If you have pet chickens then one of your primary concerns may be regarding rats. Will a chicken attempt to eat them if they come nearby? Can these rodents cause harm to your flock and if so what you can look to do about it. These are the types of questions that we will be looking to address here today.
So, do chickens eat rats? Chickens do not generally eat rats. Full-grown rats are large, agile, and become very aggressive when cornered making chickens unlikely to attempt or even be able to kill a live rat. In fact, rats are more likely to cause harm to your chickens either directly or indirectly through disease.
It is therefore important that you minimize and reduce the likelihood and chances of rats entering the chicken run and/or coop.
If it wasn’t for chicken’s relatively short lifespan (average seven years), you might think that they are as close to invincible as it gets. They can withstand the harshest winters without extra heating.
It’s well established that Chickens can eat snakes, scorpions, bugs, voles, and even small rodents like mice.
However, rats are a different story entirely.
Let us now explore why chickens are mostly unable to eat rats before we turn to whether keeping chickens attracts rats and how to go about keeping rats away for the safety of your flock.
- 1 Can Chickens Eat Rats?
- 2 Does Keeping Chickens Attract Rats?
- 3 How Do I Keep Rats Out Of My Chicken Coop?
- 4 Finally
Can Chickens Eat Rats?
While chickens can technically eat rats, its not advised, beneficial nor is it really likely.
Live rats are difficult for most chickens to catch, as they are large, agile, and aggressive. They will attack your hens with great ease.
Moreover, rats, like mice, carry infectious diseases that can be transmitted to your hens.
When a rat enters a chicken coop, it will mainly go for eggs and chicks, as they are defenseless and easy sources of food.
However, if a rat feels threatened by a mature hen, it will go for the neck and can even bite it off, killing the hen.
Chickens can eat dead rats, but that’s a bit more problematic, the reason being that if you used poisons to take care of your infestation problem, your birds would also ingest the poison, and it could do serious harm to your chickens.
Another potential context is that chickens can eat baby rats.
In this unique context, this is actually an effective way of keeping a rat infestation and population down. It is of course, unlikely that a baby rat will be alone from their mother.
You may now be wondering about mice.
This article discusses the topic in a lot more detail but here is what is covered in a nutshell. Mice are much smaller and more manageable for chickens to catch and eat.
While chickens will attempt to eat them, mice, like rats, can carry many harmful diseases. It is therefore in your best interests to keep them away from the coop as and when you can.
Rats are incontinent; they continuously chew and leave their saliva on every surface that they chew.
Unlike mice, however, they don’t defecate everywhere, they are “cleaner” than mice in that respect.
But, you will see large pellet feces in certain areas, that they designate as their private bathroom.
Nevertheless, their urine, saliva, and feces can make your flock seriously ill. You don’t want them anywhere near your birds; they are very dangerous.
Unfortunately, Hens are not the best deterrent for rats so it is important you remain vigilant and take the appropriate steps. We will outline some suggestions in the following sections.
Does Keeping Chickens Attract Rats?
Keeping chickens can attract rats. But it is not the chickens by themselves. Instead, it is the smell of chicken feed and droppings that is very enticing to rats.
In winter, rats look for places that are warm, comfortable, with access to food and water sources. If you have open feed containers, that’s an open invitation to the local rat community.
Your chicken coop will make an ideal shelter from the cold, and they will love the straw bedding, it will make them feel very cozy and protected.
Unless you have a severe rat problem in the beginning, you may not notice that you have rats.
Rats are sneaky and tend to only come out at night. But some signs to look out for include:
1) Missing Feed
If you monitor the amount of feed your chickens eat, you will notice when more feed is missing.
Rats make themselves known during the winter, so if you see missing feed during the cold season, more than likely, you have a rat problem.
2) Missing Eggs
Rats love eating fresh eggs, so if you notice that there are fewer eggs than usual, you more than likely have got a rat problem.
3) Chew Marks
Rats will gnaw on doors and corners; the damage will be undeniable. They can very easily chew through wood and plastic, be careful not to touch any chewed areas as they will contain rat saliva.
4) Holes In The Bottom Of The Chicken Coop
Rats are talented burrowers. Therefore they can enter the coop from the ground below or enter a chicken run from underground. The holes that they create are usually about two inches in diameter.
How Do I Keep Rats Out Of My Chicken Coop?
Keeping rats out of the chicken coop is achieved with a combination of good husbandry, regular cleaning and physical barriers that prevent access.
So we have now established that chickens will not likely attempt to eat rats, nor is there any real benefit of doing so. Beyond this it can be outright damaging.
Therefore, how do you keep them away. Particularly when owning chickens increases your chances of them coming in the first place.
Here are some of the best things that you can do:
1) Clean The Coop Regularly
Before you encounter any rat problems, you should maintain preventative measures by first regularly cleaning your chicken coop.
You should remove old bedding periodically replenish it with fresh bedding. You should deep clean the coop at least twice a year; this should entail dusting and washing down walls, floors – every area in the coop.
Use a safe cleaning products for dropping board and roosts, and always ensure that you opt for toxic and chemical free formulations. This is a really effective and cost effective brand I routinely purchase on Amazon
2) Pick Up All Clutter
Clean up all clutter; this must include wood, bricks, tools, and old junk as rats will happily live and hide in it.
So everything must come off the ground, give them nowhere to hide.
You must regularly cut the grass, as that serves as an ideal hiding place for rats.
3) Store Chicken Feed Correctly
Use rodent-proof feeder containers and store feed in a durable, airtight, industrial-sized drum; it must be impenetrable for any rat.
Clean up any food spillages before nightfall. Because rats love to feed on eggs, make sure that all eggs are collected from the coop every night.
Don’t use an open bin for scraps; bins must have heavy lids.
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4) Make Chicken Coops Impenetrable To Rats
Your coop must be fitted with a galvanized wire mesh on the outside.
Install high-quality locks, padlocks, and sliders; this will prevent rats from pushing their way through.
As rats love to gnaw on surfaces, your coop must be constructed out of high-quality, weather-resistant timber.
5) Protect Young Chicks From Rats
Keep chicks inside at night as rats will stop at nothing to eat a live chick, keep nesting boxes elevated and out of the reach of any rat.
If you are currently dealing with a rat problem, start by cleaning out the coop, cleaning must be done safely.
You must wear gloves, a mask, and use a shovel to deal with the rat feces. Consider burning contaminated bedding if possible.
After cleaning, cover up any holes as these have been burrowed through by rats. Failing this you may have to try something a little more daring.
Consider getting a cat as they are skillful hunters and killers. The mere scent of a cat is enough to deter any rat. Just be careful to keep the cat away from your chickens and never leave them together.
Alternatively, setting up traps and using poison, is excellent if necessary. Again you need to be very careful about where you place traps/poison and ensure it is well away from your chickens and any other pets. Ensure they cannot access or come across them!
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Hens make great pets and deserve our protection. While they may be good at roaming, and eating bugs, insects and even mice, as well as a host of other creatures, rats, are another story.
Do chickens eat rats? It looks like rats are more than most chickens can deal with; it is up to their guardians to tackle the rat problem before one even begins.
Chicken coops must be well designed and rat proofed to prevent any harm coming to your lovely hens.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.