Friday, January 20, 2017

Rat Stories

When we had a nice big flock of happy and healthy chickens, we didn't have rats living in the hen house.  The 15 hens roosted on their ladders or slept in their nesting boxes.  Lord Byron stood watch on the ladder while Calvin roosted on the edge of one of the laying boxes, with his hens.  There wasn't room for rats.

Now, we have two shell-shocked hens and Calvin.  They all roost on the ladder, huddled together for safety and warmth.  The Araucana, who was one of Lord Byron's hens, sits next to Calvin and leans into him at night.  The Lagenvelder (who is very independently minded, thank you very much) roosts one rung over.  None of them use the nesting boxes.

So, the rats have moved in and built themselves a cozy nest of chicken feathers and shavings.  I've poked the nest a few times.  When I do, three or four rats come racing out; scurrying up the walls to the rafters; past my feet and out the hole they chewed in the door; or past my feet and into their hole that goes under the hen house.  It gives me the creeps.
cartoon by RA Studio

I'm afraid one will drop from the ceiling and land at my feet or, worse, on my head.  One dropped from the rain gutter on the garage last summer and landed a few inches from me, before scurrying behind my garden shed.  I still shudder when I think about that.

Did you see the movie Willard?  I saw trailers when it came out and that was enough to scare me to death.

I've been researching and learning about rat traps.  I have a few low-tech, but supposedly effective, methods I'm going to try.

In the meantime, we are letting the chickens out of the hen house and into their run on sunny days when we are outside working.  Brett has more than half the run covered in chicken wire but it is a slow, tedious process.  Meanwhile, we are in the midst of three wild, windy and wet storms so he hasn't been able to work outside at all.  This morning, he opened the hen house door during a break in the storm.  The chickens came running outside -- followed by the rats.  He said that the chickens immediately chased the rats.


But, I wonder why they chase them when outside but tolerate them in the hen house.  We need to be rat free before our new baby chicks arrive in May, and before the two remaining chickens start laying eggs again.


  1. I had a bad mouse problem last summer. I feel for all creatures, and mice are actually pretty cute, but unfortunately they spread diseases that chickens are prone to, so I had to take up the slack that my "barn cats" were leaving. Eventually I decided on plain old mechanical traps. The victims went quickly, unlike other methods, and the traps are very inexpensive. Good luck!

    1. This is one of the options -- just need to make sure it is somewhere where a chicken or the dog don't step on it.

  2. We tried those Rat Zapper traps and didn't get one rat, lots of mice though. We finally wound up putting out poison traps that the dogs couldn't get into. We haven't seen a rat all winter so they might be working. Good luck they're very smart.

    1. This is also on my list to try. I don't like using poison but if the other methods don't work, I plan to try this as well.

  3. It's a tricky problem. There are traps that dispense poison but the poison is locked inside a plastic 'house'. We have those and it does help (and is safe for dogs/cats).

    If you can clean out the nesting boxes and pull up the floor you will probably have them move on. A friend with a Jack Russel would be extremely helpful.

  4. An American in TokyoJanuary 22, 2017 at 7:25 PM

    Strange that they don't try and eat them, especially when they are in such close proximity! Hmm...


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