Sussex Chicken Care Guide: Everything You Need To Know

The Sussex Chicken is an old and much loved chicken breed from England.

They have been around for over a thousand years!

These days this breed is known as a docile backyard chicken that is perfect for families looking for a good egg layer.

You can find them in 8 difficult color varieties but the speckled is by far the most popular.

Keeping reading to learn everything you need to know about this breed…

Speckled Sussex

Sussex Chicken Overview

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White Sussex Chicken

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Sussex Chicken

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Speckled Sussex

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Speckled Sussex Chicken In Snow


The Sussex hen is one of the oldest breeds around.

Their origins can be traced back to Roman Britain around 2000 years ago!

These chickens remained in Britain and during the second World War they were one of the most popular breeds around.

Unfortunately though as industrial farming became common place the Sussex hens fell in popularity as they could not keep up with their industrial sisters.

Fortunately the Sussex Chicken never truly fell from favor and a small but dedicated bunch of chicken enthusiasts kept the Sussex going.

Though sadly some varieties remain rare to this day.

This is a perfect family chicken – they are gentle and friendly with their owners and children alike.

She is well suited to small flock sizes and is a great little hen for small farms and backyard enterprises too.

Overall they are perfect for beginners that are looking for a low maintenance chicken that is capable of laying a good amount of eggs.

Sussex Chicken
Beginner Friendly: Yes.
Lifespan: 8+ years.
Weight: Hens (7lb) Roosters (9lb).
Color: Lots but speckled most popular.
Egg Production: 4-5 per week.
Egg Color: Brown.
Known For Broodiness: Somewhat.
Good With Children: Yes.
Cost of Chicken: $3-30 per chick.

Why We Love This Breed

  • Sussex hens tend to go broody and make excellent mothers.
  • They lay lovely large light brown eggs.
  • This breed is great in cold climates.
  • As they are bad flyers they are easy to keep penned with low fences.
  • You will often find them foraging for their own food.
  • Sussex Chickens have a curious and mellow personality so they get on with other flock members.

Appearance

A Light Sussex Chicken

This is a large dual purpose chicken.

They have a rectangular shaped body with wide shoulders and a long broad back.

You will notice they have a five pointed comb that is a lovely rich red color.

She will hold her tail at an almost 45 degree angle to the body.

Her shanks are whitish and clean and she will have four toes to each foot.

The Sussex comes in a large variety of colors with the speckled, red and white being the most popular varieties (more on this later).

Size and Weight

As previously mentioned this is a large chicken.

You can expect hens to weigh around 7lb and roosters to weigh around 9lb.

However if you want to keep Sussex Chickens but do not have enough space then you should consider the Bantam Sussex.

Bantam varieties will only weigh around 2-4lb.

Color

The Sussex comes in eight different color varieties – here is a brief description of the color variations:

  • Speckled: Mahogany colored base feathers with white and black speckling. The speckling becomes more pronounced with each molt.
  • Light: White with black markings on neck and tail feathers.
  • Red: Similar color to the Rhode Island Red.
  • Brown: Deeper red than above with a partridge pattern.
  • Buff: Buff base feathers with black neck and tail feathers.
  • Silver: Black with silver penciling that is most pronounced on their breast feathers.
  • White: Pure white.
  • Coronation: White base feathers with lavender/light blue neck and tail feathers.

Sadly the silver, buff, brown and red varieties are very rare and hard to find these days.

In the US only the speckled, red and light varieties are recognized. Whereas in the Poultry Club of Great Britain the following are recognized:

  • Light, and red (1902)
  • Brown (1913)
  • Buff (1920)
  • White (1926)
  • Coronation (1936)
  • Silver (1948)

What Is It Like To Own A Sussex Chicken?

Sussex Chickens

The Sussex is a chicken that loves to be active and busy.

You will find them spending most of their day rooting around rummaging for food. You can confine this breed if you need to.

However you need to keep them busy and give them plenty of things to do. If you can supervise some free ranging periods of time they will love you forever.

Personality

This breed has a very mellow disposition.

They are friendly and non-aggressive – even the roosters are fairly docile!

Sussex Chickens are full of confidence and are very self-assured.

You will see this as they carry themselves proudly (watching them puttering around the yard is a peaceful way to spend the afternoon).

Because they are so docile with other breeds you should carefully monitor them. They can often be bullied by more assertive breeds.

Curiosity is one of their traits and they will investigate just about anything (especially if it involves a tasty treat). They tend to follow their owners around the yard and are happy to help you with your gardening.

Their mellow disposition and friendliness makes them ideal chickens for beginners as they are very hardy and tolerant of a wide variety of climates.

This mellowness also makes them an ideal exhibition chicken or 4H project chicken for youngsters interested in raising chickens.

Sussex Chicken

Egg Production

Different strains of Sussex have different laying abilities.

However in general you should expect your Sussex to produce 4-5 large brown eggs each week.

This puts the yearly total somewhere between 200-250 eggs.

They are also known being slightly broody but they do make great mothers.

Egg Production
Eggs Per Week: 4+ Eggs
Color: Brown
Size: Large

Noise Levels

They are not know being noisy.

The only time you will hear this chicken is when they sing the egg song or alarm calls. They are usually content to murmur at each other around the yard just to keep in touch with the flock.

If a chicken gets separated from the flock she may issue an alarm call but once re-united with the flock she will settle down quickly.

Facts About This Breed

  1. This breed originally comes from England.
  2. They are one of the oldest chicken breeds to exist.
  3. You can find them in 8 color varieties (speckled, red and light are the most common).
  4. Roosters will weigh around nine pounds and hens around seven pounds.
  5. Bantam Sussex exist but are very rare.
  6. This is a docile breed that is happy to be handled and held.

Sussex Chicken Care Guide

A Speckled Sussex Hen

Health Issues

The Sussex is a healthy and vigorous chicken that requires no special treatment for them to survive and thrive.

You should expect the usual parasites (lice, mites and worms). All of these are easily treatable or prevented with regular checks.

Some people treat for these parasites on a regular basis and others only treat if there is a problem – the choice is yours! As some of these parasites are becoming resistant to certain products you should change your treatments once or twice a year if you treat regularly.

As for the roosters, they have large combs so will need a little care during the winter.

You can use petroleum jelly on their comb and wattles during winter to prevent frostbite.

Feeding

Each Sussex chicken will eat about a ¼lb food per day.

You can either schedule feeding time or free feed them.

It is recommend you free feed this breed as they are not know for over eating.

Regular 16% feed will suffice for the majority of the season.

However when they start to molt you can increase the protein percentage of their feed to 18-20%. Once their molt is over you can put them back on 16% layer feed.

In addition to their feed make sure they have oyster shell available in a separate container – those chickens that need it will take it. Also if your birds are not allowed to free range you should add a bowl of insoluble grit to help them digest their food.

Speckled Sussex Chicken

Coop Setup

As this is a large chicken you will need to make sure the coop is large enough.

Each Sussex will need 4 square feet of coop space.

If you are raising them with more assertive breeds then they will need even more (6 square feet) space since they can be picked on by some of the more aggressive birds.

As for roosting space give them at least 8 inches each – the more the better.

They will spread out in the summer months and cuddle together in the colder months.

A regular sized nesting box of 12×12 inches will be fine for them.

You will need one nesting box for every 3 chickens.

Try to place the nesting boxes in the darkest area of the coop as the ladies like a little privacy while sitting.

Run and Roaming

As previously mentioned this breed just loves to free range.

They are free range champions!

This breed will gather most of their dietary needs from the yard if you let them range.

However if you do not have the space you can keep them in a run.

These chickens are not great flyers so a 4 foot tall fence will easily keep them penned in. If you do decide to keep them in a small area with a fence then make sure they have enough cover to run and hide if hawks show up!

They will tolerate confinement fairly well if they get free range privileges a couple of times a week. Just make sure they have enough room in the run (8 square feet of floor space per chicken).

You should also keep things in the run to hold their interest. Perches at varying heights, piles of old leaves, tree stumps and swings – all of these and more can add interest to an otherwise boring run.

Sussex Breed History

White Sussex Chicken

The original ancestors of the Sussex go back to Roman England in 43AD.

A similar type of chicken was noted in Roman writings from the time and was known as the ancestral Dorking (an old five toed bird).

There were many refinements to this breed over the years but the Victorian era saw the greatest improvements in this breed.

The first ever poultry show was held in London in 1845.

Here the Kentish/Sussex fowl was exhibited for the first time.

From this humble beginning the Sussex chicken was born.

During the Victorian times the counties of Sussex, Kent and Surrey were the best areas to raise chickens for eggs for the London markets. At the time the Sussex chicken was said to be the best of them all.

The Sussex has not always looked like it does now but the early fowl were probably similar to the Speckled and Red Sussex Chicken of today.

Over the last fifty years or so there has been a lot development of with the Light Sussex.

Chickens that were being bred for exhibition were not producing as many eggs as the working line so the breed split into two separate camps. They finally became the hen we know and love about a hundred years ago and has held their place in the poultry world quite steadily ever since.

She has proved resilient to changing fads and remains one of the most popular breeds.

These days some of the Sussex varieties are very rare like the Buff and Red but others like the Speckled and Lights are very popular.

Summary

The Sussex chicken has endured for many years through ups and downs.

Despite the rise of the industrial poultry business the Sussex has kept a dedicated following.

If you are looking for a family friendly dual purpose hen then look no further – there are several varieties out there so there is one to suit your needs!

The speckled and light breeds have a good sized following here in the US.

This is a breed that does not require any special treatment. She can tolerate the cold and the heat as well as being able to fend for herself.

Overall the Sussex is a productive and low maintenance chicken that will make a wonderful addition to your flock.

Let us know your questions about this breed in the comments section below…

Chris Lesley Bio Picture
Chris Lesley has been Raising Chickens for over 20 years and is a fourth generation chicken keeper. She can remember being a young child when her grandad first taught her how to hold and care for chickens. She also holds a certificate in Animal Behavior and Welfare and are interested in backyard chicken health and care. Her work has been shared on HuffPost, Mother Nature Network, Community Chickens, Mother Earth News and many more outlets. Today Chris keeps 11 chickens including 4 Buff Orpingtons, 4 Rhode Island Reds and 3 Silkies. She is our backyard chicken expert at Chickens And More, and shares her knowledge on raising healthy, happy chickens with our readers. You can contact Chris at chris@chickensandmore.com

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