The Sussex is charismatic and flighty at times, but is also a fantastic egg layer and a sensible choice for the backyard coop.
They are the darling chickens of England and you can find them in eight colors, including white with black tail feathers as well as a beautiful speckled variety.
You’ll find the Sussex in most chicken coops, so if you want to learn more about the breed, this guide will explore their personalities, egg production, history, and much more.
Let’s start by taking a look at where the Sussex chicken came from…
Where Did Sussex Chickens Come From?
The History of the Sussex
It is believed that the Sussex originated around 43 A.D. at the time of the Roman invasion in England. They were originally brownish-red with speckled feathers, and were crossed with some of the fowl that belonged to the Romans.
The Refinement of the Breed
The refinement of the Sussex breed goes as far back as the Victorian era, when hen fever struck and more keepers desired rare and exotic-looking chickens.
After some time of breeding Cochins, Dorkings, and other breeds together, the appearance of the Sussex was created to reflect a more coveted bird.
In 1845, the first-ever poultry show was held in London, where the Kentish fowl, or Sussex, was on exhibition. This is where the breed captured the attention of many enthusiasts and soon these birds spread across England.
Kent and Sussex
England was supplied with poultry by Kent and Sussex, and the new breed had fared well among the locals due to the quality of their eggs and meat. It was only in the 1940s when the competitiveness of the broiler industry demanded other breeds that could reach maturity faster than Sussex chickens.
Despite the Sussex losing some ground in the broiler industry, many traditional breeders stuck by these birds, and today you can find Sussex chickens from local hatcheries and homesteaders to poultry fanciers.
Only the rare colors within the breed are difficult to find, so you’ll need to look for specialized breeders if you want that exotic color to add to your coop.
The Speckled Sussex Breed Recognition
In England, in 1902 the red, speckled Sussex, and the Light Sussex were under refinement and in the process of receiving their breed standards.
The red and speckled Sussex were officially admitted to the breed standard in 1914, while the Light Sussex was registered in 1929.
The speckled Sussex is the oldest variety of this breed and despite refinements to the size and color during the Victorian period, both the speckled Sussex and the Light Sussex are the founding chickens.
Why Get Sussex Chickens?
The Sussex chicken is considered the breed of England and with their interesting personalities, stellar egg laying, and hardiness, it is no wonder these birds remain a firm favorite for the chicken coop.
What Does the Sussex Look Like?
Sussex chickens are soft-feathered, dual-purpose birds that have wide shoulders and a rectangular-shaped body.
They have striking bright red facial features, including a single comb with 5 points and prominent wattles on both the roosters and the hens.
Sussex chickens tend to hold their tails at a 45-degree angle, creating a truly impressive appearance among striding roosters. They have white shanks, legs, and feet with four toes on each foot.
Yellow skin or feet are not part of the accepted breed standard for the older speckled Sussex or the Light Sussex strains.
Their eye color can differ depending on the color variety you choose, and that ranges from reddish bay to fiery orange.
Weight and Size
Sussex chickens tend to be large in size, with hens weighing up to 7 lbs and roosters reaching 9 lbs.
There are also bantam Sussex chickens for the smaller backyard coop. The Sussex bantams weigh between 2-4 lbs and are the most delightful little egg layers to add to your flock.
If you’ve ever wanted an outstanding egg layer that is hardy and friendly enough to add to the backyard coop, you’ll be delighted at the Sussex and all these chickens have to offer.
You’ll also have the opportunity to choose an exotic color to add to your coop!
This chicken breed can be found in the following eight color varieties:
The common white-bodied Sussex with black feathers around the neck and a black tail is the light variety.
The Light Sussex is consistently in demand among poultry enthusiasts and is the easiest to find.
This color is deeper than that of the Rhode Island Red (RIR), and may accompany a partridge feather pattern or light brown feathers.
Deep red, much like the Rhode Island Red.
A buff body and black neck, with tail feathers similar to those of the Light Sussex.
This rather unusual color variety entails a black body with silver penciling that is prominent across the breast.
The snow-white variety does not have any specks or patches of brown, black, or other colors.
Considered a rare or exotic color, the coronation strain is identified by its white base feathers and blue to lavender-colored feathers, similar to lavender orpingtons, around the neck and the tail feathers.
Accepted Color Varieties
The American Poultry Association (APA) and the British Poultry Club currently accept different color varieties.
The Poultry Club of Great Britain accepts the following colors:
- Red and light
The APA recognizes the speckled, red, and Light Sussex color types.
If you are looking for unique colors, the buff, silver, brown and red varieties are listed as rare by the Livestock Conservancy and very few breeders produce them.
DID YOU KNOW
The color of the speckled Sussex intensifies after every molt.
The Light Sussex is known to produce sex-link chicks. If you were to breed a Rhode Island Red Rooster with a Light Sussex hen, you would produce white males and red females.
These cross-bred chicks are considered hybrids!
Is the Sussex Chicken a Good Layer?
Sussex chickens are among the best layers for a homestead, backyard chicken coop, or even a small farm.
They lay large-sized eggs and are also winter layers when other breeds are taking a break during the cold weather! Sussex hens are quite impressive in that they only tend to stop egg production while they are molting.
How Long Will Sussex Chickens Lay For?
Sussex chickens are known to lay for at least 2 to 3 years before their egg production starts to slow down.
DID YOU KNOW?
When chickens reach the end of their egg laying cycle, they will stop producing color in the shells. The Sussex hen may start to lay light-colored eggs as she reaches retirement age.
What Egg Color Do Sussex Chickens Lay?
Sussex hens will generally lay a brown egg color; however, this will differ depending on the strain. The speckled Sussex hen will lay light brown or tinted color eggs, while the Light Sussex hen lays cream colored or light brown eggs.
See how a sussex egg look like below.
How Many Eggs will Sussex Hens Lay?
Sussex chickens lay between 200 and 250 eggs per year, or 4 to 5 eggs per week but again, the exact number depends on your variety.
The Light Sussex tends to lay more eggs than the other colors, with some chicken keepers getting 260 eggs per year!
When will Sussex Chickens Lay Eggs?
Hens will start laying at around 20 weeks of age and continue right through spring, summer, and into winter.
Is the Sussex Hen Broody?
The hens do go broody at some stage, and you can use their broodiness to your advantage. They make good mothers and are often used to hatch eggs of their own and even those of other breeds.
Remember that some hens are broodier than others, it all depends on the strain and the individual bird.
Are Sussex Chickens Good Meat Birds?
Yes, you could certainly depend on your Sussex chicken to provide ample table fare. With roosters reaching a weight of 9 lbs, they do make fair meat birds.
What is the Personality of the Sussex Chicken?
Sussex chickens are described as naturally curious and intelligent birds. Compared to similar independent breeds, the hens are particularly friendly and do well in a mixed flock.
They are usually easy to handle, but that doesn’t mean you won’t come across a stroppy chicken. Choose your hens carefully, and you should have the friendliest chickens in your coop!
Interacting with Children
A docile hen is best for children who want to interact with their pet chickens. They will be relaxed when handled, provided they feel treated with care and respect. Sussex chickens are lovely birds, especially when their needs are met and their personalities are allowed to shine.
Keeping Sussex Chickens Happy
The Sussex is an active breed, and should be provided time to roam and free range outside of the confines of their coop.
They like to keep busy, so they get bored very quickly without things to do. If they become too stressed and frustrated, they may become noisy or peck at other chickens. Giving them treats and having them play with toys can help with this.
They are cold hardy birds; however, they will tolerate the heat in summer provided they have fresh water and shady areas to retreat to.
For such an independent bird, they are not aggressive and therefore more likely to be bullied by other dominant breeds. Sussex chickens are usually at the bottom of the pecking order, so definitely consider placing them with calm and less aggressive breeds.
Does This Breed Do Well in Confinement?
These chickens tend to do well in confinement when they are provided time to free range. A spacious coop is a must when you want to own such a large chicken breed.
Each chicken will need at least 4 square feet of space inside the coop. If you don’t have enough space for large birds, the bantam variety could make for the perfect backyard addition.
Are Sussex Chickens Noisy?
Both the speckled Sussex and Light Sussex are not noisy chickens. They are naturally alert, so they may sound the alarm if they feel threatened or spot a predator nearby. The only time you should really hear them is when they sing their “egg song” after laying.
DID YOU KNOW
Once your hen lays an egg, she will squawk and cackle to announce the presence of her egg in the nest.
Now that we know about the personality of Sussex chickens, let’s determine whether they’re a healthy breed and good for first-time keepers…
This breed is healthy, hardy, and active, making them an excellent choice for new chicken keepers.
They are robust birds that will benefit from a good quality feed, spacious coop, and time to forage to prevent stress and boredom.
Keep an eye out for general parasites such as internal worms, lice, and mites. Regular worming and access to dust bathing are simple and effective things you can ensure to protect your chickens against pests.
Another important part of maintaining chicken health is keeping the coop well-ventilated and organized to prevent pests from making your hen house their house!
While Sussex chickens do well in winter, the large single comb of the rooster could be prone to frostbite.
Just apply some petroleum jelly or coconut oil to prevent damage to these exposed, fleshy parts in freezing temperatures.
Both the speckled Sussex and the Light Sussex are cheap to feed, and are known to consume a ¼ lb of feed each.
Provide your laying hens with a 16% protein layer feed, but during the molting season, up their protein intake to help them develop new feathers.
You should provide all your chickens with access to grit, but if left to free range they will also find most of their supplementary feed in their natural environment.
The average life expectancy is 6 – 8 years.
Provide them a secure coop against predators, a good feed such as organic feed, and time to forage to prevent health issues and injuries!
The Sussex chicken is a wonderful and one of the best backyard chicken breed for keepers because they are low maintenance, friendly, and one of the best egg laying breeds.
They are also great for families who are looking for a docile, yet confident chicken that is easy to handle.
They’re available in a variety of colors, from red and white to silver and speckled, with beautiful orange to red eye colors. While the Light Sussex is the most well-known variety with its beautiful black trim, the speckled Sussex is the oldest color type and the slowest to mature.
Because the Sussex is such a great forager, one can naturally supplement its diet, which helps reduce your overall feed bill. Because they enjoy spending so much time free ranging, they should be checked for parasites such as lice and mites.
Feel Free To Share!
Please share with your friends and family who want to learn more about the Sussex or who might be interested in adding a Sussex to their backyard or urban coop.
Be sure to take some time to learn more about this breed and their color varieties so you can choose the perfect Sussex chicken for your own flock!
If you’re interested in other options, the bountiful, egg-laying Red star chicken is another family friendly breed worth looking at. Another breed to consider is the amberlink breed, it’s a great option if you need chickens with great egg laying capabilities.