How To Get Rid of Mice and Rats in the Coop Naturally
How to Get Rid of Rats, Mice and Other Pests in the Chicken Coop
How can we get rid of mice naturally, without using dangerous rodenticides? It’s a challenge keeping our chickens healthy already, and we really could do without the complication of disease-carrying pests like mice, rats, and pest insects. There are some valid and legitimate reasons why we as backyard chicken keepers would prefer to shy away from rodent bait, so let’s look at some natural ways to get rid of mice and rats without the use of chemicals.
Signs of Activity
Before we assume that we have a rodent issue, we should talk about how to identify signs of rodent activity. There are the apparent giveaways, like rodent droppings or seeing a mouse or rat scurrying about, but there are more subtle things to look for too.
Chew marks may be a little obvious, but it is a sign commonly overlooked. Look for chew marks on the bottom of doors, door jams, feeders, feed bags, and feed containers. Rodents can squeeze through some pretty tight holes, but if they can’t, they’ll make the hole bigger so they can.
Grease marks or grease trails look like smudge trails along floors, walls, and other surfaces. These trails are the result of rodents marking their path so they can find their way to spots they frequent. If you see grease marks or trails, it’s safe to assume you have some heavy, or at least daily rodent traffic there.
Reduce the Attraction
Mice and rats are attracted to food and shelter. Rats and mice like to keep close to food sources. If they can find both food and shelter in your barn, then they’ll move in. You can reduce the attraction by securing stored feed in steel containers and reducing spillage or feed from your feeders. Removing the food source alone is not going to repel rats and mice, but it will reduce the attraction.
Birds naturally want to toss grain side to side when they eat, which causes the feed to fall to the ground. You can avoid this by suspending your feeders with chain from the ceiling of your coop and hanging your feeder so that the lip of the trough is equal to the height of your shortest bird’s back. Raising the height of feeders like this makes birds reach into the feeder and denies them the ability to toss feed without denying them access to food.
Reducing the attraction is a massive step in evicting rodents from the barn, but denying them access is another significant step. If you have doorways with large gaps, use boards to trim the door jam. Consider adding a door sweep if applicable, or reinforcing door edges with steel angle iron.
If you find holes you can seal, my favorite trick is steel wool and expanding foam. Rodents don’t like chewing steel wool, and the foam will hold it all together so they can’t grab and pull the steel wool out. I took this trick from the playbook of an experienced pest control guy, and it’s pretty reliable. Be sure to layer your steel wool and foam for best results.
Get Rid of Mice Naturally
Mice and rats have all day to figure out new ways to get into your barn, coop, or home. Don’t be surprised if they keep finding new ways to invade your space. If they do, it’s time to start thinning the population.
Mechanical mouse and rat traps have their place, but not all are created equal. The tried and true snap traps that come to mind when speaking about mouse traps have been around since the mid-1800s, but they have known pitfalls. For our use on the farm, they will work, but you better keep them out of reach of livestock, pets, children, and even yourself. As we all know, accidentally stepping on a mousetrap is non-habit forming.
There are less invasive traps that don’t include a dangerous mechanism. Repeating traps are baited boxes with a revolving door of sorts. Mice and rats can enter at will, but can’t get out. If you’re looking for the have-a-hart equivalent, this is about as close as you’ll get.
YouTube is a treasure trove of ideas, and this is a grand example. An impressively effective trap can be built at home with the run of the mill parts, pieces, and tools.
On a five gallon pail, poke holes on either side about one to two inches below the lip to accommodate a coat hanger, or better yet, a wooden dowel, piece of copper water pipe, or some steel fuel line. These will serve as an axle for an old peanut butter jar to spin on.
Once you set up the jar on an axle, add peanut butter to the outside of the jar to attract the mice. Then fill the bucket half full of water and add a ramp so mice can reach the top. The last time I used this trap I caught three mice a night for about as many days. It’s surprisingly effective.
Cats as Predators
Other natural pest-controlling methods farmers have used for generations include barn cats. Of course, not all cats are natural mousers, but some grow into it. One of my cats loves to hunt, and the other only chases kibble, so I get mixed results. If you do have a mouser, be sure to worm your cats regularly and talk to your vet about health precautions for your cat.
Dogs for Rat Control
For the larger end of the pestilence spectrum, there are rat-hunting dogs that love to go to ground and hunt our rats. Terriers of all sorts do a great job of controlling rats, but it’s a vast undertaking to train them correctly, and it can be dangerous work for the dog. Research them thoroughly and talk to experienced handlers before getting into ratters, because it’s probably a little more than most people are willing to undertake.
Snakes and Rodents
Many snakes are attracted to easy prey, and rodents tend to be easy prey. If you have an unusually high snake populous, removing the attraction of an easy rodent meal will make them go in search of greener pastures. So if you’re looking to reduce your local snake population, you can count rodent control as part of your snake control plan.
Skip the Bait, or Not?
I always suggest that people try to get rid of mice naturally first, mainly because most people have pets or children at home that may find the rodent bait. It’s an unnecessary risk in my eyes.
If you’ve tried these tips with no success, then it might be time to bring in a pro who will have locking bait stations to deploy. If you do decide to use rodent bait yourself, educate yourself on the best practices of rodent baiting, such as stationary bait blocks and one-feeding kill products.