How to keep Chickens without encouraging Rats!

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  1. Rats are NOT inevitable!: Rats need 3 things to survive….food, water and shelter. If you can remove any of these from your garden, you’ll be discouraging them. Piles of rubbish make a perfect habitat for all rodents. Remember that rats can attack chickens, especially chicks, as well as be a health hazard for us too. Prevention is far better than cure.
  1. Store your feed securely: Any feed that isn’t being used needs to be stored in a galvanised metal bin with a snug fitting or locking lid. Rats can easily chew through plastic. Site the bin in an outbuilding if possible or on a solid area like a paving slab if not. Try to get a bin large enough to fit the whole feeder overnight if required.
  1. Use a suspended feeder: Any feeder suspended from a string sways. This ‘instability’ prevents chickens from climbing on the feeders and flicking food onto the floor. Spilt food is perfect for rodents. Tie a loop in the string and at dusk, hook the feeder high off the floor. Works even better with ‘top hat’ style feeders.

  1. Only feed a days ration at a time: Large hybrid hens will eat around 150g of layers pellets a day. Bantams will eat considerably less. If you calculate the amount of feed your chickens will consume in a day and ONLY supply that amount, you will be unlikely to have a surplus for rodents to find!
  1. Don’t scatter feed on to grass: We’ve all seen the gorgeous paintings of ladies scattering corn from a giant bowl to a willing flock of birds at their feet. This method is all well and good on a yard with a hard surface where the feed can’t hide but when thrown on grass, it’s easily missed by your intended recipient!
  1. Put food and water away at night: If you have a feeder that is sited on the ground and holds ‘spare’ feed (like most hoppers), lift the feeders at dusk and place into a metal bin or store indoors until morning. Never put a feeder into your chickens’ coop, as it’ll encourage rats. If you live somewhere dry, remove water too.
  1. Choose a Coop that’s raised: Rodents LOVE to nest under the coop. They have easy access to lots of lovely bedding material, food and water, it’s like a Hilton Hotel for small furries! By choosing a coop with legs or raising your own coop off the ground, you’ll remove the perfect environment for them to live…and breed!
  1. Dogs and Cats can really help too: Certain breeds of dogs and cats are excellent at ensuring any rodents that do appear, are soon dispatched. We’ve been lucky in training our dogs NOT to turn their attentions to our birds. The cats are terrified of our chickens, even our tiniest bantams weirdly!
  1. NEVER resort to poison: If you already have a rat problem, never resort to poison. Rats can ingest the poison and poop it out in your chickens run. Your birds will die if they eat this or a rat that has been killed by the poison. Any wildlife that predates the rat will also be killed. Try stuffing fresh bay leaves down any rat holes you find. They are poisonous to rats but not others.