Rat's in the coop? here's what you need to do
Your backyard chickens and their coops can be attractive havens for rodents and unwanted pests. However, a flock of chickens doesn't necessarily mean you will have a rat infestation problem to deal with. By taking some simple measure - which will quickly become habit you will be able to deter rodents from your backyard chicken coop.
Why you don't want rodents in the coop:
- Rats and pests carry diseases
- Rodents prey on chicks
- Pests create a stressful environment for your chickens
- Fecal matter and urine from rats will contaminate your chicken's feed and water with bacteria
It is vital for your chicken's health to ensure rodents are not in your chicken coop. The diseases that they can carry can also be potentially dangerous to humans with a compromised immune system, such as pregnant women, the elderly, young children or people undertaking chemotherapy.
The droppings, urine and any fleas may carry the harmful bacteria Salmonellosis. Rodents will poop and urinate everywhere, not discriminating between feed, water, bedding or grass. Putting aside illnesses, they may also harbour lice and parasites which are unwelcome in any coop.
It is important to always be on the watch for rats before you end up with a large infestation
How to know you have rats in and around the chicken coop
At the slightest sound, a rat can scurry off into a hiding place so that even while you may have an infestation - you may never see a rat. However the rat cannot help but leave telltale clues behind of its habitation.
Clues you have a rat problem:
- Scratches in and around the chicken coop
- Chewed holes in netting or in the timber
- Rat droppings
- You may hear scratching in the night
- Chickens seem unusually stressed
- Eaten eggs
- Dead or injured chickens
- Holes in the chicken feed bags
- Missing chicks
How to prevent rats
One thing is for certain, rats have an excellent sense of smell. If you coop is seen as a regular food source, rats will come from afar to set up camp to eat and breed. In order to not attract rodents and mice, your should not advertise that you have an unlimited food and water supply in your backyard. Chicken feed and scraps - particularly wet feed will give off a strong odour attracting mice from a distance
- Use a chicken feeder that does not get wet, nor does it encourage the chickens to stand in the feed or spread the feed around the coop. Position the Dine A Chook feeder above the ground for added deterrence. This feeder can also be easily unhooked and removed from the coop every evening if necessary.
- Avoid regularly feeding your chickens kitchen scraps. Scraps left on the ground are a smorgasbord for rats and pests.
- Keep feed bags in a secure container. Rats will quickly gnaw through bags and plastic with their sharp teeth. Use a metal galvanised steel bin to stop rats accessing feed bags.
- Remove the water source. We prefer to use Lubing Cups or nipples to provide hydration for chickens. Unlike a water trough, this provides minimal spillage (less attractive odours) and is not inviting to rodents.
- Use a small gauge chicken wire. A solid mesh in a small gauge will help stop rats from entering the coop.
- Collect eggs daily
- Keep the grass around the coop cut at all times.
- Buy a cat. Cats will rarely attack chickens that are of a laying age, however cats will certainly enjoy hunting a rat
How to deal with a rat infestation
So, you've discovered a pesky rat problem in and around your coop. Dealing with a rodent infestation will take a three pronged approach.
- Cut off the food and water supply. Stop putting out scraps and get rid of the compost bin. Remove water and feed supply of an evening.
- Put out rat bait stations. Be sure to monitor in and around the coop for dead rats. If you do have to dispose of a rat carcass, do not touch the body instead use a shovel to pick it up, bag and bin it. We recommend Ratshot rat poison as it is lower in toxicity to Non-Target animals compared to other Rodenticides
- Cut off shelter: Add a small guage sturdy wire mesh around the coop. Patch up any holes in timber with mesh.
- Also, it is a good time to treat your chickens for parasites, fleas and lice as rats can introduce these into the coop.
How to clean up rat poop
Rat droppings and urine potentially carry harmful bacteria. It is important to make sure these are cleaned out of the coop to prevent infection within the chicken flock or to their human carers.
You will need:
- A Mask
- Scrubbing brush
- Soap and hot water
- David Grey's Poultry Dust Insecticide
Once you have discovered an infestation, you will need to give the chicken coop a big clear out. It is time to don your gloves and mask to shovel out any bedding straight into the bin. Sweep out the coop.
After the coop has been cleared out it is time to thoroughly disinfect. It is important to note that your hens should be out of the coop while you do this. If you are using bleach, be sure to thorough rinse out the bleach before introducing your chickens back into the coop. Vinegar is also suitable for cleaning. Using a large size scrubbing brush to clean the walls and floors will have the cleaning job over and done with very quickly.
Once clean, rinsed and dried you should add some poultry dust to the nooks and crannies, and most importantly the nesting boxes. This will ensure there are no parasites remaining in the coop.