› Speckled Sussex

The Speckled Sussex:
a family-friendly chat-show host.

Well dressed, curious, chatty and always keen to entertain - this chicken is the Oprah of the poultry world.

I have to hold my hands up and admit it - I'm biased.  This is one of my very favourite of all chicken breeds.  Let me try to explain why, starting with just admiring how very pretty they are.  There's no mistaking that speckledy feathering.

Two Speckled Sussex hens at 22 weeks.

22 week old pullets.   The beautiful feather markings become more spectacular the older the birds are.

The Speckled Sussex at a glance.

  • Curious, chatty, friendly, loves being 'one of the family'.
  • Kind and gentle - a great 'starter chicken' for children.
  • Deals well with colder climates but also happy in the heat.
  • Excellent foragers for free-ranging but also happy to be confined in a smaller space.
  • Good egg layers, will continue to produce eggs even in cold weather.
  • Lovely feathering make them a very attractive addition to any backyard.

Keep reading for more detail.

Family history.

The Speckled Sussex has a long and illustrious family background.  Sussex is a county in south-eastern England and that's where this chicken comes from originally.  It's one of the oldest known breeds - there's evidence that the Romans found a similar breed when they invaded England over two thousand years ago.

For that reason it's known as a 'heritage' breed.  There's a school of thought that the Speckled variety was the original, sold for its meat at markets in England around the early 19th Century.  It was formally accepted as a standard variety in the early 20th Century and is now the most popular variety of Sussex in the United States, although the Light is more common in England.

What does it look like?

From the moment they're born there's no mistaking the feathering of this breed.  As a youngster, the dark chestnut-coloured markings, particularly around the eyes, are like a chipmunk - although some chicks will be lighter in colour.    Have a look at this video-clip for examples.  Along the back there are stripes of light and darker brown.

Three days old and the markings are unmistakable.

A Speckled Sussex chick, three days old

As the bird grows older the adult markings start to show.  When the feathers come in they're a beautiful mahogany colour, with some tipped in white and others separating out in black.

With age and with each moult, the white tips tend to multiply and the birds become more and more speckled - giving the breed its name.

Four weeks old and the spectacular feathering is showing clearly.

Speckled Sussex chicken breed at four weeks old

The Speckled Sussex is one of the most spectacular looking chicken breeds and for that reason, it's popular not only as a backyard chicken but as a show bird.

What about personality?

This breed perfectly fits the rhyme about "Sugar and spice and all things nice ..."

Cute, sweet, friendly, chatty, entertaining - there just aren't enough "nice" words to describe this hen.  You'll find her running to greet you in the mornings, sitting next to you as you work in your garden, chatting away as you sit in your garden together, singing a kind of warbling song when she's feeling particularly contented.  There's no greater antidote if you're feeling a bit down.

Even at 4 weeks old the Speckled Sussex likes to chatter!

One week old Speckled Sussex chick picture

Always first to want to know what's going on, the Speckled's natural curiosity can sometimes get the better of her.  If you're wanting time to yourself this is probably not the bird for you - she'll want to know what you're up to all the time!

Their calm and docile personality means that they're adaptable to most kinds of living arrangements.  They love to forage so make great free-rangers, but they're calm enough to be able to cope with a more confined space too - ideal if you don't have a lot of room.

Egg prodution.

The Speckled Sussex is a good egg layer and will keep laying even during cold weather, when many other breeds will stop.  You can expect one adult hen to lay around four or five large, light brown eggs each week.

Good points.

  • Lovely, quiet, cheerful companions for old and young alike.
  • Comically curious!
  • Hens may become broody and generally make good mothers, though not quite as good as Silkies.
  • Even roosters (cockerels) of this breed tend to be sweet-natured.
  • They're heavy birds and find it more difficult to fly than other breeds, so good if you need to keep them confined.
  • Good egg layers and also good if you want meat birds.
  • The speckled feathers give an element of camouflage - helpful if you have birds of prey around your coop.

A very typical look of curiosity - who could resist that face?!

8 week old curious Speckled Sussex chicken

Any problem areas?

The Speckled is so good-natured that she will naturally speaking be close to the bottom of the pecking order in a flock.  An eye just needs to be kept to make sure she's not being bullied mercilessly by the less good-hearted types!

Where to buy.

  • As with any poultry, you need to make sure you buy from a reputable breeder.  There are a lot of chickens out there described as a specific breed when they're actually a hybrid.
  • If you want chickens true to the breed, look out for the characteristics described above in the flock of the person you're buying from.
  • Make a judgement about the breeder.  Someone who is producing good, healthy birds will talk enthusiastically - even passionately - about them.
  • Never buy from websites such as e-bay or Craigslist.  There are some genuine sellers there, but more who will sell you infertile eggs or birds which are not the breed they're supposed to be.
  • The links below are a good start to contact breeders in America. 
  • Outside America, look in poultry magazines for breeders local to you.

A beautiful Speckled Sussex rooster, aged 22 weeks.

Speckled Sussex rooster

The Speckled itself doesn't have any specific associations or clubs - it's part of the generic "Sussex" group.  This link is for the American Sussex Association on Facebook - a lively community of Sussex-lovers with members from all over the world.  (It's a 'closed' group to make sure it's kept strictly to chicken-lovers, so you'll need to request to join).

For further, more detailed information about the breed, show standards and reputable breeders, try this link to the American Sussex Breeders Association.

The UK has no club website.  The address for the UK's Sussex Club can be found on this page of the website of the Poultry Club of Great Britain.

Want to see more?

Here's a short video of some Speckled Sussex chicks at just one day old.  You can see very clearly the distinctive 'chipmunk-like' markings.  Enjoy!

Please note :     Although the characteristics above are common across the breed, not every chicken will conform to them. Chickens, like people, are individuals.  You need to check with whoever you buy from - just ask about the kinds of physical and personality traits their flock has.

All the images on this page, unless otherwise stated, were taken by Dan Tappan at Flick'r and are used here with permission under the Creative Commons licence.  They can be re-used provided that attribution is properly given and the link maintained.  Thanks for your generosity, Dan!

Where would you like to go now?

If you're looking for a type of chicken which is good for the whole family, either of the two below are good choices.  Just click on the pic to go to pages like this one about these different breeds.

Red Star chickens link
Silkie chickens link

What do you think of the Speckled Sussex?

Tell me all - I'd love to hear from you!

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Link to Raising Happy Chickens home page.