Birds fly, bats fly, butterflies fly, bees fly, and mosquitoes fly. Pretty much everything with wings flies. Looking up into the sky, you’re bound to see something buzzing around up there. What about Sussex chickens? Do they fly? If so, how high?
How High Can Sussex Chickens Fly?
Dual-purpose birds like the Sussex chickens are fat-bodied birds, which prevent them from flying high. These qualities make them low maintenance, as you won’t be required to install a high fence.
When looking into how high up a Sussex chicken can get in the air, a few things come into play here.
What are Sussex chickens? How heavy are they? Can they fly for short heights and distances? If they can, why do or don’t they?
Plus, what size of fence will you need to keep them contained?
Let’s dive in and take a look!
Sussex chickens were bred in Sussex, UK.
They are perfect companion chickens as they show a genuine interest in people, other chickens, and the world around them, not to mention they are beautiful chickens!
In the U.S., the most commonly kept Sussex chicken is the Speckled Sussex. They have a mahogany base and white spangles with little black bands on some of their feathers.
They lay many eggs a week and will keep you smiling. They are kept for both meat birds and layer hens.
The only real concern with keeping Sussex chickens is that they notoriously do not do well in extreme heat.
They tolerate cold weather much better than they do hot weather, mostly because they are larger birds with lots of muscle.
Their body temperatures regulate around 104 degrees Fahrenheit, helping them maintain their body heat in colder climates.
They’re raptors, I tell you! The domestication of chickens goes back to around 2000 B.C. However, their ancestry can be charted back to a particular four different types of wild jungle fowl species within Southeast Asia.
Although there were four different types, the most common wild species of jungle fowl is the red jungle fowl. This is known today as the primary ancestor of the domesticated chicken.
Chickens are apart of the genus “Gallus” and belong to the family “Phasianidae.” Domesticated chickens are termed “Gallus Domesticus”.
Chickens became spread around the world due to the sport of cockfighting.
They were transported everywhere, and eventually, many cultures adopted the idea of keeping backyard flocks and chickens on a farm.
Chickens now come in many colors, species, and breeds.
Sussex Chicken Ancestry
In England, Sussex chickens are extremely popular. It was raised in the southeastern areas of Sussex and Kent in the U.K. for meat and food sources.
Fun fact: Throughout World War 2, the Sussex chicken was the primary breed, along with Rhode Island Reds, that provided Britain with meat and eggs for food.
Bantam Sussex vs. Standard Sussex
Sussex chickens come in different colors in brown, buff, white, silver, speckled, light, and red. This breed makes a great pet, because of their temperament.
They are white-skinned with four toes and a single comb. Their comb, wattles, and earlobes are red.
They are a broad, and stocky breed, considered to be rectangular in shape with large breasts. There are two different sizes of Sussex chickens: bantams and standard.
The bantam is on the smaller end and weighs between 1 and 2.5 pounds. A standard Sussex rooster can weigh up to almost 9 pounds!
However, due to their weight distribution and size, proportionally speaking, their weight makes it tricky to fly very high or very far for each bantam and standard.
Do Sussex Chickens Fly?
They do fly! Just not very high or far. After years of selective breeding (about 10 thousand), we have what we now know to be the domesticated chicken.
They have big bodies with wings on the smaller side. They weigh too much to get off the ground for an extended period to get very high up.
It would even be surprising if a Sussex chicken were able to fly over a six-foot fence! They take off with a push and glide to a halt a few feet away.
How Tall of A Fence Do You Need for Sussex Chickens?
Just because Sussex chickens can’t fly doesn’t mean they won’t jump a fence if they want to get out. Most breeds, dual-purpose heavy breeds, can jump a 4-foot fence if they are curious or motivated enough.
Usually, they will stay in the fenced-in area unless they are being chased by a predator, want to invade your garden, or are just trying to flee their enclosure.
If your Sussex chickens keep escaping, consider putting up a 6ft fence. However, before putting up a new fence, the fence parameters to ensure your chickens didn’t dig a hole.
Chickens can dig a hole under a fence without a lot of work, especially if the dirt is soft. Keeping chickens in their enclosure could be as easy as patching up a hole instead of spending money on a new fence.
Sussex Flight Explained
The modern chicken’s primary ancestor, the jungle fowl, would typically roost in trees and branches that were very low to the ground.
They would hop, fly, from one branch to the next and spend the rest of their time foraging down below.
They never needed to fly far distances. Over the years, evolution changed a few things on what we now know as the Sussex chicken.
They were bred to have larger breasts than the jungle fowl had. Because the breasts are mostly muscle, and muscle weighs a lot, it significantly weighs them down and keeps them from flying up very high or for a long distance.
However, don’t get us wrong; if your Sussex chicken gets excited and sees you heading out to the coop with a treat in your hand, she may get excited and “fly” a short distance over.
This flight is usually more of a hop, skip, and jump with some wing action. Nevertheless, it is flight.
Chickens today have short wings. It is known as vestigial, meaning they are shorter than they once were years ago.
The jungle fowl is believed to have had a wingspan around 75 centimeters. A Sussex chicken, standard size, is estimated to have a wingspan of only 45 centimeters.
With a wingspan, this short, staying in flight for a long duration is not possible.
Chickens are known to be more of a “burst” flyer. They get up in the air for short periods of time, and that is it! Their bone structure is also just not ideal for flight.
Their bones are very heavy, and their flight muscles are too big. Both of these added weights make getting up into the air reasonably tricky.
Another reason that Sussex chickens cannot fly is that their ability to fly has essentially been bred out of their bloodline and evolution due to selective breeding.
Adaptation has taken place to its fullest extent as well. Their food, for years and years, has been provided for them on the ground.
They have ramps leading up into their coops at night. Water is completely in their reach on the ground, and the roosts, for the most part, are in jumping and leaping range.
They do not need to catch flight for their day-to-day activities.
Protecting Your Sussex Chickens
If you are concerned about ensuring that your chickens do not escape over a short fence, you have two options here!
You can look into providing a large and covered run rather than free-ranging them in your chicken yard. This also keeps them a little more safe from predators, especially owls and hawks.
You can also consider clipping the wings of your chickens, but you must be very careful to do this safely, avoiding nicking a “blood feather” or injuring your chicken.
If you’re new to owning chickens, it’s important to understand how to clip their feathers, because you can easily hurt them if you don’t know what you’re doing.
You will probably see your Sussex chicken fly or attempt to fly at some point. As mentioned, it happens in bursts.
After thousands of years of selective breeding and adaptation, modern domesticated chickens cannot get themselves up in the air or keep themselves there for very long.
Especially the Sussex chickens. Their wingspans are far too short, and their bodies weigh too much. Sussex flight is short-lived and can be very entertaining to watch!