Here we will discuss a commonly asked question among backyard chicken owners. So rats eat chickens?
Rats have a vast breeding potential. In 3 years, a pair of rats can reproduce, resulting in over 2000 young ones under ideal situations.
These babies are sexually mature in 3 months after parturition. One female rat can produce another 22 breeding females in one year.
They have poor eyesight but excellent senses of smell, taste, hearing, and touch.
They prefer contact with walls and other objects and dislike open areas. Rats do not range far from the nest.
The maximum range for rats is 148 ft. Rats will leave a trap for about five days to ensure acceptance.
Do Chickens Attract Rats?
Rats can be responsible for deep distress, eating eggs, consuming all the feed in the vicinity, and gnawing through chicken wire.
It is believed that chickens attract rats and mice, but they are not interested in chickens but sufficient food and a cozy place to eat them.
Problems Caused By Rats
Rats and other rodents carry numerous infections, which could devastate the chickens.
In addition, they are responsible for consuming both water and chicken feed excessively, leaving very little for the chickens themselves.
Rats have even been known to eat chicken eggs.
They can also be capable of doing significant damage to the structure of chicken houses.
Rats can gnaw through almost anything, such as hardware cloth unless reinforced and chicken wire.
Rats have even been known to cause fires after biting electrical cables.
Chickens do not take kindly to invaders coming to their homes, which raises their stress level and could lead to low production of eggs.
Besides being disease-carrying rodents, rats also pose a danger to the chicks and could harm them, given a chance.
Rats also lead to significant food contamination if they do not manage to eat all the chicken feed. They do so by leaving their droppings in feed troughs and water containers.
When Are You Most Likely to Find Rats?
A rat infestation can come at any time of year, for any reason, but there is one key factor that will lead to invasion: Food.
This tells you that rats are far more likely to invade where food is scarce, especially during fall and winter when they need to eat more because of the cold.
It is worth double-checking the coops around harvest time, especially for farmers who live in the country.
Harvest is a bounty for rodents, but they tend to run away from the fields after the heavy machinery rolls out and crops are taken in.
Rats gather around regions with easy access to food and safety. Garbage cans that are left up against fencing, piles of firewood, and around the edges of sheds make a great, safe nest for rats.
How to tell that your chicken pen has a rat infestation
You can tell if the chicken house has a rat infestation through the following indicators:
- Damage to chicken houses: Rats tend to gnaw their way into the chicken house or burrow. Unusual holes or signs of wear, especially with irregular borders, are a good sign of rat invasion.
- Elevated Feed Consumption: It is not easy to tell how much is being eaten by the chicken, but one can always estimate. By noticing that feeders are not staying full as long as they used to, then there is a likelihood of unwanted guests.
- Droppings: Rat droppings look like small, brown grains of rice, so they are usually easy to notice and identify.
- Reduced Eggs: a sudden drop in the number of eggs you collect from your chickens could be due to the rats. Chickens will lay fewer eggs when their stress level is elevated, and the eggs they do lay can be eaten by rats.
Rodent Control (the principles):
The farmer’s first goal should be to prevent or significantly reduce the rat population through management programs that eliminate entrance to the chicken facility, food supplies, and water.
Rat population builds up when sufficient food and water supply and a safe place to live.
Habits and Biology
To control rats, you need to understand their habits and biology first.
- Rats live near food sources such as barns, granaries, livestock buildings, and silos.
- Rats can survive in all kinds of conditions and are highly reproductive. Theoretically, if there is one pair of rats(a male and a female) in your barn at the beginning of a year, under fair living conditions, you may have thousands of them on your farm by the end of the year.
Rats are capable of jumping and climbing. Rats can jump vertically as high as 91 cm and horizontally as far as 122 cm. They can climb brick and rough walls and travel along utility wires.
- Rats are intelligent and tend to avoid new objects; thus, it may take days for baits and traps to work.
- Rats can sneak in through openings as small as 1 cm. They are active at night, particularly right after dusk.
Eradicating Hiding Places and Nesting Sites
Rats prefer to stay hidden away from any exposure. Proper housekeeping eliminates loosely piled unnecessary materials, and feeding bags deny rats potential hiding spots.
Keep piles of lumber and miscellaneous equipment 24-30 cm off the floor and at least 24 cm out from a wall.
Barricade all entrances into walls and destroy all nesting material.
Rodent-Proofing Farm Structures
Proper building and maintenance of structures help prevent rats from gaining entry to the barn.
Initial construction footings should extend 0.5 m into the ground with an apron that extends 0.2 m outward. This prevents rodents from burrowing into the structure.
Rats need a 1cm opening; therefore, cracks around door frames, broken windows, under doors, water and utility hook-ups, vents, and holes surrounding feed augers are potential ways of entry.
It is advisable to use coarse steel wool, hardware cloth, or sheet metal to cover entrances.
Remove Food and Water
Eliminate water sources such as leaky taps, open water troughs, sweating pipes, and open drains.
Keep all feeds in rodent-proof bins, covered cans, and metal hoppers. Reduce feed spillage and dispose of dead animals. Without readily available food and water, populations cannot build.
For small populations, snap traps help eliminate rats. Rats prefer fresh bacon, meat, and fish.
Rats are apprehensive of anything new in their environment, so leave baited non-set traps out for 4-5 days to allow them to get used to the surprises.
Ensure that previous baits have been taken before actually setting the traps. Set traps behind objects, close to walls in the dark corners where gnaw marks or droppings can be seen.
Set the catch at the right angles with the trigger and bait adjacent to the wall to trap the rats.
Multiple-catch traps should be situated at the entrance hole parallel to the wall.
Glue boards are effective against rats and are the method of choice in locations where toxic baits are a concern.
These glue boards are ineffective where there is too much dust. Glue boards, as well as traps, should be checked regularly and disposed of dead.
It is advisable to wear rubber gloves when handling dead rats to prevent any chance of disease infection.
Bountiful food supplies make bait traps less effective. It is advisable to eliminate as many food sources as possible before setting up traps.
For poultry houses with moderate infestations, set 50-100 traps. The trapping program should be short and conclusive to prevent trap shyness.
Smells from humans or caught rats do not cause trap shyness.
Sound and Ultrasound Devices
These two methods may not be effective. Rodents may be frightened by strange noises in the first few days but quickly become used to them.
Cats are perfect predators and greatly reduce rat populations significantly. However, if conditions are ideal for rodents, cats cannot eliminate the problem.
Other predators feed on rats, including snakes, weasels, and birds of prey, such as eagles and falcons.
Rodenticides (Toxic Baits)
Rodenticides are any substance used to kill rats, mice, and other rodent pests.
We recommend using warfarin, 1080 (sodium fluoroacetate), ANTU (legal label for alpha-naphthylthiourea), and red squill.
When rats ingest these chemicals, they die of blood clotting and internal bleeding.
All products are poisonous to other animals; therefore, it is always wise to observe label precautions regarding use, handling, and storage.
Elimination of rats from chicken houses could prove to be complicated. Rats do not eat chickens, and an attack on a fully grown chicken would be detrimental. Therefore, farmers should prevent infestations from occurring.
Rats are a nuisance, and keeping a predator such as a cat or a pet snake will keep the rats at bay.
One could always use snap traps and glue boards to catch rats, especially in spaces that do not collect dust.
For a small rat population, eliminate water and food sources by minimizing feed spillage and fixing leaky pipes to starve them.