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Easy ways you can keep rats out of your chicken coop and keep your hens safe from these sneaky rodents! If you already have a rat problem these tips will help you get rid of rats too.
It’s often said that if you have chickens you will have rats. But this simply isn’t true.
You can have a rat problem whether or not you have livestock on your homestead.
But when you are raising chickens or other animals you are more likely creating conditions that rats will be attracted to. Things like leaving water and grain out on the ground all the time or having lots of deep bedding like bales of straw stored.
Rats are very sneaky animals as most rodents are but honestly, they have to be one of the smartest. They can be living in your barn for quite a while without you noticing anything.
Often by the time you know you have a rat problem you are dealing with a large colony. The best way is to do these easy things to prevent rats from moving in in the first place.
The more unwelcoming you can make your environment to them the more likely they are to move somewhere else.
Preventing Rats In Your Chicken Coop
1. Don’t Leave Spilled Feed On The Ground Overnight
Cleaning up any spilled feed in your coop is one of the easiest things you can do to deter rats.
Rats love an easy dinner and leaving grain laying around is like an open buffet for them.
Make sure to clean up any grain you or your hens may have spilled during the day before nightfall.
2. Store Feed Security
Don’t leave feed bags of chicken feed and grain laying around. These are so easy for rats and mice to chew through.
Instead, make sure you securely lock them up in rodent-proof containers. Steal garbage cans and old freezers are great for this and a cheap way to keep grain clean too.
3. Secure or Remove Feeders And Waters At Night
Chickens don’t eat during the night anyway but this is when rats are most active.
So removing the water and feed trays from the coop can be a good way to keep rats away. Just place them back in the coop first thing in the morning for your hens.
Another option is to use a treadle style feeder that is great for keeping pests out.
4. Collect Eggs Often
Rats love to eat chicken eggs. To avoid this make sure that you remove the eggs from the coop every day.
Give a quick check in the evening and gather any that have been laid latter in the day.
5. Use Strong Wire
Use a strong wire mesh for your chicken coop and make sure to bury the wire under the ground and skirting out a few feet.
This is much more effective than chicken wire and will help to keep many predators out of the coop.
6. Use A Concrete Floor, Thick Wood Or Wire
While wood floors are cheaper for chicken coops they are easily chewed through. Avoid using thin plywood for coop floors.
Instead, use thick wooden boards that have been weather treated, or better yet a concrete floor. Concrete is my favourite for being easy to clean and predator-proof.
If you have a dirt floor then cover it with a small 1/2” or 1/4” wire mesh. Make sure to run the wire all the way to the corners and partway up the walls securing it well. This will help to keep the rats from digging into your coop.
7. Use Good Door Latches
Rats like most rodents are very smart animals. They can easily open simple latches and are determined to keep trying.
Use good quality sliding bolts on your doors that are much harder for them to open.
8. Get A Cat
Having a good mouser or two is one of the best ways to keep rats and mice away.
Often the scent of cats alone will help to scare rodents off but if they do try to make their way in a good barn cat will catch them before they become an established problem.
9. Clean Up Junk Piles
Rats just love to have places to hide. If you have piles of wood, scrap metal, or other junk lying around whether it’s inside buildings or outside clean them up as best you can. Rats will feel less safe when they don’t have places to hide.
Try storing building materials on racks or shelves up off the ground and check them often for signs of rodents.
10. Don’t Leave Garbage Outside
Rats can easily chew through plastic garbage cans and fill themselves up on your trash each night.
If you must store your garbage outside then make sure to use steel garbage cans with a tight-fitting lid. This will keep rats out of your garbage and other scavengers too.
11. Rat Proof Your Compost Pile
If you have a compost pile you will quickly find out just how much rats and mice love these. They really are the perfect environment for rodents. They have lots of food, bedding, and are a quite safe place for them to breed and raise litters.
To make them less inviting you can line the top, bottom, and wides with a fine-meshed wire that they can’t fit through.
Turn the compost pile often (every few days) to disturb the environment and scare them off.
Another idea would be to use a compost tumbler that is raised off the ground and fully enclosed. These make compost fast, easy and rodent proof.
12. Keep Chickens Caged At Night
Rats often kill young chicks and carry them off. They commonly go after chicks as old as 6 weeks and will go after older chicks and even adult birds if they are very hungry.
If you have been raising chicks make sure you keep them in a secure rat proof cage at night. This is even important if you have hens raising their own chicks. Rats have been known to steel young chicks right out from under the mother hen.
Ways To Get Rid Of A Rat Problem In Your Chicken Coop
Preventing rats in the first place is the best way but what if you already have rats in your coop?
1. Set Traps
If you have a rat problem starting than setting traps is a must. Bate the traps with peanut butter, meat or chicken feed. Then place the along the edges of the walls.
Snap traps are the most common and easy to use but if you want something different try an electric rat trap. This trap uses electric shot to kill rodents right away. It’s simple to use, battery-powered and lights up to let you know when you need to empty the trap.
These types of traps make it easy to set up and empty without worrying about your fingers being hurt in the old types of traps.
Another old-time way of catching rats is to make homemade traps out of buckets of water. Rats are highly attracted to water because they drink a lot.
Take a tall 5-gallon bucket and fill it up halfway with water. Place a board leading up to the top edge that the rats can go up. When they try to drink they will fall in and not be able to get back out.
Tips For Using Traps:
- Be careful where you set up the traps. Make sure they are in a place that pets and kids can’t get at them.
- Only put the bate on the holder on the trap. If you place bate near the traps and they bump into it, the trap could set off scaring them away. Rats are smart if it scares them once they won’t go near it again.
I know using rat poison isn’t something that is always looked at as a good thing. But if you have a large rat problem then it is often the only way to get rid of them.
Make sure to use a dispenser that keeps other animals out of the trap and only fits rats and mice through. Look for bate that also dehydrates the rats this causes a minimal smell after they die.
The downside to using rat poison is that they often will die in walls, attics, etc. And create quite a stink. But some brands do a good job of minimizing this.
3. Use An Exterminator
If you’ve tried everything you can think of and are still having a rat problem then calling in some professional help is a good idea. They have access to better bait and traps and often know the best place to set them up.
When dealing with rats the best way is to keep them out in the first place.
Remember to take a few minutes every day to clean up and spilled feed, keep feed stored in rodent-proof containers and make it as hard as possible for them to get inside your coop.
Kim Mills is a homeschooling mom of 6 and lives on an urban homestead in Ontario, Canada. Blogging at Homestead Acres she enjoys sharing tips to help you save money, grow and preserve your own food.