When I placed my first order for chickens in January of 2016, I had no clue what I was doing. I had placed the order adding all the prettiest chickens, paying little attention to the practicality of the breeds. I needed six more chickens to meet the minimum, and I saw Speckled Sussex chickens were available for my shipping week. Hastily, I clicked add to cart and placed my order.
Speckled Sussex ended up being the most practical birds in my flock that year. These birds have excellent egg production, averaging 250 eggs per year. In addition to their superb egg production, Speckled Sussex is very friendly and make a good dual purpose breed for those interested in meat.
About Sussex Chickens
The Sussex chicken breed was originally bred in Sussex County in southeast England sometime in the 1800s. The Speckled Sussex was the first to be produced but there are now eight color variations recognized by the Poultry Club of Great Britain. These colors are brown, buff, coronation, light, red, speckled, white and silver.
The American Poultry Association accepts only the red, speckled and light colors, but all of the color varieties can be found in the United States.
Sussex were initially bred for meat and were some of the leading birds for meat production for several years. Larger and faster-growing broilers eventually pushed the Sussex aside.
These chickens still had decent egg production and farmers who wanted both meat and eggs, kept the birds in their flocks. Sussex are now becoming popular again since more people than before are interested in growing their meat and eggs.
1. Size and Weight
Sussex are definitely not small chickens. Healthy hens weigh 7-8 pounds and roosters weigh between 9.5 and 11 pounds. Some birds have fluffy feathers, making them appear larger than they are. Sussex have smooth and close fitting feathers, but they still don’t have a small appearance because they are rather big chickens.
I have never owned a more curious chicken than my Speckled Sussex. These inquisitive little birds love nothing more than following you around and picking at your shoelaces and jean cuffs. Sussex are gentle towards you and the rest of the flock.
Despite their size, Sussex sometimes get picked on by the rest of the flock because they are so docile. When hens go broody, which they frequently do, they make excellent mothers. Roosters are incredible guardians, and they are very good at alerting their flock to potential predators and threats.
3. Egg Production
For a dual purpose breed, Sussex have incredible production. Averaging about 250 eggs in a year, Sussex can lay eggs with the best of them! These chickens will lay large light brown eggs 4-5 times a week. Sussex are also good at winter production, unlike some other breeds.
4. Meat Production
The Sussex chickens were once one of the leading chicken breeds for meat production. Though the Sussex has made way for other breeds, they still have exceptional meat qualities. If you feed your Sussex extra, they can put on pounds quickly.
This quality makes them an excellent meat bird. Don't feed in excess for too long, but it won't hurt to feed a few extra scraps in the week leading up to butchering. Sussex also make a nice looking carcass since they are a white skinned breed.
How to Care for Sussex
1. Feeding and Nutrition
There is no doubt about the fact that Sussex loves their food. Scratch grain, mealworms, scraps, you name it, they love it. You’ll need to maintain care when feeding your Sussex to ensure they do not get overweight because they do gain weight very easily. An overweight hen will have poor production and be susceptible to health issues.
Some chicken keepers choose not to feed free choice and instead ration food. Sussex also make great foragers, and this makes a fantastic supplementary diet as well.
2. Housing and Fencing
Since Sussex are a larger breed they do require a bit more space than some birds. 4-5 square feet per bird in the house is ideal. If you choose to keep your birds in a run, 12 square feet per bird is adequate space. You do not need a fence higher than 48’’ for the Sussex, since they are large, don’t fly easily.
3. Health Issues and Care
Sussex are very hardy birds and not very susceptible to many health issues at all. As stated earlier, Sussex can pack the pounds easily, so the biggest thing to watch out for is chubby birds. A healthy ration and plenty of room to run will do them wonders for staying fit.
If you choose to breed Sussex, you should find them a fun bird to breed. Many people use Light Sussex for breeding sex-linked chickens, which is a fun project. Many breeders are working to perfect the color variations that haven’t been accepted by the American Poultry Association.
You can find the clubs of breeders working on the breed and join them to help gain the acceptance of Sussex chickens in the US.
Wyandottes are a dual purpose breed, but weigh a bit less than the Sussex. You can expect a decent yield in eggs from Wyandottes, about 200 annually per hen. Wyandottes are stunning birds to look at, and I’d recommend them to anyone interested in adding eye candy to their yard.
These gentle birds are a must for every chicken keeper after pets as well as eggs. Orpingtons do serve as a dual purpose breed just like the Sussex. Orpingtons are very popular and easy to find, and make a great alternative to Sussex.
3. Plymouth Rocks
Plymouth Rocks are a fantastic dual purpose breed, very comparable to the Sussex. These birds lay a whopping 280 eggs in a year, making them an excellent choice for egg production. Plymouth Rocks are very friendly and outgoing just like the Sussex. I would certainly recommend these birds to anyone after a good backyard layer and pet.
Did you know?
Speckled Sussex chickens are, well, speckled, as their name suggests. But what some chicken keepers don’t know is that every time a Speckled Sussex hen molts, her speckles multiply. It’s rather fun to see hens progress as the years go on as she becomes more mottled than a speckled bird.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my five Sussex hens and their beautiful rooster. From the eye candy they provide to their curious natures they are charming birds to have around. I don’t think you’ll regret adding a few of these pretty birds to your coop.