buckeye Hen will weigh around 5.5 to 6.5 lbs fully grown. A Buckeye Rooster can get up to 9 lbs!
There are also Bantam Buckeye Chickens. As you may know, Bantam Chickens are much smaller than the standard breeds. For example, a Bantam Buckeye Rooster will probably weigh around the 4 or 5 lb mark with the hens weighing even less.
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Comb and Wattles
The Buckeye Chicken has what is known as a pea-comb, just like the Easter Egger chicken and the Shamo chicken. This is something that Nelly Metcalf specifically bred for so that her chickens would be extra cold hardy. The pea-comb is much smaller than most other combs and is much less susceptible to frost bite.
In addition to a red pea-comb, they also possess a much smaller set of red wattles than, say the Rhode Island Red. They also have a pair of bright red earlobes.
Like we said above, the Buckeye Chicken has been confused with the Rhode Island Red, or a strain of the Rhode Island Red. While they do look similar, they do have some pretty distinct differences you can use to tell them apart.
The first is their comb. Rhode Island Reds have a single ridge while the Buckeye has a pea-comb.
Buckeyes are also a bit more compact in their build. Finally, they have a slate colored bar across their backs that Rhode Island Reds do not.
One more note of interest; according to The Livestock Conservancy, Buckeye roosters will make all sorts of sounds beyond your typical Rooster crow. One of those sounds is said to be a “dinosaur-like roar”!
What Are They Like?
Don’t let the dino roar scare you off from adding some of these to your flock. They aren’t vicious at all. Let’s take a look at their personality traits, behavior and s few other characteristics.
Temperament & Personality
This is one of the friendliest breeds you will ever find. They make great backyard pets because of it, too. It is not unlike them to run right up to you anytime you go outside. They are that friendly!
Another point of their personality is Buckeyes are naturally very curious. It could be argued that the reason they appear to be so friendly is because they are just curious about people, in general. But you would think that curiosity would go away after a while and their friendliness does not seem to.
They work great with other chickens in the flock. This breed is known for not picking too hard on other birds in the flock. Specifically, they do not tend to pull out other chickens’ feathers.
Part of the reason these chickens make great backyard chickens is because they are not only great foragers but they also thrive in the grass. You can actually supplement a decent portion of their feed with what they can find on their own foraging in your yard.
They are also quite good at hunting. If you have an older farm house and tend to get mice every now and again, these birds will seriously cut down on their frequency. Buckeye chickens will hunt down and eat any mice they can find!
Buckeye Chickens are pretty reliable layers. You can expect to get 3 or 4 eggs from each of them per week. They also tend to lay medium to large sized, brown eggs.
Cold Hardy or Heat Hardy
Because they originated in Ohio, their ability to survive a harsh winter was very important. One of the key characteristics Nelly Metcalf was looking for was for her chickens to be extra cold hardy.
She succeeded. Not only do these birds do great in cold weather but they do not lose size or drop in their egg production with the changing weather. Part of how they are so cold hardy is due to their pea-comb. Single ridge, or other large comb birds, can suffer from frostbite or other issues when it gets too cold.
What Is Their Purpose?
Whenever you introduce new chickens to your existing flock you likely have an intended purpose; whether that purpose is as a pet, as a meat bird, or as a source for farm fresh eggs.
Generally, meat birds are meat birds and layers are just for eggs. The Buckeye Chicken is considered a dual purpose chicken. What that means is that you can use it for more than just one single purpose.
We often like to say some chickens can be tri-purpose. We know the demand for pet chickens has gone up in recent years so we like to point out when a breed is a good candidate for that, as well.
As we discussed earlier, the chickens are extremely friendly. They will come to greet you when you go outside. Once they realize you are also the source of food, they will get even friendlier. If you want a chicken that is willing to be picked up, carried around, pet, or even cuddled, these chickens are great for that.
The Buckeye Chicken is a fairly productive egg layer. They will easily lay between 150 and 200 eggs a year (with some anecdotal reports of 175 – 250/year). That breaks down to around 3 or 4 eggs a week per chicken.
The Buckeye Chicken is a pretty good sized bird. The roosters can weigh up to 9 lbs. To put that in perspective, the average weight of a Thanksgiving Turkey is around 15 lbs.
Even the hens can be a decent stewing hen once they no longer lay. They get to be up to 6.5 lbs in size.
Both their size and egg production levels make the Buckeye Chicken a great dual purpose chicken.
Here are some answers to common questions about this unique breed.
Are Buckeye chickens friendly?
Yes. They act as if they never got the “be afraid of humans” gene. They are really friendly and genuinely enjoy the company of people.
What color eggs do Buckeye chickens lay?
Buckeye chickens lay brown eggs.
Do Buckeye chickens eat mice?
Buckeye chickens are interesting in that they will hunt and eat mice. That should save on your feed bill!
As you may already know, they Buckeye Chicken is perfect for just about any type of homestead purpose.
They make great meat birds. If you want a lot of eggs, they can provide those. Need a backyard pal? They’ve got you covered. Heck, they can even replace your barn cat!
Hopefully, you are thinking of adding some to your flock soon!
If you need more help with taking care of your chickens, check out The Organized Chicken Keeper for a complete system for managing their health through keeping their supplies stocked and coop clean.