The Speckled Sussex is one of the world’s oldest chicken breeds earning them the title of heritage breed!
Today, these chickens are prized for their fabulous feathers donning a unique brown, white, and black speckled pattern from their heads right to the tip of their tails.
They are considered dual purpose birds but most hobbyists keep them for their hardiness and prolific egg laying.
If the Sussex is a breed that you’re interested in, our guide can help you learn all about their egg production, their temperament, and whether they suffer from any health issues.
We start by looking at where they came from and why they’re considered heritage chickens….
The Speckled Sussex is one of the oldest known breeds but its history is a bit obscure because no one knows for certain what its origins are. Over two thousands years ago during the English invasion by the Romans, drawings of a spotted chicken are believed to be that of the Speckled Sussex.
While the Romans introduced ways of farming this ancient chicken breed to the English, it was only during the Victorian period that a specific group of chickens known as the Sussex or Kentish fowl were introduced to the very first poultry show held at the Regents Park London Zoo in 1845.
Because hen fever had struck Britain and everyone wanted an exotic backyard chicken, the poultry exhibition attracted large crowds and many people fell in love with the mottled feather pattern of the Sussex chicken.
Not before long, the breed was officially named the Speckled Sussex and the rest is chicken history.
What is the Purpose of the Speckled Sussex?
Sussex chickens were originally bred as meat birds in a time when both farmers and families were looking for a hardy and fat bodied chicken with a tender quality meat.
The Speckled Sussex was most popular in the South Eastern regions of Kent and Sussex where the roosters were desired for their ability to gain weight quickly.
They soon become capon chickens and were force fed a combination of oats and milk to increase their size for slaughter.
DID YOU KNOW?
A capon chicken is a cockerel that is castrated which is believed to enhance the quality and tenderness of the meat.
It was during World War II when the Sussex chicken breed really shone in egg and meat production.
Along with fast growing dual purpose breeds such as Rhode Island Reds, they were one of the primary chicken breeds that provided England with meat and eggs when food shortages were rife.
Their ability to tolerate freezing temperatures along with their distinct feather patterns have contributed to their popularity not only as an industrial chicken during the 1940s but also as a backyard chicken for urban chicken keepers across the world.
The Speckled Sussex chicken is a large breed easily identified by its spotted or speckled feathers that covers its entire body.
While the Speckled type is certainly the oldest of hens, this breed is also available in other color varieties such as dark mahogany and the white with black feathers around the neck and tail.
Today’s Sussex chickens have a more defined speckled pattern in their plumage compared to the solid red breast color and fewer speckles in the original chickens. This is owed to the refinement of the Sussex hen by Victorian breeders.
These beautiful birds finally received their official breed standard in England in 1902 along with the light and the red color varieties.
The Speckled Sussex Breed Standard
According to the Poultry Club of Great Britain, the Speckled Sussex chicken is a heavy breed class with soft feathers while the American Poultry Association categorizes them as English class fowl.
If you’ve never seen this breed before you will be in awe at the sight of their stunning speckled feathers plus their rich and dark mahogany color.
They have a rich mahogany base color giving the appearance of deep red plumage. Every feather from their head to their tail has a white tip that is separated by a dark mahogany and iridescent black bar.
What is astonishing about the Speckled Sussex chicken breed is that their feather pattern and color become deeper and more refined every year.
The speckles that make up their unique appearance have a functional purpose too. It provides excellent camouflage against predators when they spend their time free ranging.
Speckled Sussex chickens should have red ear lobes, wattles and a single comb. Their beak is described as a horn color while their eyes are a brilliant shade of amber.
They have a deep chest giving them a large and robust appearance while their legs, feet and skin are white. They do not have feathered legs despite being such cold hardy birds and any signs of feathers on the feet or legs are considered faults in the breed.
The Speckled Sussex rooster weighs 9 lbs and the hens weigh 7 lbs.
With some research into specialty breeders, you may be lucky enough to find a Speckled Sussex bantam variety. Bantams of this breed are considered rare because many genetic problems have made it challenging to produce an official bantam standard.
How to Sex Speckled Sussex Chicks?
Speckled Sussex chicks do not hatch with their adult markings and look nothing like their parents! They have a brown stripe that runs from the top of their heads to their tails and a light brown down.
The baby chicks cannot be auto sexed so distinguishing a pullet from a cockerel before the chicks are 5-6 weeks old can be tricky!
Telling hens apart from the roosters for this breed is best achieved at a few weeks when differences in the size and color of the comb and the wattles become apparent.
What Makes the Speckled Sussex Unique?
Their feather coloration pattern is undoubtedly what makes them unique.
While other chicken breeds such as the Wyandotte, Easter Egger, Plymouth Rock, and Barred Rocks have spotted or striped feather patterns, they simply don’t compare to the spectacular speckles and colors you’ll find in the Sussex the speckled variety.
Along with their beauty, they also have a lovely temperament and they are quite hardy chickens that tolerate confinement quite well. It is no wonder that the Sussex breed has become a firm favorite for the backyard flock.
What Color Eggs Do Speckled Sussex Lay?
You would expect a Speckled Sussex egg to be covered in speckles or freckles but these chickens lay slightly tinted or light brown eggs without any specks or spots on the shell!
When Do Speckled Sussex Start Laying?
Speckled Sussex chickens will lay eggs at around 20 weeks of age. They are known to lay large brown eggs with a deep golden to orange yolk when allowed to free range.
Sometimes they lay fairy eggs, but by eating natural grasses, seeds, and a quality layer or chicken feed you can minimize the possibility of your hens laying fairy eggs.
DID YOU KNOW?
A fairy egg is a tiny or small yolkless egg that is usually laid by hens between 6 to 9 months old or by the end of the egg laying cycle.
A fairy egg is also known as a witch, wind, or fart egg and is sometimes caused by stress but it tends to resolve on its own.
Are Speckled Sussex Good Layers?
Speckled Sussex chickens are excellent at laying eggs and can produce anywhere between 180 and 250 eggs per year. These numbers are similar to Barnevelder chickens which are another good egg layer breed.
They produce a brown egg color that is large in size and will continue their egg production through the winter months.
Are Speckled Sussex Hens Broody?
These Speckled Sussex hens are the best backyard chickens because they are friendly, hardy and they will lay in cold weather when other breeds stop laying.
They are good mothers and will become broody in the spring and summer providing the perfect opportunity to hatch eggs.
Do Speckled Sussex Chickens Molt?
Yes, the Sussex breed will molt during the fall when the amount of sunlight during the day lessens and the cooler temperatures set in.
DID YOU KNOW?
When the Speckled Sussex molts, they will develop more speckles on their new feathers.
You will notice an improvement in their feather patterns and color as they age and they are the only breed to possess this amazing trait.
What is the Meat Quality of Speckled Sussex Chickens?
As a fairly large and heavy bird, they provide ample table fare. Their meat is described as tender and is pink to white in color.
The Speckled variety of the Sussex only matures at 20 weeks old compared to other chicken breeds that mature much earlier at around 16 weeks old.
Is the Speckled Sussex Friendly?
Yes, Speckled Sussex chickens are described as friendly birds and a favorite among backyard chicken keepers.
While they aren’t fluffy chickens, they are cold hardy and can tolerate confinement but if you let them free range for a few hours each day, you will really see them excel in their personality and their overall health.
When raising chickens it is always important to look out for the bullies in the chicken coop.
Sussex chickens are not aggressive or overly dominant birds and they tend to be near the bottom of the pecking order. Look out for bullying behavior such as pecking and chasing by more assertive chickens.
In severe cases of bullying involving feather picking and drawing blood, it is best to remove the perpetrator to prevent the backyard flock from turning on the victim.
These chickens aren’t noisy and you won’t find your hens squawking at all hours of the day but they are talkative and will let you know when they’re unhappy or stressed.
The easiest way to keep these chickens content is to give them a fair amount of coop space and time to free range.
To protect your docile hen from being bullied right out of the nest, it is a good idea to provide at least two nesting boxes to every three to four birds (if you have large fowl).
The Sussex hen needs a 12 x 12 inch nesting box to accommodate her size and comfortably lay her light brown eggs.
Is the Speckled Sussex Hardy?
You will find that these chickens are good at looking after themselves when allowed to forage. As they free range they will eat pests in your garden and pick on seeds and plants.
They can also tolerate cold temperatures and enjoy walking around in the snow but because they lack feathered legs, they should always have a dry and insulated place to keep their legs and feet warm.
Because they enjoy the outdoors, they are prone to getting lice and mites so give them an area to dust bath to prevent parasitic infestations.
Is the Speckled Sussex Heat Tolerant?
The Speckled Sussex is not a heat tolerant bird because they have many dense feathers that lie close to the skin. They don’t appear overly fluffy like the Cochin chicken or the Brahma but they are well-insulated which keeps the cold out but makes it difficult to cope in warmer weather.
This ancient breed can live up to 8 years of age.
Is the Speckled Sussex Chicken Best for Your Coop?
These chickens were originally bred for industrial meat and egg purposes, but today they are wonderful backyard chickens because they are very resourceful birds that are easy to care for, provide outstanding egg production, and they are friendly.
They have a brown egg color and lay large eggs but what is most impressive about this backyard chicken is their speckled feathers.
They are beautifully speckled and their unique spots and speckles are known to intensify after every molt, which you won’t find in other breeds.
These chickens are hard to find but if you are looking for a Speckled Sussex chick to add to your flock, the Cackle Hatchery is known to provide them online.
As a strong breed known to look after themselves, they are ideal for new chicken keepers and those who desire a true heritage breed in their flock. You could also consider the Dominique breed for this reason.
The Speckled Sussex is a century old breed of chicken that has overcome the odds to become one of the best pet chickens for the backyard coop.
They have great personalities and are described as friendly chickens but their docility can also land them at the bottom of the pecking order.
These unusual looking chickens are fantastic egg layers and can produce 250 or more eggs per year. Their eggs are light brown in color and are large in size.
They tend to continue laying in the heart of winter when other birds decide to take a bit of an egg laying vacation.
If you are looking for a beautiful Sussex the speckled variety ticks all the right boxes from their very even temperament and egg production to their unique appearance and hardiness.
They get along well with other chickens and they’ll follow you around the garden especially if you have their favorite treats in hand!
Feel Free To Share!
Sadly, the Speckled Sussex was listed as endangered and only recently has their numbers improved.
To spread the word about this gorgeous Sussex variety, please share this post with your friends, family, and fellow chicken hobbyists.
We hope that you’ve learned a little bit more about this Sussex variety and that you’re looking forward to getting more chickens to add to your coop.
For a similar breed, check out the Welsummer chicken and its dual purpose heritage!