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A Light Sussex hen
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|Use||Dual-purpose, eggs and meat|
|Egg color||Tan to brown|
|PCGB||Soft Feather: Heavy|
The Sussex chicken is a dual purpose breed of chicken that originated in England around the time of the Roman conquest of Britain in AD 43 that is a popular garden chicken in many countries. They come in eight colours (with a couple more being developed) and have a bantam version at 1/4 size; the bantams may be any of the eight colours.
There was a Sussex breed club formed back in 1903; in 2010 the American Sussex Association was formed.
The colours found in Sussex chickens are: Brown, Buff, Light, Red, Speckled, Silver, White and Coronation. The Sussex chicken, whatever colour, should be graceful with a long, broad, flat back and a rectangular build, the tail should be at a 45 degree angle from the body. The eyes should be red in the darker varieties but orange in the lighter one and they sport a medium-sized, single, erect comb. The earlobes are red and the legs and skin white in every variety. Cocks should weigh approximately 4.1 kg and hens about 3.2 kg. The Brown and red varieties are rare but the others are more common.
Light, Buff and Silver
The light Sussex has a white body with a black tail and black wing tips. Its neck is white, striped with black and has a very striking appearance. The feathers around the neck are called hackle feathers and each one is black with a fine white lace around the edge.
The buff is Ginger where the light is white. If showing the bird, a person must be careful to keep it out of strong sunlight, as the colour will fade.
The Silver Sussex has a similar neck to the previous two variants, except that the body is black and the majority of the feathers on the body have silver lacing. Male fowls have a large comb on their heads while the females have a smaller version of the single, serrated comb.
The Red Sussex is a brownish red plumage all over, with brighter colouring on the hackles and on the saddle feathers of the cock. The tail is black and laced with red.
Pure white plumage throughout and is very rare. The White Sussex was created around 1925 from a sport of the light Sussex and is now probably the second rarest colour after the Brown Sussex.
The plumage of the Speckled variety all have a mix of mahogany and black with white tips. Sometimes the amount of white increases as the bird moults each year. This is the most common variety in the US. However, the Light is far more common in the UK.
The Buff Colombian Sussex is similar to the Light Sussex, but where the Light Sussex is white the Buff Colombian Sussex is a light brown colour and has black on the top of its back and the same places as the light Sussex.
The Coronation Sussex is essentially the same as the light, but the black markings are replaced by pigeon grey/blue. This grey/blue is described as 'lavender' by poultry breeders and is caused by a gene that dilutes the black colour. The Coronation Sussex only existed in small numbers and by the end of the second World War, no more Coronation Sussex existed. The Bantam size was re-created in the 1980s and the Large version only exists in small numbers. There is a buff coronation, but it is quite rare and not recognised.
It should be mentioned that pure Sussex will sometimes throw offspring, with white Colombian patterns replacing the black. This will happen only if the Coronation birds carry the blue genes.
The Lavender Sussex is the same but a bit lighter and no buff. These are also known as Coronation and the best examples are found in Australia, this version of Coronation will breed true because of the lavender gene.
The Sussex chicken is an alert, docile breed that can adapt to any surroundings. They are comfortable in both free range or confined spaces and in the presence of humans, although they will mate and breed better in larger spaces. The breed frequently goes broody in the warmer months. They are good foragers and are generally vigorous and hardy as a garden fowl.
|Cock||4.1 kg||9 lbs|
|Hen||3.2 kg||7 lbs|
|Cockerel||3.4 kg||7.5 lbs|
|Pullet||2.7 kg||5.9 lbs|
|cock||1.5 kg||3.3 lbs|
|Hen||1.1 kg||2.4 lbs|
The Sussex was bred to be a dual purpose bird and is one of the most productive breeds of poultry. They lay large eggs that are cream to light brown in colour. A person owning a hen of this breed should expect approximately 240 to 260 eggs a year (from 180 to 320 eggs), although the light and white varieties are the best choice for layers. Recently there has been an olive green coloured egg introduced to some Light Sussex breeds, although these green egg layers are very rare. In some cases, exhibition lines that have been selected for exhibition qualities rather than egg laying over many generations may produce lower eggs numbers, although there are plenty of good laying lines still available.
It is a good producer of meat and all of the varieties are a good choice to have for this purpose. The chicks mature quickly for heavy breed but the speckled is slowest to mature. The carcass is a larger leggier shape than the commercial broiler chicken, but is closer to the heritage meat produced in the past. Cockerels that are harvested at around six months of age will be meaty with a firmer flesh than the younger broiler chicken of today.
Sussex chickens are believed to have been first bred in Britain (in the area that was to become England) around the time of the Roman invasion of AD 43 making them one of the oldest known breeds. Originally bred as a table bird the Sussex has since become a dual-purpose bird, working for both meat and egg production. The original colours were the Brown, Red and Speckled, and the Silver is the latest variety. The breed was prized as table fowl more than one hundred years ago and, more recently, the Light Sussex was very popular for the laying trials of the 30s.
Today they are a popular breed for show exhibitions as well as a garden breed. The breed has made a huge contribution to the poultry industry and is even an ancestor to the modern broiler. The Coronation Sussex was bred to celebrate the coronation of King George, but is now an extremely rare breed. In Australia, the Coronation Sussex is becoming more popular as is the lavender Columbian.
- Breed Classification. Poultry Club of Great Britain. Accessed August 2014.
- Hobson, Jeremy and Lewis, Celia. Choosing & Raising Chickens: The complete guide to breeds and welfare. Daniel and Charles Publishing. London. 2009. p 94-95