Backyard chickens are a growing trend, but homeowners’ associations are notorious for not allowing them. The most common justification for the ban is that chickens attract vermin, such as rats.
Those in areas where backyard chickens are popular admit that mice and rats can become a problem from time to time. But attracting rats can be minimized once owners understand what is tempting the rats to the property. Hint: it isn’t the flock.
How Do Chickens Attract Rats and Mice?
Chickens don’t attract rats. However, rats can easily detect the scent of chicken feed. Thus, rats come scurrying over for the primary food source and then will be delighted at the prospect of eggs and, when desperate, pick at the chicken poo or even chicks.
Are Rats Bad For Chickens?
Rats are not ideal companions for your flock. While the occasional visitation from a rat is unlikely to cause problems, an infestation can snowball past the point of being a nuisance. For starters, they can damage the coop by gnawing their way in or stealing bits that they want for their nest. But they are not healthy for your chickens, either.
Rats Can Harm Or Kill Chicks
Rats are primally interested in chicken food or eggs. However, they have no qualms about chasing young chicks and can potentially kill them if the hen isn’t paying attention. Chicks are an excellent source of protein.
However, it is doubtful that your full-grown flock is in danger of being killed by rats. While rats have killed juveniles and chickens, it typically only happens out of sheer desperation when food is scarce.
Rats Can Cause Increased Stress To Chickens
Chickens are not robust and brave creatures. Heavy rain can stress them out and disrupt their egg production. Thus, having rats raid their food or chase them around can stress them out, lowering their immune system and reducing egg output.
Rats Contaminate The Chicken’s Feed
When rats are feasting on the chicken’s food, they defecate. Even if your beloved flock doesn’t actually munch on the vermin’s poo, it is still touching it, and micro particles will be ingested. The danger is that a disease could be passed on to the chickens. Rat feces potentially carry diseases such as hantavirus.
Hantavirus comes in two forms, and while outbreaks happen worldwide, they are nearly unheard of in the United States. However, this disease can spread to humans and animals like chickens. The virus is spread by aerosols found in feces, urine, and saliva. So even if the rat doesn’t bite a hen or you, its fiesta in the chicken feed could leave enough virus around to cause problems.
Can Rats Steal Chicken Eggs?
The team at BBC Wildlife Magazine looked into the myth of rats stealing eggs and found that rats and squirrels don’t run off with them. Instead, the rats and squirrels will chip an egg to make a hole and then feast on the contents. So if you have an egg thief, your problems are bigger than rats.
does chicken poop attract rats?
The claim that chicken poop attracts rats is largely unsubstantiated. There is no scientific evidence to support this claim. However, I believe chicken manure does indeed attract rats. Rats are attracted to the high levels of protein and moisture in chicken feces, which makes it an ideal food source for them.
In addition, the smell of chicken manure can be quite strong, making it easier for rats to find their way to your coop. So if you have chickens, be sure to clean up their droppings regularly to help deter rats from making themselves at home in your coop!
How To Stop Chickens Attracting Rats?
Getting rid of vermin isn’t easy, so you ideally want to prevent them from moving in. However, no prevention method is perfect.
It is essential to remember that as much as you want the rats gone immediately, quick methods are often dangerous to your flock and other wildlife, such as birds of prey. Thus, it’s best to employ a few strategies while evaluating their safety. Check out my article here for some surefire strategies on keeping rats out of your chicken coop. But in a nutshell, some of the strategies are:
Rat Proof The Chicken Coop
Rats seem to have the jaws a superhero would envy. Thus, rat-proofing a chicken coop is not a one-time job. You do your best, but the occasional rat undoes your hard work, and then after uttering some choice words, you try again.
To rat-proof your coop, you need to cover any holes and openings. Stuffing some steel wool into holes is an excellent option, and then cover with shade cloth or chicken wire. Hard materials are better than shade cloth, but anything is better than leaving the coop “wide open.”
Plant Rat Deterrents Near The Chicken Coop
Rats are not big on certain smells, such as mint and lavender. Mint is a very popular natural rat repellent, while lavender has the bonus of being can be a soothing influence on hens and looks pretty. However, mint can take over an entire area. Thus, it is suggested that mint is placed in pots amongst the lavender, rather than allowing it to run amuck.
Secure The Chicken Feed
Store chicken feed in a tight container. Using metal is the best, as rats can’t chew through it. However, any hard plastic will eventually fall pretty to the mighty rat jaw. Thus, frequently check on your storage tubs if you are not using a sealed metal container.
Also, as covenant as automatic chicken feeders are, it is best only to use them while you are away or during the day. Feed them daily and do not leave food out overnight.
Reduce Rat Attractions On Your Property
Once you have rats, other aspects of your property might be keeping them around, even after securing the coop and food. A common culprit is composting. Ensure all compost material is kept in a sealed unit rather than an open heap.
Using Rat Traps Near The Chicken Coop
If your coop has a rat infestation, you may have to resort to traps. Unfortunately, many can potentially harm your chickens. Instead, look for live traps or those your chickens can’t squeeze into or trigger by pecking or stepping on them. Even better, ensure the traps are nowhere near where your flock can interact with them.
Using Poison Near The Chicken Coop
Rat poison is a quick but temporary solution. Therefore, it is best to use preventative measures and live traps. However, if you’ve got a severe problem, try to find the most eco-friendly poisons around. Also, even the eco-poisons should be kept away from your chickens, especially if you eat your hens’ eggs.
As you can see, it’s best to take some preventative measures to keep rats away from your chickens. However, if you do end up with a rat problem, try one of the more natural methods before turning to poison. No matter what, always put your flock’s safety first!
David Cameron is a passionate chicken enthusiast. Growing up, he always wanted to be a veterinarian and loved animals. After graduating from veterinary school, David spent over 40 years as an equine veterinarian. He and his wife retired a few years ago and moved to North Carolina. Here, David’s love of chickens grew even more – he now has 7 chickens and 6 quail. If you have any questions about chickens, feel free to reach out.