Rats can wreak serious havoc inside a chicken coop. Besides eating the chicken feed, they may attack baby chicks, steal eggs, or transmit harmful diseases to your flock. If a rodent infestation is severe and food is scarce, rats may even break into a coop at night to kill juvenile and adult chickens.
Having dealt with this problem personally we can assure you it’s not fun, the long list of problems rats bring can be frustrating at times especially when you are unsure of how to deal with the issue as we once were.
Here are a few tips on how to keep rats out of your chicken coop, later in this article we will delve deeper into each point hopefully giving you a better explanation of what to expect.
- Build a rodent-proof chicken coop.
- Control how much you feed chickens and feed on a schedule.
- Put chicken feeders away overnight.
- Store chicken feed in heavy-duty containers that rodents cannot gnaw through.
- Collect eggs every day, never leaving them in the coop overnight.
- Ensure a hygienic and clean coop/run environment
Clearly, keeping rodents out of your chicken coop is of the utmost importance. But it is a major challenge because rats and mice are notorious for being able to squeeze through the tiniest holes and crevices. What are the best ways to keep rats from the coop?
How To Keep Rats Out Of Your Chicken Coop in 6 Ways
1. Build A Chicken Coop That Rats Can’t Get Into
How you design your chicken coop and what materials you use is essential for your girl’s safety and it is one of the most effective ways to keep rats out!
Use The Right Materials For Your Chicken Coop
Ordinary chicken wire is thin enough for rats to gnaw through. It’s designed more for keeping chickens than predators, like rats out.
Whichever way you design your coop, you must use 10mmx10mm galvanized wire mesh and hardware cloth available from hardware stores. It is nice and sturdy, easy to work with, and it is thick enough to be rodent-proof.
For wooden coops, use high-quality, weather-resistant timber and paint the wood. This will prevent rats from gnawing their way into the coop at night.
Wire twist closes are not good enough to keep rats out. Use high-quality sliding bolts on all the doors and windows.
If your coop has a dirt floor you will need to bury the wire 6 inches or so under the coop to prevent any burrowing pests. Having a concrete floor instead will help your coop be more predator proof and easy to clean.
Design A Secure Chicken Coop
It helps to design a coop with a floor constructed from wood or concrete. This prevents mice and rats from tunneling into the enclosure.
Just like foxes, rats can dig several feet down into the soil. Digging under wire fencing is a piece of cake for them, so the wire mesh must cover the coop’s floor.
Another way to prevent rats from digging into the coop under the fence is to build a wire skirt on the surface of the ground around the perimeter of the coop.
It is best to design the coop so that nesting boxes are high up off the ground. This will keep them out of the rats’ reach.
Rats can force their way in through the tiniest cracks. Seal all holes and cracks with wire mesh, steel wool, or silicon caulk sealant.
Use Natural Rodent Deterrents
Rats have a super-sensitive sense of smell, and there are some strong scents that they cannot stand. Spices and essential oils can be used as natural rat deterrents and this is the one we use that you can purchase on Amazon.
Peppermint oil, pine oil, and cinnamon oil are all highly off-putting to rats. Apply the oils around the entrances to the coop. The chickens will not be affected.
Cayenne pepper and clove are pungent spices that deter rats. Sprinkle some finely ground cayenne pepper and clove around the chicken coop. They will not bother the chickens and will keep rats away.
Use Irish Soap To Deter Rats And Mice
Nobody knows exactly why, but green Irish Spring soap seems to be an excellent rat and mouse repellent. It is probably due to its strong smell.
Many people swear by this soap to keep rats out of their chicken coops. Grate a bar of Irish Spring soap and sprinkle the shavings all over your chicken coop.
2. Control How Much You Feed Chickens To Minimize Leftovers
Rats are primarily attracted to chicken coops at night when there is plenty of uneaten pellet feed or other sources of food lying around. You should control how much you feed the chickens to keep rats away from a chicken coop.
It is best to feed your backyard chickens with measured quantities of feed on a regular schedule to minimize leftovers and wastage. If chickens eat all their feed, there will be none left to attract rats overnight. Make sure to clean up any spilled feed as well.
3. Put Chicken Feeders Away Overnight
If your chicken feeder is not rodent-proof, you should put it into the coop overnight or close it inside your shed. Do not leave chicken feeders out all night, or you may cause a rat problem. You can also consider using a treadle feeder where the chickens have to step on the treadle to access the feed. Rats are too light to trigger them to open
4. Store Chicken Food In Rat Proof Containers
Rats’ powerful jaws can gnaw through the toughest of materials to get a food source. It is a good idea heavy-duty containers for storing the chicken feed. They should be opaque, watertight, and airtight.
The following are good options for containers for your chicken feed:
- Metal bins with a tight-fitting lid
- Heavy-duty plastic rodent-proof containers with lids that have latches
- Plastic animal feed containers
Storing your chicken feed in containers like these will keep it safe from rats and raccoons, squirrels, skunks, and other pests.
5. Collect Eggs Regularly – Do Not Leave Them In The Coop
Rats love eating eggs and will steal them out of hens’ nesting boxes. If you leave your chicken eggs in the coop overnight, it may attract rats.
Get into a routine of collecting your eggs every afternoon after all the hens have laid.
6. Make sure your compost pile is far away from your chicken house and keep your coop clean and tidy
Rats are attracted to food sources and your compost pile can be a magnate for a hungry rat. Make sure if you have one to keep it far away from your hen house. Also, make sure to keep your coop squeaky clean to keep opportunistic rats and mice at bay.
How To Get Rats Out Of Your Chicken Coop
If rats have gotten into your chicken coop and have made nests, you need to deal with the problem as soon as possible. Your best option is to humanely exterminate the rats and clean out the chicken coop, removing all the bedding and rat nests.
Electric rat traps and snap traps kill rats the quickest and are the most effective types of traps. If possible, you should get a cat. This is the most natural way to control rat populations, and no clean-up is involved.
Poisoning the rats is not something you should consider, even as a last-resort option. Chickens can also be killed if they eat rat poison, so using it in the coop or around the chicken feed is a no-no.
If you have a severe problem and you can’t get it under control by using traps or a good barn cat, you should consider using a professional pest extermination service.
Why Do Rodents Go Into A Chicken Coop?
Chickens themselves do not attract rats and mice, but the things around them are a magnet for a rodent problems. Chicken feed, grain, food scraps, and eggs are all enticing snacks for rats and mice that often go into chicken coops at night seeking food.
Chicken coops are also warm, dry places perfect for small rodents to nest in. Chicken bedding, like straw and wood shavings, is a valuable resource for rats and mice.
Are Rats Dangerous To Chickens? Why rats are a problem in your coop
Rats will not generally go out hunting chickens, but they are still a danger to chickens and pose the following dangers:
- Rats prey on vulnerable young chicks and eggs.
- If food is very scarce and rats are hungry enough, they may attack juvenile or even adult birds.
- Rats have also been known to gnaw on chickens’ legs at night.
- The presence of rats in and around the coop is stressful for chickens. If rat infestations get severe, chickens’ laying may be interrupted, and they may stop eating or drinking due to stress.
- Rats are often carriers of diseases. Rats can transmit Salmonella if their urine or feces gets into the chickens’ drinking water.
- Rats transmit parasites like mites, lice, ticks, and fleas to chickens.
Rats can be a serious threat to chickens. If faced with a rat problem within your coop, it’s vital to eliminate them as soon as possible.
Are Mice A Danger To Chickens?
Rats are clearly problematic, but what about cute little mice? Are they a danger to chickens?
Mice do not pose a physical threat to chickens, even tiny chicks. In fact, chickens are far more likely to kill mice than the other way around.
However, mice are not completely safe to have in your chicken coop. Like rats, mice also carry diseases.
In North America, common house mice are carriers of a virus that leads to lymphocytic choriomeningitis. While this disease may not affect chickens, it does affect humans.
The virus is transmitted via the urine and feces of mice. When you are cleaning the coop, you can easily inhale the dry dust from the contaminated chicken bedding.
Mice can also transmit Salmonella to chickens in the same way that rats can.
Signs That There Are Rats In Your Chicken Coop
It is always good to be on the lookout for signs of rodent activity in and around your chicken coop. Look for the following signs:
- Mice and rats leave similar small, dark brown droppings. You will find them around the feeders, waterers, and in corners, especially inside the nest boxes.
- Rat and mice nests look like an untidy matt of weeds, feathers, grass, and bits of fluff. You may find them inside the coop.
- You may notice small holes gnawed on the coop floor or in feed sacks and containers.
- You may notice that eggs are missing from the coop or you see broken eggs.
- If chickens are agitated and restless in the absence of any other threats, rats may be frequenting the coop.
- If you notice lesions on your chickens’ legs, it may signify that rats are coming into the coop at night.
The best methods of keeping rats and mice out of a chicken coop are to design a chicken coop that is rodent-proof and to make sure the chicken feed is not accessible overnight. Do not leave hens’ eggs in the coop overnight, and be sure to store chicken feed in heavy-duty containers that rats cannot gnaw through.
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.