If you’re thinking about adopting hens it’s right to consider the issue of rats. However, the two do not have to go hand in hand and with some simple biosecurity measures you can keep these unwanted visitors at bay.
So, do chickens attract rats? Simply put, yes, they can attract these pesky rodents, but rats are not an inevitable consequence of hen keeping.
You’ll want to do everything you can to keep rats away from your hen house because, not only have they been known to attack weak hens, they can also carry disease which would have serious implications for your hens if contracted.
Not only that, it’s just not entirely pleasant to see groups of rats scurrying around your garden, plus your neighbours won’t thank you for it, which is why we’ve outlined some of the steps you can take to avoid this below.
Signs of a rat problem
Firstly, it is good to know what signs will let you know there are some uninvited guests lurking around your hen house: often the first indication is a chewed corner on a feed bag, but you may also notice strategically placed tunnel entrances in the soil close to your hen house.
Other signs include:
- Droppings – rat droppings are very different from mouse droppings. They’re bigger and are more jelly-bean shaped, being blunt or rounded at each end.
- Feed being lost – if you notice that your feed is disappearing at a faster rate than your hens should be eating it (an average of around 100gms a day), then the chances are that something else is also tucking in.
- Missing eggs – the same principle applies here. If you’re receiving fewer eggs than you expect to be getting you should consider that it might be rats. They love a fresh egg as much as we do.
- Trails in mud or snow – rats will leave trails if the ground is soft enough, or you will see paths in the grass or leaves. Rats tend to run in straight lines so you can tell if they have been multiple times.
So, how can you avoid rats?
Rats can appear at any time of year, but there’s only one reason they’ll be entering your garden: to find food! Therefore, always ensure that your feed is stored in rat-proof bins (you can’t beat a metal dustbin) and make sure you sweep up any spillage.
Next, think about how you manage your hens’ feed on a daily basis. Never overfill feeders – we know hens love to kick food around if they get the chance. Use a feeder which keeps most of the feed covered and only a small amount is dispensed at any one time (there are many different designs available). A treadle feeder such as the ones on our online shop stays closed until your hen steps onto the bar.
Stand your feeder on a paving slab or hard standing area if possible. This will allow you to sweep up any spillage at the end of the day.
Avoid the temptation to scatter feed on the ground unless you can be certain that your hens will eat it all.
Protect your coop
As you’ll well know, rats will chew on anything and everything, so make sure your hen house and run are sturdy and well protected. If you’ve opted for a wooden hen house, the more expensive the better as these will be built from strong timber. Plastic hen houses are also on the market too and have the benefit of being easier to clean.
Think too about how your hens are locked in at night. A proper reinforced door with a sturdy lock will make sure rats can’t get in and disturb your hens’ beauty sleep. Just make sure there aren’t any gaps they can sneak through.
Do chickens attract rats?
As we’ve addressed, yes rats can be an issue around hens, but the simplest way to deter them is to employ proper food storage and clean up regularly.
Making sure your coop is properly reinforced will keep rats out of the hen house even if they do end up in your garden.
The tips we’ve outlined above aren’t just a great way to keep rats at bay, but are just good common sense when it comes to maintaining a healthy, happy environment for your hens.