Sussex Chicken Vs. Rhode Island Red [How To Tell The Difference]

Make your way into Tractor Supply or any agricultural retail store, and chances are, you are going to hear the adorable little chirps of baby chickens. They are hard to resist, and while you may want to take them all home, it’s good to know a bit about the different breeds. 

Today, we will be looking specifically at the Sussex and the Rhode Island Red. How are they different, and what makes them great additions to your flock?

Sussex Vs. Rhode Island Red (How to Spot the Difference)

Several things make the Sussex different from the Rhode Island Red. However, at first glance, you will notice the difference in looks. The Sussex comes in several colors, while the Rhode Island Red is always a reddish-brown color.

However, there are several other ways to tell the difference between the two birds. Let’s take a more in-depth view of both breeds.

Best Qualities of the Sussex

  • Excellent egg production
  • Can be used for eggs and meat
  • Great temperament
  • Excellent with children and first-time chicken keepers

Best Qualities of the Rhode Island Red

  • Excellent Egg Production
  • Hardy in all types of weather
  • Extremely friendly
  • Can be used for eggs and meat

History of the Breeds

Each breed of chicken has a unique history which can tell a lot about them.


speckled Sussex

The Sussex is perhaps one of the oldest breeds of chickens, possibly dating back to the 10th century. Originating in the English county of Sussex, this chicken breed was first shown in 1845 at a poultry show at the London Zoo. It was also known as the Kent Fowl and Old Sussex.

Breed standards were recognized in 1902, with red, light, and speckled coloring. In 1920, the buff variety was introduced, followed by white and silver.

Until World War II, the Sussex was one of the most popular meat birds in England. 

Rhode Island Red

Like its name’s sake, the Rhode Island Red was born and bred in Rhode Island and parts of Massachusetts during the latter part of the 19th century. 

History isn’t set on where they got their name, but it was either from a Little Compton farmer named Isaac Champlin Wilbour or a gentleman with the surname of Jenny, who was associated with the Southern Massachusetts Poultry Association.

Some Rhode Island Reds were first shown in Philadelphia in 1895 and were also known as Tripp Fowls. In 1898, the breed standards were designated and soon approved a few years later, in 1901, by the American Rhode Island Red Club of Boston.

The American Poultry Association recognizes the single and rose comb variety.

Size and Appearance of the Breeds

Their size may be almost the same, but they differ significantly in looks.


Sussex are average-sized chickens, usually weighing between 6-and 7 pounds, with the male being a bit heavier.

They are recognized in several colors; coronation, brown, buff, red, light, silver, speckled, and white. She may change in appearance as she ages, specifically the speckled. 

After each molt, the white tips of her feathers will develop more, giving her more speckles with each passing year. Her wattle and comb are almost always a deep red.

Rhode Island Red

Rhode Island Red

Rhode Island Reds are on the bigger side, weighing between 6-and 8.5 pounds. She is full of reddish-brown plumage with either a rose or a single deep red comb. Her tail is almost always black, and her eyes are a beautiful orange color.

The temperament of the Breeds

Both the Sussex and the Rhode Island Red are friendly birds who will be a positive addition to most flocks.


The Sussex is a docile, calm, and friendly bird who will quickly become your friend. They thrive on human contact, and you’ll notice they are more than happy to follow you around the yard.

She is terrific with children and is an excellent choice among folks with kids and pets alike. 

The Sussex is curious by nature, which can get them in a bit of trouble. But for the most part, they are reserved and enjoy spending their day foraging for worms in your yard and garden. So don’t be surprised if you find her to be one of the fairly vocal members of the flock, especially when she lets everyone know she has laid an egg.

She does tend to go broody, which can be a positive if you are trying to hatch your own eggs or want baby chicks. They also make excellent mothers due to their peaceful disposition. 

One of the downfalls to the personality of the Sussex is that she tends to be submissive and may become bullied or henpecked by more aggressive breeds. 

Rhode Island Red

When it comes to the personality of the Rhode Island Red, expect a mixed bag. While they can be fairly docile, for the most part, you’ll notice she is more on the assertive side. 

The Rhode Island Red is a curious bird with a friendly personality. However, she can be a bit pushier than other breeds and knows her place in the flock.

The Rhode Island Red is a lovable and friendly bird that will easily bond with one special person when it comes to people. We had one named Honey, who followed my daughter everywhere she went!

While hens are fairly pleasant to be around, the same cannot be said for the rooster. They are great protectors of the flock but can also be aggressive around people and should be carefully considered if you have small children.

One thing you will notice about Rhode Island Reds, is they are anything but quiet. Make sure you are okay with constant chattering and bragging before adding one to your flock!

They are happy looking for bugs and other tasty bits and have also been known to take a shot at wild mice or other small rodents.

She doesn’t tend to go broody very often, but they will dedicate their days to sitting on their nest when they do. They can also be protective mothers.

Rhode Island Reds are one of the more aggressive breeds and should not be placed with breeds that are prone to being bullied as they certainly fall under the category of “mean girls” when it comes to the rest of the flock.


How do the Sussex and Rhode Island Reds hold up to different climates? 


The Sussex does well in confinement and is an excellent breed for the colder months due to her hardiness. 

Rhode Island Red

While she may not be as happy in confinement as other breeds, she is certainly tough through harsh winters due to her New England upbringing. 

Health of the Breeds

How healthy are these breeds, and how is their egg production?


The Sussex is a robust breed with very few health problems if taken care of. She is also an excellent egg layer and will happily give you large cream-colored eggs, averaging about 240 a year. She will also continue to lay throughout the winter. 

Rhode Island Red

The Rhode Island Red is also an extremely hardy bird that will give you very little problems if she is properly cared for. She can produce up to 300 large brown eggs a year and will continue to lay during the winter. 

Final Word

If you want to expand or add to your flock of chickens, both the Sussex and Rhode Island Red make excellent choices. Both are hardy, well-mannered, and will give you a bounty of fresh eggs. 

The Sussex is a bit more docile and may make a better choice if you have small children or pets.

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