Etheldred’s Changing Plumage

There are three Speckled Sussex hens in the Big Barn flock. Florence is the smallest and most uniformly speckled. Agatha is easy to spot from a distance – she’s the heavier hen that is gallumping around. In the barn, Agatha is the one up close and inquisitive. Etheldred is Agatha’s size, but her coloring is distinctive. It’s not up to breed standard. There’s too much white.

At a few month’s of age, Etheldred’s chest sported a white bib.




As she matured, more spots turned up on her brown feathers and the reverse happened on her chest, with more brown mingling in. Her head became white. I joked that she was a bald eagle.




I thought that after the first molt in 2012, that this would be Etheldred’s permanent look. She wouldn’t win any ribbons at a poultry show. She was more white and blotchy than what the “standard of perfection” calls for, but I thought her beautiful.

Etheldred 2011



Etheldred has just finished her second molt, and to my surprise, she has grown in even more white feathers, especially on her neck. I can sympathize. This year I’ve gone mostly grey.

Etheldred 2013


I wonder if, each year when Etheldred molts, that she will grow in more white feathers, until she has totally changed her plumage.

Have you ever had a hen that sported a different look after a molt?


  1. I have 2 Speckled Sussexs’ and they just went through thier first molt and they have both changed thier spots… It is pretty cool.

  2. I have a Speckled Sussex rooster, that other than his small spots, he has a lot of pure white like a band that only shows when he spreads his wings. I named him Lincoln. He has the most beautiful orange red, and bright aqua, dark turquoise blue feathers, too! This is a silly question, but do roosters molt?

  3. I think Etheldred is gorgeous too! It’s nice that you are able to differentiate between the different Speckled Sussex ladies! I was reading some literature about different breeds and they mention that Speckled Sussex go broody often. Has that been your experience?

  4. My Ancona hen(Kendal), is finishing her first moult and now has many more white spots then she started with.I think she is much prettier now. The speckled hens(i only have the 1), add so much character( Kendal is flighty but feisty) and beauty to the flock.

  5. I think she’s a beautiful hen! Bet you can’t wait to see what she’ll look like after her next molt :)

  6. Totally interesting! What a beautiful hen. I never knew colors would change like that with a molt.
    I expected to check in today and see Little Pond Farm with a blanket of white, and here you are 61º! Looks like everyone’s inside busy scratching in the new bedding. Fun!
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and Steve and family!

    • Today (the next day after this post) it is so cold that the wet ground has frozen and crunches underfoot. Snow expected later in the week.

  7. She’s beautiful! I think she’s prettier with each molt. Please note, Terry, I used to be Vicki in So. CA. I’ve moved to Washington state, and have changed name and email address. Loving it here!

  8. Terry
    Any Speckled Sussex I’ve owned changes with each molt. I have one that is 4 years old now and she is doing the opposite of Etheldred. My hen keeps getting darker.

  9. With your rabbit Phoebe it will be the opposite she will get darker on her points as she ages, I won’t be surprised if she becomes almost dark chocolate black on her ears, feet, face and tail.

  10. My Millie-fleur hen was brown speckled before her moult. She’s now white speckled!

    Etheldred is beautiful! :) x

  11. the changes are fascinating. I’ve not seen one change that much before.

  12. Yes. This is my first molt. But I have 2 tht seem blue splash maran that had very little splash and was mostly white now has gray around her head and the few splash markings that were on her chest are all but gone. Maybe she will have more come in later? I have 2 belgian duccles but could always tell them apart as one was more true to the breed. Her name is Pixie. The other one, Sweet Pea, had a lot of white. Sweet Pea finished her molt and has grown back her feathers so that now I am having hard time telling them apart unless I am right up close to them. She still has a fair amount of white on the top,of herhead but in th body she is almost the same as Pixie! I am anxious to see how my other 7 fare after they are done. Enjoy your Thanksgiing.

    • P.s. I just love your speckled Sussex. It’s on my wish list for breeds for next time.

    • Also should have said my Belgians were mille fleur. I would love to have one mottled black ones.

  13. So interesting to hear how some hens have lightened up, and some darkened after their molts. Imagine if people aged only once a year!

  14. I just wanted to say hi from Blackham England – I think you blog/website is amazing – just love the barn-cam – just love all of it – your hen pictures are brilliant – I wish I could get my girls to stand still for one minute to get such good pictures – sadly i,ve found the only time that happens is when they’re poorly. but you have inspired me – hopefully I will add more pictures soon x