Buttercup chickens get their name from their unique comb shape and the golden buff color of the hen’s plumage. The Buttercup’s comb is actually two single-combs that merge over the beak, as well as at the back. The combination on the best specimens forms a cup-shaped “crown” – that is, a cup surmounted by regularly spaced medium-sized points. Imperfectly formed Buttercup chicken combs appear akin to a pair of antlers.
In color, Buttercup roosters are a rich reddish-orange with a black tail. The hen is golden buff with regularly marked black spangles, oval in shape, and positioned in parallel rows. The black sections of both male and female are a lustrous greenish-black. Both males and females have yellow skin, white ear lobes, reddish bay eyes, light horn-colored beak, and willow-green shanks and toes with the bottom of the feet yellow. With a cup-shaped comb resembling a flower blossom, golden buff plumage, and willow greenshanks and toes, it’s easy to see how the breed has also earned the nickname “Flowerbird.”
The origins of Buttercup chickens are unknown, but we understand that the Buttercup has been used for centuries by Sicilian farmers. The first importation of Buttercups from Sicily to America is thought to be around 1835, but the first well-documented importation was in 1860, when C. Carroll Loring of Dedham, Massachusetts, received birds from his neighbor Captain Dawes. Loring made subsequent importations, breeding and promoting the chicken for about 50 years. We also know that all the stock today descends from or is related to an importation of hatching that arrived in the U.S. in 1892.
Though Loring put great effort into promoting Buttercup chickens, it wasn’t until 1908 when two other promoters hit success. Mr. J.S. Dumaresq of Easton, Maryland, and L.B. Audigier of Knoxville, Tennessee, leveraged Mr. Audigier’s position as publisher of “Industrious Hen” to great results. By 1912, a breed club was formed which soon reached over 300 members. Large classes were seen at many shows, but it was short-lived.
The breed had been promoted to the public on its superior utility, but the Buttercup was only average at egg production. Breeders were also split regarding proper color patterning, with little attention having been given to this at first. Interestingly, the breed was being embraced in England even as it declined in America. By 1920, the English had a club for the breed, but popularity once again faded. Buttercup chickens are a non-broody, white egg-laying fowl. They were recognized by the American Poultry Association as a standard breed in 1918. Males weigh 6.5 pounds and females 5 pounds.
Did you know:
The Livestock Conservancy is America’s leading organization working to save over 150 heritage breeds from extinction. We rely on the support of our members, grants, and donations from the public to raise the $700,000 a year needed to maintain our conservation work with rare breeds of farm animals. Click here to learn how you can help.