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Rat Poison Block Screwed to a post along rat run

Rodent Problems - Rats and Mice Killers

Rodents, in particular rats and mice are bad news for poultry keepers. Sooner or later you are likely to encounter these annoying and potentially dangerous pests. Poultry housing, food, bedding and the birds themselves can act like a rodent magnet.

People often blame poultry for the presence of rodents but rats and mice are attracted to many other factors such as compost heaps, food put out to feed wild birds, sheds for shelter, etc.

Mustelidae or Mustelids (weasel family, stoats, mink, pine martins, ferets) can be quite destructive but are easy to trap as they are very curious, unlike rats that are very suspicious. Note the primary food source of stoats is the rabbit, despite being many times its own weight, supplemented with small rodents such as voles and mice.

Calling a coop rodent-proof is like calling the Titanic unsinkable. Make housing as rodent-resistant as possible with no small gaps for easy entry. If possible raise the poultry house and make sure the gap underneath is large - put the structure on legs so that the space underneath is open, uncluttered and light.

Rats need shelter, so do not give them a home. Keep the place tidy with no 'rat dens'. Rubbish piled up around buildings will provide a suitable rodent refuge so keep everywhere clean and avoid cluttered areas. Site compost heaps and log piles as far away from poultry as possible. An automatic pop-hole closer is expensive but can be worth it to keep rats out of the coop at night.

Rats also need food. If possible completely remove all food in the evening or buy rodent-resistant feeders. Clean up any scraps of food and spilt pellets daily. Store all poultry food in rodent-resistant containers.

Wear protective gloves when handling traps or rat poison and wash hands afterwards. Store poisons safely out of reach of children. There are many types of poison on the market - always follow the product instructions. If there is often a problem with rats change the type of bait you use regulary so that they do not get immune to it. To be effective rat poison should be based on an anti-coagulant called difenacoum. Vitamin C in chicken feed can act as a very effective antidote to many types of poison except from those containing difenacoum.

An alternative home made poison recipe for rodents is as follows:

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of baking soda (Bicarbonate of soda).

Mix together and place in small bowls where you notice rodent traffic. The soda will react with stomach acid and produce carbon dioxide gas to create stomach swellings and suffocates them by squashing the lungs. Cats and dogs do not normally eat the sugar and baking soda.

Another method is to mix flour with plaster of Paris & put it in a container. If the rats eat the substance they feel the need to drink. Once they have had a drink the plaster of paris sets inside of their body which kills them almost instantly.

Sometimes a large bucket filled about 3 quarters full with water can catch rats. The rats go in the bucket to drink but if they are not able to climb out they will drown. However poison works 24 Hours/day and 7 days/week which should get them all when the bait is placed in the right places.

Rat poison is now also sold in the form of wax blocks. These are excellent, if a bit expensive. They are weather resistant and can be nailed to the sides of sheds on rat runs and are less likely to attract the chickens. Use bait that they can not carry away. If a rat drops it in your chicken run the hens might eat it.

A good way of getting rid of rats with poison is to lay a few lengths of PVC drain pipes around the run, peg down, drill a large hole in the centre, pour in a good amount of rat poison and close the hole with a cork. Check and refill with rat poison on a regular basis. However if there are no signs of rats do not put out rat poison as it might be eaten by mice and voles. Poisoned mice and voles are a risk to other wildlife such as birds of prey.

Rat and Mouse Traps
Rats like to run through tunnels which can be made with wood for traps (bottom-right above).
This is safer for pets and chickens. Traps inside tunnels can also be placed within the run area.
Rat Bait Box with Poison placed along a Hedge
Bait Box which contains Rat Poison
Place Rat Poison in PVC Pipes
Place Rat Poison in PVC Pipes
Screw the bait on a piece of wood or loop a wire with bait through the pipe.
Hanging Galvanised Feeder
Hanging galvanised feeder with a rain shield makes it difficult for rodents to access chicken food.

It is said that a rat is rarely more than a couple of meters away. Rats are difficult to eradicate as they can breed throughout the year if conditions are suitable, a female producing up to five litters a year. The gestation period is only 21 days and litters of seven is common and the life span is up to three year. A typical rat can wriggle through a hole the size of a 10 pence piece, scale a brick wall, and may even gnaw through lead pipes and breeze blocks.

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