Saturday, June 8, 2013

Orange Chickens? Not Really...

I’d like to address a topic that has been tossed around a lot elsewhere, and that’s the concept of “orange” Buckeyes. Now, some folks use this term with great derision, and the fact that they do so is really just demonstrating a lack of understanding of the breed on their part, and of the mechanics of poultry feathering and color in general.

Some lines of Buckeyes have a tendency, especially in the female lines, to fade if they are exposed to sunlight, especially after the first molt. In my experience I have found that one line I used to work with when I first started with the breed is particularly susceptible to this problem. Of course, if you keep your birds cooped up inside all the time, you won’t have this issue. But I let my birds range outside, and as such I have found that some of my older females do tend to bleach out in the sun after a while.

This is not peculiar to just Buckeyes, it happens in many breeds of poultry, and is one of those things that if one is going to let one’s birds range, one accepts. I choose to allow my Buckeyes to live as natural a life as I can, because that’s just how I am. 

Now, there are certain lines of Buckeyes which fade less than others, Urch birds in particular I am finding hold their color better than other lines. Which is part of why I added Urch birds into my breeding pens several years ago, and have been slowly culling out the last traces of the older line that I am seeing (getting rid of those hens who faded the most, and who had the terrible black body speckling I was seeing in that line.)

But for some folks to make a huge big deal about “orange birds” is really rather silly, and to also claim that dark feather color comes from an abundance of slate bar is incorrect. I've said it before, I'll say it again: I’ve had light birds with more than adequate slate bar, and dark birds who were totally lacking it. So that’s a red herring, and utter nonsense when anyone makes that claim. 

And above all folks, I’ll also reiterate, make sure you’ve got your type down first before worrying overmuch about color. Make sure you have read the current Standard of Perfection for Buckeyes (not some old version from 1918 or something), which can be found here: and get your birds correct with type: proper stance; correct wing carriage; rather long, broad, sloping backs; tight combs, etc. Then you can worry about color. 

And if you show your birds, you can always keep them inside if you’re worried about them fading in the sunlight. It’s just that easy. And the next time you hear someone making a hue and cry about “orange birds, orange birds”, you’ll know they’re just blowing smoke, and don’t really know what they’re talking about.

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