Dealing With Rodents In Your Coop
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Finding mice or rats in your chicken coop for the first time is a surprise. You may think they are relatively harmless since they don’t directly threaten the wellbeing of your flock. But there are several reasons why you want to eliminate rodents from setting up residence in your coop.
The most obvious reason for keeping mice and rat populations under control in your coop is because they will eat your stored poultry feed. Mice seem to almost enjoy chewing holes in every bag, seemingly as soon as you put them down. Feed bags with mice holes make a mess as the feed spills out, which then is wasted feed that the mice continue to feed on. Mice are not picky about where they eliminate themselves, which means there will be mouse urine and feces in your poultry feed.
Heath Threats for Animals and Humans
Mice and rats are responsible for spreading a wide range of zoonotic bacteria and parasites. Zoonotic diseases are those that can spread from animals to people. Mice can spread more than 20 different bacteria species and a few parasites and viruses that can directly affect humans, chickens and other animals. Mice also serve as an intermediate host for tapeworms that affect cats, so having mice around means that any farm cats you keep are at risk for developing tapeworms.
Sweeping up any spilled feed is important to keeping the rodent population in check. Picking up feeders at dusk, using feeders that eliminate access by rodents, and storing extra feed in rodent-proof containers are also important steps to take to avoid feeding a large population of unwanted rodents.
Keep Them Out
Rodents can squeeze into the tiniest of spaces. Hardware cloth with a ¼ inch opening is the best product for keeping mice and rats from entering the coop. Fastening a “skirt” around the perimeter of your chicken housing may go a long way towards preventing rodents from entering. Keep in mind that rodents, especially rats, are incredible diggers.
They will very often tunnel their way under the walls of a building. Digging a trench around the perimeter of the coop and burying the hardware cloth about 4 to 6 inches deep will help prevent tunneling to gain access to the coop. Metal is one of the only things that rodents cannot chew through, so the hardware cloth is an ideal defense.
Eliminate Rodents That Do Get In
If you do find that you have mice or rats that manage to get into your coop, deal with it promptly. Rodents that find a cozy spot with plenty of food available quickly set up a nest and start making babies, which if ignored will quickly lead to a population explosion.
There are several rodent traps available to help you eliminate mice and rats in your coop. You can use multi-catch live traps, but keep in mind that it may be illegal to trap and relocate. So have a plan if you intend to use live traps for catching mice and/or rats in your coop.
I have had the best success using a rat-sized plastic snap trap to catch both mice and rats. As an experiment, I also built a “rolling log” type trap using a 5 gallon bucket and some PVC scrap. It works, but for me, the thought of allowing something to drown to death (even a mouse) is more unsettling than a quicker death in a spring loaded snap trap. I also recommend using mouse attractant gel on any trap you use. It works without attracting other animals or insects like human food will, But if you don’t buy the attractant, peanut butter is the next best thing to use to bait your trap.
Tell Us Your Rodent Successes
How have you dealt with rodents in your chicken coop? Leave us a comment below and share it with our readers. I’m sure there are a lot of you out there with experience in building the better mouse trap and we would love to hear about it. We may even feature your story in an upcoming blog post, podcast or Youtube video!
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