Each year in or around spring, between one to six 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 eight eggs a day to only two.
And those two eggs are usually laid in strange and hard to reach places every day, because the chooks are busy avoiding the clucky hen in the nesting box.
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There are two main ways to break the clucky cycle.
The first way is 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 to manually break their cluckiness by isolating them in a safe, yet less comfortable space to inspire them to abandon the nest. Here's 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 our clucky hen to a seperate space within our goat shed. This area is completely weather and predator proof.
We used 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 continue being clucky.
We also made sure there's easy access to food and water - milk crates are handy as they have large holes the hen can poke her head through.
Then we leave her there for two to three days, checking on her regularly morning and night.
When you do release the hen watch to see what happens - if she heads straight back to the main nesting box, then she's not quite off the cluck - 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.
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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.
- Hannah Moloney and Anton Vikstrom are the founders of Good Life Permaculture, a landscape design and education enterprise regenerating land and lifestyles.