The sight of rats near your chicken coop can be scary, to say the least. Their presence alone could mean something else and that is exactly what we are going to discuss at length. So, is it true that backyard chickens attract rats? Yes, backyard chickens do indeed attract rats and that’s a fact. Their droppings and feed are responsible for the presence of these small rodents around their coop. So, it’s right to say that there’s an existing correlation between increased rodent populations and backyard chickens.
It is a well-known fact that rats are opportunistic eaters. They will stop at nothing unless their stomachs are full. This statement alone should tell you that these little creatures are not just attracted to chickens. There are underlying factors that compel them to do so. You can just visualize a comfort zone with plenty of basic needs such as a warm shelter and food. That’s exactly what draws rats to backyard chickens.
What Attracts Rats To Your Backyard Chickens?
The foremost reason why rats get attracted to backyard chickens is the need for food and water. Rats will soon make this their new home. Who doesn’t like the comfort of a warm house and a very nice meal?
Despite the imminent dangers of being eaten by chickens. Rats risk it all to have a share of chicken feed and shelter. Don’t be mistaken by the misconceptions out there about rats being after chickens. The opposite is true because a fully grown hen can easily snatch up a mouse and make it a meal. Chickens can be compared to mini-dinosaurs and will pounce on rats when they get the chance to do so.
Even though the presence of rats near your chicken coop may not raise any alarm on your side, there are reasons why they should be eliminated as soon as possible. To begin with, rats carry many diseases such as bubonic plague, leptospirosis, hantavirus, and rat-bite fever. These diseases can be transmitted to your family members including you or make your entire flock sick.
Whenever rats feast on chicken feed, they deposit their waste matter in it. And when your chickens ingest rat feces they are likely to become sick with salmonella and other bacterial infections. This can be bad news on your side and it might cost you your entire flock or huge sums of money to contain the situation. Of course, no single chicken owner would wish to find themselves in this tight situation.
Rats are known to eat eggs or even kill newly hatched chicks. With a serious infestation and scarcity of food, rats can become a thorn in your flesh. This is because they can invade your chicken coop and attack both your hens and chicks in the process.
Rats kill their victims by biting the neck or head and your chicks can become vulnerable to their predatory habits. If you find some parts of your chickens’ body eaten and their corpses dumped in burrows or any other concealed locations, just know that rats are responsible.
Also, the presence of rats in your backyard could make your neighbors start complaining that you are promoting the invasion of these small rodents. In this regard, you wouldn’t risk being in bad books with your neighbors because may need some assistance from them in the future.
How Can You Tell That Your Backyard has been infested with Rats?
It is not so easy to spot a rat from the comfort of your seat unless you take a brief tour of the backyard where your chickens are foraging in a free-range. Rats are shy by nature and usually come out at night. This when they feel it’s safe for them to explore their immediate vicinity. What are the tell-tale signs that chicken coop has rats? Look out for the following signs:
If you are observant enough, you will realize that some chewing activities have been going on unnoticed. In this case, you will discover that parts covered in wood or plastic are the most affected. Generally, plastic and wood are vulnerable to rat’s chewing activities. You will be surprised to find them chewed to the ground. More often than not, the corners and doors will show signs of being gnawed and this should tell you that rats are present.
Just like other rodents, rats are great burrowers. They can dig holes in the follow of your coop and use them as access points right from below. These burrows are usually two or three inches in diameter to allow a fully grown rat to pass through. The moment you notice such holes in your chicken coop, just know that rats are present and find ways of getting rid of them.
Missing chicken feed
There’s a designated amount of food that chickens consume daily. As a matter of fact, they eat a quarter pound of food per day on average. However, this amount may vary widely depending on the size of the chicken, time and season. For instance, they will eat more during winter periods than in the summertime.
You can work out the amount of feed consumed per day in relation to the number of birds you have and the prevailing season. Should you discover that more than the expected amount of feed is being consumed than expected. You can easily tell that there’s something else other than your chickens that is stretching your budget. Probably this could be rats hence the need to control them in time before they cause more damage.
If you are getting fewer eggs than you had initially expected, someone or something else is likely taking them away. In this regard, you may consider rats to be the main suspect. Rats find fresh eggs to be their favorite delicacy and they won’t hesitate to feast on them just in case.
How do You Keep away Rats from Your Chicken Coop?
Once you suspect that your backyard chickens can attract rats, the first step to take is to store their feed in metallic bins. Keep the bins locked and the lids secured to deny the rats a chance of feasting on them.
Another rat deterrent measure is to use a ¼ inch or ½ inch hardware cloth for the chicken run material. Don’t use the traditional chicken wire because, no matter how secure they may look, rats will squeeze right through those openings and access your chicken coop. But the hardwire cloth alone is not secure enough to keep away rats. Therefore, you may as well secure it to the entire underside of the run, the roof and walls using strips and zip ties to hold it in place.
If there are rats already in your chickens’ living area, there are steps you can follow to eliminate them. First of all, remove waterers and feeders every night and replace them each morning until you are sure that the rats are all gone. Lack of food and water will compel the rats to find other places where they can get such basic needs for their survival.
In any case, you discover the gnawing damage where your chickens live, repair the damaged section using hardware cloth. Or you may secure the entire place with sheet metal to prevent the rats from causing more damage.
Finally, you may resort to the traditional method of trapping rats to keep your chickens safe. Although it’s a temporary way of eliminating an infestation, traps can be very effective in keeping your backyard free of these rodents.
Under no circumstances should you use poison to kill rats. We mentioned earlier that chickens do feast on rats when they get the chance and poisoning the rats could pose a serious threat to your birds.
Your chickens are likely to find dead rats as a result of poisoning and eat them in the process. Consequently, they will succumb to the same poison that killed the rats and that is a tragedy on its own. To avoid such cases, use rat traps and place them where your chickens cannot accidentally get hurt by them.
What are the other factors that can create an increase in rats where your chickens live? There are a number of factors besides your backyard chickens attracting rats that can cause a sudden population increase in these rodents and they include poor sanitation, negligence, exclusion, and control especially on your backyard chicken ranch.
Apart from preying on chicks, eating eggs and causing diseases, what other problems do rats cause? Rats are a nuisance to your backyard chickens in several ways. They can create stress for your chickens, contaminate water, feed, and coops, and carry fleas, lice, mites or other parasites are known to be dangerous to your chickens and your family as well.
You can ensure that your backyard chickens don’t attract rats by taking into account the proactive rather than reactive management practices. This means you may turn to sanitation, exclusion, and trappings to eliminate these rodents. If the problem gets out of hand, contact your vet for more information.