How To “Un-Cluck” Your Clucky Chook

Jan 23, 2021

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

The timber shelf allows maximum airflow

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 :-).

your thoughts:

14 Comments

  1. Janine Scott

    Thanks for this. I have a clucky chook at the moment and wasn’t really sure what to do. I have been taking her off the nest a couple of times a day but she keeps going back after she does a made run around the yard. I will give this a go.

    Reply
    • Carl

      Thanks Hannah. Genetics also matters in the broody department. We have had hens go broody for 3 months on an on-and-off basis over the summer. We have learned to pay a bit extra for fertilised eggs from good stock.

      Reply
  2. Lyn K

    The other consideration for me to break the clucky cycle is that the hens condition deteriorates considerably if you allow them to sit fir 21 days

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      Interesting… I haven’t noticed this with our hens who actually site on eggs to hatch. Bu tI do make sure I have food/water close to them otherwise they don’t eat/drink enough.

      Reply
      • Melissa

        Thanks for the tip, we had a clucky chook for almost three weeks, and when she finally snapped out of it one of the other girls decided it was her turn, which then put chook number 1 straight back into clucky mode. Will definitely try this next time.

        Reply
    • Louise

      We’re first time chicken owners and I think our young lady is becoming clucky. She still lays daily but will sit in the nesting box until she lays in the morning and then only come out after I’ve removed the egg from under her.
      She spends the day out and about in the yard ok, but I’ve just checked on her tonight and she had gone to sleep in the nesting box.
      Is this clucky behaviour or just strange behaviour?

      Thankyou!!

      Reply
  3. Qamar

    Great advice, thank you! We have a very large house and a clucky hen.. will it work to restrain her with the milk crate idea in a different corner of the house, or in a separate nest box which never gets used (and remove hay) or do we need to change her environment completely?

    Reply
  4. Debra

    Thanks Hannah for this useful information. I have tried your method and it works. Last time I put eggs under her we ended up with 6 roos, not ideal!
    Deb

    Reply
  5. Jo

    So great to see photos of how you do this, thank you! I read about this but couldn’t wrap my brain about putting a chook in a wire cage for a couple of days so haven’t tried. I only have two chooks at the moment, both broody, so have been manually moving them into their run and blocking up the coop, but they just scratch around a bit then settle down in their nice warm dirt bath thanksverymuch. Seeing the photos and how they access food and water really helps, thank you! 🙂

    Reply
  6. AF

    My experience is that extra protein in feed will also help break/speed up the clucky cycle. Extra sunflower seeds or some grated old cheese have been particularly successful with my girls.

    Reply
  7. Zoe

    We also have this problem and have found separating out the broody/clucky hen works well, to a point. We are fortunate to have a small area within the main pen that can be closed off with a chicken wire DIY fence, which gives the hen a more comfortable environment for her to stay in. However, the other chooks are then unsettled by the clucky energy and ‘catch’ the broodiness.
    If the broody hen was already low in the pecking order, she then often struggles to reintegrate into the flock and will have a hard time being allowed to get food and water. Chicken life if full of complexities!

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      I can relate to a lot of that Zoe – yes indeed, so complex!

      Reply
  8. Rebecca

    I’ve found that you don’t need to confine them to a small space. I’ve very successfully broken the brood urge over the years, by having them in an area that simply doesn’t have any nesting material. Just a very bare pen with no ‘nooks’ (I actually created a space down a paved ‘alley’ between a shed and the fence with a sheltered end and perch, but bare pavers for the floor. This way, the hen is not confined to such a small area, but is unable to nest.
    This was back when I kept hens for eggs. I’ve been vegan for six years now, and keep hens now purely for their compost making superpowers and mental health therapy.

    Reply
  9. Jen

    BUY some fertile eggs to place UNDER the clucky chook…. and then have chicks to grow for yourself OR sell….???

    Reply

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