Rats and Mice

My grandad once said to me “Where there’s chickens, there’s rats and mice” and how right he was. Over the years, I have had a number of occasions where I’ve had to fight a seemingly never-ending battle with them. There are a few things I have learnt along the way though and (touch wood) over the last few years, being more vigilant and removing food and water at night during the winter has really helped.

Rats

Rats are a serious pain in the bum and I am glad that I have only ever had one serious problem when I caught 10 of them in a week. They chew their way in and gnaw at chickens legs, steal eggs and spread disease.

They have to be near to water – so remove water at night if you get them to discourage them. They will move around so you might be fine in the summer to find them moving in during colder weather. I have found the spring traps to be of mixed success: you need to get them used to them and always wear gloves when setting them so they don’t smell you. Their favourite food seems to be cat food or tuna. Young rats are easier to catch but the older rats can be quite wise when it comes to traps. Place them in runs they are taking and provide cover over the top so they are out of sight and sheltered.

Poison is a very effective way of getting rid of them but do be careful using this, especially if there are cats that hunt rats and mice around the neighbourhood. Stuff bait packs into holes and cover with bricks or use a tubular box feeder with a clear tube so you can see the poison level left.

rat in humane trap

Rat in a humane trap. Dispatch is with an air rifle to the back of the head.

Personally, I prefer humane rat traps – they can be left set permanently near the chicken house. We dispatch the rat with an air rifle shooting through the back of the head. It’s an instant kill.

Always wear gloves when handling rats. They can carry serious diseases. Wear gloves when resetting the trap too since the smell from your hands would put off the next rat from going in there and usually where there’s one.. there’s several others.

Mice

Mice are the most common pest faced by the chicken keeper. They will spoil chicken food by urinating over it (whilst tucking in) and will urinate in water left out which is putting your birds at risk of catching disease.

Fortunately mice are easy to control with traps. I keep a couple of traps set near my feed in the shed where I will soon notice a problem during my daily feeding routine. Mice are usually a problem between October and April when food is scarce outdoors.

cat carrying mouse

Good puss!

An enthusiastic cat is another good control method but remember to praise your cat when she brings a live mouse into the bedroom at 3am and meows at you…. Seriously! She is bringing you a gift and will be very pleased with herself, she cannot understand why you suddenly go mad and scald her!

Remember to remove all feed and water that Rats and Mice can get to at night

76 Comments

  1. Thanks for the informative read. I’m dealing with a rat problem myself, and stumbled across your website. Definitely some points for me to consider!

  2. What a great website – thank you very much.
    I’m growing 3 hens in the back of my city garden. For a long time i used to find rats holes running under the chicken run. I tried trap (the box one, not the spring type) but they had a good laugh at it. I’ve inserted poison into their holes and covered it with bricks from the inside of the run, but they blocked it from the outside (without touching the poison) and dug a new hole next to it.
    I then lifted the whole run and placed a floor welded mesh all over the ground. So far (and it is nearly a month) I’ve not seen any signs of rats getting in 🙂

    • Yes, this can stop rats and mice from burrowing and living under the coop. I also like raising housing so that the birds can shelter underneath from the sun and rain too.

  3. Hi I have been keeping chooks now since March and love them. I bring in their food every night but have been leaving the water out but washing and replacing with new water every morning before I let my girls out, but I didn’t know the rats really need this so thanks, the water container will come in every night now as we have noticed the rats come out overnight.

  4. I have rat problem and the local council have said that there is chemical in chicken feed that if eaten by rat will stop rat poisen working by making them imune.

    • I have never heard of this, however you will need to remove all feed so the rats are hungry and eat the poison rather than your feed.

    • The rat man told me that chicken food has a vitamin included made from peanuts that if the rats feed on the chicken food makes tham imune to the poisoning. The solution to this (not very saticfactory) is to only give the chickens the 100g of food that they need each day, some in the morning and some before bed time, don’t leave any food out overnight. Obviously they can still have vegetable scraps in addition. I think you just have to be vaigilant, keep food secure. I have bait boxes arround my garden.

      • I haven’t heard of this before but you do need to remove all other food sources for the rats to eat the bait otherwise they wil take what they prefer and won’t be eating enough bait. I find they don’t come out during the day. Especially if feeders are in the middle of an open / exposed area. Take feeders and drinkers in at night time and they will get to eat the poison or go into traps to get food.

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