Rats are one of the potential pests that pose a threat to backyard chickens. If you’re wondering, do rats attack chickens - the answer is, yes, rats do attack chickens.
The risk depends on the size of the rat and the chicken in the fight. But rats will instinctively go for a chicken's neck when they attack, and their teeth are strong enough to kill them.
Baby chicks are in serious danger of being attacked and killed. Rats have also been known to kill mature chickens too, so they pose a serious threat.
Having one of your birds attacked by a rat isn’t the only thing to be worried about if you know you have rats in the area, however.
Rats can steal eggs, kill chicks, and they carry diseases. If they’re getting into your coop they are going to be pooping, urinating in there, and causing all kinds of damage.
Your chickens - and you - can become very sick from coming into contact with rat droppings.
A rat infestation is a very serious matter, here’s some of the potential risks and steps to take to rid your coop of rats:
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Signs That You Have a Rat Problem
First, you need to be sure you have a rat problem. If you’ve seen them, great. But they usually only come out at night and are pretty good at avoiding detection.
If you suspect rats are getting into your chicken coop, look for some of these signs that usually confirm it’s rats:
Holes and Small Entry Points
Rats like to chew holes in things and are very good at burrowing to get where they want to get.
Take a good look around the outside of your chicks’ coop. Are there holes that look like they were made by a rat-sized animal? Or entry points that would make it very easy for them to get into the coop?
Eggs Are Going Missing
It’s always a concern when you’re not getting as many eggs as you expect. Sometimes, chickens start eating their own eggs, and I’ve covered this before.
Sometimes it’s another culprit getting into their coop and stealing them, however. Snakes, birds, dogs, raccoons, and rats are all known egg thieves.
Chicken Feed Is Going Missing
Rats are primarily scavenging for food. If they don’t get eggs or kill a chicken, they will happily eat some of their feed.
If you notice a lot more food is being eaten than you’d expect or had changed dramatically recently - this is an indication that some kind of pest is helping themselves.
General Chewing Damage
Rats chew and gnaw on everything that comes across their paths. They literally need to gnaw on hard materials as their incisor teeth never stop growing and need trimming.
If rats are frequenting your coop, you will almost certainly see some evidence that they’ve been chewing on something. If not only to gain access to the coop in the first place, or after you block their access.
There’s no better evidence than spotting rat droppings. If you do spot what you believe to be rat droppings, get some gloves and cleaning materials and remove them ASAP as they are potentially harmful.
How Do I Get Rid of Rats in My Chicken Coop?
Once you’ve identified that rats are getting into your chicken coop at night, you need to wage a war against them to rid them completely and deter rats in the future.
Here are the best ways to stop rats (and other rodents and pests) from getting into your chicken coop:
There are loads of different types of rat traps that are very effective at catching rats and mice. You don’t have to use the old wooden snap traps with the big metal spring any longer - although you can if you want.
Personally, I prefer using humane traps. If killing rats doesn’t sit well with you too, there are some options that really work.
Humane traps catch rodents by closing behind them after they’ve been lured in by the smell of food (usually peanut butter). Or, some literally stick rats with glue for you to find and do with what you want.
The only problem with these is that you need to make sure you’re doing something with the rats that will mean they don’t find their way back.
Go up the Food Chain
Nature is a wonderful thing, there’s always another animal higher up the food chain. I’ve heard from chicken owners that have dealt with a rat problem with either dogs or cats.
I have two cats and one dog myself, and no rat problem. I’m saying my pets are the only reason why I don’t have rats in my yard, but they are certainly a good preventative measure.
Call Pest Control
People are often hesitant to call pest control because it can be expensive, and they often use brute force and rat poison. But, if it’s got to the point where your chickens are at risk it might be the best solution.
They’ll be able to give you loads of tips and advice specific to where you live to ensure you protect yourself in the future. As well as estimating what kind of rat population there is in your general area.
Tips to Deter Rats and Other Rodents and Vermin
Seeing evidence that one of your chickens or chicks has been attacked by a rat is traumatic. Knowing rats are in the same area as your chicks is also worrying.
There are two things you need to do; deal with the immediate problem and rid the area of rats. Then take measures to deter rats from returning in the future.
I’ve covered some of the methods you can use to get rid of rats. Here are some tips to help you deter them from returning, or appearing for the first time if you’re being super-cautious:
Clean up Spilled Feed Before Nightfall
As I mentioned, the main reason rats find themselves in a chicken coop or run is the smell of food. Last thing at night, go into their coop and clean up any spilled feed to reduce the smell and availability of feed.
There are some feeders that are better than others at reducing the amount of spillage too. If it’s become a big chore, see if you can find a better way to hold their feed.
Securely Store Feed and Water Overnight
While you’re in there cleaning up their spilled feed, you’ll need to lock away their feed and water too. Chickens are typically good sleepers throughout the night so they can survive without access to feed and water.
Related Content - How long can chickens go without water?
Use Strong Galvanised Wire Mesh (Not Chicken Wire)
Chicken wire is great for keeping chickens where you want them, but it’s terrible at keeping rats out.
You need something better, like a galvanized wire mesh that has much smaller holes. There are few things rats can’t chew through eventually, but this kind of mesh should keep them out for a long time.
I’ve heard of some people using hardware cloth to create a tough, solid barrier around the base of their coop too.
Collect Eggs Regularly
Rats will steal eggs if the opportunity presents itself, and once they have a taste for eggs they’ll be back.
Try and collect eggs more regularly while you’re waging war against the rats. Especially last thing at night when you’re tidying up and locking away their food.
In Summary - Do Rats Attack Chickens?
Rats are very capable of attacking chickens, yes.
They don’t just prey on chicks or smaller chickens, they will attack large hens if they’re desperate enough for food as they like to drink the blood of animals.
I’ve given you a good amount of tips to help you rid yourself of rats and protect yourself in the future. I wish you good luck!