In your poultry house, Rats are not friendly with birds at all, in fact they have been seen to devour thousands of chicks and they are one of the causes of death for growers and laying birds.
Rodents, such as rats and mice, are a major concern on poultry farms due to building damage and feed loss.
Unless steps are taken to prevent their presence, the house mouse (Mus musculus), Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus), and roof rat (Rattus rattus) may become unwanted (and frequently unnoticed) guests in poultry houses.
In preventing them from invading the poultry house, you must first of all make sure that there are no holes that can serves as hiding places on the walls of the pen house.
Also the surroundings must be made free of rats by regularly clearing the surrounding bushes and using rat killer substances to kill the rats that may be around and also be very careful with the rat killers when using them to avoid you poisoning your birds.
Some of the problems they are known to cause include:
- Eating your chickens feed and water
- Eating your chickens eggs
- Prey on chicks at night if not in a secure poultry house
- Creates stress for your flock, which can result in lowered egg production
- Contaminate feed, water and coops with their droppings and urine
- Carriers of lice, fleas, mites and other parasites
- Can transmit diseases
How to prevent Rats from invading your Poultry House
Step 1: Store all chicken feed in a secure container / bag
There are four things to remember about rats:
- Food is their driving force. They eat up to 10% of their body weight each day.
- They have an amazing sense of smell. The smell of chicken feed will attract every rat for miles around.
- They can jump up to 3 feet from a standing start and leap 4 feet from one obstacle to another.
- They are very good at gnawing through more or less anything – except for metal.
Why do I use metal in your poultry house?
- Feed bags are nothing to a rat. One rat will gnaw a hole big enough to creep in within seconds.
- Plastic containers aren’t much better than strong paper – it will take the rats a little longer, but they will get there.
- Strengthened plastic containers claiming to be “tough” will not be tough enough for rats.
- I thought my “tough” plastic container was enough. It took me a while to work out why the grain was disappearing so quickly. I thought my husband had been giving more feed to the chickens when I wasn’t looking. I was wrong.
- Containers on wheels are no deterrent – rats climb and jump. Containers on shelving are no use for the same reason.
- Feed needs to be stored in a metal container with no holes at all – not even a tiny hole for a pedal and a secure lid. End of story.
Anything else will be found and entered. The smallest hole will be like an open invitation. A lid not secured will be knocked off.
Rats are canny – if there’s food and a way to access it, they will find it.
Read Also: A Sick Bay as part of the Poultry House
Step 2 : Use a treadle feeder in your poultry house
Imagine my horror when I opened my chickens’ feeder to fill it one day and saw this inside…
- Make no mistake – this is a rat, and he had been partying in my feed bin. How do I know? The shape of the ears, the length of the tail and its size overall.
- This large rat had managed to get into a feeder which was hanging off the ground at chicken head height. The only opening in it was the size of a small cent at the very top and a pencil-thickness gap at the bottom where the feed flows into the tray. Rats are Houdini in reverse – they’re experts at getting into spaces we humans think are secure.
- Quite apart from the “Ugh” value, my concern was the disease brown rats – and particularly their urine – can carry. I did not want my chickens to be at risk.
- So I bought a treadle feeder. It was expensive and I paid extra but was it worth it? Absolutely.
- I have not had one single rat since I combined the metal storage containers with the treadle feeder – and I’ve saved a lot of money on feed now I’m not feeding the neighbourhood’s rats.
- If you’re interested in buying it now, it’s this one, and I cannot recommend it highly enough…
Step 3 : Manage your compost manures in your poultry house properly
One of the things I love about gardening is using a compost manure. It turns unused fruit and vegetable and my chickens’ droppings, into beautiful, rich, black compost soil all ready to enrich next year’s garden soil and encourage the growth of strong, healthy fruit and veg.
It’s the optimum in re-cycling.
The problem is, rats and mice love compost heaps too, particularly if there’s any sign of even a morsel of cooked food there.
They are omnivores – they’ll eat anything (including meat) and any kind of cooked food is like giving them their own little diner.
- How to control this? If you have an open compost heap in or near your chicken run – and I do, my flock love to rummage round in it looking for bugs – keep it for green compost material : leaves, grass, dead plants and flower-heads cut in dead-heading.
- Straw bedding from your chicken coop is also fine to add. Rats do love nice, warm straw, but it composts down quickly. The droppings are extremely rich in nitrogen – great for enriching compost.
- If you want a compost pile which re-cycles your veggie and fruit waste, try using an enclosed one. They’re easily found at garden centres or do-it-yourself stores.
- So my second compost bin is like this, placed away from the chicken coop.
Step 4 : Keep your poultry house clean
- Whichever type of feeder you use, we all like to treat our chickens from time to time by throwing some treats for them directly into the chicken run.
- Mine have definite favourites – mealworms and corn being top of the list.
- It’s fine to do that but to avoid any grain being left on the ground. It’s a sure attraction for rats and mice.
- Make sure you feed on open ground as early in the day as you can, so that by roosting time it’s all eaten.
- In terms of your coop, if you use straw as your bedding make sure you clean and aerate it regularly. Rats are good at hiding.
- When I had an infestation, I discovered a nest of rats sleeping in the straw near to the chickens’ nesting boxes, just waiting for the next tasty egg to drop.
- Trust me – it’s not something you ever want to happen to you.
Step 5 : Trim grass and shrubbery around your poultry house
Fact: rats hate open spaces.
They will avoid running across them if they possibly can. If you’ve ever seen a “rat run” – the tracks rats leave when they’ve come out to feed – you’ll have seen that wherever possible they are around the edge of boundaries.
- Overgrown shrubbery and grass are a haven for rats. They can dig their runs and build their nests without being disturbed. And they can make their way to the source of food without predators being able easily to see or to catch them.
- For those reasons it’s a good idea to keep the grass and shrubbery around your chicken house cut back and under control. If they have no hiding place they’re more likely to find another home.
- As well as open spaces rats and mice dislike two other things: light, and predators.
- For that reason they prefer to come out at night and feed under cover of darkness, although they will appear during the daylight if they know there’s food to be had.
- Installing some sensor lights can help keep rats at bay. They are creatures of habit, though. Once they get used to the light, although they won’t like it, they’ll risk it if there’s food around.
6. Getting rid of rats with poison in your poultry house
An effective means of extermination, but not a long-term solution.
I needed to use rat poison because the rodent infestation had grown so large by the time I recognised it that any other, longer-term way would have been potentially putting my chickens at risk of disease. Rats multiply very quickly.
But poison really should be a last resort. It’s an unpleasant death for the rat, potentially dangerous for pets, livestock and people and not a topic to be taken lightly.
7. Use Electric traps
These traps are powered by battery. The rat, enticed into the box by a yummy treat, steps on a metal plate.
This triggers an electric shock which kills instantly.
The main advantages are that it’s relatively quick and the rat is killed without blood being spilled, which makes cleaning up easy.
It’s also impossible for pets or poultry to fit inside, so they’re safe for other animals. And they don’t harm the environment.
For those reasons, this is my preferred method of rodent control. I’ve found these traps very effective for controlling both rats and mice – in the house and garage as well as in my chicken farm.
8. The old favourite – snap traps
Quick and effective, but messy.
How to use them
- Set in places where you know the rodents are moving, usually around the edge of the chicken run or an outbuilding.
- Place them well out of the reach of your children, chickens or other animals.
- Leave them there for several days un-baited until the rodents get used to them. Rats are cautious creatures and won’t go near something new and unknown.
- Cheese is the accepted bait, but try baiting them with peanut butter – really! Rats are very attracted by the smell and you’ll only need a tiny smear.
- Cheap, easy to set and very quick to kill, so the rodent doesn’t suffer unduly.
- Due to their small size, these are better suited to mice than rats.
- Having to empty the traps of decapitated creatures. No matter how much I dislike vermin – and trust me, I do – this is not a pretty way of dealing with them.
- Rodents are actually intelligent animals and will learn not to go near traps which they’ve seen to be harmful to their community. You need to move them around often.
9. Use Human traps to catch rats in your poultry house
Kind – but the rats may well return.
Our neighbour uses this kind of trap. The rodent is caught inside, triggering the door to close. The rodent then has to be re-located.
The best humane traps are made of metal. You’ll find information on making them from plastic bottles on the internet, but even mice can gnaw through a bottle on a matter of minutes. Rats will take seconds.
- If the idea of killing any living being is difficult for you then this is the only real option.
- Doesn’t harm either the rat or any other animal which happens along.
- You end up with a live rat on your hands. Now what?
- Rats are territorial animals. Once they set up home they like to stay there. So the likelihood is that if you release the rats anywhere close to your coop, they will return.
- Advice is to take the rat at least five miles away from its nest before setting it free.
- Even then, there’s nothing to say it won’t find its way back. And you may just be re-locating the problem onto someone else’s property.
10. Exterminating rats a priority? Get a cat!
Not an option for everyone – and you need the right kind of cat!
This is third on my list because it’s another option I’ve found which is very effective, particularly when combined with the battery operated trap.
I live in rural Italy where feral and semi-feral cats are common and, because we have wheat and sunflower fields, we also have mice which attract feral cats.
When a mother cat had her litter in our shed, then, I had no problem in inviting them to stay. Good decision!
If you’re thinking of getting a cat to keep control of the mouse or rat population it really needs to be a large feral or barnyard-type animal which is used to living outside and has been taught by its mother how to tackle the problem.
Most smaller, domesticated cats are unlikely to have the courage to take on a full-grown rat.
Be careful, though, about how any cat reacts with chickens. It’s fairly common for cats to kill baby chicks – after all, to a cat they look just like birds – and some will even take on full-grown hens.
Good solution for farmers – but you need a friendly local terrier owner!
I used to work in an old, overcrowded Victorian prison in northern England. There was a massive problem with rodent infestation because the drainage system was old and over-used.
The prison authorities dealt with it by paying the local Border Terrier and Jack Russell Terrier clubs to come into the prison once a month, after dark, and let their dogs loose in the yards where the rats were running. Watching the dogs ‘at work’ was mesmerizing!
- Terriers are bred for this kind of work and love doing it.
- It’s a quick death for the rat – the dogs are fast to catch them and shake them to death.
- This is a process still used on many farms where these dogs are kept for this specific purpose.
- Very effective in the short-term.
- Needs doing regularly. The dogs will only catch rats which are running, so babies will be left in the nest unless it’s found and cleared.
- You need to find a terrier owner or club near you!
12. Using Guns to catch Rats in your poultry house
Is it legal? And how does it work?
Yes, it’s perfectly legal. Although in Europe personal use of firearms without a certificate is illegal, it is perfectly legal anywhere to shoot vermin, as long as it’s on your own land and using an air rifle.
If you have permission, it’s also legal to shoot rodents on someone else’s land.
- Some famers advocate this as a quick and humane method, particularly when the rats are trapped in a barrel in a dry version of the ‘walk the plank’ trap.
- Another way of keeping the rats in one place is to lay bait down. Either peanut butter or diced up cat food works well, in my experience.
- Rats generally like to come out at night, so you need to set up just before dusk to be most effective.
- Shooting by artificial light isn’t a good idea – the rats will simply remain in their nest.
13. Using Home made traps in your poultry house
Amusing to read about, not so amusing to use.
What they are
- Search online for ‘homemade ways of getting rid of rats’ and you’ll find all kinds of ideas. Some are dangerous, some imaginative, some downright quirky.
- One of the most common is the ‘walk the plank’ option. Take a barrel, fill to about 6″ with water. Add some grain.
- On top of the barrel balance a plank, one end hovering over the centre of the barrel. Add a smear of peanut butter at the edge.
- The rats ‘walk the plank’ to get to the peanut butter, topple into the water and drown.
- Inexpensive (providing you have a barrel).
- Unpredictable – you need to be sure the plank will stay in place.
- Inhumane – it will take several minutes for a rat to drown.
- Not very effective, according to people who have used it.
14. Use Glue traps to catch rats in your poultry house
How they work:
- Used mainly by commercial companies because they’re cheap and very effective.
- They’re literally pads of glue which are set in rat-run places. When rodents – or anything else – moves onto them, they find themselves stuck.
- The animal either dies from exhaustion trying to escape, starves to death or has to be killed manually.
- They catch anything moving across them, including insects and birds.
- If the animal doesn’t die from exhaustion or literally tearing itself apart trying to escape, you will have to kill it.
- I don’t normally recommend or oppose any method but I would have to say, having seen these first-hand, that I do not think they should be used. Ever.
- Yes, rats are not welcome. Yes, getting rid of vermin is vital to your chickens’ health – and your family’s. But there are more humane ways.
15. Ultrasonic repellers
Wishful thinking – these may work on bugs (although even that is questionable) but there are no scientific studies at all which have found them to be effective in getting rid of rats and manufacturers have been repeatedly warned not to make false claims by the Federal Trade Commission of America.
How do they work?
- Ultrasonic repellers are small devices which plug into an electric socket and emit a very high pitched noise which is not heard by the human ear, but which rodents – supposedly – dislike.
- Some are relatively inexpensive (although some are very expensive).
- Easy to use.
- A passive way of trying to control vermin
- Some people swear by them, particularly to deal with roaches and other bugs.
- Once you already have an infestation of rodents these will be completely useless. Communities of rats will not be put off staying in their comfortable nest by some high pitched whining.
- At best, if you’re looking for something to deter rats and mice coming into your property, they may be worth trying before you try anything else but be warned – there are no studies whatever saying they have any effect on getting rid of rodents.
- My own experience of using them in my house to deter tiny fieldmice bears that out – they just didn’t work.
- Please note: Because I undertake only to promote products I think will benefit you, and I have no evidence that these are worth spending money on.
Want to know more?
There are several other articles on my website about getting rid of rats and other rodents which I hope you’ll find useful.
- Don’t make life easy for rats – they bring disease and they will even eat small chicks.
- Keep your grain in good containers and your coop and run well maintained and free of available food.
- And finally, when someone tells you they won’t keep chickens because they attract rodents, make sure you let them know this: chickens don’t attract rats and mice. Food does.