Poultry Profile: The Beloved Speckled Sussex Heritage Breed

The most popular color variation of the Sussex breed in the U.S., the Speckled Sussex is a versatile heritage breed with tons of personality.

by Erin Snyder
PHOTO: images by Erin Snyder

Speckled Sussex chickens are gaining popularity in small backyard flocks across America. These speckled beauties are perfect for people desiring a cold- or heat-hardy chicken that excels at egg laying. With these traits, it’s easy to see why the speckled Sussex is gaining popularity.

But what else is making the speckled Sussex breed a popular choice for backyard flocks?


Bred in the mid-1800s in Sussex, England, the breed was initially developed as a meat bird. Before Cornish Rocks gained popularity, Sussex was the primary meat bird of England.

Even though the Sussex’s original purpose was to be a meat bird, they are not prone to the health issues often occurring with Cornish Rocks.


The Sussex comes in a variety of colors: speckled, red, light, Columbian buff and white. The striking speckled—a mahogany color with each feather ending in a black bar and white speckle—is the most popular color in the U.S. With each passing molt, the speckles become more numerous.

Speckled Sussex heritage chicken breed

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Meat & Egg Production

Sussex chickens make an excellent choice for the table. They are known to have incredibly tender meat, especially when butchered at a young age. Each chicken should average a dressed weight of 6 to 7 pounds. However, speckled Sussex are slower to mature than Cornish Rock crosses (averaging 20 weeks to reach butchering age).

This trait puts them at a disadvantage to faster-growing breeds, who reach butchering age in 9 weeks.

Speckled Sussex are excellent egg producers who will lay eggs without declining for several years. Each hen averages four to five light brown eggs per week for the first four to five years of her life.


If you are looking for a pet chicken, you don’t have to look any further than the speckled Sussex. These hens crave human interaction and will do anything to get attention. Sussex are chatty, curious, friendly, intelligent and energetic.

They love being the center of attention. They also love to be held and will carry on animated conversations with their owners.

Hens of this breed are very energetic and benefit from directly supervised free-ranging. Even so, they still tolerate confinement well if allowed to stretch their legs. If bored, they often will find ways to entertain themselves. Sussex can bully other flock members when bored, so provide lots of mental stimulation.

Providing Entertainment

The Border Collies of the chicken world, Sussex are intelligent and energetic hens who require physical and mental stimulation. Providing your hens with fun activities will keep these chickens healthy and happy.

If you have a bored Sussex, try one of the ideas below.

Fresh Straw

Putting clean straw in your coop or run will provide chickens with endless entertainment. Even when your other breeds have tired of the game, your Sussex will continue to scratch happily through the straw.

Because if there is anything a Sussex likes to do, it’s scratch.

Chicken Swings & Perches

Speckled Sussex chickens like to know what is happening in the world around them. Having perches and swings for them to sit on and watch the world go by is another way to enrich their lives.

Teach Your Chickens Tricks

Speckled Sussex are intelligent chickens and can learn commands and tricks. You can teach your hen or rooster to come when called, follow you around, and hop up on your lap. Some Sussex will even stroll around their yard with their favorite human.

Speckled Sussex heritage chicken breed

Health Concerns & Lifespan

Speckled Sussex are very healthy and hardy chickens so long as they maintain a healthy weight. They are, however, prone to overeating and obesity.

To help prevent obesity in your chickens, feed them a proper diet and allow plenty of exercise.  Feed Sussex twice daily versus unlimited free choice feedings.  This practice will keep your girls from doing unnecessary “snacking” (yes, chickens do snack). Provide feed to chicks, growing pullets and cockerels at all times.

When allowed to become obese, Sussex hens are more prone to oviduct prolapse and egg binding.

Speckled Sussex lives an average of six to eight years, providing you with lots of fresh eggs, love and entertainment. So, what are you waiting for? Give these friendly, energetic chickens a try. You’ll be so glad you did.

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