Rats can get to places you didn't even think were possible for them to get to. While they are inconvenient and startling at best, if you're on a poultry farm, they can do real damage to your property if not kept at bay.
So, what's the problem with rats? How can you protect your chickens from them? And how can you get rid of them? We cover everything you need to know in this article, from storage options and feeders to traps and poison.
Diseases and Pests That Rats Can Transfer to Chickens
There's a reason why rats have such a bad reputation - while they may have been exonerated for the widespread catastrophe of the Black Plague, that doesn't mean they are off the hook for the many other diseases they carry.
To name but a few, rats can carry Listeria, Toxoplasma gondii, and Hantavirus. But when it comes to chickens, it's their ability to carry and spread Salmonellosis, Leptospirosis, and E. coli that is the biggest problem. E. coli can cause severe or fatal diseases in chickens and other livestock, and research has found that more than a quarter of rats carried strains of the bacteria.
Furthermore, rats can also carry fleas and mites, which come with their own set of problems if they manage to infest your chicken farm.
How To Protect Your Chickens Against Rats
Remove Spilt Feed
One of the most important things to know about rats is their opportunism. If there is food accessible to them, they will scavenge for and eat it indiscriminately. They will quite literally eat anything they can get their paws on.
So, if there's ever been a reason to be vigilant when not dropping chicken feed, this is it. Keeping the coop clean is not just about running a neat and tidy ship; it's about keeping away rats and all the nasty diseases and pests they carry.
It's a simple, easy, and (very importantly) free method of rat prevention that you can implement immediately.
Store Feed in Secure Containers
In the same vein as spilt feed, if you're not keeping the chicken food locked away in secure containers, then you may as well be asking for trouble. As stated above, rats are opportunistic and will not hesitate to dig holes in bags of feed to get their paws on it. Keeping your feed in a container that can't be ripped or burrowed into will save you time, money, and effort.
It's a change that requires minimal effort and money but will make a huge difference.
Opt for Treadle Feeders
So many different types of chicken feeders are available on the market, but one particularly clever option works as a two-in-one. Not only will a Treadle Feeder feed your chickens, but it also works as a rat deterrent due to its mechanisms and how it works.
The Treadle Feeder is a silent feeder which only releases food to the chickens when they activate it. This type of feeder will help to keep rats at bay because it will prevent spilt chicken feed.
Remove Eggs Daily
It's an unpleasant truth, but the animal kingdom can be brutal sometimes: the limits of rats' opportunistic nature do not stop them from eating chicken eggs and even chicks themselves. With that in mind, you will need to be extra vigilant when it comes to the eggs hens lay. Ideally, remove the eggs daily so any possible rats in the area do not have the chance to take them.
But merely removing the eggs won't be enough to keep the rats at bay if you do have a pest problem. If food sources are scarce for the rats, they will not hesitate to attack and feed on juvenile and adult chickens alike. Make sure you tackle the problem head-on and holistically.
How Do I Get Rid of Rats in My Chicken Coop?
While it's incredibly effective, using rat poison to fix your rat infestation should always be a last resort. That's because it is incredibly harmful to humans and all other animals if accidentally consumed. Furthermore, if the poison works faster than anticipated and the rats have no time to leave the place they're hidden, their corpses could eventually cause a foul smell that will likely be hard to get rid of.
Several types of poison are available, and some are not to be used inside the home, so make sure you do sufficient research for the kind that will work best for you and your situation.
There are two main rat traps available: rat boxes and snap traps. The first utilises poison, and the two work together to bring about a much more contained termination than by merely using poison alone. That's because it involves placing the poison (in the form of bait, such as food) inside a small box that will tempt the rat inside. This way, you don't need to worry about the body being trapped somewhere out of reach, and it also makes it safer to use inside with pets as they cannot access the poison in the small box.
The second option is the one made famous by cartoons. Snap traps are traditional methods that involve no poison and have been used for many decades. They are cost-effective, safe for pets, and kill rats instantly.
For rodent control equipment like these, check out Dalton's Engineering.
How could we talk about rats without bringing up cats? And don't worry, while Tom & Jerry is just a cartoon, the cat is the true boss in the real world. It turns out the rumours are true: cats and rats really are adversaries. Not only are cats very effective at hunting (and eating) rats, they act as a natural deterrent.
Merely by having a cat present on your farm, you'll find the number of rats diminishes. That's because the scent of a cat is such a strong warning sign for rats that they stay away if they detect it. Interestingly, the warning is not due to their urine, but from their scent as they rub their bodies against things.
One of the best parts of using a cat to sort your rat problem is that you don't have to do anything at all - just let the cat roam and do its thing, and you should see the infestation diminish before your eyes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Rats Bother Chickens?
Not only do rats bother chickens, they can cause serious harm to them and their eggs and chicks. Rats carry diseases that can spread to chickens, and they have mites and pests that can infect your livestock. Unfortunately, they will also hunt and kill eggs, chicks, and chickens if hungry.
How Do I Get Rid of Rats Without Killing My Chickens?
There are several methods you can use to contain your rat problems. First, set up preventative strategies such as securely storing the feed and removing the eggs from the coop daily. And secondly, invest in rodent control, such as rat boxes or poison, to eliminate the ones you already have.
Need to Rat Proof Your Chicken Coop? Shop Dalton!
Rats on your farm can cause severe damage to your chickens, and if you've noticed an infestation, it's something you should act upon immediately. Avoid spreading deadly diseases and mite infestations with rodent control products.
Rats bring with them danger and disease for humans as well as chickens, so the best way to deal with them is removal.
Find everything you need for your poultry farm at Dalton's Engineering - get in touch for more information and products.