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Ardchattan parish : Benderloch, Barcaldine, North connel, Bonawe - Past and Present
Kintaline 2016 : we still sell Muirfield Black Rocks but no longer have the old utility pure breeds - please enjoy our information. : Chickens : Utility breeds : Light Sussex
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This English heavy breed has been around since the turn of the century but the roots of the breed go back to Roman civilisations in England, as domesticated poultry crossed the continents from Indo-China. At first, Sussex were primarily a table fowl, but the valuable resource they offer in terms of egg production was not overlooked by prewar breeders who fashioned laying strains. In the last few decades, there have sadly been almost no good table strains maintained, although a few of us are working hard to rectify this with small flocks. There are no longer any large commercial table Light Sussex available. But there is plenty of demand. Most birds are all fluff and feather, and completely unselected. Nice birds, but no use for putting useful food on the table.
In the US, Speckled, Red, and Light Sussex are recognised, while the British recognise several more varieties, including Buff, Brown, and Silver. It is famous as a table fowl and the cockerels should weigh in at 9 pounds, with the hens reaching 7 pounds.
The Light Sussex has been used widely in the development of sex-linked hybrids for commercial laying flocks. They can be an excellent laying breed, if the productivity is worked on in any particular strain. Their eggs range in colour from creamy ~ light brown. They do sometimes go broody, and can be improved to be good winter layers. There are probably more decent egg laying strains now of the Light Sussex, than good table strains. Its only in the past very few years that anyone has been interested in chooks for the table, but traditional layers have been in demand more. This is reflected in the breeding that is available.
90% of Light Sussex, and MORE of the rest of the breed, will not have been selected for meat or eggs, so, while being very attractive birds, will be very disappointing layers and worse carcasses. Without strong improving selection they will be slow slow at putting on meat, while quick enough at creating lots of skeleton and feather, so it can be months before they are a good meal, by which time they are boot leather tough.
It is now rare to find any true Utilitarian Sussex - a type we have been working on, to be well suited for a balance of backyard practicality and production. The selection behind these has improved the egg numbers significantly, but more important has developed the walking dinner - hens and cockerels who, you can see, are good weights, as they come towards you. By selecting the right birds to put their genetics into the next generation, the strain has been improved to produce a good weight before 18 weeks old. This makes the meat useful for a much wider range of recipes than old, over 5 month old birds, who are cassoulet and little more.
click here for some other musings and notes on the future of utility light sussex breeding especially the meat production traits - any input would be most welcome especially from breeders from days gone by :~))
Our young birds at 16 weeks
Light Sussex have been used in a number of breeding programmes over the years.
If Light Sussex hens, which are considered to be silver lines are crossed with a gold coloured male - commonly a Rhode Island Red but can include a Buff Sussex, this results in all the cockerel (male) chicks having whitish grey or pale brown down, whereas the pullets (females) have reddish-brown or buff down.
This has been popular in the past to enable smallholders and farmers to identify the future laying stock and those that were for the pot.
The feather colouring has also been used to help identify the sexes in marans at day old, using a first cross bird back to a pure marans. Unfortunately this has tended to result in a loss in the depth of the dark marans egg colour and also in yields- there are few really productive Light Sussex lines left in the UK.
Tim and Jill Bowis
Kintaline Mill Farm,
Benderloch, OBAN Argyll PA37 1QS Scotland
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