Buckeye Chickens

At Bramblestone Farm, we keep both Golden Buff and Buckeye chickens; but, 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 (see Heritage Birds for Real Chicken Flavor) and eggs.

Bramblestone’s Buckeyes are directly descended from ALBC birds; and we hope to help preserve and maintain the breed for future generations, as well as introduce others to these extremely friendly and inquisitive birds. Our Buckeyes roam on two fenced acres of pasture and are fed organically; so 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.

Buckeye Characteristics

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!  To find more information on Buckeyes, or to find a Buckeye breeder; check out the American Buckeye Club.


Buckeye Chickens — 21 Comments

  1. I have a few questions being new to this breed. I have had Golden comets before in the past and they were great egg layers. We have switched to Buckeye, as we like the look and history of the them. They are fed/watered very well and a wide variety fruits/veggies, worms and bugs I find for them. I built a house for them that is basically 10′ x 8′ with a run that is 2x that size. Our first flock consisted of 1 rooster and 6 hens. We added young ones adding another rooster and 6 more hens. Having lost 1 older hen a friend gave us 2 Rhode island reds. I have 11 nests. Made per the dimensions I found on line. I keep their house really clean. On occasion we let them roam the yard and surprisingly they stay relatively close by.
    My problem is, I am lucky to get 3-5 eggs a day. All the hens are of laying age. I understand they are not the best egg layers. Do I need to let them out and roam everyday? I also planned to expand their run by another 8′ x 12′. Anything I can do to produce more eggs? Diet, more light, etc………

    • Chad, we found that our first flock of Buckeyes was not that great at laying either. We went to a higher protein layer ration, and that helped some (they have game bird in their makeup so I think they appreciate slightly higher protein levels); however, I wasn’t really satisfied with their egg production. Upon doing some more research, I think it’s important to consider where your Buckeyes are coming from – some strains are bred more for meat production, some more for egg production, and some (many of those I’ve seen from the hatcheries) really aren’t great at either. Since we use ours for egg production and then meat after they reach a certain age, I looked for strains that are better egg producers and found that Jeff Lay of Crains Run Ranch is breeding Buckeyes for egg production. We obtained chicks for our current flock from Jeff, and I have been much, much happier with egg production. We have 10 Buckeyes that are laying, and we usually get about 7 – 8 Buckeye eggs a day – they may not quite be keeping up with the Golden Buffs, but they’re darn close and that’s pretty good because Buffs are egg laying machines (but there’s no meat on them). I also think they do better when they’ve got lots of room to roam – again there’s that game bird in their makeup. Hope this helps!

  2. We tried Buckeyes from Mt. Healthy this year. We’ve been raising dual purpose breeds for several years now, and not found a really good breed. We’ve had more problems with the Buckeyes this year than any other breed. not sure if it’s the hatchery, the quality of birds, or something else. We’ve done nothing different this year than any other. I’d love to have a conversation with you about Buckeyes in particular, if you would be inclined. I found your site from a link from Fresh Eggs Daily.

    • Pam, unsure what you difficulty is. I’m new to backyard poultry but my experience with Buckeyes has been wonderful. We purchased 30 day old chicks from Cackle hatchery, received 32 and lost 2 within the first week (they arrived at the onset of a very hard spring snow storm). Our birds are healthy and happy and are doing very well overall; they just turned 16 weeks.

  3. I have a Buckeye Rooster I got has my 1st Rooster, he was given to me, must be at least 5-6 years old, great Roo, Hef, has in Hugh Hefner

    • Murgatroyd – Thank you for another great link, I will be reading it too :) The New Hampshire is on the ALBC’s “Watch” list, while the Buckeye is still on the “Threatened” list, so I would say the Buckeyes are more threatened. There has been a lot of interest in the Buckeyes though in recent years, so I believe the ALBC is conducting another census to see how many there are, it would be nice to see them move up to “Watch” status too.

  4. I almost forgot to say that Mr.Hogan was able to select and breed for 280 egg birds in his flock of White Leghorns, although he said that his method was not specific to any breed.

    • Murgatroyd, Thank You for the link! I think this is going to be fascinating reading – I’ve wanted to read those but didn’t know they were available online. This is terrific :)

  5. Tara, Jacque, and ocd – We are getting our new Buckeyes from Jeff Lay because we like the work he’s doing on breeding the Buckeyes for egg-laying. So I agree with the comments below!

  6. Tracy, I live in Morrow Co. too. I have a small flock of Buckeyes from Jeff Lay down in Miamisburg. He’s listed as Crain’s Run Ranch in the Breeder’s Directory listed above. He has been selectively breeding for egg-laying for the last several years using the Hogan Method. I know he sells both chicks and hatching eggs. There are also several other Ohio breeders listed if he’s sold out for the season. The Breeder’s Directory is an excellent resource.

  7. Lesa, if you are interested in getting new lines, I would highly suggest you get in tough with Jeff Lay or Joe Shumaker (Both from the ABC) They both have EXCELLENT lines!! I’ve been coveting some myself, and when our line hits about 2, I’ll be investing in some of their eggs.

  8. I am planning on ordering some chicks and I am looking for someone to order with me because I’m only looking to get 12 chicks and need to order 25…..

  9. I am interested in the Buckeyes too =) Which lines are good for egg laying? I am new to the breed so I don’t know breeders very well. Thanks in advance! Tara

    • Tara, if you click on the ABC link, you will be able to go to a list of breeders. Jeff Lay’ line has been bred for increased egg laying and egg size. I have several of his birds and am very happy with their egg production.

  10. Tracy, I’m going to switch bloodlines on our Buckeyes, so am planning to sell our current Buckeyes in the spring – but they are now 2 year old birds, so don’t know if you would have any interest. I want to switch to lines that have been selected for better egg-laying. We’re spoiled by the Golden Buffs! If you click on the American Buckeye Club link above, you can find a list of breeders all over the USA. There are many reputable bloodlines, you just need to choose which you’d like. :) It’s best to reserve your choices early, the Buckeyes can be hard to get.

  11. Do you have buckeyes for sale? My husband and I are all natural farmers and we have raised many Golden Comets but want to get into the heirloom breeds (like our produce). We are in Morrow county and provide eggs and produce at a local market. We love pastured raised chickens and to us… They are all pets. :). If you do not, can you tell me if you know of someone that might? I would like to start with a good bloodline. Thanks for any help you can give us.

Leave a Reply