Breed Spotlight: The Buckeye

The Buckeye chicken breed is perhaps one of the rarest breeds seen in backyard flocks today. The Buckeye was developed in the late 19th century in Warren, Ohio by Nettie Metcalf. It is a dual-purpose breed that was bred to withstand the harsh Midwest winters. A heavy-bodied bird, the Buckeye is the only chicken breed to have been developed by a woman. The Buckeye was recognized as an official breed by the American Poultry Association and added to the Standard of Perfection in 1904.

At first glance, the Buckeye is similar in appearance to the Rhode Island Red. Because of the similarity in coloring, many people assume that the Rhode Island Red was used to develop the Buckeye breed. Instead, the Buckeye was developed out of the Plymouth Rock, Cochin and Red Game fowl to give the Buckeye its heavy, broad build and tight feathering. These characteristics were important to have a breed that could handle Ohio’s harsh winters.

Although similar in appearance to the Rhode Island Red with a striking deep mahogany color, underneath the feathers lies two different birds structurally. The Buckeye has a “meatier” build, with thicker thighs and a broader back than the Rhode Island Red. This difference in build makes the Buckeye an overall better breed for providing both meat and eggs for a family. The Buckeye also has a small pea comb instead of the Rhode Island Red’s single comb. The pea comb is another characteristic intended to help the Buckeye through freezing winters.

Egg Production

The Buckeye tends to lay fewer eggs than most production layer breeds by today’s standards. The average weekly rate of lay for a Buckeye is 4 eggs per week.  Their eggs are a light brown color and medium size. 

Meat Production

As a meat bird, the Buckeye rooster can weigh an average of 7 pounds at full maturity, which would give a dressed table bird of around 5 pounds. Harvesting younger cockerels at around 24 weeks of age will produce a smaller but more tender table bird.

Personality

The Buckeye is a calm, gentle breed that generally gets along well with other breeds. If you are interested in preserving a bit of American culture, consider adding some Buckeyes to your backyard flock.

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The Rhode Island Red originated in Little Compton, Rhode Island in the mid 1800’s, making it one of the oldest American-bred chicken breeds. It began in farmers’ homestead flocks, where a highly productive egg layer was needed, but whose excess roosters could still dress out as decent table birds.