Updated: Apr 15, 2022
Chicken owners need to keep rats out of the chicken run and hen house, rats carry diseases that can be harmful to chickens, rats will attack baby chicks, steal eggs, and have even been known to kill adult chickens while they are roosting. They will also eat a considerable amount of your chicken feed, after a clearance people have commented how much feed they are saving!
Do Chickens attract rats?
Yes, If you have chickens you will attract rats, it’s inevitable. The rats are attracted to the chicken feed, and love stealing a freshly laid egg. Rats are also attracted to nice, warm, dry places to live, especially if there is a plentiful food and water source nearby. A well-designed coop that is sealed around the base, good food storage, rat-proof feeders and meticulous cleaning can all make your chickens home a place that is less attractive to rats. Rats are opportunistic, and will not go to a lot of effort to obtain their food and home. Rats really want an easy live, living as close to their food source as possible and in relative safety. The chickens will attack and kill rats in the day time, so generally the rats will only come out at night while the chickens are roosting, this is the most important time to make sure there’s no access to the feed. Removing the feeders an hour or so before dark each day will allow the chickens time to clear up and loose feed before roosting and remove any food for the rats.
Do rats attack chickens?
Chickens eat small rodents, which includes small rats and rat babies although many rats are too large for them to attack. However, that does not mean it is okay to let rats hang around your chicken coop. Rats will attack and eat baby chickens, and if desperate enough, they will attack adult chickens. They are more likely to eat chicken feed than to attack adult chickens, as that requires far more effort. A direct attack on an adult chicken by a rat is rare all the time rats have a plentiful supply of food, but if you remove the food source from an established rat infestation it can force them to attack the chickens.
If you see a rat around your chickens, you need not panic, your chickens are probably not in immediate danger. (Unless you have chicks out there.) However, you need to take it seriously and start making your coop rat proof to get rid of them to avoid future problems like a rogue rat attack.
One reason you need to act quickly to get rid of the rats is that they can reproduce quickly. It only takes 21 days for them to produce a litter, and females will continue to produce another litter, up to 6 litters a year, as long as they have a cozy home and readily available food. So if you see one rat, you need to get rid of it before you are dealing with the 5-12 babies that will reach their reproductive maturity at 4 or 5 weeks.
Diseases and pests that rats can transfer to chickens
Keep in mind that rat attacks and egg stealing are only the beginning of the damage they can inflict upon your flock. Rats carry many diseases such as salmonellosis and leptospirosis that can be transferred to your chickens. They can also carry mites and fleas into the chicken run, which can then infest your entire flock. The fleas can also carry nasty diseases, such as bubonic plague. Keep in mind, all of these diseases can then be transferred from the chickens, to humans. This is another of the reasons to take any sighting of rats or rat droppings around your chicken seriously.
How to keep rats from digging
Rats love to dig and can dig over 2 meters deep. They try to create a tunnel system underground to travel safely between their food sources and nests which means they are safe from predator. This means they can easily dig under your fencing. Placing your coop directly on the ground means rats will have an easy time of digging under the wall to get into the coop.
Placing the coop on a concrete base can help but they can easily burrow under the concrete to nest.
Can rats eat through chicken wire?
Rats have hard, sharp teeth that continually grow, meaning they actually have to chew hard things to keep their teeth ground down. They can chew through many things, including chicken wire, as well as squeeze through the openings Of around 10mm and most chicken wire is 25-50mm. Chicken wire is a great protection from large predators like Foxes or birds of prey, but if you have a rat problem, you will need more than just wire to stop them.
In addition to chewing through chicken wire they can chew through wood, brick, and plastic.
4 tips to protect your chickens against rats.
1/ Storing Food
If you store your chicken feed outside near the coop make sure that you use a metal container with a tight-fitting lid. This will keep rats from chewing the container to get to the feed.
2/ Run and coop protection
To protect the coop place it on a concrete base with no void underneath. Try to remove the feed at night if you don’t already have rats. Most rats can squeeze through a space as small as a 10p, so be thorough as you search for holes and cover even the small ones with weld mesh or metal plate. You also need a door that securely closes at night, with no gaps around the frame.
Rats need to drink, especially when eating very dry foods like corn or layers pellets so will be attracted to easy sources of water. The best way to limit their access to water is to put water away at night. Either make sure the water is enclosed within the coop, or take it into a shed or garage for the night and put it back out for the chickens when you let them out of the coop in the morning.
4/ Special Feeders
Invest in a rodent proof chicken feeder that
hang so that rats cannot get into the chicken feed. This is a great way to prevent rat problems from starting since chicken feed is the primary reason that rats are attracted to areas with chickens. Keep all bulk feed securely stored away from the chickens in metal bins, so that any spillages do not leave food in the open.
How do you get rid of rats if you already have them?
If you already have an established rat infestation do not limit their access to food unless you can move your chickens, this is the main time we see rats attacking the chickens at roost when they are starved of food!
If you can secure your chickens in a sealed coop, or move them, you need to follow the preventive measures suggested above, remove current rats, and ensure that there are no other rat friendly areas around your home that are hosting families. Popular places they like to live are in compost bins, log piles, in sheds or inside piles or bundles of hay. Do a thorough check of your property and treat all areas where you find evidence of them.
Rodenticide will be the quickest route to achieving control of any rat infestation around chickens, however rodenticide resistance is a big problem in the UK. With most amateur use baits being completely ineffective against rats, but still remains dangerous for all non-target species.
If rodenticide is used, it should only be used by a qualified professional who will know what active ingredient / formulation to use. They will also carry out an environmental risk assessment before carrying out any treatment.
There are new rodenticides on the market now that are still effective against resistant rat populations but have a hugely reduced risk of secondary poisoning.
Selontra® is based on the non-anticoagulant rodenticide cholecalciferol, at 0.075%, presented as a highly palatable soft block formulation. Cholecalciferol is effective against anticoagulant-resistant Norway rats and house mice. It is not bioaccumulative or persistent and therefore presents relatively lower secondary poisoning risks to non-target species, such as birds of prey, compared to second generation anticoagulants. Areas and types of use are indoors and outdoors around buildings, permanent baiting, tamper-resistant bait stations and in covered and protected baiting points.
Rat a neophobic which is a phobia of anything new, unfamiliar or potentially dangerous. This makes trapping rats extremely difficult, you’ll often find you may catch one rat then nothing! They’ve learned a trap is dangerous and will avoid them. Or you may just catch juvenile’s and never catch the mature breeding rats.
Traps if used incorrectly can also catch all sorts of non-target species like small birds, frogs, toads, hedge hogs, even the chickens themselves.
So if the infestation is already established traps are unlikely to resolve the issue in a reasonable time and usually you’ll find the rats actually breed faster than you trap them.
We can provide professional rat control treatments that are pets and child safe from as little as £60+vat per visit. We also provide regular monitoring contracts to ensure the rats don’t return!
It’s important to keep rats away from your chickens, but by adopting preventive measures and getting rid of any rats as soon as you see them, you can keep your coop safe from disease, save money on feed, and keep all those delicious eggs.