Rodents pose big problems for your chickens. They can cause deep distress, in addition to eating eggs, gnawing through chicken wire, and consuming all the feed in sight. They are, at best, a nuisance, and at worst, a danger.
This guide will take you through why rodents are interested in your chicken coops, the negative effects they can have, and how to prevent infestations or manage a current one. Let's jump in.
Do Hen Houses Attract Mice and Rats?
In short: yes, but maybe not for the reason you think. It is a common misconception that chickens attract rats and mice, but they aren't actually interested in chickens. Plenty of food and a comfortable place to eat it will attract rats in no time. What does a chicken house provide? You guessed it, both of these things.
Rats and mice will eat just about anything, but they are often intimidated by larger animals. Chickens, sadly, aren't quite vicious enough to scare off your new rodent friends. This makes the abundance of food and cosy setting found within a chicken house the ideal location for rodents to congregate. Luckily, there are steps you can take to prevent them from getting too comfortable.
Why Rats and Mice are a Problem
The immediate answer is the potential for infection. Rats and mice are known to carry multiple diseases, which could prove disastrous for your chickens. Additionally, they are liable to consume both your water and your feed at an extreme rate, leaving very little for the chickens themselves. Rodents have even been known to consume chicken eggs.
Further potential problems include:
- Increased Stress: naturally, chickens do not appreciate rats invading their home. This increased stress can seriously hinder their ability to produce eggs
- Danger to Chicks: other than being disease-carrying rodents, rats are also predators, and they will attack chicks if given a chance. Chickens attract rats as their young are potential food sources
- Food Contamination: even if rats don't manage to eat all the feed you left out for your chickens, they will contaminate it via their droppings
They can also do real damage to the structure of your chicken houses. Rats can gnaw through anything, including chicken wire and hardware cloth (unless reinforced). Rats have even been known to cause electrical fires due to their incessant chewing.
How to Tell if Rats and Mice are Near Your Hen Houses
Even though rats and mice can severely impact your chickens, they aren't always the easiest to spot. They are fast and often nocturnal, meaning it isn't likely you will ever see one. That doesn't mean they aren't there, however, and the damage remains the same.
Some of the key tell-tale signs that your chicken house has a rat infestation include:
- Heightened Feed Consumption: it isn't always easy to tell how much feed your chickens are going through exactly, but it is possible to have an estimate. If you suddenly find that your feeders aren't staying full for as long as they used to, it is likely because you are feeding your new guests too
- Damage to Your Hen Houses: a rats' favourite way to invade a hen house is either by chewing or burrowing, both of which they are excellent at. If you start to notice unusual holes or signs of damage, especially with irregular borders, then you may have unwanted guests
- Absent Eggs: if you have noticed a sudden drop in how many eggs you are collecting from your chickens, it could be due to the rats. Chickens will lay fewer eggs when stressed, and the eggs they do lay can be eaten by rats
- Droppings: not the most pleasant thing to think about, but a tell-tale sign nonetheless. Rat droppings look like small, brown grains of rice, so they are usually easy to identify
If you notice any of the above signs in your chicken houses, it's time to take action. Read on for our top tips on solving a rat infestation.
How to Keep Mice and Rats Off Your Hen Houses
Securing your chickens from rats isn't as easy as it may initially seem. Rats are far more capable than most people think. They can climb almost anything, including feeders. If they can't climb it, they can definitely gnaw through it. You need to make your hen house and feeders less desirable to rats. Here are some ways to achieve that.
Rats are obsessed with food. Their whole existence revolves around it. Poison can be a highly successful way of removing rats. It will kill off the present rodents and dissuade others from making their home among the chickens. Our Ruby Blocks and Whole Wheat Bait are perfect for this. They desire a safe source of food. If it becomes apparent that this isn't available, they will move on.
In some instances, poisoning the food supply isn't an option and may actually prove dangerous to your chickens. In that circumstance, we recommend traps. Our Big Cheese Wooden Mouse Trap and Ultra Power Twin Traps are ideal for swiftly removing rodents from your hen houses. They are both easy to set up and are guaranteed to kill both rats and mice.
Change Your Habits
A final tip we can offer: change the way you do things slightly. You may inadvertently attract rats via certain behaviours. As we mentioned before, the life of a rodent entirely revolves around feeders, so it makes it harder for them to reach it.
Reinforced hardware cloth could help keep them out, but you should also sweep up any excess food that chickens haven't consumed. Additionally, you should keep your feeders away from the hen house itself or remove feeders entirely at night. That way, there is no incentive for rats and mice to come sniffing.
So there you have it. Now you are prepared for any potential rodent infestation. They are annoying and potentially harmful creatures, but they don't have to be difficult to remove. With sufficient preparation, you can keep your chickens happy and your coop secure.