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. Hi. We have chickens and a pond with fish. We have to be very careful with any poison as we also run a dog home boarding business. The rats seem to appear out of nowhere and we’re now inundated with them. We remove all the food at night but they’ve tunnelled into the coop and have even caused a step to collapse. As I’ve said, we have to be very careful with poison; is there any other tips you could give us? I’ve just seen 3 huge rats running around the pond towards the coop but they then go to ground. Last winter we did get packets of poison & stuffed it down the holes we could find but it didn’t appear to make any difference! Help, please!

    • You can trap them with a cage trap, then shoot them with an air rifle, or use a snap trap. It takes a while for them to start to go in there and you need to handle it with gloves so as not to put your scent on it when resetting.
      The trouble is, it sounds as if you have a serious amount of rats and catching them all is going to be hard. Personally I would still use poison but ensure it is away from areas that the dogs use. Choose a couple of weeks when you haven’t got dogs staying or walk them outside of your home so they cannot catch the rats or go near the poison. It would be worth closing the business for a couple of weeks just to get on top of the rats.

      You need to put down a lot of poison and keep topping it up until they stop eating it and there are no more signs of rats. You perhaps didn’t put down enough poison for long enough although sometimes you have to a try different kind if it isn’t working. Most will die in burrows and hidden away.

      Alternatively get the council in, they will come in and remove rats for a reasonable fee (it also involves poison).

      Finally, once they have gone, as an ongoing preventative measure, I would consider having a few cage traps baited at all times to nip it in the bud if they come back.

    • Yes, I think it depends on the design of the box – I have one with plastic tubes that hold the poison and feed a small feeder inside but I’ve seen boxes with small compartments that need solid bait.

  2. Hi, I have rats getting into my duck run of a night eating her food.. If they urinate in her food bowl and she then eats from it can the urine affect her eggs as I want to eat the eggs but am worried about disease in the eggs due to rats

  3. Really interesting site. Regarding the rats; as kids we kept about a 1000 layers free range in the orchard and housed in a big shed at night and during the winter. The rats would burrow and nest under the litter. We had great sport finding these nests and digging them up. The hens used to attack and eat as many young rats as we could dig. Caused a frenzy in the shed!

    • Yes, I don’t think there will be any problems. If a chicken becomes ill (which yours aren’t…) there are very few diseases that are Zoonotic (disease of animals communicable to humans).
      Chickens will also eat mice if they can catch them!

      Have a look at this blog post on poultrykeeper.com which shows a chicken eating a mouse (towards the bottom of the page).

      https://poultrykeeper.com/blog/the-moult-and-animal-protein/

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