If you own chickens, you’ll know how important it is to keep rats away from the coop.
Rats can harm chickens in several ways. They can assault little chicks, take eggs for their own, and can bite on hens as they sleep.
They can also eat any food for poultry you have in the area.
It’s clear why rats can be a huge problem, but there are many things chicken owners need to know to protect their birds.
Our guide can help with this, as it’ll outline important issues, like how to prevent rats from digging through to your coop, and whether the diseases rats carry will harm your chickens.
You’ll learn everything you need to know about keeping your chickens safe from rats below. Keep reading this page to find out more!
Are Rats Attracted To Chickens?
Rats aren’t drawn to chickens, but they are enticed by chicken feed, including fresh eggs in the coop.
Rats are also looking out for warm, comforting environments to live in, particularly if it’s located near a suitable food source.
To make your chicken’s pen less appealing to rats, you’ll need to securely protect the coop, keep the food stored out of reach, and use rat-proof feeders.
Rats aren’t persistent. Making it difficult for them to get into a coop, or obtain chicken food, can prevent them from entering the space in the first place.
Will Rats Assault Chickens?
Chickens will devour small rodents, including little wild rats and babies. If the rat is grown, it will be too large for the chickens to attack. Despite this, you shouldn’t let rats live anywhere near your henhouse.
Rats can assault and eat baby chickens. If they are riled up enough, they will also assault fully grown chickens.
However, rats have a greater chance of eating chicken feed than going after adult chickens. Attacking chickens takes more effort, so while a direct assault is always possible, it is less likely to occur.
If you notice a rat near your henhouse, you don’t need to worry about your chickens, unless you have young chicks inside the coop.
However, you should work quickly to get rid of the rats. A rat is a sign that you should start rat-proofing the coop to remove the rats and avoid issues occurring later on.
Rats reproduce fast, which is another reason why you should act fast when you first see one.
Rats can take just 21 days to create a litter. If they have a comfortable home and a steady food supply, female rats will keep creating more, as many as 6 litters every year.
A litter can contain anywhere from 5-12 babies, which will reach their reproductive age at 4-5 weeks.
This is why it’s so important to eliminate any rats that you see before they have a chance to produce their babies.
Can Rats Transfer Diseases To Chickens?
Rats can steal your eggs and attack your chickens, but this is just some of the damage they can do.
Rats carry lots of diseases, like leptospirosis and salmonellosis. Your chickens may fall victim to these diseases, including any fleas and mites that the rats are carrying.
These pests can affect your chickens and in the worst case, infest the whole flock. Fleas also carry harmful diseases, like the bubonic plague.
In the worst case, these diseases can move from chickens to humans, which is why you should act quickly if you notice any rat droppings around the henhouse.
Preventing Rats From Digging
Rats are efficient diggers and can travel many meters below a surface. They can create tunnels underground to move between nests and food supplies.
This shows that rats can dig beneath any fencing. If your coop is built right on top of a surface, rats can easily dig beneath the ground and travel inside your coop.
You can prevent this from occurring by placing 10mm galvanized hardware cloth on the floor beneath the coop.
If the pen has a robust floor, you can coat the surface with the same material. This will stop rats from entering the coop as they bite into the floor.
You can stop rats digging beneath the chicken coop’s fencing by positioning a hardware cloth skirt around it. Make sure that it extends a few feet beyond the boundary.
For appearance’s sake, you can staple this into the floor and allow grass to grow on top, or simply shroud the cloth with sod.
Unfortunately, there isn’t any way to stop rats from digging, but positioning protective barriers around the pen can keep chickens from digging through to your coop.
Will Rats Chew Through Chicken Wire?
Rats have sharp and strong teeth. This allows them to bite through a variety of items, like chicken wire.
They can also bite through different materials to force themselves through a small opening.
Chicken wire can defend your birds against bigger predators, but in the case of rats, the wire won’t stop them.
Other than chicken wire, rats can make their way through plastic, cinder blocks, and wood. The only material rats can’t bite through is steel.
Ways To Defend Your Chickens From Rats
If you want to protect your chickens against rats, you’ll need to consider the following points.
It’s best to keep chicken feed as far away from rats as possible. If you need to keep it outside near your pen, store the feed in a metal container with a secure lid.
This should work well to stop rats from biting through and consuming the food.
Coat the floor with hardware cloth to protect the pen. Don’t forget to cover any visible holes and ventilation spots.
Rats can get through tiny spaces easily, as they can compress themselves down to the size of a quarter.
Thoroughly examine the pen for any holes, no matter how small, and cover them with hardware cloth. You can also fill any larger areas with steel wool.
Make sure that the pen’s door closes completely, particularly at night. Check if any gaps are present around the edges, then fix them as necessary.
Just like food, rats are drawn to easily accessible water sources. This can easily be prevented by putting water supplies away at night.
You can do this by securely confining water inside the coop, or transporting it into a garage or shed for the night.
If you choose to do the latter, you’ll need to put the water back out for the chickens when they are let out in the morning.
Rat Proof Feeders
Purchasing a rat-proof chicken feeder can prevent rats from accessing your chicken feed. Chicken feed is the main reason rats are drawn to chicken coops, so rodent-proof feeders are an effective solution.
Make sure that all bulk feed is kept well away from the coop, so that any spills won’t attract rodents to the pen.
Types Of Rodent Proof Feeders
Here are the main types of rodent-proof feeders that you can purchase.
Treadle feeders are metal boxes with a lid attached to a lever. The lever that manages the lid is fastened to a metal plate.
If a chicken steps on the metal plate ahead of the feeder, the lid will rise, giving the birds access to the feed.
The lid will keep closed when the chickens aren’t eating. Treadle feeders will keep the feed dry unless the chickens are eating from it in the rain.
Treadle feeders are available in several different sizes, models, and brands. If you’re struggling to find one, they are also known as automatic feeders, so look out for both names.
Hanging Feeders With Weight Managed Closures
These feeders are like squirrel-proof fowl feeders. They are hung around the height of a chicken’s shoulder.
If a rodent attempts to stretch upwards to the food, their weight will activate a closure over the feeders opening, so they cannot access the food.
How To Eliminate Rats That Are Already Present
If you currently have a rat infestation, the tips outlined above will help. You’ll also need to remove any present rats and make sure there aren’t any enticing environments that rats may call home.
Some of these settings include open trash bins, compost heaps, sheds, or hay bundles. Thoroughly examine your entire household and treat as necessary.
Here are some ways that you can remove rats from your home.
Poison may be effective, but it’s not the best idea to remove rats that have settled inside your coop.
If any poison is potent enough to kill rodents, it will also be strong enough to kill your chickens. Remember, chickens can consume poison secondhand by nibbling at deceased rats.
Rat traps are available in many different options. Snap traps are an affordable and popular example.
These will need to be positioned in areas where rats are present, but not in any areas where your chickens, kids, or other animals can get trapped in them.
Make sure that you buy the right size traps. Smaller ones can trap mice, but they won’t be able to hold rats.
If yours are the right size, they should kill the rat instantly. You’ll need to dispose of the dead rat afterward.
Electric-style traps, also known as rat zappers, are another option. These will cost more, but they are more humane than snap traps. It’s also easier and less messy to clean up afterward.
Live traps involve bait and a cage. The system will entice a rat with bait, then trap it within a cage. These have a drawback, as you’ll need to deal with a live rat after it’s caught.
You may decide to let them go to another location, but this isn’t recommended, as they are likely to travel back to your home.
If they don’t, they’ll probably travel to another person’s home, passing on the problem.
Lastly, we have glue traps. You’ll have to keep children, chickens, and any pets away from them, just like snap traps.
The glue trap has a sticky surface that traps the rat, so it can’t escape. The rat will then die from starvation or panic, which is a less humane option.
Rat Terrier Dog Club
You can also search for a rat terrier dog club in your area. This might seem cruel, but the canines are trained to quickly kill any rats in your household.
Rat terriers have a history of keeping rat populations from growing out of control, helping to prevent diseases from affecting humans and poultry.
However, these dogs won’t be able to locate any rat baby nests. You will still need to thoroughly examine your coop and home, then eliminate any nests you find.
Can Dogs And Cats Eliminate Rats From Your Home?
Many chicken owners choose to raise their birds in the city, but farmers have been dealing with rats for hundreds of years.
A farm is full of crevices with food and shelter, which rats love to take advantage of. This is why many farmers choose to live with dogs and cats.
Cats by nature will hunt and slay rats. A feline’s scent within your home will deter rats from moving close by, as the smell tells them that predators are nearby.
Chicken owners may worry about cats assaulting their chickens, but fully grown chickens will be too big for them.
However, this differs if your coop contains baby chicks. All felines should be kept away from chicks until they are a few months old. Cats shouldn’t go after them when they’ve started to grow some more.
If you are thinking about getting a cat to go after rats, you’ll need to make sure that your feline has good hunting skills.
Try searching at local farms, as these cats are taught to hunt onsite by their mother. Pet cats may have evolved past these hunting instincts.
Dogs can also help defend your chickens against rats. Make sure that you train your dog to protect, not assault, your chickens.
Try to teach them a simple command, like ‘gentle’, as you can use this when you’re nearer the chickens.
Some dog breeds will hunt and slay rats, but some are more docile and will ignore them.
Search for breeds with innate hunting instincts, but make sure that they can be trained easily so they won’t fight your chickens.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will Rats Hurt Chickens?
Rats will steal chicken eggs and can attack young chicks. Rats will kill chicks by biting through the bird’s head or neck.
They are less likely to go after adult chickens, but if they do not have a readily available food source, they may assault adult hens.
Do Rats Hang Around Chickens?
Rats are drawn to sources of food and water. Chicken feed and water are often kept within chicken coops, which is what attracts rats to the pen.
If your coop isn’t designed well and has several holes within it, rodents can easily make their way into the pen.
Keeping chicken feed in metal bins and lining the pen with heavy hardware cloth can prevent rats from bothering your chickens.
Can Rats Bite Through Chicken Wire?
Chicken wire may defend your chickens against some predators, but not rats. Rats have sharp teeth that can easily chew through the wire.
Chicken wire is best used to keep chickens inside a pen, not to keep predators away from it.
Rats are drawn toward food and water sources, which is why you may find them around your chicken coop.
It’s important to act quickly if you see rats or rat droppings, as they can produce a litter in under a month. You’ll need to examine your pen and block any entry points, as well as eliminate any current rats in the area.
The methods above will help you eliminate any current rodents and keep future rats from accessing your chicken coop.
These are effective measures that can keep your flock safe from any diseases, retain all of your eggs, and help you save money on chicken feed!
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