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 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 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


  1. Hi I’m new to keeping chickens and have a acre of land, we are just building a chicken coop and run. But we also have a sizeable stream running through our land and lakes on adjacent land nearby, will this cause a huge problem for us when keeping chickens as we just cannot get away from water. I’m worried about too many rats being nearby.

    • I would say not, providing you are sensible with food storage and don’t leave food around at night. Rats will be there anyway, it’s not the chickens that cause rats, it’s their food and access to water.

  2. Air rifles do need to be licenced if they are above a certain power. There are also age limitations on their use. Using a good sight and knowing how to use the firearm well should ensure a clean kill and no suffering. For me and any skilled hunter shooting will always be the cleanest kill. I can’t argue with an experienced pest control officer but would suggest that what is most humane in the end comes down to a matter of what one has best knowledge of (e.g. traps/poison/shooting). Knowledge will effect what is for you the most readily effective method or combination of methods of pest control. I suspect too that poison would be most effective as it’s at work ’24 hours a diem’ (or at nights), and I know from shooting rabbits that it’s very difficult or impossible to shoot out a breeding population. We don’t have any rat/mouse hassle as we’re lucky enough to have a very active and very cute weasel living under the house, and we even see his lightening-fast mouse catches at the compost heap occasionally. Cheers all!

  3. we have trapped 4 mice in the last week at back of chicken house, we are having a new garden shed for the chickens with a 8 foot run put on the side for them,is there any thing we can do to help keep the mice out,should we put shed on a brick base, im worried that next door might get them.

    • Mouse traps work well. If you buy 5 or 6 basic spring traps and set them with chocolate, you will soon reduce the number of mice. Putting a coop on a solid base or lifting it off the floor is always a good idea to stop vermin, especially rats.

  4. Having built my own run is it possible to furnish the ground with Turf scalpings rather than having just dry soil and bark.
    The Turf could then be removed from the run and replaced after the Chickens have finished foraging and soiling it.
    Brilliant web site BTW. Keep up the fantastic work!


    • Yes, I don’t see why not. Just look out for chemicals being used on the turf and remember the turf won’t last too long.

  5. I seem to have rats living underneath my chicken run, have tried a trap and poison, but they just seem to laugh at me. Worried about poison as I have a cat and he has caught some of them. I live right next to a canal so will always have them I guess. Some of the egg whites are watery/runny is this anything to do with the rats or something else?

    • Rats can bring disease to a flock so you do need to try to control them. You should try contacting your local Council as often they will get rid of them for you if asked. I would get yourself an action plan if you have a constant problem – move the house above ground, remove food and water at night and keep traps set and bait stations filled. The poison is bitter tasting so it discourages other animals (although it should always be placed in locations where only rats can get to it) and should discourage cats from eating it.

      If the area doesn’t have a food source for rats, they shouldn’t want to set up home with you.

      There are rat proof feeders available too. The link takes you to a Grandpas feeder review that has some good photos. I have used these and they are very good and worth the investment. They soon pay for themselves with the food they save.

      As for watery egg whites, this can come with age, or, disease: Chickens Laying Eggs with Watery Whites explains more on the poultrykeeper site.

      • I’m not sure about all councils getting rid of rats. I live in a quite “burb” near Middlesbrough and we have a fairly large rat infestation due (I expect) to two things in fairly close proximity.

        * A beck.
        * A McDonalds (and a small chip shop)

        There are rat bait stations all over the place, but the rats are a regular site and I swear some of them are as big as dogs.

        As for traps, I’ve noticed that some (even adult) mice are now small enough to walk over the lower-cost traps without setting them off which is an absolute bind.

        Where I am, it looks like an electric grid is going to be the solution: something the birds can’t get to but will be enough to keep the little blighters at bay.

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