The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

We have rats in our chicken run

rat poisonPoultry and rats go together. The rats are attracted by the supplies of food and fresh water. We live in fat rat country. The village is surrounded by farms and studs that are a haven for rats.

Rats carry disease, in particular Wiles Disease. This is a killer. The disease is spread through contact with the excrement and urine of carrier rats. A garden pond can attract rats as they need access to water.

The disease can infect the tiniest scratch. So I always wear decent waterproof gloves when dealing with the chickens or pond and wash my hands well when I come indoors.

As soon as you spot evidence of rats around your chicken run, deal with them immediately. They breed rapidly and the longer that you ignore the problem the harder it will be to get rid of them as you will be trying to deal with many, many rats.

We don’t lock our hens in during the summer so that they can come and go as they please. The rats are generally out in the field around the village so are not a problem. After harvest, the rats will start to return to the village so we lock the flock in the hen house for the night to deter the rat invasion.

The hen’s grain feeder is permanently in the chicken house, to discourage small birds stealing the food. The hens also have a water fountain in the house. The rats are at their most active after dark. Hopefully the restaurant is closed when they decide to tootle out for dinner.

All this seems to work well but this year I have found tale tell gnawing of the wood at the base of the chicken run. These excavations can be repaired with flattened tin cans or fine mesh chicken wire (easily stapled in place).

We set the hen house on fine chicken wire so the rats can’t burrow in through the open floor. The canny vermin dug some open trenches under the wire and then shifted the grain from the feeder through the wire and into the trenches. I have stopped this handy drive-through by laying roof tiles over the floor. Bounty from a skip in Saffron Walden. The best tiles are slate as you can overlap them neatly.

We have used rat traps in the past (the ones designed for rats are a giant version of the mouse traps). We have caught a few rats but if you need to kill more than one or two it could be an extended waiting game as rats are intelligent.

Now we use the most effective rat poison that we can buy to control the rats. It’s expensive but does the trick. If you are going to go down this route you need to plan your strategy carefully. Laying down loads of poison once will not kill at your rats at once.

I put poison in every rat hole that I can find and cover the entrance with a brick or heavy tile. The bricks serve two purposes, they avert the disaster of the chickens or dogs eating the poison and also indicate whether the rats are still active as they will try and dig a new hole beside the brick. I keep on feeding the poison every day until the happy moment when I find that my tempting meal has been left untouched.

I wait a bit longer before I hang up my poisoning gloves. I check every rat hole each day for at least a week. If the poison is still untouched I have contained the problem. New rats will move in so it’s worth checking every week or so to keep on top of the problem.

Always wear gloves when you are handling poison. Store the gloves out of the way of dogs and cats. After pulling off your poisoning gloves always wash your hands at least twice. It’s lethal stuff.

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  1. MuleMarm

    Howdy to Y’all from Texas!

    Skimming through your concerns about rats, thought I’d give you my ideas on the matter.

    (Other helpful info on keeping chickens can be found at Cottage-Smallholder where I usually post: “How Do I Keep my Chickens Clean.”)

    While Martin Hill is several acres, I let all go wild (Mesquite, and Cedar/Sumac trees, and prickly pear cactus) except for the house and outbuildings, and a little 4 acre plowed field. The acreage has a heavily overgrown deep canyon slashed through a large corner. There, reside pert-near every good game and farm/ranch marauder for which one might dream: White Tail Deer, mountain lion, raccoon, skunk, porcupine, bobcat, Red Fox, coyote, BullSnake; Rattlestake, and of course field mice and RATS on which the snakes like to feed!

    My first concern for both Man and Chicken and Livestock Critters, is the snakes! (I lost a beautiful Silver Phoenix pullet to a big Bullsnake — and they like eggs. At least the bulk in his belly kept him from crawling back out the poultry mesh, so I dispatched him quickly!)

    So I must eliminate every invitation I’ve left out wherein mice or rats might make their home: woodpiles and stacked lumber must be raised off the ground; Junk shed properly organized on raised pallets; brush or rubbish or trash eliminated.

    My old cur Dawg in Charge of “Ranch Security” sometimes catches mice and rats, breaks their neck, throws them up in the air a couple of times (I reckon to make sure of their demise.) then wallows in my generous praise, and trots off to find the shade.

    I also keep as many barn cats as have enough sense to hunt only in the immediate outbuilding areas, so’s to avoid the bobcats and coyotes who’d like to invite them to breakfast. I like to keep at least a dozen… but am down to 4 smart kitties.

    I keep field mice out of the old 1942 era rock house, by finding every hole as large as a #2 pencil eraser… then nail a tin-can lid over said hole.

    After trying for several years, to keep my Critter grains in barrels with a heavy rock bungee’d or bailing-wired to hold the lid down, I kept finding the lid off!

    Smart Raccoons! They’ll use their little “hands” and uncanny strength to undo almost any tie such tie!

    Finally, when an old refrigerator bit the dust, I turned it over on its back on some wooden pallets (usually free wherever they are used to forklift in a warehouse, or maybe at a farm feed store — I can throw mothballs underneath, to discourage mice/rats, and thus, snakes).

    This new grain-sack bin was so successful, I began collecting old freezers and fridges for the several places I need them. I keep one in the barn feed stall (for cat, mule, and goat feed). And one outside the fence, so when my Citified Daughter needs to feed for me. She can open the door (remember it’s laying with its back) and pull out hay or grain, and never have to go into the pen with the mules.

    I keep another in my chicken yard.

    Be sure to plug up the drain holes, so little mice cannot crawl in, and grow fat on the Chick Grain!

    ABOUT POISONS: I have to be REALLY desperate to use ANY kind of poison ANYWHERE!

    I’m a “retired” investigative reporter. For more than 35 years, I have studied the dangers to man and beast regarding chemicals of all kinds. It’s not a pretty picture — especially if a child or beloved pet gets into the rat poison — or crawls on the floor on bug spray residue. Or recognizes the likely reason dear “Auntie” is deep into Altzheimer’s!

    But take heart… there are excellent, INEXPENSIVE — easy — EFFECTIVE methods to rid oneself of every pest I know of! Steven Tvedten was once a “conventional” exterminator who nearly died from the chemicals, and recognized their broad range of toxic characteristics. He tells the home owner how to exterminate pests with inexpensive, easy-access, and safe products. He has also developed non-toxic products he will sell. But for every pest I’ve needed to exterminate from termites to sugar ants — I’ve done without extra purchases.

    I hope you will all click on this link and download Tvedten’s free e-book in PDF format — then you can do a “find” to locate every incident of his discussions on rats and mice, and how they can be eliminated without a gross bonk on the head, or toxic chemical:

    Hope I’ve helped you on the topic of “RATS!”



  2. Jon Evans

    Hi there, i read a lot of your posts here and would like to offer my free services to anyone with a rat problem.
    What i offer is free, safe and will not disturb wildlife, domesticated animals or your neighbors.

    Rats can be baited with chocolate and shot with an air rifle. Completely humane and very effective.

    Please feel free to e-mail me. I live in South Wales, and willing to travel about 2hrs drive max.

    No offence is intended by this post, so please don’t leave negative comments, i only want to offer my help and experience.

    Jon Evans.

  3. Tracy

    My husband got Wiels disease two years ago from falling into a river when the bank collapsed due to water voles burrowing. He swallowed some of the water!

    He collapsed three weeks after the fall and was rushed to hospital with a temperature of 104, fully body convulsions, and profuse sweating.

    Unfortunately we did not link the two and the delay meant that whilst the hospital got him under control, they did not treat with the correct antibiotics.

    Luckily he survived, though he now has a severe case of post viral fatigue and has not been able to work since.

    Please take Wiels disease seriously and if you feel ill after being in contact with rats make sure that you tell your Doctor immediately as it is easily treated with antibiotics if caught early enough.

  4. steve

    If you are putting poison blocks down,them really you should secure them in situ, i.e peg them, or tie them with a bit of wire. The reason is so that the Rats (if they want them)have to eat them where they are, otherwise they will simply carry them off and store them, (especially at this time of year when food is plentiful)this is what sounds like is happening with the poster who is putting loads of them down!. you may kill them eventually, but the longer the rats store them, the less effective the poison is!

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Manya

    Thanks for you advice. Much appreciated.

    Hi John

    Have you spoken to your neighbours about the rat problem? Or rung the council for advice? Rats are a health risk and a plague needs to be dealt with smartly.

    Most people (except the huge commercial enterprises) keep hens to have access to really fresh eggs. Once you have tasted these there’s no going back, I’m afraid.

    Thanks so much for all your advice.

    Hi Martin

    Yes you have a serious rat problem.

    However, if you are going down the poison route keep on adding the blocks until they are not taken. This could take a week or so.

  6. Martin

    I have read this thread and found some useful advice thank you.
    After reading this i went to my local CWG and bought some Neosorexa bait blocks. I put one directly down the hole and put a brick over the hole. Within 4 hours the block had gone and the rats had dug another exit. I then put a block in each hole, both of which got taken and they had dug around the brick. This morning i put 3 blocks down one hole and 2 down the other. When i checked just now all 5 of these blocks had gone. Does this seem normal or do we have a serious rat problem? I’ve put another 5 down and we’ll see in the morning.

  7. All,

    I read with interest most of your comments and agree with most things. We too have a major investation just because my next door neighbours want to live the good life and get three eggs a day. Personally this is a big nusance and I think that there needs to be licensing and regular DEFRA checks on anyone who owns chickens in respect of animal welfare and vermin. Three chickens plus the cost of the hutch, run food etc will never be an economical solution, just a hobby and vermin playground. I hope they enjoy their three eggs per day, is it worth it?
    I personally am somewhere around £400 out of pocket with traps and poisons but still maintain my vigil of trap and burn.
    I have the following comments:
    Trapping rats is the very best responsible way to deal with the situation as long as you burn your kill.
    Eco poisons are available in the form of corn based dehydrants but not liked by rats much, I would suggest you mix with peanut butter.
    The only poison that is likely to have an effect is Bitrex based 2nd generation.
    Decent poison costs decent money.
    Councils are a waste of time £50 for three visits, I have been killing rats for years at my house.
    Anyone who thinks that a trap harms a rat by not necassarily killing it directly is missled if they think there is a better way. A rat goes through untold suffering when poisoned, including fitting, the systematic failure of internal organs and internal bleeding being only part of it.
    The problem of rats is explanential, trapping rats will not be enough hence poison.
    You can try wheat bran and flour and plaster non poisonous but kills by literally blocking up the rats system, also provide water for this to work.
    The electronic rat zapper is superb, rat dies vey quickly almost instant within milliseconds.
    Trapping is responsible only if you take the responsibility to hide traps away from ground feeding birds, Robin, Wren, Thrush, Blackbird etc and burn any dead bodies yourself.
    Poison causes secondary poisoning as per comments re cat’s and hawks, owls etc. Use Eco stuff or the flour plaster mix.
    Poisoned rats die all over the place so you are not taking responsibility of your kill.

    Like all animals Take the responsibility on yourself, don’t rely on others and protect widlife

    Luckily all our rats are outside beacuse i have done so much work on my house to prevent them getting in. This has remained the case for over two years now. Harvest time is when they all start looking to come in due to combine harvestors driving then them out of the crops and the temperature starting to cool down.

    Rats live for one year max and produce upto 200 young in that time.

    Kill wisely and protect your environment, kids, cats, dogs, birds et all.

    Wear gloves, use traps wisley, wash ahds and all areas where you have touched anything with the gloves on, disinfect traps regularly with Jeyes fuid.



  8. manya nelson

    Please reconsider using poison. We have lost a lot of hawks – who use to catch some of the rats (cats and traps did the rest) But last year several hawks were found dead – some drowned (turns out that some poisons don’t kill the birds outright but rather make them REALLY thirsty. So they desperately dive into water and drown.
    We have also lost cats to poisoned rats.
    Got the conventional and the rat zapper – works with batteries and delivers a deadly jolt. Like all traps, I keep them away from humans and animals who should not find them. I bate the zapper and traps with peanut butter – I put some on a piece of cheese cloth and secure it to the trap so the rats have to tug a little, loose balance and ZAPPPP. It may take a few days befor the rats take to the traps. Also I tie a string to the trap and secure that to a post or whatever. If the rats don’t get killed outright they might drag the trap to an inaccessible spot – bad especially in the attic or inside walls.

    Please give the traps a try instead of the poison. We are loosing so many raptors…
    Good luck to all of you.

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Jean

    It depends where the eggs are laid. If there is any possibilty that the rats have crawled over the eggs I wouldn’t touch them.

    On the other hand, a rat would steal the eggs.

    We have rats, on and off, and we eat the hen’s eggs but they are always laid in the nesting box. The chicken house door is shut at dusk so that rats cannot enter.

  10. Is it safe to eat the eggs if you are using poison on rats that are wandering through the chicken run?

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