Rodents and Your Coop
Reading Time: 4 minutes
While you want to keep chickens, you might not want the rodents that sometimes are attracted to their feed. Read about Carrie Miller’s methods for dealing with rodent problems in your coop.
Chickens have a dirty little secret that keepers would rather not talk about. Do you know what it is? They are notoriously messy eaters. Chickens tend to pick through the feed, eating their favorite morsels and knocking the rest upon the ground. Sadly, this causes the perfect habitat for critters of all sorts. Mice and rats are first in line to cohabitate amid your fluffy-butted friends. While it’s hard to keep every little rodent away, where you put your coop and how you choose to maintain it can help or hinder.
In my experience, ground coops cause more rodent problems that other types of coops. We thought it would be a great idea to have an indoor barn coop. While it was amazing in so many ways it was also a huge mistake on our part. See, our barn has a dirt floor making it very easy for rodents not only to come visit but to set up shop for their ever-growing families. Not so long ago we noticed the floor under the coop becoming soft and often collapsing under our feet. Tunnels! There were tunnels under the coop! Not just a few but many! After realizing the issue, we began to put away the feed and water each night and placing bait traps each evening. While this method helped a little it was not removing the whole problem. After a few months of trying different methods, we gave in and purchased a raised outside coop eliminating the food source from the barn.
Never, I mean never, leave feed out overnight, it is truly the root of all evil. Place all feed, treats, and other edibles in metal garbage cans with tight-fitting lids. We first tried cheap plastic containers but the rodents ate right through the plastic to get to the delicious meal. Do not just store the opened bags of feed but all the new bags as well. Placing the feed and containers high up is not going to help you when it comes to rodents. Those little critters can climb and scale the walls with ease.
Clean the floor
Sweep and/or rake out the bottom of the coop every evening if you can. If not every day as often as humanly possible. If there’s food available rodents will find it! No coop I have ever seen is 100% rodent proof because them little guys can fit into the tiniest of crevasses. They can and will chew through wood and plastic to find themselves an all-you-can-eat buffet and a warm cozy sleeping spot. Hardware-cloth with the smallest of holes can help keep out the intruders.
Up up and away
Keep them coops high up at least 18 inches off the ground if possible. While it may not deter every mouse, it will help against rats. Uggghh rats! Gosh darn it they give me the willies. They reproduce and grow so fast that one rat can turn into an infestation in a matter of weeks or months. If you see one rat then you most likely have at the least 10 that you have not seen. They are smart! If you catch one then they learn your game quickly consequently, you must switch up your tactics often.
Why are rats such a concern
Why not just coexist? Because rodents can carry many diseases harmful to both birds and humans.
To learn more about the diseases that rats carry, what geographic regions are most affected and basics about cleaning up after rodents, see Why Are Rats Such a Concern, co-written by Carrie Miller and Carla Tilghman (Community Chickens editor).
Carrie Miller has a do-it yourself website/blog that is full of fun chicken projects. Her family is raising all-natural chickens with no antibiotics, no medications and no pesticides in Kinsman, Ohio. You can find her at Miller Micro Farm or follow her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.