Rats are not an inevitable part of hen-keeping
It is often said that keeping hens will attract rats – but they do not have to go hand in hand! There are some simple tips on how you can avoid these unwanted visits so we have compiled them to make it easier for you to avoid those pesky little rodents. Rats are NOT an inevitable consequence of hen-keeping!
Rats are not only unpleasant to see scampering around – they have also been known to attack weaker hens, and can also carry Weil’s diseases which can be spread to humans and cause some rather serious illnesses.
Firstly, it is good to know what signs will alert you to have received some uninvited guests to 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 mice droppings. They’re bigger and are more jelly-bean shaped, being blunt or rounded at each end.
- Missing toes – you might be thinking “WHAT?!” but yes, rats have been known to chew off a sleeping hen’s toes
- 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 – it’s the same as the feed! 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?
Always ensure that your feed is stored in rat-proof bins (you can’t beat a metal dustbin) and make sure you sweep up the spillage.
Next, think about how you manage your hens’ feed on a daily basis. Never overfill feeders – we know that 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.