Buckeye Chicken- What You Must Know About This Breed

Are you thinking about adding a few Buckeye chicken to your backyard coop? If so, you have made an excellent choice for a chicken with good egg and meat production. But there is more to learn about these unique birds than the number of eggs they produce annually.

Buckeye Chicken

Buckeye chickens are an all-American breed, ideal for backyard chicken owners. These impressive chickens are excellent egg-laying hens and are perfect for poultry meat. The dual-purpose fowl are recognized by their lush mahogany red feathers, black tails, and large body size. However, there are many other reasons to consider adding Buckeye chickens to your backyard coop.

What about this breed makes them some of the most interesting and unique poultry breeds? This article contains all you need to know about these distinctive birds and why the almost-extinct bird is making a comeback.

What are Buckeye chickens?

Buckeye chickens are an American breed of domestic chicken that originated in the state of Ohio. The roosters and hens have short necks, mahogany brown plumage, and a distinctive bright red pea comb. Additional characteristics of the Buckeye are its red face, earlobes, wattles, and yellow beak.

Buckeye chickens are exceedingly cold-hardy birds due to their unique pea comb. This feature is uncommon in American-bread chickens. However, it’s one of the reasons why Buckeye chickens are popular in northern states. Its hardiness and calm disposition make it an ideal breed for beginner poultry keepers who want both beauty and practicality from their backyard chickens.

Interesting fact about buckeye chickens: Buckeyes are the only American chicken breed developed by a woman.

Buckeye Chicken History

The history of the Buckeye chicken goes back to 1879 in Ohio. Mrs. Nettie Metcalf started crossbreeding chickens to create a good breed for egg production and meat. Additionally, she wanted the chicken to be friendly and easy to handle.

Her goals of creating the ideal chicken for Ohio’s climate were the following:

  • A chicken with a plump body that produced lots of eggs.
  • One that would forage on the farm and not require additional feeding.
  • A chicken that survived hot summers and freezing winters.
  • A reliable egg-laying hen that produced eggs throughout the year.

The crossbreeding started with Buff Cochins and Plymouth Rocks breeds. The result was a bird that was too placid but was “meaty.” Then she crossed that with Red Game birds, and the result was a red-feathered, active chicken with a distinctive pea comb.

In time Mrs. Metcalf eliminated the overly aggressive tendencies in the roosters. Still, she retained the good egg-laying, foraging ability, and meat requirements she was looking for. Then in 1904—25 years after starting to create the breed—the Buckeye was admitted into the American Poultry Association Standard.

Did you know? The term buckeye originates from its beginnings in the State of Ohio, also called the Buckeye State. However, it could also refer to the color of the chicken’s plumage, similar to brown-burgundy Ohio buckeye (Aesculus glabra) nuts.

Buckeye Chicken Facts at a Glance

Here are some vital statistics to know about this all-American chicken breed from Ohio:

Buckeye Chicken facts
  • Rooster size: 9 lbs. 
  • Hen size: 6.5 lbs. 
  • Egg-laying potential: Good, 150-200 eggs annually
  • Meat production: Exceptional
  • Buckeye hen temperament: Friendly and calm with a tendency to be inquisitive
  • Buckeye rooster temperament: Can be aggressive but protects flocks well

Nine Buckeye Characteristics You Must Know

What is it about the Buckeye hens that make them so popular? After all, there are hen breeds that produce more eggs annually than these large feathered layers. Please read on to find out.

1. Buckeye chickens are excellent foragers

Buckeye chickens are excellent free-range fowl because they love to get scratching in the dirt. The birds can spend their whole day foraging for grubs, worms, weeds, and other “tasty” morsels. Therefore, getting a Buckeye or two for your coop could help reduce feed bills.

2. Buckeye meat has an excellent taste

One of the best characteristics of these plump poultry birds is their tasty meat. So, although Buckeye chickens make great pets, you may not want to develop a close friendship. Some Buckeye owners describe the taste of chicken breast meat taste “earthy and nutty tasting with a rich flavor.”

3. Buckeye hens have good brooding qualities and are excellent mothers

If you plan on hatching chicks, having a few Buckeye hens in the flock is a great idea. The hens can get particularly broody and want to sit on eggs. However, they are not as broody as some backyard chicken breeds. So, if you are a first-time chicken owner and are not interested in hatching birds, a Buckeye hen may be a challenge.

4. Buckeyes are cold-hardy chickens

One of the outstanding characteristics of Buckeye chickens is their cold hardiness. They have the best features of all the American breeds to survive freezing winters. These are the following:

  • Small pea combs that are relatively close to their heads
  • Small wattles

Because of these unique qualities, Buckeye chickens rarely suffer from frostbite.

5. Buckeye hens are some of the best egg-laying hens in winter

Do you want chickens that can lay eggs throughout the winter? If so, then a Buckeye hen is the best choice. These egg-laying birds continue laying through the winter when other hens have “shut up shop.” So, you are almost guaranteed large brown eggs daily from November until February.

6. Buckeye chickens do well in the summer

As well as being some of the cold-hardiest backyard fowl, Buckeye chickens have a surprisingly good tolerance for heat. This unique characteristic is not seen in other “cold-hardy” breeds. Of course, they still need shade and plenty of water to get through the hottest summers, but they survive well.

7. Buckeye chickens can make a lot of noise

Buckeye chickens are classified as “birds with moderately high noise levels.” Therefore, depending on your neighbors, you may want to consider the constant clucking and squawking the birds make. And if you have a rooster, you must be prepared for monster roars early in the morning.

8. Buckeye chickens take a long time to start hatching

Typically, egg-laying hens being producing eggs between 18 and 22 weeks. However, with Buckeye chickens, you will need to wait considerably longer—for at least six or seven months. Additionally, they are slow maturers, meaning they only begin to broaden around ten months old.

9. Buckeye chickens are brave

Although buckeye hens are known for their calm temperament, the roosters do an excellent job of protecting the flock. Roosters stay alert and will ward off potential predators to keep the girls safe.

The Temperament of the Buckeye Chicken

The Buckeye Chicken is perhaps best known for its friendly, gentle, and docile temperament. This bird is a great choice to keep as a pet due to its gentle nature, calm demeanor, and willingness to interact with people, even children. Buckeye hens also have a reputation for being very hardy and low maintenance in terms of care, living happily in rural and urban settings.

There are two vital qualities of Buckeye chickens to know about. 

  • Buckeye chickens are friendly and easy to handle—One of the great things about the breed is their friendliness and curiosity. This quality makes them ideal for first-time backyard chicken “parents.” And if you have children, they will enjoy interacting with the birds. In addition, their calm nature means they rarely get into a “flap.”
  • Buckeye chickens cannot protect themselves—Because of their friendly nature, Buckeyes tend to get picked on by more aggressive, active birds in the coop. Unfortunately, they often find themselves at the bottom of the pecking order. Also, they tend to get underfoot fairly easily, so you’ll have to be careful when cleaning the coop.

Special Requirements For the Buckeye Chicken

One of the most important requirements for raising Buckeye chicken is their feed. This breed has game bird DNA from its hybrid origins. Therefore, typical chicken starter feeds don’t have the protein levels the chicks require. Therefore, it’s best to use a turkey or game bird starter with 28 to 30 percent protein. 

Another special consideration for buckeye chickens is their space. Although they tolerate temporary confinement, they need plenty of space. Therefore, ensure that you provide a large, confined run or big yard for them to forage. However, the good news is that they rarely peck or attack other birds when cooped up for longer periods.

To ensure good poultry health, the requirements for Buckeye chickens are the same as for other chickens. This includes ensuring that their coop is clean, dry, and well-ventilated and that they have constant access to water.  

Buckeye Chicken Egg Color

The Buckeye hens lay large brown eggs with thick shells.

Egg Production of the Buckeye Hens

Buckeye egg-laying chickens produce up to 200 eggs per year. Therefore, you can expect to collect three or four eggs weekly from your girls. It is also good to know that the hens start laying eggs at about seven months old. Although their egg production isn’t up there with Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, and Plymouth Rocks, they are one of the best dual-purpose birds. 

FAQ — The Buckeye Chicken

Can you breed Buckeye chickens?

Buckeye chickens are a fertile chicken breed and are easy to raise. Buckeye hens often produce fertile eggs if you have a rooster in the coop. A general rule for Buckeye hens is one rooster for every ten hens. This ratio keeps everyone happy, and you will often find brooding hens sitting on eggs.  

Are Buckeye chickens rare?

Buckeye hens have good brooding qualities

No, Buckeye chickens are not a rare breed and are popular in homesteads and backyard coops across North America. Unfortunately, some years back, the breed fell out of favor with chicken owners. However, many now realize the benefits of raising Buckeye chickens for the large brown eggs and good meat production. 

Therefore, efforts to preserve the breed mean Buckeye chickens are no longer endangered. 

Are Buckeye chickens good with kids?

Buckeye chickens have gentle, friendly personalities and are easy to handle. These characteristics make these feathery friends ideal pets for children. The sociable chickens will often approach people and are unafraid of humans. In addition, their hardy nature means they can tolerate some rough handling from curious youngsters. 

What do Buckeye chickens look like?

Buckeye chickens are large birds with glossy mahogany-brown feathers and striking arching black tails. One of the distinctive features is their pea comb and small wattle on their round head. Additionally, the birds have broad backs, muscular wings, curved, broad breasts, and thick meaty thighs. These attractive birds have a triangular profile viewed from the side.