Sussex Standards 2016
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The Striking Sussex
By Grant Andrews
"Chicken Chat" February 1996
In the introduction to the Sussex breed in the British Poultry Standard it states; "
This is a very old breed, for although we do not find it included in the first Book of Standards of 1865, yet at the first poultry show of 1845 the classification included Old Sussex or Kent Fowls, Surrey Fowls and Dorkings".
However in these days the classification Sussex included birds with various characteristics of shape and colour.
Heathfield in Sussex was the traditional centre for fattening poultry for the London market and producers rearing from a few dozen birds up to thousands all looked for two important characteristics in their fowls - good laying qualities so as to produce the maximum number of chicks, and an ability to fatten into a quality table bird.
The development of these somewhat nondescript birds into what we know as the Sussex is largely the result of a suggestion made by Edward Brown, who was a well-known identity in the English poultry fancy at the turn of the century, to a meeting of farmers in Lewes, Sussex in 1903.
A well known local farmer, Mr. D.J .Wadman promised that he would discuss the matter of drafting a “Sussex Standard” with other local farmers. It is well documented that considerable publicity and correspondence on the subject followed.
After some three months of work a Standard for the Sussex was thrashed out and the Speckled, Light and Red were accepted as the Standard colours. The Sussex was officially recognised as a breed at the Lewes Fanciers' Association in 1903.
Originally there was considerable opposition to including the Light in the initial Standard. However, time has proven it to be the most popular in both commercial and exhibition circles. Its roles in producing sex-linked chicks was especially important .for the development of the commercial poultry industry.
This involved the mating of Light Sussex Hens with a genetically "gold" Cock, eg Rhode Island Red or Indian Game, which results in chicks which could easily be sexed at birth by their down colour.
Cockerel chicks could be easily sexed at birth and reared for fattening by specialist table bird producers.
The pullets of some crosses made good general purpose layers.
Soon after the original three Standard colours were admitted, Brown was also admitted, followed by Buff, White (which was a sport from the Light) and Silver.
The Speckled is recognised as being the oldest of the varieties and is Standardised as being a rich mahogany ground colour, each feather of which is tipped with a small white spot, with a narrow band of black separating the white from the mahogany.
The Speckled is a beautiful bird but its numbers in Australia are not strong. Dedicated breeders persevere with it but often fail to make progress.
The Light is by far the most common in Australia and was very popular commercially as a good dual purpose fowl. Some strains could put up a record of around 200 eggs per year and it had really useful table qualities.
The Sussex Light breed is still kept by a large number of breeders and is fairly popular with backyard poultry keepers. Its attractive and striking appearance, white body colour, with the hackle in both the male and female being striped with black and a black tail, appeals to many people.
Very few of the other colour varieties make an appearance with the exception of a few large Silvers which are occasionally shown.
The Sussex Standard emphasises the utility qualities of the breed:
"back broad and flat",
"breast broad and square",
"long and straight, deep breastbone",
All varieties are single combed with face, lobes and wattles red. Feet and shanks are white as are the flesh and skin.
Although the Sussex generally won't produce quite as many eggs for the home enthusiast as say a hybrid layer, [cross breed] it does offer a bird that will lay a reasonable number of eggs, produce good table birds from excess cockerels and will usually provide its own broodies to hatch and rear the chicks for you.
"Chicken Chat" February 1996