I’ve written about Buckeye chickens before, but am updating this today because we continue to learn new things about the wonderful old breed. At Bramblestone Farm, we keep both Golden Buff and Buckeye chickens, and people often ask why we bother with Buckeyes – they don’t lay as large an egg or as frequently as the Golden Buffs, so why do we keep them?
Well, Buckeye chickens are an old breed developed to thrive in Ohio’s weather; and were once very popular backyard birds. However, with the demise of the backyard flock during the 20th century, Buckeyes became endangered (less than 72 known breeding birds in 2003). Then in 2005, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) began a program to recover the breed’s original characteristics – striving to return Buckeyes to the productive backyard breed it once was. Today, Buckeyes descended from the ALBC Project birds are making a comeback as excellent birds for both flavorful meat and eggs.
Our original Buckeyes were from the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) “strain” described above, which were developed from the Urch, Pearce, Brown and Rhodes flocks beginning in 2006. The ALBC strain was developed to promote diversity of lines and more rapid growth in the birds, rather than necessarily promoting either egg or meat production. And although we really enjoyed those original Buckeyes, we did wish for better egg production.
The latest Bramblestone Buckeye’s came from Crains Run Ranch, and were bred by Mr. Jeff Lay. In 2002, Mr. Lay began breeding Buckeyes for improved egg production, and today the “Lay” strain of Buckeyes are known for their excellent egg production. They were developed from Buckeyes from the Brown (OH), Rhodes (MA), Pierce (RI), and Urch (MN) flocks. These Buckeyes started laying this spring, and they’re keeping up with the Golden Buffs!
We hope to help preserve and maintain the breed for future generations, as well as introduce others to these extremely friendly, inquisitive, and productive birds. Our Buckeyes roam on two fenced acres of pasture; and the hens give us natural, high-quality, delicious brown eggs. When the chickens are in the coop, they can be viewed on the chicken coop cam.
The Buckeye is the only chicken breed credited to a woman; Mrs. Nettie Metcalf of Warren, Ohio. In 1896, Mrs. Metcalf bred Barred Plymouth Rocks, Buff Cochins, and black-breasted, red game birds to produce the first Buckeyes. Buckeyes are a dual purpose breed (good for both meat and eggs, whereas Golden Buffs are only good for eggs) with deep mahogany plumage, yellow legs, and pea combs. Since there‘s game bird in their makeup; they do better in free-ranging conditions, rather than total confinement. Roosters weigh approximately nine pounds; and hens weigh approximately six and a half pounds and lay brown eggs. They are the only American birds that have pea combs, and are unique in their body shape. They have a slanted, short but broad back, meaty thighs, and powerful wings and breast. Their body structure and pea combs make Buckeyes extremely cold tolerant – perfect for colder weather regions. Buckeyes also have distinctive personalities. They are very active, and are noted for being particularly good “mousers”. In addition, they have little fear of humans, are quite inquisitive, and are very friendly. Many chickens run away from humans, Buckeyes tend to run toward humans. Hens tend to retain their “mothering” ability and will go broody and raise their own young (something many breeds no longer readily do); a trait appreciated by those wanting to maintain small, self-perpetuating flocks.
The Buckeyes build, nature, and foraging ability make them well-suited for farmstead and backyard flocks. On the “good news” front, in 2011 Buckeyes were upgraded from ”Critical” to “Threatened” status based on 2010 census data that showed more than 2,400 birds! For more information on Buckeyes, or to find a Buckeye breeder; check out the American Buckeye Club or the American Buckeye Poultry Club.