Speckled Sussex Chicken Breed
Often called the coronation Sussex, the speckled Sussex chicken breed is a great dual-purpose backyard chicken.
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by Dorothy Rieke
One of the oldest and most popular dual-purpose chicken breeds is the Speckled Sussex. They have been around for a thousand years to provide meat and eggs. These birds were thought to have been in England during the Roman invasion of 43 A.D. Of course, at the time, they did not resemble the Sussex breed of today.
The time of breed and color refinement began during the Victorian era when “chicken fever” took the nation by storm. Import of exotic chickens gave poultry people opportunities to create amazing new breeds. The Sussex was bred with Cochins, Dorkings, and Brahmas, among others, to create outstanding meat and egg-producing poultry.
The first-ever poultry show was held in London in 1845. One of the first exhibits was a chicken called Sussex or Kentish fowl. The Sussex, the Surrey, and the Kent were the leading suppliers of poultry for London markets. The robust and well-proportioned Sussex poultry greatly enhanced this market.
The Sussex have a single red comb and red earlobes. These chickens have rectangular bodies, long shoulders, and a long, broad neck. With good care, they can live for eight years.
Bantam Sussex, weighing two to four pounds, are available but difficult to locate. Standard hens weigh about seven pounds, and roosters weigh about nine pounds. It is possible to buy lighter-weight Sussex.
Speckled Sussex Varieties
The Poultry Club of Great Britain recognizes eight varieties of Sussex chickens: speckled, light, red, buff, brown, silver, white, and “coronation.” The Light coronation Sussex has a white body with a black tail and neck feathers with black markings. A Buff Sussex is orange with black and green markings around its neck. In other words, these Sussex chickens are pleasing to see and very attractive with their unique colors.
Because of their temperament, personalities, and laying abilities, this breed has become very popular. They begin laying eggs at 22 weeks of age, eventually laying 180 to 200 brown protein, vitamin-, and mineral-rich eggs per year. The eggs’ colors range from cream to light brown.
This breed of chicken is known to be docile, friendly, and kind. One owner often called her hen by saying, “Bugs, bugs,” and the hen came running knowing there would be a treat in store. Another owner commented that her birds often fell asleep in her arms. She also commented that cleaning the coop was somewhat difficult, as her chickens demanded attention while she was at that task. Another owner of Sussex hens said the one Sussex liked to perch on her shoulder while she weeded her flower beds or did outside chores. Another hen was like a dog who followed her everywhere, even into the house, if she did not close the door fast enough!
Other poultry may pick on the Sussex. This breed is not prone to aggression but is docile, sweet, and seems to enjoy the companionship of children. They tolerate the clumsiest of hands.
This breed of chicken is a bit noisier than some other breeds. They have been accused of singing loudly, that is, crowing.
These chickens are natural foragers, often discovering fat grubs to enrich their diets. They forage for much of their food, if allowed. This breed is curious and will investigate about anything that interests them. They are also bad flyers. A low fence will keep them in the pen.
Because they are not generally bred for meat production, they do take longer to grow. They are ready to harvest in eight months, unlike broilers ready for meat maturity in six to eight weeks.
These chickens are extremely hardy, and they are not prone to disease, and they handle both hot and cold weather. Owners shipped some of this breed to Canada during past years, where they adjusted to the colder weather with no problems. Keep in mind that their combs may be damaged during very cold weather.
Sussex hens make good mothers and effective brooders, assuming their motherly duties with care and compassion. Because of her size, a hen can hatch up to 20 eggs. Chicks will be kept warm under a soft and full feather covering.
There is a cost to getting into the Sussex chicken business. Some rare Sussex chicken hatching eggs may cost around $10; chicks will cost $25, and pullets cost $50 each. While Speckled Sussex may be easy to find, Light and Coronation Sussex have limited availability.