Dealing with rodents and pests in the chicken coop

Stop rodents in the chicken coop

Do you have rats or mice in your chicken coop? Rodents are a common problem in chicken coops. 

Rodents in the chicken coop are undesirable for many reasons. In addition to eating feed intended for your chickens, rodents contaminate feed and water with faeces and urine, spreading parasites and disease. If left without their regular source of food, rats will resort to stealing eggs, preying on chicks and chewing through feed bins and feeders. A desperate rat may even attack an adult chicken and there are stories of rats eating roosting chickens' feet!

The good news is, rodents and chickens don't have to go together. You can stop rodents from taking up residence in your chicken coop. And if you already have a rodent problem, there are solutions for that too!

What attracts rodents to the chicken coop?

Rats and mice are attracted to coops where there is an easy source of food. While they will eat out of an accessible feeder, usually spilled feed or uneaten scraps on the coop floor are the main attractant. For a hungry rodent, spilled food is irresistible and if the food is regularly available, it won't be long before they move in!

10 signs of rodents in the chicken coop

  1. Droppings, often in the feed or the drinking water
  2. Strong smelling urine
  3. Feed disappearing overnight
  4. Scratches in or around the chicken coop
  5. Chewed holes in netting, timber or feed containers
  6. Gnaw marks
  7. Eaten eggs
  8. Chickens are stressed or lack appetite for no apparent reason
  9. Missing chicks
  10. Dead or injured chickens

Although rats and mice are quick to hide, visiting the chicken coop at night will usually reveal the intruders!

How to deal with a rodent problem in the chicken coop

While feed is what attracts rodents to the chicken coop, buying a new feeder or removing the food source is not going to solve a rodent problem. The only way to deal with a rodent problem in the chicken coop is through a baiting or trapping program. Removing the food source simply isn't enough.

We recommend agricultural safe baits in lockable rodent bait stations for dealing with rodents in the chicken coop. However, humane rat traps and mice traps can also be used and chicken feed is a very effective bait.

To deal with a rodent problem, you must:

  1. Remove the rodents by baiting or trapping
  2. Make the coop as rodent-proof as possible
  3. Remove all possible food sources for the rodents overnight
  4. Clean and disinfect the coop
  5. Treat your chickens for parasites, as rodents can introduce worms, lice and fleas to the coop

Chicken-safe rodent bait stations

Agricultural rodent baits, such as Ratshot by Freezone, are designed for use around pets, livestock and poultry. While toxic to rodents, these baits are less dangerous for non-target animals like your chickens. When combined with a lockable rodent bait station, these baits are safe for use in the chicken coop. 

The innovative Ratshot rodent bait station means only rats and mice can get to the poison. Any other curious pet or animal, such as your chickens, simply can not access the lockable station. And being lockable means it is child safe as well!

How to set up a rodent bait station in the chicken coop

Time needed: 5 minutes. 

Here are the simple steps to implement this rat prevention system to deal with a rat problem in your chicken coop.

  1. What the Ratshot rodenticide bait station looks like.

    There are three main components to the Ratshot bait station. The bait station, the U-shaped key and also the rat block pin. Ratshot bait station with key

  2. Open the lockable rat bait station. 

    Insert the U-shaped key into the lid of the lockable bait station, push the key down and open the lid by lifting it. Insert key into locking mechanism

  3. Remove the rat bait/block pin from the bait station side channels. 

    Remove locking rat block pin from internal side channels

  4. Position Ratshot blocks onto the internal pin. 

    Skewer the Ratshot Rodent and Rat Blocks onto the Block pin. We recommend 3 - 4 blocks on the pin. Each Ratshot block has a strong scent to lure rats to the station. By placing a few onto the block pin you shall achieve a strong attraction for rats. Once you have positioned the rat bait blocks, slide the pin into the two internal side channels. This will prevent the blocks from coming out of the station when the lid is shut and locked.Placing a dish of water near the bait station may improve effectiveness but the water should be removed during the day. 

    Insert Ratshot blocks onto internal pin

  5. Close the lid

    Close the lid and check that the lid is secure. 

    Close lid and ensure it is locked

  6. Wash your hands

    Although Ratshot is lower in toxicity to non-target animals and people, it is still poison, so wash your hands after use. 

  7. Position the bait station

    Bait stations should be positioned inside the chicken coop near a regular food source or next to where the rodents are entering the coop. For extra security, you can place an upturned milk crate with a weight on top over the bat station. Bait stations should not be placed outside of the coop because small native mammals, including ringtail possums, find the baits attractive and may be small enough to access the bait station. Depending on how bad your rat infestation is, you may find several bait stations will be required to get the rat problem under control. 

    Place rat stations along exterior coop fence line

  8. Remove dead vermin immediately

    Check for dead vermin inside and outside of the coop daily. Wear gloves or use a shovel to remove, and dispose of in a plastic bag in the rubbish. Do not compost or bury.

How to clean the coop after rats

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.

You will need:

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 and clean. Using a large size scrubbing brush to clean the walls and floors will have the cleaning job over and done with very quickly.

After the coop has been cleared out, it is time to thoroughly disinfect. Virkon S Disinfectant is designed specifically for use around farm animals, but we still recommend you remove your hens from the coop while misting.

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.

How to rodent-proof the chicken coop

Most chicken keepers experience a rodent problem eventually. But rodent-proofing your chicken coop can go a long way towards preventing rodent infestations.

Rats can jump over a metre and climb almost anything. Their teeth are strong enough to chew through wood, metal and even concrete! Mice, on the other hand, can squeeze into gaps as small as 8 mm. 

Ultimately, rodents can get into almost any chicken coop, but they won't usually bother unless there is food available. 

So while we recommend designing or retro-fitting your chicken coop to be as rodent-proof as possible, the main thing you can do to rodent-proof the chicken coop is ensure there is no food available to attract rodents in the first place! 

Preventing infestation relies on good coop management and dealing with problems promptly when you do spot signs of rodents. It is your responsibility to control rats and mice in the chicken coop. 

1. Keep rodents out of the coop

You can help keep rodents out of the coop by:

  • Blocking any holes larger than 2 mm
  • Using small aperture mouse wire or aviary mesh instead of chicken wire
  • Creating a solid floor such as concrete, or lining the coop floor with wire mesh
  • Keeping the grass around the coop cut short
  • Removing overhanging branches and surrounding plants that help rodents climb
  • Removing piles of wood and other sources of shelter around the coop
  • Removing any standing sources of water

2. Make the coop less attractive to rodents

Rats can get into almost any coop, but they won’t bother unless there’s food. Removing food is the best preventative.

  1. Prevent feed waste with a waste-reducing Dine a Chook Feeder that stops chickens from spilling feed on the ground.
  2. Install Dine a Chook Feeders at the correct mounting height, well off the ground.
  3. Use a uniform feed like a pellet, micro-pellet, crumble or mash.
  4. Use a Closure Cap, and if you have a rodent problem remove the Feeder overnight.
  5. Do not feed scraps in the coop. Always place scraps and treats in a dish outside of the coop and remove uneaten scraps daily.
  6. Store feed securely, away from the coop.
  7. Collect eggs daily.
  8. Use Lubing Nipples or Cups rather than open waterers.
  9. Use a droppings board and keep the coop clean.
  10. Keep compost bins well away from the chicken coop and do your best to secure them against rodents.

Stop pest birds in the chicken coop

Pest birds are another common problem in chicken coops. Like rodents, wild birds are attracted to the chicken coop by the easy source of food and spilled feed is a common attractant.

Keeping feed off the ground with a waste-reducing Dine a Chook Feeder can help deter wild birds. We also recommend installing your Feeder inside the chicken coop, if pest birds are likely to be a problem, and using a small, low chicken door as the only access to the coop during the day.

While some pest bird species will be deterred by the design of the Dine a Chook Feeder, others can learn to access the feeding bay. There are some ways to deter this, so please contact us directly if you are having problems with wild birds.

Pest birds aren't just a problem because they are eating chicken feed, they are also a common source of chicken disease. For this reason, it is very important to try to bird-proof your entire chicken coop. Having just one small "chicken door" that is open during the day is a good way to prevent wild birds from entering the chicken coop. Roofing your chicken run is also a good idea, where the size of the run permits. Bird netting can be used to roof a chicken run relatively inexpensively.