Sebright chickens are small in stature but full of personality and remain the most popular choice of bantams across the world. But what is it about these tiny chickens that make them so attractive among fanciers and backyard chicken keepers?
If you’re interested in Sebright chickens, this guide will help you learn about their care, their egg laying, personalities and whether they are a healthy little breed for your flock.
Where Did the Sebright Chicken Come From?
The Sebright breed comes from Britain and their story starts with Sir John Saunders Sebright who was a prominent member of Parliament for Herefordshire and the 7th Baronet of Besford in Worcestershire.
His background in breeding chickens and other animals led to a desire to develop a bantam breed with exquisitely laced plumage.
He’s biggest challenge was getting this distinct pattern to breed true.
It is suspected that he combined breeds including the Polish chicken, Hamburg and many other types of rose comb chickens to perfect this fancy chicken.
In 1810, Sir John Sebright was successful in achieving the defined lacing in this ornamental breed and his exclusive Sebright Bantam Club was created around the same period.
In 1874, The Sebright chicken breed was officially accepted into the American Poultry Association and the Poultry Club of Great Britain. It remains one of the oldest true bantam breeds in the world at 220 years.
Sebright chickens are adored by poultry clubs and chicken fanciers but their poor egg laying and lack of meat quality caused a drastic decline in their availability during the early to mid-1900s.
The number of breeding Sebright pairs has dropped to below 1000 birds in the US and the American Livestock Conservancy has listed them as rare.
Fortunately, these chickens have won the hearts of urban chicken keepers and continue to grow in popularity as an ornamental breed for the backyard.
To help you decide whether the Sebright is the right chicken for you, we look at their breed standard, size, and color varieties…
Appearance and Breed Standard
Sebrights have a low sloping back with large wings and a full tail that is carried high at a 70 degree angle.
They have purplish red faces, ear lobes and an unusual rose comb that forms a large horizontal spike in the hens and roosters.
The bright red combs and wattles in hens are only slightly smaller than the roosters and their featherless legs are a slate blue color.
The beak is generally a dark horn color but in the silver Sebright, their beaks are usually dark blue. They have very large black eyes and four toes on each foot.
They also have relatively large wings in proportion to their body which also makes this true bantam excellent at flying!
Sexing Sebright Chicken
Sebright roosters are hen feathered chickens because the males lack the hackle, saddle, and sickle feathers that you would typically find in the males of other breeds.
The roosters and the hens have no distinctive feathers which can make it difficult to tell young hens and roosters apart.
Sebrights are well known for their lace feather pattern; however a few breeders in Holland have experimented with this chicken breed and produced an all-white bird without lacing called the Eikenburger.
It is not recognized by any poultry associations and considered a special breed among fanciers.
The roosters weigh 22 ounces compared to the hens of 20 ounces.
Sebrights are available in the silver laced and gold laced varieties. You can also find buff types but these are not accepted by the American Poultry Association.
What is unique to the Sebright is their feather lacing.
The lace pattern should be clearly defined with black edging and each feather should have an almond shape.
The silver laced variety tends to be harder to find compared to the golden laced type and many chicken keepers have to place special orders with breeders or hatcheries for the silver color birds.
Sebrights are soft feathered and are considered the oldest British bantam chicken because they do not have a large fowl counterpart.
How Many Eggs Do Sebrights Lay?
Sebrights lay very few eggs and you can expect about 60-80 eggs per year. They weren’t bred to produce eggs so it cannot be expected of them.
Some birds also have low fertility which means fewer eggs. The number of eggs your Sebright bantam produces will depend on the strain of the bird, their diet and their living conditions.
What is the Color of Sebright Eggs?
These birds lay beautiful little white eggs but in such small numbers they simply cannot be relied on for bantam egg production.
When Do Sebrights Start Laying?
Sebrights will lay eggs between 16-22 weeks of age but again this will depend on their environment and the individual bird.
Sebright hens tend to lay towards spring and most will stop laying when the temperatures rise in summer.
You may also notice that your Sebrights start singing a special egg song before they are ready to lay.
What is the Meat Quality of This Chicken?
Sebrights weigh less than 25 ounces so they certainly don’t make a good meat bird!
While some bantams can put a fair amount of size on their bodies, the Sebrights are slender and dainty birds that will never provide good table fare.
Do Sebright Hens Go Broody?
The Sebright hen does not tend to get broody and they don’t make great mothers either. If you do have fertilized eggs, it’s better to have a surrogate hen hatch the chicks or to use an incubator.
If you are going to hatch chicks with another broody hen, always choose a lightweight or small chicken so the eggs and hatchlings are not crushed by a heavy bird. Consider breeds such as Silkies, the Sussex chicken, or Cochin bantams to hatch eggs and use a chicken brooder to raise the chicks.
The Temperament of Sebright Chickens
Sebrights are active birds and great foragers so they should be provided a spacious and secure environment that they will thrive in.
These birds are quite friendly when regularly handled and even the roosters are not overly aggressive towards their keepers and flock mates.
The hens can be a little timid and skittish but this is to be expected with a bantam breed and it differs between individual birds. Despite some skittishness, Sebrights are intelligent little fowl and easily tamed which makes them a good choice for a pet chicken.
You can train a Sebright to respond when called using positive reinforcement with their favorite treats.
Sebright bantams must be watched when free ranging because they can spook easily and fly into a tree making them impossible to reach.
Training them might also be a good way to get them out of trees and bushes should you have a few roamers or escape artists in your flock.
It is best to allow your bantams to free range in the protection of a run. This way they are secure against predators such as hawks and even domestic animals.
Are Sebrights Good with Children?
Sebrights can be good with kids if young children are taught how to handle these birds with care. They are small and delicate fowl and should always be held gently.
You could even consider getting them a chicken harness to allow your children to accompany them on walks.
Because these beautiful birds can also tolerate a busy environment, they tend to remain calm at shows and don’t mind being made a fuss of!
If you are considering raising Sebrights for show purposes, work with them in terms of handling and friendly interaction to make it easier for your chickens to cope.
Sebrights and Other Chickens
When these bantam birds are raised with other chickens in a small flock they do quite well. I don’t advise suddenly introducing them to an established flock with large birds as it could create stress and chicken bullying.
Because they can be timid and flighty, some aggressive or dominant breeds may cause injury to them. New introductions should always be monitored to avoid disasters inside the coop.
Sebrights also tend to be in the middle or the bottom of the pecking order but this also depends on the other chickens they are housed with.
If you have a feisty Sebright with more docile chickens, they might be at the top of the pecking order.
Are Sebrights Noisy?
For such a tiny bird they sure have an impressive crow! Males can be a little noisy while females are generally quiet and may only make their presence known when they talk to you or sing before egg laying.
Depending on how boisterous your rooster is, he may be responsible for a few high pitched calls so take this into consideration when picking chicks for your backyard.
Is the Sebright Right for You?
They can be flighty and feisty but one thing’s for sure, Sebrights have big personalities and are simply striking in appearance.
They make great additions to any backyard coop but ensure that they have a fully enclosed coop because they can fly very high and far.
How Healthy are Sebrights?
When Sebrights are provided the right environment where they can forage and have access to food such as organic feed, they do well to look after themselves.
They will need to be raised in an aviary style coop as they are good flyers and because of their timidity. Trying to climb trees or run after them to catch them could be a long exhausting exercise!
These chickens do best when provided at least two square feet of space per bird including areas where they can hide or distance themselves from larger, boisterous flock mates.
Sadly, these birds are highly susceptible to Marek’s Disease which is a contagious virus and known to wipe out entire flocks.
Marek’s Disease affects the nerves and organs of birds causing paralysis, raised follicles, blindness, crop distention, and eventual death.
Before you purchase Sebrights, ensure that they have been vaccinated against Marek’s as hatchlings. Keep newly hatched chickens isolated for two weeks while they develop immunity.
Grooming for Shows
For show purposes, keeping your chickens well-groomed is an important part of showing off their beautiful plumage.
Grooming should include bathing your chicken with a poultry compatible shampoo to remove dust and dirt on the feathers.
In the chicken coop, always provide an area for your bantams to dust bath which is a natural way to keep lice and mites away.
Difficulties Raising Chicks
It can be hard to raise chicks if you are unfamiliar with this breed because they have a few special requirements.
The hens are seldom broody so each chick must be incubated and even then, they tend to have a low hatch rate. If you need help raising chicks, this review of top chicken starter kits might help.
Are They Threatened?
Sebrights are unfortunately listed as threatened because fewer than 1000 healthy breeding pairs remain in the U.S.
Their hen feathering has piqued the interests of biologists who have shown great interest in studying their sex hormones and its influences on their development.
Sebrights are found to possess a mutated gene in their skin which causes the conversion of male sex hormones into female sex hormones. This phenomenon could also shed light on the low fertility rates in roosters.
Because of their breeding challenges, the preservation of this chicken relies on the assistance of professional breeders.
As bantam chickens they tend to have a short lifespan and can live between 4-8 years of age.
Sebright chickens might be small in size but they have a tremendous personality and become a favorite among poultry enthusiasts.
As one of the oldest bantam breeds they are known for their striking feather lacing and not for their eggs (or lack thereof!).
Are the Sebright Chicken Right For You?
If you are wondering whether Sebrights are the right chickens for you, consider their hardiness, their special needs, and their purpose in your coop.
These birds are great at looking after themselves but need a fully enclosed coop because they can fly. They aren’t good layers but they are friendly, sociable, and make a wonderful pet chicken.
Sebrights aren’t affected by any major health issues; however, every chicken should be vaccinated against Marek’s. Some breeders vaccinate in ovo (inside the egg) while other hatcheries vaccinate day-old hatchlings.
This beautiful bird is a stunning choice for backyard keepers because they are so unique in appearance and temperament; however, neither the gold or silver Sebrights are recommended as starter chickens.
If you know someone who is thinking about adding a few Sebrights to their coop, please share this guide with them. It could help them choose healthy birds that they are prepared to care for and successfully introduce to their flock.