As if Covid-19 lockdowns and tier restrictions weren’t enough to cope with, our hens are now in their own lockdown due to the Avian Influenza outbreaks and the DEFRA housing order. It is now more important than ever that good hygiene and best practices are observed to avoid attracting rats.
Rats love nothing more than a ready supply of feed and access to a nice warm coop to escape the winter weather. It may not be obvious that you have unwanted guests, and you may never actually see rats scampering about but there are tell-tale signs to look for. Rats delight in chewing through wood, those cartoon mouse holes in the skirting boards in Tom and Jerry paint a fairly accurate picture. Check corners of coops for signs of chewing and if your house is raised off the ground look underneath it periodically. In particular look for signs of disturbance in the soil, any obvious tunnels and signs of fresh rat droppings.
Here are some top tips to avoid attracting vermin:
- Always store your feed in a rat-proof bin (a metal dustbin works well) and routinely sweep up any spilt feed
- Manage your hens feed intake carefully. Hens love to scuff at their feed and kick it around especially when they are under enforced confinement. Feed little and often, only topping up when the feed has been eaten.
- If possible, use a hanging feeder or a treadle feeder that is covered if not triggered by the hens.
- Stand your feeder on a paving slab or hard standing. This makes it so much easier to sweep up at the end of the day.
- Avoid the temptation to scatter feed on the ground unless you are sure your hens will eat it all.