Speckled Sussex: Egg Production, Temperament and More…

The Speckled Sussex is an old time favorite in its homeland of England. It has endured over the centuries to become a firm favorite with a dedicated following.

Although it, and other varieties of Sussex fowl, was in danger of dying out in the early 1900s, a few die hard poultry keepers kept the lines going, greatly improving on the stock in hand to give us the robust, healthy stock that we have today.

If you’re looking for general information about the Sussex Chicken breed, read our complete care guide here.

In this article we are going to give you all the information you need to decide if this ancient heritage bird is right for you. Including, its: history, appearance, general temperament, egg laying, common illnesses and much more…

Background and Breed History

Speckled Sussex HistoryNo one can be entirely sure when the speckled Sussex chicken first appeared. There are writings from the Roman invasion of Britain (A.D.43) that indicate that a similar chicken was to be found in England.

Whether this was the ancestor of the speckled Sussex is not known for certain, but it seems entirely plausible that it was; this is indeed an ancient fowl with history. The Romans were surprised that the native Britons did not view this bird as a source of regular food and so taught the people how to farm chickens.

We now fast forward to Victorian times when ‘hen fever’ had the UK and US in its grip. A group of birds called ‘Sussex or Kentish fowl’ were exhibited in the first ever poultry show in 1845.

The show was held at Regents Park Zoo and attracted a huge turnout. This was the first public outing of the bird that was to become known as the speckled Sussex.

The speckled Sussex was originally raised in the south eastern counties of Sussex and Kent for meat – supplying London with plump, juicy chickens that were said to be fine and delicate eating. The roosters were caponized, fattened up and sold as large roasters, they were much in demand as the capons were force fed milk and ground oats and grew to be very large for a chicken.

During World War 2 the speckled Sussex, other Sussex varieties and the Rhode Island Reds were the principal breeds that kept Britain in chicken meat and eggs through the wartime shortages.

Speckled Sussex Purchase Speckled Sussex Chickens

Breed Standard and Appearance

Speckled Sussex AppearanceThe speckled Sussex breed appearance as we know it today was finally ‘set’ in the late 1800s and the standard was sent to the PCGB and accepted in the early 1900s’.

The standard for the speckled Sussex was drawn up in 1902 in England, along with the red and light varieties of Sussex hen. The speckled is thought to be the oldest variety of Sussex hen.

Over the Victorian period, much modification was done to the appearance of the breed until it was decided that the hen was ‘perfect’.

The Poultry Club of Great Britain denotes them as a heavy, soft feather breed. The American Poultry Association recognized the breed in 1914 and denotes them as English class.

There are bantam speckled Sussex but they are incredibly hard to find. There are very few breeders so some lines have had genetic issues.

The feather pattern of the speckled Sussex is quite stunning. The base color is a rich and dark mahogany. Each feather is white tipped and separated from the mahogany by a black bar with iridescent overtones of green. The pattern gets more vibrant and outstanding every year too.

This coloration pattern gives the bird a great camouflage when out free ranging.

Their wattles, comb and ear lobes are all red – indicating in this case brown eggs. The comb is of the single variety. The beak is horn colored.

They have white legs, feet and skin. There are 4 toes to each foot. The legs are short with stout, muscular thighs. They should have a broad and flat back with a broad and deep chest.

Speckled Sussex Temperament and Disposition

Speckled SussexThey have a very even temperament – they are calm, friendly and docile. They will follow you around the garden talking to you if they think you have some treats for them!

Curious by nature, they can sometimes get themselves into mischief but they are very resourceful birds and cold hardy as well. They will tolerate confinement well, but if they are allowed to free range they will excel at it, reducing your feed bill substantially and removing pests from the garden.

Perhaps because of their easy going temperament, they are usually fairly low on the pecking order and can be subjected to bullying with larger more assertive birds.

Egg Laying and Broodiness

The speckled Sussex is an excellent layer, averaging 4-5 large, brown eggs per week. They are reputed to lay well through the winter months perhaps taking only a pause for the molt.

Speckled Sussex have a tendency towards broodiness, they set well and make fine mothers.

When raised as a meat bird, the Sussex dresses out at a very decent 7lb for hens and 9lb for roosters.

The taste of the meat is exceptional although the American market generally prefers a slightly darker color of meat. The speckled Sussex has tender pinkish/white meat.

In terms of reaching maturity, for a heritage fowl the Sussex variety is relatively quick to mature – around 20 weeks or so. The speckled Sussex takes a little longer to mature.

Common Health Issues

Speckled Sussex in SnowThe speckled Sussex is quite a robust bird tolerating a wide variety of circumstances from free range to confinement. It tolerates the cold very well but does not like the heat too much as their feathers are quite dense.

Shade and cool water should always be available for these chickens at all times.

It does not suffer from any particular types of ailment other than the usual chicken problems such as lice and mites etc.

Is the Speckled Sussex Right For You?

In its’ homeland, it is not as popular as the light Sussex, but here in the US it is very popular.

The birds’ popularity can be explained by their thriftiness. She lays a lot of eggs, the meat is delicate, and she is a great forager and is tolerant of a wide range of climates.

As a good forager she will keep your food bill down to a minimum if she is allowed to roam the pasture. It is a friendly and docile hen that is well suited for small children and families and will enjoy being one of the family.

Speckled Sussex enjoy chatting with you, they can become firm family favorites and even enjoy lap time with you.

The speckled Sussex is a mellow bird and as such is very suitable for a farming or 4H project for young farmers.

Summary

The Speckled Sussex is a beautiful hen to look at with her camouflage feathering. This variety of Sussex hen was endangered until fairly recently.

The surge in backyard chickens has saved this breed of hen from obscurity and now the American Livestock Breed Conservancy list it as ‘recovering’.

People have discovered that this heritage bird has a lot going for it!

This old time breed is being discovered by a whole new group of chicken keepers and enjoying a resurgence of popularity. This is great news for such an unassuming chicken whose ancestors hung around with the Romans!

If you have a Speckled Sussex we would love to hear from you. Leave your comments in the section below…

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Comments

  1. Laurie says

    Mine are just 2 weeks old so I don’t have a lot of comments about them … yet, but they are an absolutely gorgeous bird! Everything I read about them is wonderful so I can’t wait until they come and garden with me!

  2. Kimberly says

    I love my Speckled Sussex! They are the sweetest, friendliest girls in my flock. They will jump up on my shoulder when I open the nest box to collect eggs.

    • DEW says

      These are the friendliest chatty birds I have ever had. They come right up to people and will eat treats right from your fingers. A really beautiful bird

  3. Dwaine R Kimmick says

    Do you have a resource for finding breeders for those of us looking for them? I live in New Mexico and I don’t know who in the area would have them. Thanks for your wonderful blog.

  4. Cathyharrell says

    I had two roosters one was sweet the other I called Dumpling made my life exciting every time I walked to the trash pit. He thought that was his territory. I miss him. I thinks coyotes got him.

  5. Maria Latino says

    Are these birds less likely to be preyed upon by hawks since they’re a larger bird? My golden comets are fully grown and hawks like to go after them and so far have been able to keep them safe. One even tried to fight the hawk until she realized what she was up against. Luckily I was home to see this unfold and ran outside to scare the hawk away.

  6. willi hilliard says

    I have cocku Marans and they are so sweet and friendly and look so much like your speckled Sussex. Are they related? They have stopped laying for about 10 days. Help also the one egg they lay is eaten before I can get it?

  7. Mark Richardson Sr says

    I got mine from my cousin at 8 weeks old and I have had them for about 6 weeks now . Just love watching them grow , can’t wait until they start laying .I have 5 hens and want to get more .

  8. Natalie Ball says

    I have two. Of course their names are Harry and Meg! They are so sweet! And so very handsome! And you are so right about them being chatty and Meg loves to be held!

  9. Deborah says

    I have 2 Speckled Sussex hens (7 mos) Violet and Sunny. They are so talkative and social and come running every time the year see me. We thought we were losing one (Violet) a few weeks ago, but vitamins, fruit, and whole milk plain yogurt turned her around! Of the breeds I have (also have Wyandottes and Australorps) the Sp Sussex are my favorite

  10. Sue Dickerson says

    I have 8 Buff Orpingtons, 6 Speckled Sussex and 6 Black Australops. One Buff Rooster and one speckled rooster. All of them are friendly and will do just about anything to get dried meal worms. I got mine from Cackle Hatchery and they all lived. They were born in early March and they have been laying eggs for about 2 months. I wasn’t expecting them to lay this early. But they lay between 12 and 18 eggs a day. Most of the eggs are still on the small size. Will they get larger as my ladies get older? And since we live in Florida I have fans that come on and turn off on a timer. My run is about 40 x 50 so I bought an aviary net to go over the top to keep the hawks away. So far so good. My first attempt at raising eggs.

  11. Carrie says

    I have two speckled Sussex that I brought to my brand new coop in April (along with 4 Easter Eggers). It took forever for anybody to start laying and finally in late August I started getting eggs….one at a time. Then a couple of days later another egg. The first eggs were a cream color- I wouldn’t say brown. I had introduced a second set of birds to my coop in July (brahmas and barred Plymouth Rock and one Cochin roo.)
    Finally a couple of weeks later I found a green egg- I knew this was on the the EE. About a week later the light cream colored eggs began to reappear. Finally I started getting a consistent 2 eggs per day- then noticed that 2 of my EE and one Plymouth Rock were indeed roosters… ?
    I contacted the initial purchase lady to see if I could switch out one rooster. I ended up bringing home three new birds- but older. (1.5 years). Now the cream colored eggs are MIA again… is the common for Sussex?

  12. Sharon says

    I started with 4 Speckled Sussex to add to my flock last year. Next year I’m ordering 25 more! They’re friendly, stunning, good layers, and free range with good camouflage! My favorites!

  13. Irene says

    I added 6 speckled sussex hens in 2017 to my small, free ranging, flock of black sex link and new hampshire reds. They are by far my top foragers, but because of their independence they seem to be the first to be picked off by the fox and bobcat. I am now down to three. They also seem to want to lay in the woods more although I think this may be because they are bullied by the other hens some. I still really love the bred though.

  14. Helen Downey says

    I have one beautiful Speckled Sussex, Sophia Lorhen! She is simply a joy to own. Due to rural location and inherent predators, my small mixed flock can’t free range 24-7, so they make the best of their daily free time. Sophia can be foraging at the wood line or out of sight in the vast yard, but the minute I call her name, she comes running with the speed to match a cheetah! Loves to hop up on my knee and be petted. I will definitely get more SS hens when time to rejuvenate my flock.

  15. Amethyst says

    I have a speckled Sussex rooster who is very gentle and sweet. He’s not aggressive or anything. He used to be at the bottom of the pecking order when he was just a chick but now he rules the flock haha. I taught him some tricks when he was younger such as jumping to catch treats in middair but he grew out of that. He’s bigger than the other chooks I have who are anconas and australorps hens, he is as tall as my knee. Very handsome too. Apparently this breed is very difficult to get where I am in Perth, but I would definitely recommend them as pets. I’d love to get a bantam one in the future!

  16. Angela Scott says

    I have 3 speckled sussex pullets. Very gentle & follow me everywhere. Lovley birds, exciting waiting for them to lay their first egg

  17. Sherry says

    My Speckled Sussex girls are the favorite pals of my grandchildren. Very gentle and chatty. Sparkletta is the grand Dame of the coop and is nearing 8 years old. Is this an unusual age for this wonderful breed?

  18. Gloria says

    I’ve always had some speckled sussex hens in my flock, and I am so surprised that they are not more popular. They have a lovely temperament — curious but not nervous, very social, and beautiful. I would strongly recommend them to anyone looking for chickens that would make good pets as well as layers.

    I agree they are great foragers. They are more inclined to go exploring in the woods than most of my other birds, which can make them more vulnerable to predators, but I haven’t lost too many.

    The one thing that surprised me in the article here was the idea that they have a hard time with the heat and are good with the cold. I have never thought of them as particularly sensitive to heat, but of my birds they are the quickest to show annoyance with the cold — sitting around puffed up into round balls as soon as the temperature drops to near freezing. I always feel for them, and figured this is perhaps why they are not more commonly owned in my area (Iowa). But I’ve never had one get sick, or develop frostbite, and they seem to be good winter layers, so I continue to get them.

  19. Alan says

    We have a very special Speckled Sussex. When a couple of weeks old Pearl had what we think was a small stroke resulting in a “goose step walk” and she cannot roost so sleeps on the floor of the roost. She cannot walk up or down the ramp to the roost so after much consideration she takes a leap and fly/hops down the ramp or flies up into the roost. Her idea of scratching is standing at my feet until I till up the ground so she can find the worms as she will fall over if she scratches to vigorously. And last, after a year she has only laid two eggs but the other girls are good layers so not concerned about her egg production. She is so sweet and happy to be around she is worth the extra attention.

  20. Janet Pratt says

    I’m a real estate agent and was taking a listing in a heavy traffic, densely populated section of Reno. I had 14 girls at home already. I was doing paperwork with the wife inside and heard a chicken carrying on outside, the dogs barking and the husband calling them. I went out to find feathers everywhere, and the man halfheartedly telling his dogs to leave the chicken alone. We got her cornered and he picked her up and having no idea where she came from, declared his intention to throw her out in the street. I went nose to nose with him, looked him in the eye and said, “Give. Me.The. Chicken. He reluctantly handed her over. She was young and just skin and bones. I thought she was quite elegant but had no idea what kind she is. I isolated her for a couple weeks, but now she’s started laying and is fitting in quite nicely. And today I found out I have a Spotted Sussex, named Lucky.

  21. jason northwood says

    I have a mixed flock of 8 and 2 of them are speckled Sussex. out of all the birds these 2 are the most talkative, load, challenging girls, and they always have to have the last word. what I do love about these 2 is they are much more weary of what is going on around and above them, always the first to call out when there is a predator land or sky. oh and yes they are so pretty.

  22. Mona Shimon says

    Just after Easter 2019, I purchased 16 new chicks.5 ss.3 died. The first night, I think the bigger CHICKS played on them.of the other 2 one grew normally, the last one stayed tiny. I thought, could this be a phantom that was mixed in? He is 18 weeks old, he still is peeping like a small chick. He is about 1 pound or a little less. Some way they mixed Bantom in with the regular sized Speckled Sussex clicks. I am not sure if he will ever get any larger, but he is a nice little rooster. We named him Mr. PEEPERS, DUE TO HE CAN ONLY KEEP
    Has any one ever heard of this WITH S S CHICKS before ?

  23. Steven Stewart says

    We just acquired or first chickens, layers, in March. We’re hoping to see eggs by the end of the month. Somehow, yay, we got a bantam speckked Sussex. We named her Tucson. She looked like a roadrunner when young and I was born there. We will try to get more. She’s great.

  24. Angie Brand says

    I’ve got a speckled Sussex, she’s about 6 months old and have only gotten 1 egg from her. Ie got 2 white Longhorns and 2 Easter Eggers. Am getting 2 white and 1 green eggs daily but don’t know why I’m not getting more. Is it because they are not old enough yet?

  25. Emily says

    We have recently hatched speckled Sussex chicks, but they are no where near as stunning as their parents. They are a lot lighter in colour and have far more white on them. Some have large white patches on their backs. Is this normal or have we been hopped somewhere along the line with Sussex that are not really pure bred like we were told?

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