If you have a flock of chickens, you’re always worrying about them getting eaten by other animals. Chickens are easy prey and attract many animals such as hawks, coyotes, and even cats and dogs. What about smaller animals like rats?
Do chickens attract rats? Yes, chickens do attract rats. However, it’s not the chickens that attract these rodents, but their droppings and chicken feed that do. For this reason, it’s really important to keep their coop clean. If not, it could lead to bigger problems for the chickens.
Why Rats Are a Problem?
Rats are usually not a problem to have around. They will eat the leftovers and chicken’s dropping. You may look at them as a great creature to have around as they will help keep the area around the coop clean.
However, when there are too many of them, it can become a problem. For rats, these creatures live in a large group and hunt together. Once they make their way into the chicken coop and run, they will literally eat everything and anything that’s edible.
Below are a couple of reasons why rats are a problem for chickens:
Rats Carry Disease
Rats are known carriers for many diseases and some can be very deadly for chickens. Wild rats can transmit the disease directly or indirectly. Diseases that are transmitted directly include hantavirus, leptospirosis, lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV), Tularemia, and Salmonella, according to the CDC.
Diseases that can be transmitted indirectly are Lyme disease, Murine typhus, Colorado tick fever, Scrub Typus, Relapsing Fever, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and West Nile virus, according to the CDC.
Rats Will Eat Eggs
If you raise chickens for eggs, rats will be a major problem for you. One of the rat’s favorite food is eggs, especially eggs of chickens.
Rats are very stealthy and can even steal eggs right from under the hens without them ever noticing.
Rats Kill Young Chickens
Rats are omnivores, which means they will eat both plants and animals. When it comes to baby and juvenile chickens, they may seem like tasty and easy food.
Usually, rats will not attack and eat them, but when food is scarce and there are a lot of rats around, they will.
Most of the time, rats will kill their prey by biting the head and necks. With their powerful jaw, they are able to kill a baby chicken quickly. Since the coop is usually very dark and chickens have bad eyesight at night, their killing will go unnoticed.
Signs You Have Rats
For rats, wood and plastic material is no issue for them; they’ll chew right through it.
If you suspect there are rats in and around the chicken coop, inspect the cool for chewing damages.
Areas that are chewed off will usually be dark areas where they will go unnoticed. This could be the underside of the coop and corners of the coop.
Rats are agile creatures and don’t need to make a big hole for them to crawl in and out of. They can squeeze themselves and fit through tight spots.
Therefore, a small crack in the coop or run that you may think they can fit through maybe the hole they have been sneaking through all along.
Hole In The Ground
Rats are great burrowers and can burrow themselves anywhere. Check for holes under the coop and in the run. The burrow will usually be around 2-4 inches in diameter.
If there is a lot of food available, rats may even make a burrow right under the coop. These are smart creatures and will try to make their home closes to their food source.
If you do find a hole in the ground, simply covering it back with dirt will not work. The rats will either dig their way past it again or dig a new route.
To prevent them from making a burrow, you’ll need to dig up the length of their entire burrow and see where the starting point is. Then you can cover their entire burrow to prevent them from burrowing to the coop again.
Missing Chicken Feed
A single adult chicken consumes an average of a quarter pounds of feed per day. However, this can more or less depend on the season. During the summer, chickens will consume less and during the winter, they will eat more.
Therefore, if you have 20 average-size chickens and you’re feeding them more than 100 pounds of feeds each week then there’s something else eating the feeds too.
Unlike chickens, rats will eat every bit and piece of the chicken feeds. This will make it difficult to pinpoint exactly where they are and tracking them down.
Missing Chicken Eggs
One of the rat’s favorite food is eggs. If they see an opportunity, they will eat chicken eggs. Sometimes, the rats will even steal an egg right from under the hen.
If you keep getting fewer eggs from the hens each day or the egg count is off, the rats are one of the culprits.
How To Keep Rats Out of the Chicken Coop and Run
Proper Storage of Chicken Feeds
The original packaging for chicken feeds is usually made of nylon materials. This material is easily chewed through by rats.
The packaging for the feeds has breathable holes throughout to prevent moisture buildup. Rats have a very good sense of smells and can detect the chicken feeds, even in total darkness.
While the original packaging is excellent for storing chicken feeds, it’s not great for keeping rats from getting to it.
Instead, you should place the chicken feeds in a container. A plastic container will not work as the rats will be able to chew through it easily.
The best choice will be a container made out of tins. Tin tends to be too difficult for rats to chew through and they will not attempt to either.
It’s important to keep the chicken coop and run clean at all times. If there’s no chicken dropping or feeds, the rats will have no interest in coming into the coop and run.
Daily cleaning of the coop and run should be done daily. Cleaning will not only keep the rats away but will help with the overall health of the chickens. They will not have to breathe in the odor of rotting feeds and their own droppings.
You may already have chicken wire as a fence around the entire coop and run. Unfortunately, this material is great for keeping chickens from getting through, but not for rats. Rats are very agile and can squeeze themselves through chicken wires.
Instead, you should use only quarter-inch or half-inch hardware cloth for your chicken run material. This will help keep the rats from getting past it.