A lifetime of Sussex bantams

Ducks 10-9-20 SM Farm

By DESY HORNER

What an interesting year it has been for all topic’s poultry. Throughout the

pandemic the demand for poultry and ban-tams in particular has been overwhelming.

One traditional breed in particular that came to the fore is the ‘Sussex’.

Many people are unaware that there are seven different varieties of Sussex.

All varieties are available in large and bantam. The varieties are Silver, Buff, Coronation, Brown, White, Speckled and the most well known, the Lights.

I have been fortunate in having had the privilege to have kept and bred four of the varieties in bantam – Silver, Speckled, Coronation and Light.

The Light has been a lifetime study for myself and I have bred and shown them now for 42 years, with great success.

I firmly believe that practical experience counts for a lot in any livestock breeding.

My experience is based purely on exhibition birds and not utility qualities, which many Sussex strains still maintain.

When describing birds it is always a great choice to have birds at hand to talk about. Unfortunately, in this instance that is not possible. Therefore, I have the next best thing, ‘pictures’.

I am now going to describe, as best as possible, the standard features which makes a quality Light Sussex show specimen and potential winner.

Picture one shows a young cockerel showing a nice flat back, with a very small rise on his main tail feathers. He clearly shows what is termed ‘brick shaped’, which is the body type required in Sussex.

The body should be deep, filling a grown man’s hand with a good sound broad back.

Picture two shows another young cockerel standing on a perch, clearly showing his cape (neck/hackle) feathers completely closed around his neck, no gap or split and a clear distinction of black and white.

Picture three shows the open tail of a young male indicating no white in feathers. The 14 main tail feathers should be black with a green sheen to the top side and clear of any white lacing.

Coming to the wing, which has always caused controversy, the written standard is ‘white with black in flights’. No amount is stipulated, but the more black is preferred. This is clear to see in picture four. It has to be stated it must be black, not a grisly grey or a dark brown.

Picture five shows a very well laced cape on a young pullet. It can be seen that the black goes right up to the base of the comb. Many birds appear white to the head, this is another fault to look out for. You can also see how well the cape encloses the neck, without split or gap. The feathers lie very well over each other and show the lacing sitting in clean neat rows.

When it comes to the actual colouring of the cape, the standard requires the centre of each feather to be black with a green sheen. The black centre to be completely surrounded by a white margin.

Pictures six and seven shows this and also shows the sexual differences in the cockerel and pullet feather.

The cockerel has a slight taper to the coming end of feather and finishes in a small point. It should not taper from base of feather the full length, making it like an arrow, this is a bad fault and needs to be avoided.

We can see with the pullets feathers parted how well the feather is laced and how the white lacing envelopes the black centre.

The legs should be of good solid bone with strong round shanks and evenly straight and spread toes.

Always bear in mind the colours in the Light Sussex are White, Black with a green lustre and a fresh red head and face.

I have enjoyed a very long association with the breed and have enjoyed it immensely.

It is still very hard not to admire a group of young lights starting to mature on a tidy green lawn.

This season has been kind to me, having bred and raised 37 youngsters.

The coming weeks shall see me disperse my flock of light bantams to concentrate on my other breeds. I sincerely hope that those eight fanciers who are taking them on get the enjoyment and continued success that I have had.

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