HOMEGROWN Life: Why the Buckeye Needs to Make a Comeback
Meet Big Red. She’s a two year old Buckeye. She’s also one of my favorite hens. The Buckeye is a threatened breed of chicken according the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. They were originally developed during the turn of the century by Mrs. Nettie Metcalf of Warren, Ohio – the only chicken breed developed completely by a woman. Buff Cochins, Barred Rocks and Black-Breasted Red Game were used in their development. Their pea combs and wattles are incredibly small – nearly non-existent – which makes them very cold tolerant birds. I always recommend them for people that live in cold areas because of their tolerance to frigid conditions. Even though we live in a milder climate than most of the country, our Buckeyes consistently lay medium, brown eggs through the winter unlike our younger hens.
From the ALBC’s Buckeye page:
The Buckeye should not be confused with the Rhode Island Red, even though they share some history. Buckeyes are unique in their body shape: slanted, short but broad back, very meaty thighs, powerful wings and breast. They appear very close to the Cornish, as bred in 1905, in body shape. (It should be noted that the originator indicated that she did not use Cornish in their breeding; the Cornish body shape was simply her goal.) In color the Buckeye is also unique. The color of the Buckeye is darker than that of the original Rhode Island Red (later, the Rhode Island Red was bred for a shade of color even darker than the Buckeye). The Buckeye also has a slate colored bar in the undercolor (fluff) of its back; the Rhode Island Red’s feathers should be red to the skin. Both breeds share the trait of tight feathering – unique in the American Class of poultry.
They also have a unique personality. If you can get past the fact that they always look angry they are actually very friendly, though quite active. We have a batch of 4 week old chicks right now, including 3 Buckeyes. They are the only ones out of the group that actually allow us to pick them up and carry them around perched on our fingers. Big Red is our “event chicken” because she’s so friendly and doesn’t shy away from large groups of people. They are great foragers, however, and don’t do well in confinement. They have a reputation for hunting rodents rivaling the hunting ability of cats. The roosters can make a huge range of sounds including a dinosaur-type roar.
The Buckeye is a dual purpose bird with hens weighing 6-7 lbs and roosters weighing 9lbs. Readers of Mother Earth News rated Buckeyes as the best for meat and flavor. Back in early 2011 we raised some Buckeyes for meat and they were definitely tasty and grew out relatively fast for a heritage, dual purpose breed at 16 weeks.
Of all the breeds we’ve raised so far, if I had to choose just one it would be the Buckeye. Now if only I can find a dinosaur-roaring rooster….
My friends in college used to call me a Renaissance woman. I was always doing something crafty, creative, or utilitarian. I still am. My focus these days, instead of arts and crafts, has been farming as much of my urban quarter acre as humanly possible. With my husband, we run Dog Island Farm in the SF Bay Area. We raise chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and a kid. We’re always keeping busy. If I’m not out in the yard I’m in the kitchen making something from scratch. Homemade always tastes better!