Our flock has been up against an encroaching rat invasion ever since we brought them home. Now, we may have some tough birds in our bunch, and while our ladies have been known to take down a rat or two on their own, a whole slew of them is a different story.
We tried everything in the book and finally found something that works.
We saw the first rat around our coop about a week after we moved our teenaged birds into it. Tunnels had been dug right underneath our fencing and into the chicken run where we kept an endless supply of delightful chicken feed for them to feast on, and boy were they feasting.
First Attempt: Physical Blockades
My husband built wooden frames covered in hardware cloth and stuck them two feet into the ground all the way around the run, forming an underground barrier.
When the rats dug right around them, he spent an entire weekend rat proofing the run and coop. He covered the entire floor of the run with chicken wire to keep them from burrowing in. Then installed a chicken wire roof to the run, painstakingly wrapping the wire around every branch of our trumpet vine.
The next week the damn things were still at it. Somehow they were still getting in.
That’s when we found holes in the wooden coop floor, chewed by tiny rat teeth. We filled the holes with rocks and covered them with more chicken wire. The next day they just made more.
We would need a new tactic.
Second Attempt: Bought a Rat Proof Chicken Feeder
I decided to buy a rat proof chicken feeder for $75 online. It cost $25 to ship the stupid thing. I was so excited to get it all set up and watch my brilliant birds use their new feeder. Did I ever mention that chickens are not brilliant?
They spent the first five minutes staring at this shiny new space invader in sheer terror.
I set Dee Dee on the bar. As promised, the weight of the bird opened the feeder door, but she was too scared to stick her head in, so her flockmate, Little Carl did.
She was happily eating out of the side of the feeder when Dee Dee decided she wanted to eat of the side of the feeder too, and jumped off, resulting in the feeder door crashing down on Little Carl’s head.
More of this tomfoolery went on all day, until too many birds got on the bar at once and the whole thing tipped over, spreading feed all over the place.
The birds were happy, I was not.
Third Attempt: Considering Poisons
We considered using poisons to get rid of them, but decided against it.
Our chickens have killed and eaten mice before, and if they happened to eat a freshly poisoned rat, they would die as well. Poisoning rats puts the wildlife in your area at risk too, as owls and cats will readily eat a slowly moving poisoned rodent. This was not a risk we were willing to take.
Fourth Attempt: Setting Rat Traps
I bought six Snap E Rat Traps from amazon and set them up the day they arrived.
These traps are super easy to set, and the best part is, they’re re-usable.
We decided to try chicken feed as bait, because they obviously like it enough to spend an entire night burrowing two feet into the Earth and chewing through wood planks for it.
Oh boy, did they work.
We were catching between 2-5 rats a night! At first I felt like we were finally going to get rid of them for good, but this war was far from over.
For weeks we kept at it, but the number of dead rats didn’t change. Even with all these casualties, it didn’t seem to be making a difference. Our feed was still disappearing and they were still coming.
I do believe that these traps would be a tremendous help to anyone who’s dealing with a smaller population of rats than we were, but here in the city, more rats were replacing the dead ones every day. We either had to find a new way to get rid of the rats, or live with them for the rest of eternity.
I’m glad to inform you that I’m not currently bowing down to my rat overlords as I write this.
The answer was quite simple.
Fifth & Final Attempt: Stop feeding them.
It wasn’t just the chicken food that was drawing rats to our backyard, but the open air compost pile as well. We had to face facts that if we’re going to farm in the city, we have to adjust to the needs of our area.
We moved all the compost into steel garbage cans with tight fitting lids. Rats can’t chew through steel, so that took away one food source.
Next we changed the way we feed the chickens. They no longer have the luxury of picking away at a giant container full of food whenever they want.
With enough experimentation, I figured out exactly how much food our chickens will eat in one day and that’s all they get. We feed them on our patio, so food doesn’t get lost in their bedding for their rat friends to find later. If there’s anything that’s unfinished when they walk away, it goes into the steel compost bins.
Within two weeks of this new system the rat infantry had moved on. We haven’t seen a single one since making these changes. Had I known it was such a simple solution, I would have done it from the start. But that’s life, eh? Live and learn, then blog about it so others can learn from your mistakes.
For an even more in depth article on getting rid of rats in the chicken coop, check out my article on backyard chicken project: