Managing Rats Around Chickens

As the saying goes “If you have chickens then you have rats”. Rats are normally around your chickens as the chicken coop offers the perfect place for rats to live. Chicken coops provide rats with food, water and shelter twenty four hours a day. The problem is down to a few traditional ways of keeping chickens.

Food and Water

The number one reason for rats being present around chickens is food. The chicken’s food is normally left out in a large feeder all day and all night, so the chickens can feed when they want. This is great for the chickens, but also great for the rats – a free supply of food that never ends and never moves. Rats haven’t populated the world by being stupid, so why would they not build their home around this 24-hour diner? Now, there’s a many ways of stopping the rats getting their fill but this is just a few of them:

 

Daily Ration
  1. Hand feed your chickens. This isn’t ideal for everyone as it’s more time consuming, but it’s the quickest way to remove food from the rats. Hand feeding means you can put down the right amount of food for your chickens so there’s none left for the rats. No food equals no rats.
Rat Proof Feeder
  1. Purchasing a treadle feeder. These are simple yet effective feeders that open when a chicken stands on a plate. Once the chicken gets off of the plate the lid shuts and the food is safe. The rats aren’t heavy enough to activate the lid. These also work to hide the food from corvids.
Food Source Removal
  1. At the very least, removing the food and water at night. Removing the food at night means the rats have to come out in the day to access the food. They would much rather feed in the night when they can move under the cover of darkness. However, the rats will soon get used to coming out in the day so this is just a quick fix.
Feed Storage
  1. Store all chicken food in a mental bin away from the chickens. Metal bins are essential when storing food. Rat’s teeth are razor sharp and make light work of plastic, so once they know the food is in the plastic bin they will soon be in and your plastic bin will be useless.

Shelter

Rats are prey animals, so they need somewhere to escape from any danger. Luckily for the rats we provide more than enough shelter for them. We often put the chicken house in a corner next to some hedges, or in a sheltered part of the garden. This is exactly what rats want. Here’s a few ways to stop the rats from getting shelter.

  1. Trim back any dense shrubs or grass from around your chickens. Make the rats feel unsafe when getting from the shelter to a place where they may find food. Also, clearing the bottom layer of shrubs will take cover away from the rats. They will feel exposed and hopefully move on.
  2. Lift your chicken’s house off of the ground. Many people will find rats living under the actual house for the chickens. If the house is lifted off of the ground then the rats no longer have shelter to live under. This also benefits the chickens, as they much prefer to roost off of the ground.
  3. Clear anything around the chickens that rats can hide under e.g. roofing tin, timber piles or general rubble. All make great places for rats to live.

Keeping Your Chickens Clean

Keeping your chickens clean will discourage rats from coming to investigate your chickens. Rats have a great sense of smell and will be able to smell a dirty hen house from a great distance. Regular cleaning stops the build up of nasty smells and should in turn stop encouraging the rats. Here are a few tips on how to keep your chickens clean.

  1. Regularly clean your chicken coop out. Little and often is perfect. Scooping out any mess regularly and replacing with clean bedding if ideal. It stops the smell and keeps your chicken clean and healthy.
  2. Clean up any uneaten food. Leaving food on the ground to rot only feeds the rats. Removing any veg leftovers before dark will stop the rat being able to get a feed. You can always put the food back down in the morning for your chickens to eat.
  3. If your able to, regularly move your food, water and coop around. Rats hate change and regularly changing their environment will discourage them from sticking around. This can be done when you carry out some of your basic cleaning tasks.

Following just a few of these steps should get you on your way to getting rid of your rat problem.

The age old saying, what came first, the chicken or the rat.

Cleanliness

Keeping your coop clean will stop attracting rats and won’t leave any food for them to eat

Food Waste

Keep food waste to a minimum. Try to avoid open feeders and take away feeders at night. Where possible, hand feed your chickens so all the food is eaten.

Vegetation & Clutter

Keeping the surrounding vegetation short and clutter free will stop rats living close to your chickens. If there’s no where for them to stay then they won’t be around for long.