In some cases, rats can attack and kill chicks, especially when they are young and weak. Starved wild rats might also target grown chickens in the coop. Rats are also harmful to chickens because they may have fleas, lice, and other kinds of diseases that can hurt your chicks and flock.
Rats can kill chickens by exposing them to dangerous infections and pests like fleas and mites. Fleas from rats are deadly to chickens because they can cause severe anemia and malnutrition that can kill a flock.
Rats are also binge eaters and may not have limits on whatever they eat. Their appetite is enormous, ranging from fresh to rotting foods. When hungry, they can eat a good amount of your chicken feed, leading to an underfed flock. Baby chicks can be at great risk if they are underfed. Rats can also stress egg-laying hens, thus causing a decrease in production.
Table of Contents
- Can rats bite and eat live chickens?
- How to stop rats from killing chickens
- When do rats attack chickens?
- Signs that rats are killing your chicken
Can rats bite and eat live chickens?
Notably, chickens are prone to diseases that may weaken them. Wild rats will likely take advantage of the sick birds and feed on them while still alive. One has to be very careful about rats in a coop due to such cases. The most vulnerable are chicks, who are usually very weak in their first days of hatching.
Rats have been known to drag chicks away from their mothers as they may not want to draw their attention. Those rodents have a very good sense of smell and can easily locate chicks even in the dark. Chickens also have poor eyesight in the dark, making them highly vulnerable to rats at such hours.
As earlier mentioned, rats eat virtually anything. Their teeth are so sharp and hard that they can nibble into anything other than metal and rocks. With that in mind, it is important to note that they can also bite chicken, especially on the feet.
Rats also use their sharp teeth for self-defense; hence, they may not hesitate to bite chicken when they feel cornered in a duel. Chickens are known to fight back if they feel threatened and may overlook rodents based on their size. The greatest fear one should have is rats transferring diseases to the chicken through bites.
Wild rats have been observed to bite chicken and feed on their blood. However, such incidences are only common in cases where there is food scarcity. It is important to note that cleaning the chicken coop and installing measures that make it inaccessible for rodents can help.
How to stop rats from killing chickens
Keeping rats at bay is the best way to stop them from attacking chickens.
1. Get rid of rat habitats in and around the coop
The first and best way is usually to eliminate their habitats. It is advisable to create unfavorable conditions for rats to enter the coop. As such, getting rid of rats in a chicken coop as soon as possible is important.
2. Fencing around the coop
There are building materials that may not favor rat entry. These include 10mm mesh wires that rats cannot chew through and also galvanized hardware cloth. Such materials can be used to secure the coop’s base and let it run a little past the fence and perimeter.
3. Clear bushes around the coop
Wild rodents attack backyard chicken house, especially if it is positioned near bushes and dumpsites. Dumpsites create a good environment for rats, and eliminating such conditions helps keep rats away from your chicken.
Bushes around it are cleared regularly. You can use outdoor rat poison on infested fields and dumpsites that are located near your chicken coop.
4. Set rat traps and poison around the coop
Various elimination methods may also help in cases where rats have already invaded the coop. They include trapping and disposing of as well as killing them.
Rat poisons are readily available, but care should be observed when using poison to eliminate rats inside a chicken house. The chickens are also likely to contact the poison, making poisons dangerous to the rats and your birds. However, it may also help to eliminate the rats that may be living nearby.
5. Introduce predators like cats for rats
Additionally, rats and cats have naturally sworn enemies. Rearing a cat may be unpleasant to rats as the cats are likely to predate on them. The smell of cats is also enough to keep them away since they are a natural threat to rodents.
When do rats attack chickens?
Naturally, rats are opportunistic feeders and great hunters. For such reasons, they only come out at night in most cases. The darkness of the night presents visual challenges for chickens, making them vulnerable to rat attacks. If they cannot attack the flock, rats will eat chicken eggs within their reach or those that are left in the open.
These pests thrive in darkness and prefer to live in dark places because humans or other predators cannot find them. Since adult chickens can also attack and kill mice and rats. They are known to take advantage of the dark when attacking the flock.
Since rodents are active in the dark, it is necessary to allow sufficient natural light into the coop. At night, you may use customized light during an infestation. Just ensure that the light is not too bright such that it can affect their sleep. Red lights or yellow fluorescent with low watts can work sufficiently. Too much artificial light on baby chicks can hurt their overall growth and performance.
Light will help the chicken to spot the rats and fight them off. Also, rats may time the hatching chicks before launching their attack. In this regard, one may consider raising the hatching nests and supporting them on smooth metallic poles to prevent rodents from climbing up to the nests.
Signs that rats are killing your chicken
Knowing if there is a rat infestation in your coop is not that difficult. It takes something as simple as spotting a rat or even their droppings. Rat poop is usually dropped in the form of black pellets that look like rice-shaped beads. Rats leave their droppings anywhere and also have a natural smell that they carry.
Apart from these signs, rats make squeaky noises that are not easy to miss. However, their presence might not necessarily mean that they are attacking your chicken. Key areas to note are bite marks on your chicken feet, teeth marks on the coop wooden walls, and footprints in the chicken feed. Rats may also not eat their meals completely.
Therefore, it is easy to spot if they are involved in eating or killing your chicken. Remember to look out for any entrance and exit paths and holes along the coop’s perimeter. Signs that rats are killing your chicken also include cases where any disease is not involved, but there is a clear rise in dead chickens with bite marks on them. This is clear there is evidence of a wild rat infestation that is attacking and killing them.
Finally, sick birds are likely to draw interest from rats in the coop. It would be necessary to isolate sick birds and give them special undivided attention. Injured chickens that are physically disabled, incapacitated, or inactive may not manage to fight off rats. Therefore they should also be isolated during an infestation.