Buckeye Chicken Breed: Guide to History, Characteristics, Care & More

The Buckeye chicken is a unique and hardy breed that has gained popularity among poultry enthusiasts. 

Developed in the late 19th century in the United States, specifically in Ohio, the Buckeye chicken is known for its distinct appearance, good temperament, and excellent meat production. 

This comprehensive guide explores various aspects of the Buckeye chicken breed, including its history, characteristics, care requirements, and more.

So, if you’re considering adding some Buckeye chickens to your flock or simply curious about what sets them apart from other breeds, read on to get all the information you need.

History and Origin of Buckeye Chickens

The Buckeye chicken breed has a fascinating history that dates back to the late 19th century. Nettie Metcalf, an Ohioan woman passionate about poultry, developed it. 

Nettie aimed to create a hardy, dual-purpose chicken that would thrive in Ohio’s cold and harsh winters. The result was the Buckeye, a breed named after Ohio’s nickname, the “Buckeye State.”

Nettie crossed several breeds to create the Buckeye chicken, including Barred Plymouth Rocks, Buff Cochin, and Black-Breasted Red Game birds. 

The final result was a unique and resilient bird, well-equipped to handle the challenging weather conditions of the Midwest. 

The breed was officially recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA) in 1904, and it remains a popular choice for homesteaders and backyard chicken enthusiasts today.

Buckeye Chicken Recognized Variety

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Buckeye chicken is recognized and accepted by the American Poultry Association (APA) but is not recognized by the British Poultry Standards (BPS).

The APA is the primary organization in the United States responsible for establishing breed standards and recognizing chicken breeds. 

The Buckeye chicken was officially recognized by the APA in 1902. This recognition means that Buckeye chickens can be shown at APA-sanctioned poultry shows, and their breed characteristics are described in the APA Standard of Perfection.

The accepted color variety for Buckeye chickens, recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA), is a rich mahogany-red plumage.

The breed standard specifies that the plumage should be a deep, uniform mahogany-red color throughout the body. This distinctive coloration is one of the defining characteristics of the Buckeye chicken breed.

Physical Characteristics of Buckeye Chickens

One of the most striking features of the Buckeye chicken is its rich, dark mahogany red plumage. 

This beautiful coloration sets them apart from other breeds and makes them an attractive addition to any flock. The feathers are close-fitting to the body, which helps the bird maintain warmth during cold weather.

Buckeye chickens have a broad, deep body with a slightly U-shaped back. They possess a strong, muscular build, making them suitable for egg and meat production. 

Their heads are large and slightly curved, with a distinctive pea comb close to them. 

This comb type is less prone to frostbite, a significant advantage in cold climates. The wattles and earlobes of Buckeye chickens are red, while their eyes are a bright bay color.

Their legs are strong and sturdy, with yellow skin and four well-spread toes. The legs are free of feathers, which can help prevent issues such as mites and lice. 

Overall, the Buckeye chicken is a robust, hardy bird with a striking, functional, and aesthetically pleasing appearance.

Buckeye Chicken Temperament and Behavior

The friendly and docile temperament of Buckeye chickens earns them a reputation. People find them easy to handle and often describe their personality as “sweet.”

This makes them an excellent choice for families with children or first-time chicken keepers.

Despite their gentle nature, Buckeye chickens are also active and curious birds. They enjoy foraging and are excellent at hunting down insects and small rodents, making them a valuable addition to any homestead. 

They are also good flyers and can quickly clear a 4-foot fence if inclined. However, they prefer to stay close to home and are not prone to wander too far.

Buckeye hens are attentive mothers and can be pretty broody. They take good care of their chicks and fiercely protect them from perceived threats. 

Overall, the Buckeye chicken’s temperament and behavior make them a pleasure to raise and a valuable addition to any backyard flock.

Buckeye Chicken Egg Production

People consider Buckeye chickens a dual-purpose breed because they are suitable for egg and meat production.

Regarding egg-laying, Buckeye hens typically start laying at around 5–6 months of age. Buckeye chickens demonstrate their reputation as good layers by producing an average of 150-200 medium to large-sized brown eggs annually.

The egg color of Buckeye chickens ranges from light to dark brown, sometimes with a slightly reddish tint. 

Moreover, the visually appealing Buckeye chicken eggs are renowned for their excellent taste and nutritional value. They are perfect for eating and hatching purposes with a consistent egg production rate and a strong shell.

Buckeye Chicken Size And Weight

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The Buckeye chicken is a medium to large-sized bird with a solid and muscular build. Roosters typically weigh around 8–9 pounds, while hens are slightly smaller at 6–7 pounds.

Chicks are robust and fast-growing, making them an excellent choice for raising chickens for egg and meat production.

The height of Buckeye chickens is generally between 18-22 inches, with roosters being slightly taller than hens. 

Their sturdy legs and muscular bodies make them well-suited for free-ranging and foraging, allowing them to thrive in various environments.

Buckeye Chicken Appearance

The American Poultry Association (APA) has set specific breed standards for the Buckeye chicken, which include guidelines for their appearance and physical characteristics. 

To be considered a true Buckeye, a bird must meet these standards, as outlined below:

Skin color: Yellow
Feathers: Dark mahogany red, close-fitting to the body
Body shape: Broad, deep body with a slightly U-shaped back
Comb: Pea comb, sitting close to the head
Wattles: Red, medium-sized
Earlobes: Red, oval-shaped
Legs: Yellow, strong, and sturdy with four well-spread toes
Eyes: Bright bay color

Buckeye Rooster Vs. Hens

When comparing Buckeye roosters and hens, a few key differences can help you distinguish between the two. 

First and foremost, Buckeye roosters are larger and taller than hens, weighing around 8-9 pounds compared to the 6-7 pounds of hens. 

Roosters also have longer, more curved tail feathers and a more pronounced “saddle” of feathers on their backs. The comb and wattles of roosters are also more prominent and larger than those of hens. 

Additionally, roosters tend to have a slightly more aggressive personality than hens, which is typical of most chicken breeds. 

On the other hand, hens are more likely to be broody and are, of course, responsible for laying eggs.

Raising and Caring for Buckeye Chickens

Here are some detailed points and caring tips specifically for Buckeye chickens:

1. Housing

Buckeye chickens require enough space to move around comfortably. The general guideline is to provide at least 4 square feet of coop space per chicken.

Protect your chickens from predators by ensuring the coop has secure fencing and proper reinforcement to prevent unauthorized entry.

Furthermore, good airflow is crucial for maintaining optimal air quality within the coop. To ensure fresh air circulation, it is important to install vents or windows that can be closed during extreme weather conditions to prevent drafts.

2. Cold Hardy

Buckeye chickens are known for tolerating cold climates due to their pea comb, which is less prone to frostbite. 

However, providing additional insulation during freezing temperatures is advisable. Add a thick layer of clean straw or wood shavings on the coop floor to provide insulation and warmth.

3. Free-Range or Enclosed Space:

Buckeye chickens can adapt well to free-range environments, but they can also thrive in enclosed spaces. 

If you choose to free-range, ensure the area is safe from predators and provides protection from aerial predators.

Moreover, enclosed spaces should provide at least 10 square feet per chicken in the outdoor run area. This generous space allocation allows the chickens ample room for exercise and foraging, promoting their physical well-being and natural behaviors.

4. Feeding

Offer a balanced and nutritionally complete poultry feed suitable for chickens in the laying stage. Look for feeds with around 16-18% protein content.

Provide a varied diet with occasional treats such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and greens. Offer these treats in moderation and avoid any potentially harmful foods.

Provide a separate container of grit to help with digestion. Offer oyster shells or crushed eggshells as a calcium source for laying hens.

5. Foraging Opportunities

Buckeye chickens have a solid foraging instinct. If allowing free-range, ensure they have access to a grassy or pasture area where they can scratch, peck, and search for insects, seeds, and plants.

Consider dividing the grazing area into sections and practicing rotational grazing to prevent excessive foraging and depletion of vegetation.

6. HealthCare

Monitor your Buckeye chickens regularly for signs of illness, injury, or parasites. Search for changes in behavior, appetite, or appearance.

Consult a poultry veterinarian to establish an appropriate vaccination and deworming schedule for your flock based on regional considerations and prevalent diseases.

Maintain a clean coop by regularly removing droppings, replacing bedding, and disinfecting feeders and waterers. This helps reduce the risk of disease transmission.

7. Social Interaction

Buckeye chickens are generally friendly and pleasant. Ensure they have enough social interaction with their flock mates or human caregivers.

Overcrowding can lead to stress, aggression, and increased disease risk. Provide adequate space per chicken and avoid overcrowding the coop or run area.

8. Egg Production

Provide clean, dark, and comfortable nesting boxes with suitable bedding materials like straw or wood shavings. The recommended nest box size is around 12×12 inches.

Furthermore, it is important to collect eggs at least once daily to prevent them from being damaged or soiled. Regular and prompt egg collection also serves as a deterrent for hens to develop the habit of egg eating.

Buckeye chickens are known to be good broody birds. So please provide them with good nesting and hatching space.

Buckeye Chicken As A Source of Meat

Buckeye chickens produce flavorful, tender, and well-marbled meat. The breed’s active foraging behavior and slower growth rate contribute to developing lean and tasty meat.

Buckeyes generally have a moderate growth rate compared to fast-growing commercial meat breeds. While they may take longer to reach processing weight, this slower growth rate often results in improved meat quality.

They are known for their efficiency in converting feed into meat. They can forage and supplement their diet with insects and vegetation, which can help reduce feed costs.

Buckeye chickens are considered a heritage breed, and raising them contributes to genetic diversity and helps preserve an essential part of agricultural heritage.

Common Health Issues in Buckeye Chickens

Here is a detailed explanation of common health issues that can affect Buckeye chickens:

Respiratory Diseases

Buckeye chickens can be prone to respiratory infections, including infectious bronchitis, mycoplasma, and Newcastle disease. These diseases can be transmitted directly with infected birds or contaminated surfaces. 

Symptoms may include coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, difficulty breathing, and decreased activity. In severe cases, respiratory diseases can lead to pneumonia and even death. 

Maintaining proper ventilation in the coop, minimizing stress, and practicing suitable biosecurity measures can help reduce the risk of respiratory diseases.


External and internal parasites are a common concern for Buckeye chickens. External parasites, such as mites, lice, fleas, ticks, and poultry lice, can cause skin irritation, feather loss, anemia, and decreased egg production. 

Internal parasites, such as roundworms and tapeworms, can affect the digestive system and cause symptoms like diarrhea, weight loss, decreased appetite, and poor growth. 

Regularly inspecting and treating Buckeye chickens for parasites and maintaining clean living conditions can help prevent infestations and minimize their impact on the birds’ health.


Coccidiosis is a common intestinal disease caused by a protozoan parasite called Coccidia. It primarily impacts young Buckeye chickens and can cause severe diarrhea, dehydration, weight loss, decreased appetite, and lethargy. 

Coccidiosis is typically contracted through the ingestion of contaminated feces or bedding. Preventive measures include keeping the coop clean and dry, providing clean drinking water, and practicing good hygiene.

Consultation with a poultry veterinarian can help determine the appropriate coccidiosis prevention and treatment protocols.

Marek’s Disease

Marek’s disease is a highly contagious viral disease that affects chickens, including Buckeyes. The herpesvirus causes it and primarily affects young birds. 

Marek’s disease can cause tumors, paralysis, blindness, and internal organ damage.

Vaccinating Buckeye chickens against Marek’s disease is recommended to protect them from this devastating disease.

Vaccination is best performed after 4 weeks of age. Yearly boosters are advised. Rapid diagnosis and vaccination can also stop an outbreak from spreading in an affected flock.

Egg Issues

Buckeye hens may occasionally experience egg-related problems. Egg binding occurs when an egg gets stuck inside the hen’s reproductive tract, causing discomfort and potentially leading to egg peritonitis.

Soft-shelled or shell-less eggs can be a result of nutritional imbalances or stress. Egg prolapse occurs when the oviduct turns inside out during egg-laying, causing the reproductive organs to protrude from the vent. 

These conditions require immediate veterinary attention to prevent complications and ensure the hen’s well-being.

Hatching and Incubating Buckeye Chicken Eggs

If you are interested in hatching Buckeye chicks, you must begin with fertile eggs available for purchase from hatcheries and breeders.

You can incubate these Buckeye hatching eggs at home using an incubator, carefully monitoring temperature and humidity levels throughout the approximately 21-day incubation period to ensure a successful hatch.

Once the chicks have hatched, they must be kept warm and protected in a brooder until they are old enough to join the rest of the flock. 

During this time, they will need a heat source, such as a heat lamp, and access to clean water and chick starter feed.

FAQs About Buckeye Chickens

Here are the explanations for the commonly asked questions about Buckeye chickens:

1. When Do Buckeye Chickens Start Laying Eggs?

Buckeye chickens typically start laying eggs at around 5-6 months of age. This is an average age, and it can vary slightly between individuals. It’s important to note that nutrition, lighting conditions, and overall health can influence egg-laying onset.

2. How Long Do Buckeye Chickens Lay Eggs?

Buckeye chickens are known for their productivity as layers. On average, they can lay around 150–200 eggs per year. However, it’s worth mentioning that individual variations and management practices can affect egg production. Over time, their egg production may gradually decline as they age.

3. How Much Are Buckeye Chickens Worth?

The cost of Buckeye chickens can vary depending on age, sex, and quality. Generally, the price for Buckeye chicks can range from $5 to $10 each, but this can vary based on breeder reputation and demand. Mature birds with desirable traits or those from reputable breeders can cost $50 or more.

4. How Long Do Buckeye Chickens Live?

Buckeye chickens can live up to 10 years or more with proper care. Their lifespan depends on various factors, including genetics, diet, living conditions, and healthcare. Providing a well-balanced diet, regular veterinary check-ups, and a clean and stress-free environment can contribute to their longevity.

5. Are Buckeye Chickens Broody?

Yes, Buckeye hens are known for their broody tendencies. Being broody means they have a strong instinct to incubate eggs and raise chicks. Buckeye hens often display excellent mothering skills, diligently sitting on and caring for their eggs. This broodiness can benefit those interested in natural incubation or hatching chicks.

6. What Do Buckeye Chickens Look Like?

Buckeye chickens have distinct physical characteristics. They have dark mahogany red feathers that give them a rich, beautiful coloration. They have a broad and deep body structure, typical of dual-purpose breeds. Additionally, they have a unique comb called a pea comb, which is characterized by three minor, rounded points. The combination of these features makes Buckeye chickens visually appealing and easily recognizable.

Conclusion: Is the Buckeye Chicken Right for Your Homestead?

In conclusion, determining whether the Buckeye chicken is the right choice for your homestead depends on several factors. 

The Buckeye chicken fits the bill if you seek a dual-purpose breed that provides both meat and eggs. Being a heritage breed, it holds historical significance and can contribute to preserving traditional poultry varieties. 

The Buckeye’s cold-hardiness makes it suitable for colder climates, which is advantageous if you live in regions with harsh winters. 

The Buckeye’s broodiness and natural incubation tendencies are ideal for those interested in natural hatching and raising chicks. 

However, it’s important to consider space requirements, availability in your area, and your homestead’s specific goals and resources. 

Conducting thorough research, consulting experienced poultry keepers or breeders, and evaluating how well the Buckeye chicken aligns with your homestead’s needs will help you make an informed decision.

Bijaya Kumar
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