Each year in or around spring, between 1-6 of our chooks will get clucky. This simply means they’ll stay in the nesting box sitting on any available eggs and try to hatch them. A futile activity at our place as we have no rooster. The reason why this is problematic comes down to two things:
- Once they go clucky they’ll stop laying eggs. This is the key reason we have chooks, so it’s not ideal when lots of them are on the cluck.
- Their clucky energy and presence in the nesting box freaks out the other chooks (who aren’t clucky) who can then also stop laying eggs. Meaning we’ve gone from having 8 eggs a day to 2. And the two eggs that are laid are laid in strange and hard to get to places every day (like under the goat’s milking stand) because they’re busy avoiding the clucky hen in the nesting box.
The two main ways to break the clucky cycle are to:
(a) Place some fertile eggs beneath them and wait for a few weeks for them to hatch. They’ll then fulfil their parenting dreams and the cycle will be broken. We’ve done this with one of our clucky hens and currently have six fluff balls running around with their mumma. But there’s only so many baby chicks you need.
The other way is…
(b) Manually break their clucky-ness by isolating them in a safe, yet less comfortable space to inspire them abandon the nest. This is how we do it.
Remove them from the main nesting box and house so the other chooks can reclaim that space and remember how to lay eggs again. We moved ours to a seperate space within our goat shed where she want be disturbed (by goats). This area is completely weather and predator proof.
We use a recycled milk crate to contain her on a timber pallet shelf (weighted down with rocks and tied with some twine so she can’t push it over) with lots of airflow and no straw to nest on. You don’t want to give them a cosy bed to keep nesting on as they’ll just happily keep being clucky.
We also make sure there’s easy access to food and water – the milk crates are handy as they have large holes she can poke her head through for this.
Then we leave her there for 2 – 3 days, checking on her regularly morning and night. When you do release her watch to see what happens – if she heads straight back to the main nesting box, then she’s not ready – give her another 24 hours. But if she starts wondering around and re-integrating with the rest of the flock, then the cycle has been broken.
Some folks say this is a bit rough, and I hear you. But what’s even rougher is having all your chooks go clucky, not getting any eggs and then having to buy in eggs from elsewhere with potentially unknown animal-handling practices which may be extremely unethical and sad. I’d much prefer to be able to manage the clucky cycle as outlined above and know where my animals products are coming from – and that they’re being cared for ethically.
This relatively quick process will see your chooks back in the saddle of egg laying and not freaking each other out with strange clucky vibes :-).