There are many stories that you will hear from people when you say that you are about to start keeping chickens. Some of these will be true, and others are based on opinions, or stories passed on from person to person. Some of these will include rats, and will keeping chickens attract rats?
There is an old saying that goes “If you keep chickens, you’ll be keeping rats as well”, however, using a few different techniques we can not only keep the rats away, but also ensure they don’t come near your chickens.
Firstly, let look at rats. They need 3 main things to be able to live; Food, water and harbourage (somewhere to live). If they have these, they will be happy and multiple quite quickly. If they don’t have to do anything to get the food, and are safe, you’ll struggle to get rid of them.
Will rats live with chickens?
Rats will dig burrows in the ground, live in hedge rows, piles of wood, or somewhere similar. The first thing we should look at is not giving the rats anywhere to live. However, given they can live underground, and their burrows may be in hedge rows, there isn’t alot we can do about it.
Yes, rats will dig their burrows under the chicken coop, and live there. They’ll also dig under cages and enclosures to get into the run. The best way to stop them doing this, is using chicken wire with a gap smaller than 12 mm. Dig this wire into the ground around the enclosure, so rats can’t then dig under.
Will rats eat chicken food?
The food you give to your chickens, be it pellets, mash, wheat or corn, is all eaten by rats. A rat will never skip a free meal, and once it knows where the food is, it will come back again and again. It will also tell all its rat friends, where this lovely, easy to get food is.
So, how can we stop rats eating the chickens feed? The main one is to lift up, and remove any leftover food at the end of the day. Rats are mainly nocturnal (although they will feed during the day), so putting left over food where they can’t get it will help not to attract the rats.
Put all your chicken feed in a bowl, feeder or trough. Do not scatter it on the ground. Food scattered on the ground may not all be eaten, and could attract rats.
If you can’t do this, then teaching your chickens how to use a treadle feeder may be the answer. Made of metal, the chickens have to stand on a platform to open the feeder. However, be careful as the rats are clever, and may learn how to use them.
Will rats drink the chickens water?
Rats will drink water from pretty much anywhere. If it’s fresh, clean water that you give to your chickens, then they will drink that too. There are many different types of drinkers, and the truth is, is the chicken can drink from it, so can rats.
Prevention is better than cure
The best thing any poultry keeper can do, is to keep the rats from getting in, and getting established. Following the advice above should help.
- Lift and remove and left over food
- Use chicken wire with a gap smaller than 12 mm to stop rats getting into the chickens enclosure.
- Don’t leave piles of wood / sticks / garden waste as that will be a perfect hiding place for the rats.
- Monitor and check for rats getting in. Look for where they go under enclosures, or their droppings in the fed.
Will keeping chickens attract rats? It will, but if you’re a good poultry keeper, you’ll monitor for issues, and be able to stop the rats getting in, and deal with any rat issues quickly and effectively.