POULTRY RODENT CONTROL
During the process of raising poultry for market or maintain a backyard flock, chicken pen is a magnet for rats and mice.
Rats often appear for food when their sources are depleted by harvest. They emerge from the fields, where they live in burrows, to forage and feed around buildings. In contrast, mice will establish colonies within buildings and might never venture outside.
Rodents are responsible for more than a quarter of all farm fires of unknown origin, but the main risk from infestations is feed contamination and disease exposure to both you and your flock. Rodents are terrible carriers of certain disease, which might not have any negative effect on their body. A rat can produce more than 40 droppings per day and a gallon or more of urine per year, while a single mouse can produce more than 80 droppings per day and more than a quart of urine per year. A variety of human and livestock diseases are spread through contact with rodent excrement, which include brucellosis and salmonellosis.
At times they can also become predatory, killing and feeding on adult chickens, in fact this is not peculiar to chicken alone but also to some other class of poultry birds such as quail birds, but they can be especially hard on young chicks and also in the case of Layers chicken-eggs can be eaten by the rats. As a farmer for years, I’ve personally witnessed rat infestations that consumed hundreds of day-old chicks within a couple nights. Because rodents are mainly nocturnal feeders, it’s easy to seriously underestimate their numbers and impact on your pen.
Below are a few steps you can take to help minimize or control a rodent problem around your poultry birds.
1. CLEAN PEN
Pen area should always be tidied up as such will help deter rodents, especially rats, by leaving them without a place to set up house. Make sure grass around your pen is always cut neatly, and remove any scrap piles that are near the area. Throw away empty feed bags or store away for future use—don’t let them pile up outside the door.
2. BUILD BARRIERS
Doors to the Pen when properly fixed or repaired restricts rodents access to the pen/coop. Complete exclusion might not be practical for larger operations, but backyard chicken keepers will find benefits to it. Mice can squeeze through an opening the size of a person’s little finger. If possible, a trench or gutter should be casted round the pen, such that it will be wide and filled with chemical to prevent rats from jumping over.
3. STORE FEED PROPERLY
Poultry feed can be stored in a covered metal container. Heavy, industrial drums that have been thoroughly cleaned are best at keeping out rodents. Drums come in various sizes and can often be purchased from farm-supply dealers. A simple metal trashcan works as an alternative if you don’t have access to drums. Make sure the container’s cover fits tight; otherwise, rats and mice will scale walls to jump into the container.
Also a store well concretized and with a metal door is also very good for storing your poultry feed. Note however, that the door is always closed to keep rodents at bay.
4. SNAP TRAPS
When you find yourself with a rodent infestation, the best remedy is to physically remove them. Traditional snap traps can be very effective for both mice and rats; however, you will want to keep them out of reach of your chickens and even children. Most hardware stores sell trap/poison containment boxes. These boxes typically hold a couple traps, protecting them from anything that can’t enter the small entrance hole.
Rodents naturally concentrate their travels against walls, so these boxes or stations should be placed in their natural line of travel. The entrance hole should be parallel and closest to the wall. Bait can be used, but isn’t absolutely necessary in this situation. Traditional baits, such as bread roasted yam or cooked rice, will work fine.
Larger boxes and traps can be placed around the perimeter of the coop to catch rats looking for a meal. Rats are extremely wary of anything new in their territory and might avoid the boxes until they get used to them. In this case, the boxes should be installed a couple weeks before putting the traps in them to help overcome their natural wariness.
5. NOTIFY A PROFESSIONAL
A professional who has been in the field for years cannot be left out of the box in the area of helping out in your rodent management, as such you must consult with such for a proper advise.
Poisons are often a last resort for the chicken keeper and should be used with caution around your livestock or poultry. Always place poisons in containment boxes; in most areas, this is the only legal way to use them. Make sure the boxes are locked in some manner. Many of them snap shut and require a tool to open, while others need to be locked with a screw or similar fastener. This will keep them from opening and exposing the contents to non-target animals.
I prefer poison blocks over pellets, as the blocks can be fastened to the inside of the box and are more difficult for rodents to remove. Pellets can easily be removed from the boxes, which is hazardous to your flock.
When using any rodenticide, it’s important not to continually use the same one over and over, as rodents will eventually build up immunity to the chemicals. If a rodent snacks on a poison block and gets a bellyache and then recovers, it is now immune to that particular cocktail, so it’s important to change it up frequently. It is also important to keep the boxes maintained—don’t run out of poison—and keep them well fed.
Be aware of secondary poisoning to domestic animals, such as cats, dogs, and humans, and in wildlife that might consume poisoned rodents. Secondary poisoning is rare, but it can happen.
7. SET COLONY TRAPS
Colony traps are multi-catch traps, meaning they can hold more than one mouse at a time. The small metal boxes have an entrance hole on either end that contains a one-way door, meaning mice enter and can’t get out. The nice part about them is they’re on duty 24/7 without maintenance, except removing trapped mice. Again, no bait is needed if placed against the wall in the normal travel route. All mice caught in a colony trap will be alive if you check them frequently, so you will need a plan for dealing with them. Mice are not at all wary of these devices and will enter them readily.
Colony traps for rats are like small cages. Again, the rats will hesitate entering them at first. My experience is once one finally goes in, they all go, but it might take days or even weeks.
Do all you can to keep rodents at bay from your coop. Meet you at the top giant farmer.