Hello! I can see many forum posts about rats so I’m sorry for posting another but we’re a bit stuck.
We have 6 ex-batteries that free range in a smallish orchard at the end of our driveway. We have had them for a year. They have never hurt any of our chooks.
We first saw a rat eating bird seed before we got the chickens and had suspected they were around before that even. Scuttling noises inside a large outbuilding/barn made us assume they were around. Since we have had the chickens they have set up home in multiple holes around the entire orchard. We never see them in the day, but at dusk we see 2-3 and dispatch them with an air rifle. We don’t have time to go out every night, but perhaps once a week we kill this many. The holes bother me and I worry that our neighbours may become anxious if they see them.
We moved from a normal plastic feeder to a treadle feeder very early on in our chicken keeping. This reduced the amount of feed we were going through rapidly so I assume this stopped the rats accessing it. We store the feed away from the orchard in a rat proof bin.
We can’t physically move anything out from the orchard - there is very little in there except the hen house (raised up) and various branches and boards for them to perch on. We do not want to lay traps in case we catch squirrels and hedgehogs.
We have stopped feeding the birds, and we have stopped composting food waste as there was signs of rat activity at both these areas. I don’t know of any other food sources, and I’ve never seen evidence that they are eating our eggs.
Do we just accept that they are there and keep shooting them...? Or can anyone think of a more solid solution? We don’t understand why they haven’t gone away now they can’t get to the food. We live in a very rural area so they have no access to food waste from shops etc.
thanks in advance all! Happy to keep shooting but we are mystified about why they haven’t moved on!