Rats in a chicken coop are attracted by the chicken feed, droppings, and fresh eggs. Since the coop is always warm and comfortable, rats can easily live and survive in it. Even if they do not make a habitat inside the coop, rats will keep coming back, especially if they can find food.
Signs of rats in a coop include sudden noise and panic among chickens at night. To get rid of rats in a chicken coop, remove excess chicken feed, tidy the coop, and clean their droppings. Then block any rat holes and set rat traps to catch them.
Chickens can only eat baby rats or small mice if they can fit through their mouth. In most cases, rats and mice in a chicken coop are always the big ones since they can deal with the threat. Hens with small chicks are protective and tend to attack rats while protecting their young ones.
Identifying a rat infestation in the chicken coop is one of the easiest things a chicken farmer can do. Rats tend to leave behind their waste, usually in the form of black granular matter.
Are rats harmful to chickens?
The fact that chickens can eat rats does not imply that rats should be welcomed in a coop. Wild rats have been found to hunt and harm younger chicks. Aggressive rats and mice can sometimes attack fully grown chickens. However, attacking adult chickens takes greater effort since they can fight back.
While opportunistic hunters, rats are more inclined to devour chicken feed than attack live chicken. Therefore, a rat attacking fully grown chicken is uncommon, but this might happen.
In some cases, rats may die in the coop, which can harm both young and old chickens. Chickens are naturally omnivorous and can eat dead rats. This can be a threat to their well-being.
Wild rats can eat chicken eggs, affecting the overall laying production. The presence of rats in a coop can upset the egg-laying hens. If this happens, chickens will be stressed and breathe with their mouths open as they panic.
Stress can make chickens lay fewer eggs which is a loss to any farmer. Rats can also affect chickens’ development since they will be distracted at night when they need to rest and grow.
In the event of an existing rat infestation, the following steps may be essential in controlling and removing any existing rats plus their habitats in a coop. Rats enjoy digging and can go up to a meter deep or even more. They are very good at making underground tunnels to help them safely move between their feeding points and breeding nests.
How to keep rats away from the chicken coop
It is essential to have measures in place to help secure the coop from rat infestation. As earlier noted, hardware cloth may be helpful. However, other measures such as ensuring that all likely holes are properly sealed may also prevent rats from accessing the coop.
It would also be essential to have a reliable lock. When locking the coop, ensure to check the inside first to note any infestation. What you feed your chicken plus how you do it will determine the presence of rodents.
1. Installing galvanized hardware cloth
The implication is that they can easily dig right through the fence and into the chicken coop. Rats can easily crawl under walls to access a chicken coop if it is placed directly on the ground.
Installing a galvanized hardware cloth of a reasonable gauge by spreading it on the ground before laying the coop is one approach that helps keep rats away from the cop.
If the coop has a concrete floor, it may be covered using similar hardware to prevent rats from nibbling their way in from below the coop. It is relatively easy to skirt the coop’s perimeter with a tough wire mesh to prevent rats from tunneling under the barriers.
Laying sod on top of the skirting may help a great deal. Stapling the cloth into the ground and allowing grass to grow between the spaces may also help fasten it to the surface. Although there is no way of stopping the rodents from digging, it is important to put up measures to prevent and block their tunneling from getting through into the coop.
2. Proper Chicken Feed Storage
Having noted that rats primarily target chicken feed, it would be essential to store such feeds away from the coop. Alternatively, metallic containers with tight lids may also help keep the rodents away. Rats have hard and sharp teeth that can chew into plastic and wood. Therefore, containers made of such materials may not serve rat prevention purposes.
Avoid throwing food all over the coop because rats can smell it, which will attract them into the coop. When feeding your chicken, have a spot where they will learn to find food in case they need it. Never leave excess feeding on the coop’s surface since this can attract rats plus other unwanted pests.
3. Keep the coop dry
Rats like areas where there is ease of access to water sources. Being primarily nocturnal animals, they are likely to invade water troughs at night. It would be best to keep water in sealed containers, preferably far from the coop.
Water can be brought for the chicken to drink in the morning and kept away in the evenings. In most cases, chickens do not feed or drink in the dark. Rats need water to survive, and they will find the coop comfortable if there is a constant supply.
4. Rodent-Proof Feeders
Rodent-proof chicken feeders are easily available, and they come in handy in deterring rats from the coop. The main design of these feeders is to prevent rats from accessing the chicken feeds.
Such special feeders help to eliminate the rat infestation problem by preventing them from accessing food. It is also important to clean the coop regularly to remove spilled chicken feeds.
Killing and trapping rats in your coop
It is common to apply biologically-friendly means of rat eradication. However, there are many instances where people resort to other methods that may involve killing the rats. Such methods may not be as eco-friendly as expected but may also help eradicate the menace.
Before introducing any poison into a coop, it is very important to ensure and confirm that the chickens will not be harmed. Poisoning is not an ideal way to get rid of rats, especially if the rats have already infested the coop.
Any toxin capable of killing a rat will likewise kill a chicken. Chicken is likely to peck at dead rats, an act that can potentially cause secondary poisoning in them. Therefore, poisoning is a potentially dangerous approach because even dead rats can kill chickens depending on the type of poison used.
Trapping rats in the coop
Rat traps come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The most common and widely used rat traps are snap traps. They are low-cost types and are some of the oldest in the rat trap market. Snap traps should be placed in areas where rats congregate. However, care must be observed when setting them in the coop to avoid causing injuries to the chicken.
Snap traps can only catch a single rat at a time. If chosen in the right size for rats, they often kill right away. After that, they can be rid of the rats and set afresh. Other forms, such as the electric style traps, are also commonly known as rat zappers. The zappers are a bit more expensive.
A live trap may also be usable in trapping and killing rats in your coop. A live trap is usually in the form of a cage that closes when the rat enters to bite on the bait. The major issue with the live traps is one has to cope with living rats.
Additionally, allowing the rats to relocate is never a smart option because those predators will return to the chicken nests. In other cases, it may be a transfer of the rat menaces to someone else.