Rats and chickens. What you need to know

Most people know that backyard chickens create a haven for rats and other pests. Rats in particular pose multiple health risks to chickens. From eating chicks, to carrying disease, rats must be deterred from the chicken coop at all costs.

Rats are a public health risk for chickens and humans

The problem with rats:

Not only are rats a problem to have, they pose a risk to public health. Rats carry disease and transmit human diseases so not only should it be a priority to create a rat-free chicken coop for the health of your chickens, it is also important for the health of your family.

Can rats kill chickens?

It is unlikely that rats will kill an adult chicken, however, they are more than capable of killing baby chicks and eating them.

I will also add, while it is unlikely for a rat to kill an adult chicken, they certainly can attack it. Furthermore, a rat infestation has the potential to kill a chicken indirectly by spreading a disease or causing intense stress within the flock.

The signs you have rats in the coop

Ideally, you should always be looking out for rats visiting to prevent full-blown infestation in your chicken coop. While rats will be seeking shelter from the cold in winter, they can be prolific at any point in the year. Here are the signs to watch out for:

  • Chew marks on timber or plastic. You may even spot gnawed holes
  • Rat droppings on the floor and beams
  • Scratching sounds – particularly at night
  • Hens are acting stressed
  • An awful smell, normally due to rat urine

How to keep rats out of the chicken coop

Chickens and rats do not have to be mutually exclusive. It is very achievable to own a chicken run and hen house without ever having a problem with rodents. The rules for deterring rats are quite simple. Reduce/remove a rat’s access to food and water and secure the coop. By making the chicken coop less attractive you have helped keep rats out of the henhouse.

Here is our own tried and true method of rat prevention:

  • Don’t give them food supply. Feed and scraps on the ground are like an all-you-can-eat buffet for rats with a welcome mat at the door.
  • Wet Chicken Feed smells great, to rats that is. Again, feed and scraps left on the ground to get wet produce an alluring aroma for rodents that they can smell from a fair distance. A Dine A Chook Chicken drinker prevents watery puddles and chickens splashing in their drinking water – helping to deter rats.
  • Pick egg daily. Ensure that freshly laid eggs are picked up and brought into the house as soon as possible.
  • Use a rodent-deterring feeding system. The Dine A Chook Chicken Feeders can be placed higher off the ground to make it a little more difficult. What’s more – our feeders stop chickens from thrashing food onto the ground
  • Rat-Proof Chicken Coop. It is near impossible to have a rat-proof coop as rodents can gnaw their way their most conventional materials including wire, plastic and wood. However, we have found that by securing your chicken coop with strong, galvanised wire mesh you will have greater success at keeping rats out
  • Keep nesting boxes up high. Your hens will appreciate you elevating their boxes from the easy reach of rats.

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