Though there are all kinds of chicken breeds in the world, and all with different attributes, there’s a few of them that just get all the luck: big, beautiful, ample layers of eggs, great table birds and they even have good personalities! Breeds like this make it tough to choose any others!
One such breed is the Speckled Sussex – gorgeous chickens that were long reared for their excellent and high-quality meat, and also for a bountiful supply of eggs.
On top of that, they tend to have good personalities and some truly amazing plumage.
If there was ever a “chicken lover’s chicken”, the Speckled Sussex has to be it. I’ll tell you everything you need to know about this versatile and important heritage breed below…
Speckled Sussex Quick Facts
- Purpose: Dual-purpose; originally meat.
- Plumage: Speckled; Brown feathers with white tips, separated by a thin black band. Other varieties include brown, light, buff, red, speckled, silver, white and coronation.
- Eggs Laid Year on Average: 180 to 200.
- Egg Color: Tinted, light brown.
- Broodiness: High.
- Average Weight: 8 ½ pounds, roosters. Hens significantly lighter.
- Average Height: 21 inches.
- Lifespan: 7 to 8 years.
- Temperament: Curious, energetic. Generally friendly if raised with interaction. Hens frequently go broody, and roosters have a tendency towards aggression and standoffishness.
What Color and Pattern are Speckled Sussex Chickens?
The Speckled Sussex is, just like the name says, speckled. But some folks don’t know precisely what a speckled chicken looks like.
They are commonly confused with barred chickens, and though they look quite similar, speckled is distinct.
A speckled chicken, like the Speckled Sussex here, will have a primary feather color with a contrasting colored tip and a thin, darker color separating the two.
The Speckled Sussex typically has rich, leather-brown feathers with cool white tips, separated by a thin band of black.
The effect looks very much like the shifting scales of some fish, and gives these chickens a tremendously striking appearance.
Combined with the physique of the Sussex breed, and their picture perfect pointed combs and large wattles, they are definitely an iconic looking bird.
But speckled isn’t the only color and pattern of plumage that Sussex chickens inherit; the poultry club of Great Britain recognizes eight in total, including light, brown, buff, red, white, silver, and coronation along with speckled.
The coronation Sussex is an interesting one, for sure the long extinct and only recreated as recently as the 1980s; coronation is a combination of speckled, light, and red feathers.
How Big are Speckled Sussex Chickens?
The Speckled Sussex chickens are heavy, but not the tallest chickens. Typical roosters are around 8 ½ pounds, and hands are significantly lighter, usually topping out around 6 ½ pounds.
However, the Sussex is a breed that was traditionally bred for meat, and the birds have a tendency to gain weight quickly and grow quite large if fed accordingly.
Large roosters that are destined for the dinner table may reach 9 ½ pounds.
Despite this, they are not nearly as tall as some of the other large heritage breeds, and roosters typically grow to around 21 inches in height, and shorter is not uncommon.
Speckled Sussex Essential Characteristics
As unmistakably as the name suggests, the Sussex is a quintessentially English breed, thought to have properly emerged from Sussex County and has the distinction of being the most ancient out of all the British heritage breeds.
Originally reared for meat, but also highly capable egg layers, the Sussex, alongside the Rhode Island Red, were the two most common and productive commercial chickens in the United Kingdom until the advent of World War II.
The Sussex is a highly distinctive chicken, visually: Tall, beautifully proportioned, and graceful.
The breast is straight, the body is wide and these birds overall have a wonderfully symmetrical and pleasing build.
The feathers are heavy and soft, but typically maintain a tight, neat appearance which further enhances the crisp aesthetic of the various colors and patterns.
If you want a chicken that is beautiful when standing still or in motion, you can hardly do better than the Sussex.
Today, the Sussex is beloved both for its beauty and also for its capabilities. In our era, it is a true dual-purpose breed, capable of producing delicious and finally textured meat for the table.
It can also crank out a respectable amount of eggs, with hens topping out around 200 per year on average but some lines being more than capable of reaching 250.
Whether you want a beautiful and healthy utility chicken for your flock, a masterfully dignified showbird or just pure pride of ownership, the Speckled Sussex will not disappoint.
What are Speckled Sussex Chickens Raised For?
The Speckled Sussex is today a dual-use chicken, meaning it is kept and raised for egg production and also for slaughtering to provide meat.
That being said, these are incredibly beautiful and distinguished chickens, and very popular on the show circuit.
This is definitely one breed that can do it all!
Are Speckled Sussex Chickens Good Layers?
Yes, the Speckled Sussex is a highly capable layer, and an average hen will lay anywhere from 180 to 200 large light brown or tinted eggs per year.
However, some exceptional lineages or just exceptional individuals routinely lay up to 250 eggs, though any more than this is quite rare.
Something to keep in mind if eggs are what you’re mainly after is that the Sussex is fairly notorious for going broody.
This will reduce the overall amount of eggs you get yearly, so you’ll need to stay on top of management to help prevent this and also be prepared to deal with an irate mother if she is intent on hatching them.
The Sussex is a large and stout chicken, and they can definitely put up a fight if they have to.
But if you want to increase the size of your flock naturally, the Speckled Sussex is a diligent mother and a good setter, so you shouldn’t have too much to worry about if you want to let mom handle raising the babies.
What Color Eggs Do Speckled Sussex Typically Lay?
The Speckled Sussex lays light brown or tinted eggs.
When Do Speckled Sussex Start Laying?
Sussex chickens mature rapidly, but females still don’t start laying until 7 months of age or so, and 8 months old is not out of the question.
Compared to other, more modern breeds this is a pretty sedate pace for starting laying after reaching sexual maturity, but their overall efficiency, good health, and tendency to lay right through the winter assuming they aren’t molting or going broody makes up for it.
What Do Speckled Sussex Chickens Eat?
You’re Speckled Sussex will eat the same things that all other domestic chickens eat.
The primary component in their diet should be a well-rounded, nutritionally complete chicken feed, and they should get about 90% of their calories from it.
The remainder of their calorie intake should come in the form of various whole and natural foods, including limited amounts of fruits and vegetables, plant matter, seeds, bugs, worms, snails, and other animal protein.
Regarding those whole foods, the Sussex is quite a curious chicken, energetic and content to forage and hunt.
Allowing your Sussex to free range is a good strategy assuming you can do so safely without causing too much trouble. If there are things to eat, you can depend on a Sussex to find them.
However, their curiosity and adventurousness means they are more likely than most other breeds to venture far from the coop, something you might have to keep an eye out for. More on that in a minute…
Also remember to supplement the diet of your chickens with grit to help them digest their food, and potentially consider adding vitamin and mineral supplements if required, though these might not be if their diet is complete enough all the way around.
How Long Do Speckled Sussex Chickens Typically Live?
The Speckled Sussex is a fairly long-lived breed, and will typically live between 7 and 8 years.
Are Speckled Sussex Prone to Particular Health Issues?
No. Sussex chickens are remarkably healthy, and almost completely free from all known genetic diseases and vulnerabilities to illness.
You’ll always have to watch out for the usual scourges like bird flu and so forth, and perhaps the only weakness that Sussex chickens really have is a slightly increased vulnerability to mites, fleas, lice and other external parasites.
That’s because their feathers are heavy, thick, and very tight to the body, making them an ideal hiding place for these blood-sucking parasites.
You’ll have to be diligent and thorough when inspecting your chickens for infestation or injury, and it’s an easy thing for serious problems to go unnoticed until they are very bad indeed.
But, all these creatures can be treated in the usual manner with the typical medicines and topical cure, just make sure you are staying alert to any possible signs of discomfort in your chickens.
If you can do that, you’ll find that the Sussex is very healthy overall!
Are Speckled Sussex Chickens Friendly?
The Speckled Sussex is generally friendly. They are confident, usually calm and very curious, and they tend to really enjoy poking around and going on adventures when allowed to free range.
This tendency has gotten them into trouble before, though, and it’s hardly unusual to find your Sussex chicken in a place where it shouldn’t be.
Something else to keep in mind is that females frequently go broody, and like any hen, when she is intent on raising those babies she’s also intent on protecting them and she can become aggressive.
Sussex roosters are also known for being fairly standoffish and aggressive, those can be mitigated if they are raised by people from hatching and have frequent interactions with them.
Does Speckled Sussex Get Along with Other Chickens?
Generally, though you should expect the typical and spirited squabbles over dominance and flock hierarchy.
Hens will establish a pecking order over one another, and enforce it. A flock with multiple roosters should be expected to endure battles for supremacy until the alpha is firmly established.
Although rarely truly serious, feathers will be flying and some bloodletting is possible though it is rare to see them go to the death.
If adding a different breed of chickens to a flock of Sussex, or if you’re adding a Sussex to a mixed flock, the same rules will apply to other chickens!
What Kind of Chicken Owner are Speckled Sussex Right For?
Sussex is a great chicken for all kinds of owners. If you want meat, they’re a fine choice as they fatten up quickly and provide meat of fine quality overall.
The Sussex is also a dependable and high-volume egg layer, and a certain individual birds or lines can lay many eggs reliably, and they typically lay through the winter.
If you want a genuinely dual purpose breed, the Sussex is a great pick.
And, no matter what you want a Sussex for you will have a truly beautiful bunch of birds. They have such an elegant, stately shape, and such beguiling patterns and colors, they look good from every angle whether they are standing still or in motion.
This has led to the Sussex, despite its humble origins, being a fairly popular exhibition bird, and their sheer beauty has endeared them to many a chicken keeper.
However, the Sussex is not ideal for everyone as good as it is all around. Hens are frequently broody, which will necessitate management if you want to keep the supply of eggs flowing.
Roosters can be particularly standoffish, making them challenging and a bit scary to deal with for beginners or nervous keepers.
They aren’t nearly as sweet and placid as Cochins or Silkies! Their tendency to bicker amongst themselves to establish a hierarchy, and also impose their will on other chicken breeds, means that you’ll need to be seasoned enough to manage these problems.
They are hardly exceptional, but they are a factor!
Nonetheless, all around the Speckled Sussex is a gorgeous and highly capable chicken whether you want consistent, high-volume egg production or delicious meat for your table.
They also make beautiful companions and if you are serious about making a go of it on the show circuit you might be surprised at how much a Sussex can wow the judges.
As long as you are able, or at least willing, to deal with some of the behavioral issues and curve balls they might throw you periodically, you won’t go wrong with one of these classic British birds.
Speckled Sussex FAQ
Although not rated to be endangered or at risk by conservancy status, the Sussex chicken is somewhat uncommon on the open market, and some colors, buff in particular, are quite rare and will fetch a premium.
Even so, you shouldn’t have to look too hard to find these chickens if you have your heart set on them.
No. Sussex chicks are not autosexing, and you’ll have to wait a little while for them to mature before you can tell the boys from the girls (unless you have expert veterinary aide to make that determination).
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.