If you are thinking about getting chickens, but are worried about chickens attracting rats, here are some things you need to know! We have had chickens for over ten years, and while we did have some trouble with rats at one point, don’t worry! You can have chickens without creating a rodent problem!
Here are 4 facts about chickens attracting rats:
Rats are looking for food and water.
Rats don’t care if you have chickens, a squirrel feeder, or feral cats. They’re just looking for some food. When it’s hot outside, they’re looking for water.
It doesn’t matter if it’s in your chicken coop or your neighbor’s bird feeder, if they find a great food source they are going to stick around. If you want to deal with an existing rat problem or don’t want to create one, bring your chicken food out of the coop at night.
Don’t store your feed bags in plastic tubs or out in the open. The galvanized metal trashcans are the best place to keep rats and mice out of your chicken feed. Chickens only eat about half a cup of dry feed per day. If more than that is disappearing, you probably have rats in your feed.
Keeping the chicken food cleaned up and locked up is one of the best things you can do to stop your chickens attracting rats. You can also empty out uncovered waterers at night as well, gather eggs daily, and keep your coop cleaned up!
Rats are looking for shelter.
Rats are really good and climbing and tunneling. They can dig under things and jump over things. They’re also always on the lookout for a great place to sleep, hang out, and make babies. One of their favorite places to do this is too dry compost piles. If you have a lagging compost pile, you may accidentally be creating a rat hotel. Keep your compost cooking!
If rats are getting into your chicken coop and sheltering there, you may not notice right away. Check for burrows in and out of the coop. Look for any signs of gnawing or chewing damage. You may also see rat droppings, which are about the size of jelly beans.
Keep rats out of your coop by enclosing it in 1/4 inch hardware mesh. You can also put sheet metal over any gnawed portions or holes. They cannot chew through the metal. Click here to read more about making a predator proof chicken coop.
Also keep your yard cleaned up. Obviously you don’t want piles of trash sitting around. Old straw, piles of lumber, rotting sheds, these are all little rat havens you should remove and tidy up.
Rats can make you and your chickens sick.
It is not a good idea to have rats hanging around your chicken coop. Rats can make people sick with a variety of different diseases. Rats can also hurt your chickens. Their droppings can give your chickens salmonella, which can be passed on in the eggs to you.
Rats will also eat small chicks and even eggs. If you ever find eggs or chicks partially eaten and dragged into a burrow, you have a mega rat problem. Chickens will kill rats if they catch them, but chickens are sleeping at night when rats are usually running around.
You might have to kill some rats.
It’s really important to discourage rats from hanging around your chicken coop. The best way to do that is to keep the feed cleaned up and locked up, keep any trash or attractive locations cleaned up, and to construct your coop properly to keep them out as much as possible.
If you find yourself in a position where these things are not enough, you may have to kill some rats. We had a dilapidated shed on our neighbors property where rats were living and reproducing. The only way we were able to get that population under control on our own property was unfortunately by killing some of the rats.
DO NOT USE GLUE TRAPS. These are very inhumane. There are better ways. If you have a cat, they may be able to help get the population down. Click here to read more about cats on the homestead.
If you use traps, you will need to make sure you protect other animals from getting hurt. If you use poison, make sure it is in a bait station where other animals cannot get to it. Poison is not a good option if you have cats, because they may eat a poisoned rat and get sick themselves. This could also happen if your chickens eat a poisoned rat.
If you use snap traps, place them along the edges of the walls. Only put them where other pets and wild animals will not access them. Rats are pretty smart, so you may have better luck putting bait on the traps unset for a few days at first. Once they acclimatize and get used to eating off them, set the snap traps. Be careful though, the rat-sized ones can do some real damage to your hands.
Some snap traps say they are reusable, however, logistically, you will probably just want to toss the whole thing once it catches one instead of trying to empty it and reset it. Trapping rats is not a pleasant thing, but sometimes it is necessary.
However, don’t let this scare you away from getting started with chickens. If you start out with a great coop and keep your feed put away at night, you likely won’t have any problems at all with your chickens attracting rats!
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