If you keep chickens, then expect rodents as their constant companion. Chicken coops attract rats and mice the same way that food attracts flies.
Active and preventative rodent control measures are essential to effectively managing rats to protect flock health and welfare and optimise yield.
A multi-targeted approach will keep rats at bay. This requires an understanding of a rat's lifecycle and habits, knowledge of how to design or modify buildings on the farm to discourage rodents, and an awareness of the product options available to control them.
In this article about safe rodent control, find out everything you need to know.
Do Chicken Coops Attract Rats?
Chicken farms and poultry housing are a magnet for rodents, especially rats, who are the most destructive and problematic.
Chicken coops provide rats with five-star accommodation, offering abundant food, water, and a warm place to shelter and breed.
Common Problems Caused by Rats
Rats cause three main problems. First, they eat poultry feed, urinate, and defecate on anything they don't eat. This contaminates it and renders it unusable. A large rat will break and eat eggs and, occasionally, devour young chicks.
Rats carry over 45 viruses, some of which are zoonotic pathogens, meaning they can jump species to humans. Rats also carry parasites like mites, fleas, and lice, which impact flock health.
Finally, rats cause damage, including to the structure of the chicken coop. They chew, gnaw and destroy internal elements like plastic and rubber components.
Rats also penetrate walls, causing damage to wiring, which presents a significant fire risk and causes essential equipment to malfunction, such as temperature control units.
A year-round rodent control programme on poultry farms is essential to avoid the problems rats cause.
Preventing Rats in the Chicken Coop
Managing an existing rat infestation is one thing, but there are plenty of preventative measures farmers and chicken keepers can take to discourage rodents from taking up residence.
Prevention is always better than cure. It avoids the costs and extra work of managing an established rat problem and protects and optimises bird health and yield.
Feed Security and Storage
Keep chicken feed stored away from the sheds and in metal, vermin-proof containers.
Keeping feed near the hen house may be convenient for workers, but it creates another point of interest for rats and encourages interest in adjacent poultry housing.
Good Poultry Husbandry
Keep the chicken coop and adjacent buildings clean, which should be free of anything rodents can use for nesting material.
If chicken bedding is stored nearby, rotate it weekly within the building to expose any new nesting sites – store bales or sacks of bedding off the ground and away from the building's walls.
Keep plants and grass around the chicken coop to a minimum with regular gardening. Rats prefer to make their runs in overgrown vegetation next to buildings where they’re out of sight.
Don't leave equipment standing for long periods; this is a 'des res' for a rodent!
Keep the chicken coop clean and clear up spilt feed and broken eggs.
Using treadle feeders reduces the amount of discarded or available feed on the floor. Treadle feeders have a closed lid, and the chicken lifts the top by stepping on the treadle to access the food.
Rats aren’t heavy enough to activate the treadle plate. Even if several rats stepped on the treadle and the lid opened, they can’t reach the food from this location as they aren’t tall enough.
Dispose of dead birds regularly and in a sealed, vermin-proof container.
Inspect regularly for any rat activity; this includes rat droppings, spilt feed or material moved around, which could indicate fresh nesting activity.
Rats follow pre-determined routes, and that's easy for someone experienced in rodent control to spot.
Rodent-Proof the Chicken Coop
Maintain the structural integrity of the chicken coop by repairing or blocking up any holes using gnaw-proof materials like sheet metal.
Protect the building with galvanised mesh panels that the rats can't penetrate.
Install Bait Traps
Many people think bait traps are only necessary when there's clear evidence of rat infestation. However, rat presence in and around poultry housing is more likely than not, and so many farms operate a year-round baiting programme to avoid rodents getting a foothold. Assume they're around even if you can't see them.
How Do You Get Rid of Rats if You Already Have Them?
Rats multiply quickly, and the only effective way to control a resident population is by using rodenticides. Rodenticides are chemicals that poison rats and mice.
Due to resistance in vermin caused by the widespread use of chemicals in the 1970s and 1980s – these are called FGARs or First-Generation Anticoagulants – the latest products are potentially more toxic.
Second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) are also known as single-dose anticoagulants because one dose can administer a lethal amount.
SGARs are fast and efficient and cause the rat's death inaround three days from internal bleeding.
SGARs present a higher risk of secondary poisoning to non-target species and are closely regulated both in terms of their storage and their use. SGARs require close and careful management in appropriate traps that are secure to other species.
Bait traps usually contain rodenticides. Place bait traps on rodent trails or rat runs. Try and remove other food sources so there’s no competition.
It's essential to check bait boxes regularly for rat activity. Replace used bait – rodents are greedy, and one or two animals only may have eaten the bait within a couple of days – and add more bait traps. Include a water source near the station; rats drink a lot when eating.
Rats will ignore contaminated bait or avoid it if it becomes wet; remove and replace it.
Rodents can scatter bait when they eat, which is another reason to check the stations at least twice a week, as the poisoned bait can spill outside the station where birds may eat it.
Electronic Rat Killers
Electronic rat killers are a more humane way of controlling rodents. These traps come pre-loaded with palatable bait and are battery-powered.
They deliver a lethal electrical charge guaranteed to kill the rat in seconds and more quickly than SGARs.
The bait is non-toxic and avoids the problems associated with SGARs and non-target species.
Traditional Rodent Traps
Traditional traps are high maintenance and require regular attention but are effective. They rely on bait as a lure but work well with anything attractive, like fruit or peanut butter, so they're not reliant on SGARs.
The traps are sprung and usually kill the rat, but not always, so you’ll need a Plan B.
Rats aren’t stupid and learn to avoid traps once they realise they're dangerous. Overcome trap shyness by changing the bait and the location.
Traditional sprung traps can only kill one rodent at a time compared to baited rodenticide traps, so you may need more of them, and they usually require checking and re-baiting daily. Rodenticide traps are a little less labour-intensive.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Keeps Rodents Away From Chicken Coops?
Poultry farmers can keep rodents away from chicken coops with preventative measures and active vermin control programmes. Good building design, secure storage, scrupulous bird husbandry and preventative measures like installing bait stations all keep the rodent population to a minimum.
Can You Rat-Proof a Chicken Coop?
The design of a chicken coop is essential when it comes to repelling rodents. Choose an enclosure with wire mesh sides or add mesh panels to an existing structure. Put the chicken coop on a solid concrete floor or use a mesh floor if the chicken coop is on soil or grass.
Shop Dalton Engineering’s Rodent Control Solutions!
Controlling rats on a poultry farm is similar to managing any other unwanted visitor to the chicken coop. It requires persistence, constant vigilance, and appropriate preventative measures alongside the right rodent control products.
At Dalton Engineering, we stock a comprehensive selection of tried and tested rodenticides and traps to ensure quality rodent control, whether you're farming poultry at scale or just a hobby keeper.
Shop ourrodent control products and wave goodbye to rodents for good!