Buckeye chickens have been around for a while and appreciated by all homesteaders who are interested in functional birds. These are a fantastic heritage and dual-purpose breed, making them ideal for homesteaders seeking a bird good at providing both eggs and meat.
Also listed as threatened by the American Livestock Conservancy, by raising these birds you can help conserve these beautiful chickens.
About Buckeye Chickens
Buckeyes were bred in the late 19th century by a woman named Nettie Metcalf with the goal of creating a practical breed that produced well during the harsh Midwest winters. Created in Warren, Ohio, Metcalf crossed Buff Cochins, Barred Rocks and black breasted red game birds to create the birds we know today as Buckeyes.
There are no different color variations for Buckeyes other than the beautiful mahogany red they were originally bred in. Despite their beauty, Buckeyes have suffered a decline due to the lack of color variations in the breed.
There are currently less than 8 primary breeding flocks for Buckeyes in the United States and about 5,000 birds globally.
Buckeye Chicken Characteristics
1. Size and Weight
Buckeyes were bred to be a dual purpose breed, so they are not a particularly small bird. A full-grown rooster weighs about 9 pounds while hens will weigh approximately 6.5 pounds.
Buckeye hens are evenly tempered and docile birds with an occasional inclination to go broody. Roosters can be somewhat aggressive at times due to the game bird in their lineage.
All Buckeyes have an affinity for foraging and do very well in free range climates where they can forage.
3. Egg Production
While some breeds may have better egg production than these birds, they sure can hold their own for a dual purpose breed.
Hens average about 200 eggs per year, and do an especially good job producing eggs in the winter. Breeders have been working on creating laying strains that have better egg production, and there are some of these birds becoming more readily available.
4. Meat Production
Buckeyes have good meat production and a full grown bird will dress out very well.
As is the case with most heritage breeds, your birds will not be a large and fully grown bird at 10 weeks old like a commercial broiler might.
Good things come to those who wait, and a 5-6 month old cockerel will provide a nice sized carcass.
Taking Care of Buckeyes
1. Feeding and Nutrition
Buckeyes do tend to require a slightly higher protein diet than some chickens might. Some chicken keepers have raised their Buckeye chicks on turkey starter feed, which contains 10% higher protein than a typical chick starter.
After transitioning birds off chick starter, many choose to feed their Buckeye chickens game bird feed to keep their protein levels high. If you aren’t feeding higher protein feeds, you’ll need to supplement protein in the form of treats.
High protein treats for your chickens include mealworms, scrambled eggs and oats.
2. Housing and Fencing
As with all chickens, Buckeyes need a coop that is well ventilated with plenty of room for the birds.
Four square feet per chicken should be adequate room for each bird in the coop. You can allow your birds to free range, but if you choose to keep them in a run, provide at least ten square feet per chicken in your run.
3. Health Issues and Care
These are actually very hardy birds and have a pretty clean bill of health. You should not need to keep an eye out for more than the common parasites that can prey on chickens.
Keeping your flock well maintained and cared for will go a long way in owning a healthy flock.
The Buckeye chickens are a breed in need of some dedicated breeders interested in working towards the standard of perfection for the breed and rising overall global breed numbers.
Buckeyes are not a particularly difficult bird to breed, but they are very rewarding birds to work with due to their rarity.
Chicken Breed Alternatives
1. Wyandotte Chickens
Also an American bred chicken, Wyandottes are very similar to Buckeyes in size and weight.
Wyandottes do have somewhat better egg production than Buckeyes, in addition to being a bit more eye catching than a Buckeye.
2. Rhode Island Red
Buckeyes and Rhode Island Red chickens were bred at approximately the same time and they do have incredibly similar appearances and characteristics.
Rhode Island Reds are a better known breed than Buckeyes for the most part. Rhode Island Reds have better production than Buckeyes, but Buckeyes will have slightly better meat production.
Did you know?
Buckeyes are the only American bred chicken that can claim to being exclusively bred by a woman.
So what do you think? You might have a flock of Buckeyes and want to know more about them. Perhaps you’re placing a new order and considering adding some Buckeyes. No matter what, Buckeyes are sure to please with their practical qualities and well suited dispositions for farm life.