Notes From a First Time Front Yard Farmer – Buckeyes

Round about February I start thinking about my flocks of birds, and pondering whether or not I should get more. If I were to ask my husband, he would inevitably say, “You have enough!” but he wouldn’t shout, maybe more of a stern, if half-hearted grumble. Unless he hasn’t had his coffee, then he’d be sleeping and wouldn’t hear me. Either way, I usually make the purchase while he’s at work and text him I have done, thus recording the fact I told him and avoiding all actual grumbling for several hours. Considering all the birds are in my front yard, he’s probably right though. But…February. It’s still dark most of the day, and cold, and part of me is longing for spring. Looking at poultry breeds and yarn (that’s a whole other subject) help me to stay out of the midwinter funk. Of course, once you start looking, buying becomes a real possibility. This year, though, I knew I needed more chickens. My hens are older, and my flock has shrunk. It was time to add to the genetic diversity, and I didn’t want to get my birds from the local animal swap this year.

I began my search by flipping through Storey’s Illustrated Guide to Poultry Breeds by Carol Ekarius. The pictures in this book are awesome, and it’s informative. Looking through, I found the Buckeye, and became instantly intrigued. The breed was developed in the 1890’s by Nettie Metcalf, a farmwife from Warren, Ohio. It’s the only breed to have been solely developed by a woman. How awesome is that?!! My in-laws live near there, and it’s so cool a woman developed a poultry breed, considering they were in charge of the chickens.

To get a Buckeye, Nettie Metcalf crossed Barred Plymouth Rock, Buff Cochin, and added in some black-breasted game fowl to get a functional dual-purpose bird. They are the only native North-American bird to have a pea comb, and do great in cold weather. Asking yourself what a pea comb is, and what’s so great about it? A pea comb is a comb where there are three rows of “peas” side by side. The “peas” are little bumps on the top of the chicken’s head. It’s a comb that doesn’t stick up very far, which in a cold weather climate is a bonus. It means, unlike tall comb, I don’t have to worry about frostbite in the winter time. Buckeyes were bread to handle the cold, and do it better than most chickens.

Another reason I was excited about Buckeyes is that they are supposed to be calm, sociable, and friendly. I was a bit skeptical. To date, my experience with chickens is they are like cats. They like you when they like you, and not one minute before. Liking generally centers around food. I figured the new chicks would just be more of the same. Well, let me tell you, they are super friendly. They are the only chickens I’ve had who like to be petted. When I let them out in the morning, they seem genuinely happy to see me, and it isn’t just because I’m bringing treats.

They are old enough now to be with the rest of the flock. Normally, this is a bit stressful. I carefully introduce the new chickens over a long period of time, and there is still a knock down drag out fight as the pecking order gets established. I figured this time would be no different. I was wrong.

After a couple months of being near each other I opened the Buckeyes little run, and let them out with the big flock. I stood by, fully expecting them to get attacked. Nothing happened. Pops and Petunia just looked at the new guys, and were kind of like, “Glad you could join us.” That was it. No dramatic flapping and squawking, no one getting bloodied up, it was great!

I’m glad I learned about Buckeyes back in February, and were able to get some. To date, they have been some of the better chickens I’ve had. They are super friendly, very calm, and I think they’ll do great when it starts to get cold. I’m not sure how well they’ll be for egg laying (they’re supposed to be pretty good), but, so far, they have been a great addition to my flock and for anyone thinking about getting chickens or adding to their flock, I highly recommend the breed.


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