Rats in the chicken coop are a risk and
getting rid of them is essential for your flock's health.
In this article I look at the ten most common methods and my personal experience of some of them, to help you decide which one's best for you.
Please note : Backyard chickens and rodents do notautomatically go together. This page and others on the same subject are there simply to help you know what to do should you discover a problem.
Good husbandry is very important - and very effective - at keeping vermin at bay. Get rid of them first, and then make sure they don't return by getting rid of uncovered grain! See my review of an automatic feeder which can help.
I was so sure I could never have a rodent problem that by the time I accepted I had rats in my coop, there was an infestation of three separate nests which proved incredibly hard to deal with.
Please - learn from my mistake. Don't leave it. As soon as you see any evidence - take action!
Baby rat or full-grown mouse - could you tell?
Please note :
I'm not advocating or opposing any of these methods. I'm just outlining various popular methods and telling you how effective I found them when getting rid of rats from my chicken coop, taking into account my personal situation and the large infestation I encountered.
Different procedures will suit different situations and not everyone will be comfortable using the same methods.
You need to gather all the information on each method and then make a judgement for yourself as to which would suit you, your family, your situation and your chickens.
This is a long page. To help you find your way through it, these are links to the different sections. Click on any of them to be taken straight to that section.
I needed to use rat poison because the rodent infestation had grown so large by the time I recognised it that any other, longer-term way would have been potentially putting my chickens at risk of disease.
But poison should really be a last resort and it's not a topic to be taken lightly. For that reason, I've given the use of poison a page all of its own. Find it here.
2. Electric traps.
This is second on the list because it's the method I have used ever since the infestation of rats I had was brought under control.
These traps are powered by battery. The rat, enticed into the box by a yummy treat, steps on a metal plate. This triggers an electric shock which kills within a couple of seconds.
The main advantages are that it's relatively quick and the rat is killed without blood being spilled, which makes cleaning
This is my preferred method of rodent control - I've found these traps very effective. See my full review at this page.
3. The old favourite - snap traps.
Quick and effective, but messy.
How to use them.
They need to be set in places where you know the rodents are
running, usually around the edge of a run or an outbuilding. Place them well
out of the reach of your children, chickens or other animals.
them there for several days unbaited until the rodents get used to
them. Rats are cautious creatures and won't go near something new and
Bait them with peanut butter - really! Rats are very attracted by the smell and you'll only need a tiny smear.
Cheap, easy to set and very quick to
kill, so the rodent doesn't suffer unduly.
to empty the traps of decapitated creatures. No matter how much I
dislike vermin - and trust me, I do - this is not a pretty way of dealing
Rats are actually intelligent animals
and will learn not to go near traps which they've seen to be harmful to
their community. You need to move them around often.
4. Glue traps.
I've seen these used in a workplace which became over-run with mice. It was not a pretty sight.
How they work.
Used a lot by commercial companies because they're cheap and very effective.
They're literally pads of glue which are set in rat-run places. When rodents - or anything else - moves onto them, they find themselves stuck.
The animal either dies from exhaustion trying to escape, starves to death or has to be killed manually.
They catch anything moving across them, including insects and birds.
If the animal doesn't die trying to escape you are going to have to kill it.
Whilst I don't normally recommend or oppose any method I would have to say, having seen these first-hand, that I personally would not use them. Yes, getting rid of rats is vital to your chickens' health - and your family's - but there are more humane ways.
5. Humane traps.
Kind - but the rats may well return.
How they work.
The best humane traps are made of metal. You'll find information on making them from plastic bottles on the internet, but even mice can gnaw through a bottle on a matter of minutes.
An example of an humane metal trap. It goes against a wall wherever the rats are running.
If the idea of killing any living being is difficult for you then this is the only real option.
Doesn't harm either the rat or any other animal which happens along.
You end up with a live rat on your hands. Now what?
are territorial animals. Once they set up home they like to stay
there. So the likelihood is that if you release the rats anywhere close
to your coop, they will return.
Advice is to take the
rat at least five miles away from your home to set it free. Even then,
there's nothing to say it won't find its way back - and you may just be re-locating the problem onto someone else's property.
6. Getting rid of rats with home made traps.
Amusing to read about, not so amusing to use!
What they are.
Search online for 'homemade ways of getting rid of rats' and you'll find all kinds of ideas, some imaginative, some downright quirky!
One of the most common is the 'walk the plank' option. Take a barrel, fill to about 6" with water. Add some grain.
On top of the barrel balance a plank, one end hovering over the centre of the barrel. Add a smear of peanut butter at the edge.
The rats 'walk the plank' to get to the peanut butter, topple into the water and drown.
Inexpensive (providing you have a barrel).
Unpredictable - you need to be sure the plank will stay in place.
Inhumane - it will take several minutes for a rat to drown.
Not very effective, according to people who have used it.
If you're a good shot and have time on your hands this may be an option.
Is it legal? And how does it work?
Yes, it's perfectly legal. Although in Europe personal use of firearms without a certificate is illegal, it is perfectly legal anywhere to shoot vermin, as long as it's on your own land and using an air rifle.
If you have permission, it's also legal to shoot rodents on someone else's land.
Some famers advocate this as a quick and humane method, particularly when the rats are trapped in
a barrel in a dry version of the 'walk the plank' trap above.
Another way of keeping the rats in one place is to lay bait down. Either peanut butter or diced up cat food works well, in my experience.
Rats generally like to come out at night, so you need to set up just before dusk to be most effective.
Shooting by artificial light isn't a good idea - the rats will simply remain in their nest.
8. Getting rid of rats a priority? Get a cat!
Not an option for everyone - and you need the right kind of cat!
I've found cats to be very effective particularly when combined with the battery operated trap (see here). I live in rural Italy where feral and semi-feral cats are common and, because we have wheat fields, we also have mice which attract feral cats.
When a mother cat had her litter in our shed, then, I had no problem in inviting them to stay.
One of our feral kittens gives Claudia Chicken a run for her money!
If you're thinking of getting a cat to keep control of the mouse or rat
population it really needs to be a large barnyard-type animal which is
used to living outside and has been taught by its mother how to tackle
the problem. Most smaller, domesticated cats are unlikely to have the courage to take on a full-grown rat.
Be careful, too, about how any cat reacts with chickens. It's fairly common for cats to kill baby chicks - after all, to a cat they look just like birds - and some will even take on full-grown hens.
Great if you have a friendly local terrier owner!
I used to work in an old, overcrowded Victorian prison in northern England. There was a massive problem with rodent infestation because the drainage system was old and over-used. The prison authorities dealt with it by paying the local Border Terrier and Jack Russell Terrier clubs to come into the prison once a month, after dark, and let their dogs loose in the yards where the rats were running. Watching the dogs 'at work' was mesmerizing!
Terriers are bred for this kind of work and they love doing it.
It's a quick death for the rat - the dogs are quick to catch them and shake them to death.
This is a process still used on many farms where these dogs are kept for this specific purpose.
Very effective in the short-term.
Needs doing regularly - the dogs will only catch rats which are running, so babies will be left in the nest unless it's found and cleared.
You need to find a terrier owner or club near you!
This is a fascinating video by the BBC, showing terriers killing rats on a farm in the UK. If you're at all worried about this method of getting rid of vermin, please - don't watch it.
10. Ultrasonic repellers.
Wishful thinking - these may work on bugs (although even that is questionable) but there are no scientific studies at all which have found them to be effective in getting rid of rats and manufacturers have been repeatedly warned not to make false claims by the Federal Trade Commission of America. See here for more information.
How do they work?
Ultrasonic repellers are small devices which plug into an electric socket and emit a very high pitched noise which is not heard by the human ear, but which rodents - supposedly - dislike.
Some are relatively inexpensive (although some are very expensive).
Easy to use.
A passive way of trying to control vermin
Some people swear by them, particularly to deal with roaches and other bugs.
Once you already have an infestation of rodents these will be completely useless. Communities of rats will not be put off staying in their comfortable nest by some high pitched whining.
At best, if you're looking for something to deter rats and mice coming into your property, they may be worth trying before you try anything else but be warned - there are no studies whatever saying they have any effect on getting rid of rodents.
My own experience of using them in my house to deter tiny fieldmice bears that out - they just didn't work.
Please note : Because I undertake only to promote products I think will benefit you, and I have no evidence that these are worth spending money on, I am not providing a link to buy this product. However, if you want to give them a try, they are readily available on Amazon.
How can I help now?
I have written some other pages on the site about getting rid of rats and other rodents which I hope you'll find useful. Click on the pictures to go to whichever you think might help.
Or, to see all my rodent pages, click on this pic.
I have several pages on this website about rodents in relation to chickens. They range from how to assess whether you have a problem in the first place to how to clean up safely after an infestation.
If you're not sure where to start, clicking on this picture will take you to a page which lists all those articles and gives a brief description of what each one covers.
From there, just click on the link which is the page you think will be most helpful in your particular situation.
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