A clucky hen is one, which, having laid a nest of eggs, decides she will stop laying eggs and incubate the ones she has. She will fluff up her feathers, sit determinedly on her nest day and night, and make a characteristic ‘clucking’ noise. This can occur whether or not you have a rooster present. Certain breeds eg bantams, are much more likely to ‘go clucky’ than others. The best plan with a clucky hen is to let her raise a clutch of chickens. You will need to get fertile eggs, if you don’t have a rooster; these can be ordered through poultry breeders. See Growing Today magazine for addresses. This is a good way to get chickens of some of the more unusual breeds. If you don’t want her to raise chickens, then you will need to take all the eggs away from her, and lock her away from the nest. Some hens will remain clucky for months, and this weakens them, also, there will be no eggs! If you don’t want clucky hens, it is best to select a breed that rarely shows this trait. After ‘going clucky’ and raising chickens, the hen will moult, losing quite a lot of feathers and growing a new set underneath. She will start to lay eggs again in about 3 months, or springtime.
All birds moult, and hens are no exception. This is necessary because over time the feathers become broken and worn, and unlike hair, do not grow continuously. Hens usually lay eggs for about 9 months before they moult. When they are ready to moult, egg production becomes irregular, and then stops. The comb and wattles become small, shrivelled and pale pink, and the hen stands about rather miserably for 2 to 3 days. Then a lot of her feathers begin to fall out, and she looks very disreputable, but if all is well you will see the quills of new feathers growing underneath. Over a few weeks she will grow a fine new set of feathers, and begin laying again in about 12 weeks.
Moulting is a very stressful time for birds, as they are easily chilled, and need extra food both to keep warm and to grow all the new feathers.
Information supplied by Dawn Mills, BVSc