As the saying goes “If you have chickens then you have rats”. Rats are normally found around your chickens as the coop and surrounding areas offers the perfect place for rats to live. Chicken coops provide rats with food, water, and shelter twenty-four hours a day, and it can be extremely hard not to encourage them by accident. Below is a list of methods that should discourage your unwelcome guests.
Food & 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 all you can eat restaurant? There’re many ways of stopping the rats getting their fill, but here are just a few:
Hand feeding 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 at night. No food equals no rats.
There are many different types of chicken feeders on the market, but the best one that is truly rat proof is the treadle feeder. It operates by the chicken stepping on a plate that then lifts a lid covering the food. Once the chicken gets off of the plate the lid closes and the food is covered again. The weight that is needed to open the feeder is much greater than a rat, so there’s no chance it would be able to open the lid. Treadle feeders are more expensive, but they are well worth the investment.
Removing the food & water from your chickens at night is not a cure, but it can help to make rats feel uncomfortable as they have to come out in the day. This in turn, should make them move on. However, it won’t take the rats long to start coming out in the day if they are bold enough.
The main reason you have rats may not be down to the chicken food that is in the feeder. It could be down to where your food is kept. Often bags of food is left on the floor in the shed with no protection. Metal bins are the only secure method of storing food as plastic bins be be easily chewed through and rendered useless. Metal bins can be expensive but they will last a lifetime.
Keeping Things Tidy
Rats are extremely nimble animals that can find shelter in the smallest of places. However, we often give them plenty of hiding spaces due to not keeping things tidy. Rats enjoy areas where they have multiple hiding places that get left unchanged and undisturbed. This can be thick vegetation, log piles or just general clutter in the corner of the garden. This corner is normally the same place where the chicken coop is kept, and provides the perfect situation for rats to live and breed with everything they could ask for. Here are a few tips to keep the rats away.
Make sure all long grass or dense vegetation is trimmed back. This takes away any hiding places for rats and stops them being able to travel without being seen. It not only lets you see if you have rats, but it also makes the rats feel uncomfortable as they try to avoid being in open space.
Removing any general rubbish or clutter from around your garden and coop removes any homes for rats. Keeping everything tidy not only stops rats, but it also makes you garden nicer to look at.
Where possible make sure your coop is off of the ground. This has two main benefits. It stops rats from being able to dig tunnels under your coop and set up home; which is where a lot of rats will choose to live. It also keeps your chickens off the ground in the colder months and keeps them that little bit warmer. Also, make sure your coop doesn’t have any easy access points when the coop is closed for the night.
Keeping Your Chickens Clean
Keeping your coop clean will discourage rats from coming to investigate your chickens. Rats have a great sense of small and will be able to smell a dirty hen house from a long way away. Regular cleaning of your coop will stop the build up of bad smells and should prevent any rodents from paying you a visit.
Regularly clean your chicken coop out. Little and often is perfect as it doesn’t create a build up of smell or bacteria. Scooping out any mess regularly and replacing with clean bedding is ideal. This not only keeps the rats away, but it also keeps your chickens healthier.
Make sure you 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 rats being able to get a feed. You can always put the food back down in the morning when the chicken are able to eat it. Using a tray is a great way to keep all your leftovers in one place.
If you’re able to, regularly move your feeder, drinker and coop. Rats don’t like change, and changing their environment is another little thing you can do to discourage them from sticking around.
Managing rats around chickens can be a tricky task. However, keeping up with regular cleaning, managing food & water, and keeping the general area tidy all help to discourage rats from sticking around.
If you’re new to keeping chickens and looking to set up a coop, then try to make a your coop as unattractive as possible to rats. Although you may have never seen a rat in your area, you will soon see them once chickens arrive if you aren’t prepared.