Greenfire Farms imported chickens for the first time in 2007, and the first breed we imported was Sussex from Australia. Included in this shipment of Sussex were two varieties previously unseen in America: coronations and silvers. Not only were these varieties new, but the Australian birds were unusually large and beautiful examples of the breed. The newly imported birds caused a stir in the poultry world at the time, and their effect continues unabated today.
Of course, the story of the Sussex begins many years before we first imported these birds. In fact, to study this breed is to understand that these birds are engaged in a slow march around the globe that began thousands of years ago. Descendants of the ancient fowl brought to England by Roman invaders, the Sussex chicken emerged as a distinct breed in Sussex County, England almost two hundred years ago. The breed became standardized in 1903. They are a dual-purpose breed; prolific egg layers and a fine meat bird. Sussex hens lay upwards of 250 large, off-white colored eggs each year. With their pearlescent legs, these huge birds have a striking and regal appearance in the barnyard. Their behavior, too, is remarkable. More than most chicken breeds, Sussex exude a quiet confidence and an open curiosity about humans. Even as chicks, while other breeds scramble to be distant from their human caretakers, Sussex actually approach humans with a frank inquisitiveness that is as endearing as it is unusual.
There are eight color varieties of Sussex: light, buff, coronation, silver, speckled, white, red, and brown. Prior to 2007, four color varieties were represented in America: light, red, speckled, and buff. When we imported the coronations and silvers in the summer of that year, we created a sensation in the poultry world because of the remarkable appearance of these birds. Coronations have lavender hackles and tail feathers, and silvers have a kaleidoscopic pattern of black, whites, grays, and silvers. The hens lay large cream-colored eggs. They are gentle fowl and do well in the backyard flock.