Understanding The SOP

This page is intended to provide both good and bad examples of specific Buckeye features to illustrate points in the Standard of Perfection (see SOP page for details).  We have broken the discussion into three overall categories: Head Structure, Feather Color, and Structural Conformation.  Each of these categories is broken down further into subcategories to allow us to focus on one element at a time.

As you look through the photos, please remember that each photo is intended to illustrate only ONE element.  In other words, many things might be right or wrong with the bird in the photo illustration (since no birds are perfect), but we will only discuss one feature per photo. 

We will add to this page as time allows.  Let us know what you think!

WHAT HAPPENS TO BIRDS THAT DO NOT MEET THE SOP?  The answer is "It all depends".  As we have said, there are no "perfect" birds.  Every bird has some trait that can be improved upon.  However, some problems are more serious than others (as noted below), and birds with serious faults (those likely to be passed down to progeny) are generally removed from breeding programs.

THANK YOU TO PHOTO CONTRIBUTORS!  We would like to thank all the photo contributors, especially those that shared photos of less than perfect birds.  We all have them, but it takes a confident breeder to show them off!


Photo 1: Beaks (by Marie Taylor)
Photo 2: Beaks (by Shumaker Farm)
Photo 3: Beaks (by Shumaker Farm)

BEAK SHAPE: The birds in Photos 1 through 3 (a cockerel, rooster and hen respectively) have nicely shaped beaks as outlined by the Standard (short, stout, and regularly curved).  

The beak of a Buckeye should be thick and strong, resembling that of an Aseel Indian (Cornish) Game (which was used in the development of the breed).

Photo 4: Beaks (by Marie Taylor)
The beak of the young pullet in Photo 4 is "hooked" as well as weak and thin in structure. This beak is also longer than the beak in Photo 1. This is an example of a beak that should be avoided in all breeding programs. It can also be noted that the head appears to be thinner and longer than desired (this may be due to the age of the pullet) but this will be discussed below under "Head Width".

Photo 5: Beaks  (by Shumaker Farm)
BEAK COLOR: Though the birds in Photos 1 through 3 have a little more "reddish horn" color than is ideal (the Standard calls for an overall yellow color with some reddish horn), that should not keep them out of a breeding program. Photo 5 shows a hen with a more ideal beak color. Other examples of desirable beak color can be seen in Photos 1 through 4 of the "Combs and Wattles" section.


 Photo1: Comb and Wattle (by Jeff Lay)

Photo 2: Comb and Wattle  (by Shumaker Farm)

COMBS:  The cock in Photo 1 and the hen in Photo 2 have nicely defined pea combs. The standard states that a Buckeye should have a pea comb that is set closely on the head (medium in size for males; moderately small for females).   

You can see all three rows of the comb in both examples and they are held close to the head, as required.   Compare this to the cock and hen in Photos 3 and 4. 

Photo 3: Comb and Wattle  (by Marie Taylor)
Photo 4: Comb and Wattle (by Shumaker Farm)
The comb of the cock in Photo 3 extends too far above his head, and the comb on the hen in Photo 4 is not very well defined (you cannot see three rows). This is not a problem in the breeding pens, but attention should be paid to the offspring to ensure comb definition does not become an ongoing issue.

Photo 5: Comb and Wattle (by Marie Taylor)
Photo 5 shows a hen with a single comb (not a pea comb as the Standard requires), so using her in a breeding program would be problematic.

WATTLES: The wattles of the male in Photo 1 are moderately small and well rounded as the 2010 Standard suggests.  Compare this to the cockerel in Photo 2, whose wattles are large and extend far from the head. 

NOTE:  The lower profile of the combs and wattles required by the Standard helps prevent frostbite during the cold winter months.

Photo1: Eye Color 
Photo 2: Eye Color
Photo 3: Eye Color

Photo 4: Eye Color

Photos 1 through 4 show a fair representation of the reddish-bay eye color that is acceptable per the 2010 SOP.  The SOP has wavered slighting in eye color since the buckeye was introduced in 1905, ranging from a bright red (which is getting harder to find in the Buckeye) to the present description of a reddish-bay. Eye color that is anywhere in this range is acceptable.

It is important to maintain the standard eye color and stray away from light orange and yellow (Photos 5 and 6), and green eye colors (which do arise).

Photo 5: Eye Color
Photo 6: Eye Color


Photo1: Head Width  (by Shumaker Farm)
Photo 2: Head Width (by Shumaker Farm)
The pullet in Photo 1 and the cockerel in Photo 2 exhibit the qualities the Standard outlines for both female and male head width and shape. Both birds show very good potential for development. 

Photo 3: Head Width (by Shumaker Farm)
The Standard states that the head should be medium in size, carried well-up.  The hen in Photo 3 has a wider head which some breeders desire. 

The width and shape of a Buckeye’s head should reflect its Asiatic heritage (as mentioned earlier, the Aseel Indian Game was used in the development of the breed) by having a well-rounded head and wide skull structure. 

There should also be a moderate brow ridge above the eye which the eye sits under (like a bird of prey) as illustrated in Photos 1 through 3.

Thin and elongated heads, as shown in Photos 4 and 5, should be avoided.
Photo 4: Head Width (by Shumaker Farm)

Photo 5: Head Width (by Marie Taylor)


Buckeye Nuts
Buckeyes were named after the "Buckeye State" but many assume they were named after the dark red mahogany color of the Buckeye nut.  In the introduction to the breed, the APA’s 2010 SOP likens it to the color of the Buckeye tree nut that Ohio is known for, and this is consistent with Nettie Metcalf’s own descriptions - "The Buckeye should be much darker in color than the accepted Rhode Island Red as the Rhode Island Red is darker than the Buff breeds." (written in the ABC 1916 catalogue).

However, there has been much debate over how dark the feather color should be. The 2010 SOP suggests the general surface color be an even shade of “rich mahogany bay” in all sections, with the exception that the unexposed primaries and secondaries, and the main tail feathers may contain black. This definition is fairly broad, but many breeders feel the description of “mahogany bay” is not accurate as it brings to mind a color that is much lighter than the Buckeye nut.

In an article published by The American Buckeye Club in 1916, Nettie Metcalf stated, “As for color—well, my own are so dark a red that at a little distance in the shadow they look fairly black, but when the sun strikes them and brings out that rich, garnish luster…”. A respectable example of this color transformation is illustrated in Photos 1 and 2, and suggests that the color envisioned by Nettie was a dark, deep mahogany, not a "mahogany bay". Thus, Judges seem to waver in opinion between a mahogany bay and a deep mahogany body color.

Photo1: Body Color (by Sumaker Farm)

Photo 2: Body Color (by Shumaker Farm)

The ABC believes that the males in Photos 1 through 4 and the pullet in Photo 5 exhibit the dark red color envisioned by Nettie in the original SOP.  
Photo 3: Body Color  (by Marie Taylor)
Photo 4: Body Color (by Shumaker Farm)

Photo 5: Body Color  (by Shumaker Farm)

Photo 6: Body Color
(by Marie Taylor)
In contrast, you can see that the hens in Photo 6 have a mottled appearance caused by lighter red feathers intermixed with darker feathers.  This is not an acceptable coloration per either the 1905 or 2010 SOP, so these hens may not be the best choice for  breeding. 
Photo 7: Body Color (by Shumaker Farm)
This lighter mottling differs from hens that show a little more black in their body color, as the hen in Photo 7.  In the article mentioned above (exerpts from the 1916 American Buckeye Club catalogue), Nettie goes on to write; “…with the very darkest of red plumage, hens containing some black not being objectionable to me as long as the males kept that dark red shade I admire.”  Photo 7 is an example of a female containing some black, and Nettie’s comments suggest she would likely continue to use this female in her breeding program.  However, show judges may feel differently.

As to the issue of white feathers, all are in agreement.  As Nettie Metcalf mentioned in the aforementioned article (The 1916 edition of the ABC catalogue), “white feathers are something we despise above all other defects”. The 2010 SOP references that one or more entirely white feather showing in the outer plumage is considered a disqualification.  The 1905 SOP seems to indicate that even a partial white feather would be a disqualification.


Photo 1: Undercolor (by Shumaker Farms)

Photo 2: Undercolor  (by Shumaker Farm)

When looking at a Buckeye one cannot help but notice the beautiful dark mahogany sheen of their plumage.

This dark sheen is mainly attributed to the "bar of slate" (undercolor) that is beneath the exterior plumage.  It shows as a charcoal grey color (as shown in Photos 1 through 3).

This special undercolor (often referred to as “smutt” by poultry judges) is mentioned in both the 1905 and 2010 SOP, and was specifically called out by Nettie Metcalf in her early journal discussions about plumage color. The darker the undercolor, the darker the bird.
Photo 3: Undercolor (by Shumaker Farms)

You can see the undercolor of a Buckeye by lifting the feathers located on the birds' back (as illustrated here).   Note that Photos 1 through 3 show varying levels of undercolor.  Some undercolor should be present in all Buckeyes (as specified by the SOP). The undercolor has to be closely monitored so that the dark color doesn't "bleed" onto the surface of the feather.

Photo 4: Undercolor  (by Shumaker Farms)

Many of today's Buckeyes don't have this undercolor.  Instead, the feathers are a light red all the way to the base of the feather (as shown in Photo 4).  This is leading to Buckeyes becoming lighter in surface color, and should be avoided.



Photo 1: Station (by Marie Taylor)
Photo 1 shows the broad shoulders and back that should be characteristic of the Buckeye.

Photo 2: Station (by Shumaker Farm)
Photos 2 through 4 show the broad, deep, well-rounded breast, carried elevated above the horizontal as specified in the SOP.

Photo 3: Station (by Shumaker Farm)
Photo 4: Station (by Shumaker Farm)

Photo 5: Station (by Shumaker Farm)

The keel is expected to be long, extending well forward with the fluff  moderately full. These features are observed with the pullet in Photo 5.

Photo 6: Station (by Marie Taylor)

Photo 6 is a great example of a split wing.  This defect is a genetic trait that is a disqualification (per the Standard). Birds that possess this trait should be removed from all breeding programs.


Photo1: Tail (by Shumaker Farm)
Photo 2: Tail (by Shumaker Farm)

MALE:  Photos 1 and 2 are representative of how a cock should carry their tail and how the tail feathers should unfold or spread out.  
As the standard suggests, the tail should be of medium length and size, carried moderately upright (roughly 40 degrees above the horizon).  Sickles and coverts (secondary feathers) should be of medium length, nicely curved, and sufficiently abundant to cover the stiff primary feathers.  Sickles and coverts should be shaded bay and black to avoid a sharp contrast between the body and tail.   Pinched tails and excessively long secondary feathers are to be avoided.

Note that the camera flash shows the sheen of the tail feathers in Photo 2, making them look grey.  This is one of the traits that separate the Buckeye from the Rhode Island Red, and illustrates that the feathers are not dull in color.

Photo 3: Tail (by Shumaker Farm)

Photo 4: Tail (by Shumaker Farm)
FEMALE:  Photos 3 and 4 are representative of how a female should carry its tail and how the tail feathers should unfold or spread out.  Note the color of the hen in Photo 4 is very light.  This is due to the hen's age.

The female tail should be medium in length, fairly well-spread, carried at an angle of thirty degrees (30°) above horizontal.