When it comes to chickens, there’s always more to learn. Each and every breed has unique characteristics that make them better suited to different climates, various conditions, and different purposes… but also, different owners.
That’s right, chicken breeds have unique attitudes and temperaments, and making sure you pick the right one that will get along with not only you but also with your other birds in a mixed flock is paramount if you want happy days on the homestead.
To help you do that, today we will be looking at the Speckled Sussex, one of the oldest and most venerated heritage breeds on the entire planet.
And they are far from just a novelty: these chickens are healthy, hardy, and great performers today. Keep reading and I’ll tell you eight need-to-know facts about them…
The Speckled Sussex is Truly Ancient!
It’s difficult to overstate just how old the Speckled Sussex is. In fact, we don’t even know precisely how old it is!
What we do know, though, is that it the basis for the breed was around at least since the Roman Empire, and there are records of Roman soldiers and settlers teaching the native English how to corral, keep, and farm these birds.
It’s true! We know they are at least as old as 3BC, and likely much older. If you love chicken trivia as much as I do, and if you appreciate heritage breeds, the Speckled Sussex is a must-have on that basis alone. It is literally foundational to our understanding of domestic chickens.
They Almost Went Extinct
With a bird that has been around as long as this breed, you’d think they’d be so ubiquitous that they’d be literally everywhere but that really isn’t the case. The Speckled Sussex almost went extinct in the 20th century.
Although it was an extremely popular and important utility bird throughout the millennium, the rise of the so-called industrialized breeds which could produce even more eggs and even more meat, and do so quicker, meant that the long-reigning Sussex started to decline and then properly diminish from the world.
It got so bad that it was only due to the efforts of a handful of hardcore, dedicated breeders that kept the lines alive and finally a coordinated effort from the livestock conservancy that supercharged those breeding programs to bring the Speckled Sussex roaring back.
Today, it’s no longer endangered or a breed of concern concerning its worldwide population. Even better, those breeding efforts produced a remarkably healthy stock!
They Have an Iridescent Sheen
The Speckled Sussex is instantly recognizable from its color, being a rich mahogany or leather brown color with the tips of most feathers having a pale white splash, hence the “speckled” moniker.
But look closer and you will see that there is a thin, black band just behind each white tip. This black band is actually an extremely dark green, and more than that it is iridescent!
When the sunlight hits these birds just right, they have an almost magical shine thanks to these iridescent markings on their feathers. They look great in any light, but these markings put them on an entirely new level!
These Chickens Were First Raised for Meat
The Speckled Sussex was originally bred for meat owing to their large size and stocky, heavily muscled build.
Roosters usually tip the scales at around 8 pounds while hens are significantly lighter at around 6 pounds or a little bit more.
But throughout the long ages, the Speckled Sussex has been a dependable provider of meat, particularly with the creation of capons as they can make for wonderful, tender birds suitable for roasting.
In fact, the Speckled Sussex was overwhelmingly used as the primary provider of chicken for the entirety of the UK throughout World War II and has long been known in London and elsewhere as producing meat of exceptional flavor, fineness, and overall quality. All of that remains true today.
They Tend to Be Very Quiet
What most folks don’t know about this Sussex variety is how quiet they tend to be. They’re so quiet that, unless they are under attack, in pain, or actively fighting, you’ll rarely hear a peep out of them. Quite literally!
Though you might from time to time hear them clucking contentedly between one another, almost as if they’re holding a conversation between themselves, they don’t make much noise otherwise and this makes them a wonderful choice for backyard owners or any keeper that has neighbors nearby.
The Hens are Good Layers and Good Moms
More than just meat, the Speckled Sussex is a remarkably good layer, and will routinely crank out anywhere from four to five eggs weekly, equaling anywhere from 200 to 240 on average. That’s very respectable even today in the age of so-called “superlayer” breeds!
Hens of the breed also happen to be remarkably good mothers, as they will dote on their chicks and take care of them while teaching them everything they need to know to survive and thrive on the homestead.
They do, of course, have a tendency towards brooding us but they are not nearly as broody as some other breeds like Orpingtons.
Most Speckled Sussex Chickens Tend to Be Quite Healthy
Among heritage breeds, the Speckled Sussex is probably the healthiest of them all.
Aside from your typical ailments that can affect all domestic chickens and birds generally, and annoying internal and external parasites like fleas, mites, worms, and so forth, there is hardly anything to be concerned with.
They do not typically suffer from any genetic defects or a heightened propensity to fall prey to any given disease. This is great for your birds, obviously, but also great for you because that will keep healthcare costs down.
They Make a Great Pet Chicken
Perhaps best of all, this breed can make a remarkably good pet chicken. A true pet, one that you can stroke, pick up, and interact with to your heart’s content.
They’re known to be very affectionate and grow quite attached to their owners, love attention, and have an easy-going, sweet personality at pretty much all times.
Sure, roosters tend to be a little standoffish especially if you don’t spend much time with them while they are chicks and broody hens can be quite fussy, but otherwise you can expect your Speckled Sussex to enjoy interacting with you.
Tim is a farm boy with vast experience on homesteads, and with survival and prepping. He lives a self-reliant lifestyle along with his aging mother in a quiet and very conservative little town in Ohio. He teaches folks about security, prepping and self-sufficiency not just through his witty writing, but also in person.
Find out more about Tim and the rest of the crew here.