Sussex chicken

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Light sussex hen.jpg
Light Sussex hen
Conservation statusFAO (2007): not at risk[1]: 153 
Country of originUnited Kingdom
UseDual-purpose, eggs and meat
  • Male:
    Standard: minimum 4.1 kg[2]: 294 
    Bantam: maximum 1.5 kg[2]: 294 
  • Female:
    Standard: minimum 3.2 kg[2]: 294 
    Bantam: maximum 1.1 kg[2]: 294 
Skin colourWhite
Egg colourTinted
Comb typeSingle
PCGBHeavy, soft feather[5]
A buff Sussex hen in winter

The Sussex is a British breed of dual-purpose chicken, reared both for its meat and for its eggs. Eight colours are recognised for both standard-sized and bantam fowl. A breed association, the Sussex Breed Club, was organised in 1903.[6]


A light Sussex cock
Speckled Sussex hen

The Sussex originates in the historic county of Sussex, in south-east England. It is among the oldest of British chicken breeds:[2]: 289  birds described as "Old Sussex or Kent Fowl" were shown at the first poultry show at London Zoo in 1845.[7] The Sussex was not included in the first poultry standard, the Standard of Excellence in Exhibition Poultry of William Bernhardt Tegetmeier, in 1865.[2]: 289  The breed standard for the Sussex was drawn up in 1902, with three colour varieties, the light, the red and the speckled.[7] Of these, the speckled was the oldest.[2]: 289  The development of the light variety was probably influenced by Oriental breeds such as the Brahma and Cochin, and also by the silver-grey Dorking. The red was originally black-breasted; it and the brown may have been influenced by Indian Game. The buff variety appeared in the 1920s, and was followed by the white, a sport from the light. The most recent variety is the silver.[2]: 289 

In the early part of the twentieth century, until the advent of commercial hybrid strains at about the time of the Second World War, the Sussex and the Rhode Island Red were the two principal meat breeds in the United Kingdom.[7] Utility strains of the Sussex developed, with better productive capabilities but smaller and less well marked than was expected for exhibition purposes.[8]


The Sussex chicken is graceful with a long, broad, flat back; a long and straight breastbone; wide shoulders; and a rectangular build. The tail is held at a 45 degree angle from the body. The eyes are red in the darker varieties but orange in the lighter ones. The comb is single. The earlobes are red and the legs and skin white in every variety. Cocks weigh approximately 4.1 kg and hens about 3.2 kg.[2]: 294 

Eight colour varieties are recognised by the Poultry Club of Great Britain: brown, buff, coronation, light, red, silver, speckled and white.[2]: 289  The light Sussex has a white body with a black tail and black in the flight feathers and wing coverts; the neck hackles are white with black striping. The buff has the same markings, but with greenish-black on a golden-buff ground. The silver is similar to the light, but has grey thighs and a dark breast with silver lacing.[2]: 293  The red has the same markings as the light, but the base colour is a rich dark red throughout. The speckled is a rich dark mahogany colour, each feather with a black dot and white tip. The white is pure white throughout.[2]: 293 

The coronation Sussex has the same markings as the light, but with lavender instead of the black. It was created for the coronation of Edward VIII – an event which never took place – and had disappeared by about the time of the Second World War.[8] It was thought to have the same red, white and blue colours as the Union Flag.[2]: 293  A coronation bantam was re-created in the 1980s.[8]

The American Poultry Association recognises three colours: light, red and speckled. The red and speckled were added to the Standard of Perfection in 1914, and the light in 1929.[3]


The Sussex was traditionally reared as a table bird, for meat production. In the early part of the twentieth century it was one of the principal breeds kept for this purpose, until it was displaced by modern industrial hybrid lines. It may be kept as a dual-purpose bird. Hens lay some 180–200 tinted eggs per year; some layer strains may give up to 250.[7] The eggs weigh about 60 g.[9] The Sussex is also reared for showing.


  1. ^ Barbara Rischkowsky, D. Pilling (eds.) (2007). List of breeds documented in the Global Databank for Animal Genetic Resources, annex to The State of the World's Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. ISBN 9789251057629. Accessed October 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Victoria Roberts (2008). British poultry standards: complete specifications and judging points of all standardized breeds and varieties of poultry as compiled by the specialist breed clubs and recognised by the Poultry Club of Great Britain. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 9781405156424.
  3. ^ a b APA Recognized Breeds and Varieties: As of January 1, 2012. American Poultry Association. Archived 4 November 2017.
  4. ^ Liste des races et variétés homologuée dans les pays EE (28.04.2013). Entente Européenne d’Aviculture et de Cuniculture. Archived 16 June 2013.
  5. ^ Breed Classification. Poultry Club of Great Britain. Archived 12 June 2018.
  6. ^ Chickens. Poultry Club of Great Britain. Archived 9 November 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d "Sussex". Rare Breeds Survival Trust. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  8. ^ a b c David Scrivener (2014). Popular Poultry Breeds. Ramsbury: Crowood. ISBN 9781847979711.
  9. ^ Rassetafeln: Sussex (in German). Bund Deutscher Rassegeflügelzüchter. Accessed November 2017.
Speckled Sussex cockerel at two years of age
Speckled Sussex cockerel