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Rats and Mice In The Henhouse: How To Avoid Them

Few family chicken farmers have ever been confronted with the problem of rats and/or mice in the henhouse. However, some mistakes can be avoided, because it is simply our way of breeding that attracts them. In the country as well as in the city, they are everywhere! These small rodents often cause problems for breeders because of seed theft, but in reality there are much more important reasons to be concerned about their presence. These reasons are as valid for the health of your chickens as they are for yours.

Do chickens attract rats?


There are several important things to remember when faced with this problem that can quickly turn into a nightmare if you don’t act fast enough: an invasion of rats, mice and other small rodents of the same type is not related to the hygiene of your henhouse.

You can clean every day, and even change the litter 10 times a day, but it won’t make any difference, they will still come if the right conditions are met for them. Also, they are less attracted by your hens, but more by the chicks, which the rats can attack more easily, which is unfortunately quite frequent.

What attracts rodents to the chicken environment?


You should know that in 90% of the cases, rats and mice are attracted by the food your chickens eat! It’s the seeds and nothing else that make them settle near your coop.

Eggs can also attract them, so it’s best not to leave them in the nesting boxes at night. Rats are omnivores. They will happily attack a chick and sometimes even young hens.

When the invasion occurred at our house in 2015, we were leaving the feeders still full of seed in the pen at night.

We didn’t realize the rats were there right away. When there are few of them, they manage to go unnoticed. But when we start to see one near a feeder in the middle of the day, it means that they are already there, installed very close!

At first, it’s just one rat, in which case you might think that it’s a “passer-by” and that everything is fine, but then it’s two, then three rats… That’s when you need to be alarmed and, above all, act quickly!

The danger of rats and mice for your chickens and for yourself
The rodents themselves are not a danger for our chickens, since they do not attack them, except for the chicks as I mentioned above.

It is the potential diseases that are real and dangerous for them.

Warning: Chickens eat mice, even if they are poisoned

Poule qui mange une souris


Chicken eating a mouse
Worms and insects are mostly part of their menu. But as you will see in this video, if they can, they do not disdain a mouse on occasion.

It can be a problem if you spread poisonous baits against rats and mice in your hens’ environment, because hens eat even poisoned mice and ingest some of the poison themselves. So this is something to be avoided. We will discuss this in another article linked at the bottom of this page (How to get rid of rats and mice in the chicken coop).

Diseases transmitted by rats to poultry and humans
Here’s what Columbia University says in a nutshell during the results of a study in ScienceDaily in 2016:

“Rats can absorb pathogens from their local environment and spread them, according to a new study. The results also indicate that the threat rats pose to the health of poultry and humans has been underestimated.”

Here is what this study also states:

“Researchers studied the feces of rats captured at a poultry farm in Abbotsford, British Columbia, and found that they all carried avian pathogenic E. Coli, a bacterium capable of causing disease in chickens and potentially humans. More than a quarter of the rats carried multi-drug resistant strains of the bacteria. The results support lead author Chelsea Himsworth’s theory that rats act as a “pathogenic sponge,” absorbing bacteria from their environment.”

Diseases transmitted by rats to poultry and humans
Here’s what Columbia University says in a nutshell during the results of a study in ScienceDaily in 2016:

“Rats can absorb pathogens from their local environment and spread them, according to a new study. The results also indicate that the threat rats pose to the health of poultry and humans has been underestimated.”

Here is what this study also states:

“Researchers studied the feces of rats captured at a poultry farm in Abbotsford, British Columbia, and found that they all carried avian pathogenic E. Coli, a bacterium capable of causing disease in chickens and potentially humans. More than a quarter of the rats carried multi-drug resistant strains of the bacteria. The results support lead author Chelsea Himsworth’s theory that rats act as a “pathogenic sponge,” absorbing bacteria from their environment.”

“If rats can absorb pathogenic E. coli, they could potentially be a source of all sorts of other pathogens we haven’t anticipated,” said Himsworth, an assistant professor at the UBC School of Population and Public Health and leader of the Vancouver Rat Project, a group aimed at filling the knowledge gap on health threats associated with rats.”

How diseases potentially transmitted by rats and mice are transmitted
Other potential diseases could be transmitted by rodents, both to poultry and to humans.

It is also known that not only can diseases be transmitted by rats and mice in the poultry house through contact with the seed, but also through their urine and feces left in the poultry house environment.

This means that if you handle litter or accessories soiled with rat urine or droppings without protective gloves, you too can be infected by these bacteria.

7 tips to prevent rats and mice from invading your chickens


Here are 7 actions to take in the henhouse to avoid these undesirable little rodents in your hens’ environment

1 – Protecting seeds and feeders


As mentioned earlier, seeds are the main attraction for rats and mice. This is a great source of food for them, especially in winter. In your home, it is provided daily and in large quantities. That’s all it takes for a rodent colony to set up shop.

Our advice: store seeds away from intruders, in large plastic garbage cans for example or in closed bins. Also, don’t leave feeders full of food in the pen at night. For the same reason, empty them or ideally, put them in a safe place out of reach.

2 – Use anti-pest feeders

In another article, we have already talked about anti-pest feeders. These pedal accessories also allow you to save on seeds. By climbing on it, only the chickens can access it. Rats and mice will be less attracted.

This type of feeder costs a little more to buy than a conventional feeder, but the savings in the long run are quite interesting.

3 – Remove eggs regularly


Many family breeders do not necessarily take the time to remove the eggs every day. Some allow 2 or 3 days or more to pass before checking the nests.

Again, this attracts rats and mice, but also magpies, hedgehogs and other predators.

Our advice: if you have to leave eggs in the nests to encourage your hens to lay, use fake plaster eggs like these ‘ Fake eggs
Take the time to remove the eggs from the nests every day without exception

4 – Checking for holes in the pen

Rat holes are fairly recognizable and are often found under a fence or wall, or even under the coop or directly in the ground.

Mouse holes are somewhat smaller, but are strategically located in the same places.

It is therefore advisable to inspect your chickens’ pen from time to time. This will allow you to act more quickly, before a major invasion occurs.

Our advice: regularly, at least once a week, go through and inspect the strategic passages that rats could use. Keep an eye on the area around the fence, the henhouse or the wall that may be present in your henhouse. You will then be able to act as quickly as possible and avoid a massive invasion of rats.

5 – Daily visits to the coop


It is important to visit the coop every day to avoid rodents and other unwanted guests. Your regular presence can only make them worry.

Our advice: spend some time every day in your chickens’ pen. A living pen is not conducive to rodents. Make a little noise, talk to your chickens, etc.


6 – Avoid compost too close to the coop


Chickens love to scratch the compost. They find many worms and insects in it. However, it also attracts rats and mice. And that’s what we want to avoid at all costs!

Our advice: place the compost heap away from the chicken house. Turn it over regularly so that rats and mice don’t make nests there.


7 – Maintain the environment


If there are a lot of trees and shrubs in your chicken run, their presence can make life easier for rodents. It will be easier for them to hide in your presence. Also, it’s best to avoid large piles of wood, which are ideal places for rats to make their nests.

Our advice: maintain your chicken pen regularly, prune shrubs and cut weeds. Place wood piles away from the pen.

To conclude on the danger of rats and mice in the henhouse
You have understood that it is impossible to let a colony of rats and/or mice settle in the henhouse. It is essential to find a solution to get rid of them and keep them away at the risk of developing diseases and unnecessary stress.

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