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RebeccaJoyM

Rats have moved in - help and advice needed

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I know rats are attracted to chicken food and poop and all the rest. We of course bring food in (our delightful two girls love to knock the grub box over and jump on it!) at night but there is always some in the run due to the dropped box and/or mess they make. We also bring in the water. 
 

However.... we now have rats IN THE HOUSE (loft and wall cavities- won’t venture in to the house due to our cat). We’ve had pest control in and he’s said as long as there are chickens there will be rats and they won’t eat the ‘beans on toast’ rat poison (I’ve no problem with that killing- we’ve small children and I don’t want them to ever be inside our home) when there is a gourmet dinner just outside. We’ve bought stuff to stop them getting in but we live in a 1930s semi and they’re also now bugging the neighbours. 
 

What do we do? Will we ever be rid of them? The rat man also said the rats secrete a pheromone and others will follow the path they make. Especially while there are such rich pickings outside. 
 

Do we give up? Persevere? I don’t want to give the girls up but I really don’t want rats here. 

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You might want to swap to a feeder they will spill less food with. Grandpa’s feeder or a treadle feeder, might be better. I do think this will be more of a marathon than a sprint to get rid of them. 

It sounds a bit lazy of the rat man to just blame the chickens and just tell you they won’t leave if you don’t get rid of the chickens. 
A good pest controller will help you block off the house as well.

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A few years ago my elderly neighbour (who was lovely and never complained) was ill and her family came to look her - they complained about several things but one was my chickens had encouraged rats into our houses -  (semidetached)  - we have had rats in the chickens but they are about 25m from house - but there was a rat in between the houses - you could hear it occasionally in the wall - they even phoned OFSTED and reported that I was looking after children in a house over ran by rats - luckily OFSTED took no notice and after a quick chat dismissed the complaint - turns out the rat was in the house as the neighbours were feeding the birds on the patio right outside there window - so please check that there is nothing else that they are attracted too as it might not actually be the chickens.

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There is a saying that you are never more than a certain distance (can't remember what but it's scarily small!) from a rat. We had rats in the compost bin and living under the she after the chickens had departed......our neighbours feed the birds hence food on the ground. However, a competent pest contoller should be able to come up with some sort of plan. Your rat man sounds very negative and not at all pro active. Maybe swap rat men!!!

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I agree with everything above. I don’t think it’s a given that if you have chickens you will have rats - and definitely not rats coming into your house. But investing in a different feeder for the chickens may help. How far is the chicken run from your house? Would it be possible to move it?

I also agree with the get a second opinion.

Good luck.

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We had a rat infestation over the summer.  We, and our neighbours, have both kept chickens for over 15 years, and this is the first time we have had a problem (Covid-related rise in rats apparently).  Fortunately, we didn't have rats in the house, only at the end of the garden, although it became serious for us once they started getting brave enough to venture as far as the back door.  Like you, we had a moment of feeling completely overrun and that we would have to give up the chickens, much as it saddened us.  However we decided that before we gave up our chooks we'd try our best to get rid of the rats first.

FOOD
The first and most important step is definitely to reduce the feed available for the rats - they go where there's food.  We even caught a couple of rats at one point literally sitting inside the Eglu feeders happily munching away.  You can move the feeders in at night, as we did initially, but to be honest the rats are so brazen that they're out and feeding throughout the day anyway.  Although we looked at treadle feeders and various other ingenious inventions, these all seemed to be either very expensive, not proven to be effective, or both.  Our solution, which has worked beautifully  came from: https://www.hobbyfarms.com/how-to-build-a-vermin-proof-chicken-feeder/  We originally used an old chicken grit tub, with a tight fitting lid and fashioned a metal hook to hang the tub by its handle inside the Eglu run.  We also user shorter eyebolts than used in the 'how to', so that they were a more suitable length when hung inside the lower Eglu run.   Over the last few months we've made a couple of additional improvements.  For instance, we've reinforced the inside of the base of the tub by sticking a circle of metal cut from a metal biscuit tin inside, as we found that over time and with enthusiastic chickens the plastic tub could start to split around the hole.  We also used a small block of wood, cut from the end of a broomstick as the 'toggle' rather than the cork suggested in the original 'how to', as we found that again corks didn't last very long against our chooks.  Wiggle the 'toggle' yourself, so that the chickens start to associate it with food, and smear the 'toggle' with peanut butter a few times for a couple of days and the chooks will be well trained in feeding themselves whilst leaving very little waste on the ground.

SHELTER
Alongside reducing food, you need to reduce shelter.  We have an Eglu classic, and found that although the rats could get through the holes in the wire Eglu run to reach the feeders, they actually preferred to use a rat run they dug underneath the base of the Eglu, popping up from underneath it just inside the run.  They also created homes underneath a log pile in the chicken's garden area (which had been built originally for the chickens to perch and dig around for bugs), and underneath a nearby shed.  Rows of bricks around the base of the shed, and around the Eglu deterred the rats, and of course the log pile had to be removed completely.  We also bought bases for our nearby compost bins so that rats couldn't burrow underneath these and access the food scraps.  Basically you need to view the whole area with a rats eye view, focusing on any areas that provide them with cover.

We were fairly sure that the rats had originally entered our back gardens from the main road which runs along behind them.  So we also replaced old wooden gravel boards at the base of the garden fence with concrete ones, including adding a second concrete gravel board buried just under the ground surface in front of the fence to prevent burrowing.

All of these small changes not only make life cumulatively more difficult for the rats, but they also really dislike change.

With rats in the wall cavities and roof, you would need to take a very careful look around the house at any holes or cracks that they are getting access through and permanently blocking them off.

TRAPS
We were initially very reluctant to use any poison bait traps, as we were concerned about other animals (and or chickens) being poisoned directly, or through eating rats that might have died from poisoning.  We therefore bought four humane rat traps and only a couple of weeks later bit the bullet and bought four bait traps too.  However, it was the humane traps that actually worked best for us.  Baited with peanut butter we caught approx. 45 rats.  This was over a 5-6 week period.  The humane traps are a bit more time intensive as you do need to check them twice a day obviously (we just got in the habit of looking at them whenever we let the chickens in/out of their run), and have somewhere to release what you catch.  In contrast, although we occasionally saw signs of nibbling in the bait traps, we only ever found two rats that likely died from poison, so we'd easily chalk up the majority of our success to the humane traps.

It's all incredibly frustrating and time-consuming to go through this, but now, a few months on we feel very confident that we've seen the back of the rat infestation.  It will always have to be an ongoing consideration - for instance we'll never go back to open feeders, and we keep a couple of humane traps in the area around the chicken run - but it's now just part of the way we look after our chickens.

Anyway, I hope this gives you a few options to consider in waging your own war against the rats an wish you luck!

 

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On 1/21/2021 at 8:29 PM, RebeccaJoyM said:

The rat man also said the rats secrete a pheromone and others will follow the path they make.

We used to live in a 1930's semi too. We also had a rat problem there but no chickens, so it is not the fault of your chickens.

Rats live everywhere. We used to hear ours in the cavity wall.

Rats are like mice in that they pee as they go so that will be the trail they follow - not sure about the pheromone.

We had quite a few rats in our garden last summer during the day. I think Lockdown forced them into gardens because there was less food around in towns from unfinished McDonalds and stuff like that.

We put out the killing type trap, especially for rats, nothing else can get in, in the garden. We were quite successful and one time, in quite quick succession, managed to catch 2 baby rats one after the other. Finding the right kind of treat to encourage them into the trap in the first place is probably the hardest part.

Hubby also made our garden much more difficult to escape from, from a rat's point of view. The neighbour's fence over the back is the main way they get into our garden.

There are now so many obstacles for the rat to climb over before it can get to the hole in the fence that they don't come in now. Although whether they come in at night I have no idea.

I would also get another rat man in like the others have suggested.

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11 minutes ago, Luvachicken said:

Rats are like mice in that they pee as they go so that will be the trail they follow - not sure about the pheromone.

Actually rats don’t. Although they will walk through their pee and spread it that way. They do have a very distinct odour... It’s definitely not my favourite cage to clean at the bunny rescue...

 

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Thanks so so much, all. Some helpful tips (we’re purchasing a different feeder) and will see how rat proof we can make the house (we’ve little umbrella type things for the pipes on the walls) and will wire the drains among other things. 
Thank you everyone for taking the time to reply- it’s made me feel less terrible about the situation and more able to deal with it. 

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21 hours ago, Cat tails said:

Actually rats don’t. Although they will walk through their pee and spread it that way. They do have a very distinct odour... It’s definitely not my favourite cage to clean at the bunny rescue...

 

Oh yuck, I just assumed they were like big mice and peed everywhere.

Still disgusting, however they control themselves 🤮

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2 things to make you feel better about the rats @RebeccaJoyM

On our local news last night, there was a report from a block of flats in Reading that were having rat problems - there was not a single chicken in sight.

The rats burrowed in when work was being done on some new sprinkler system.

One of the residents said that at night the ground outside was literally moving because there were so many rats.

They also said 75% of rats are resistant to the poisons.

Also, on Winterwatch on Tuesday, they were trying to persuade us to like rats - that they are actually cleaner than we think - it was lice and mites that spread the Plague - that they tidy up waste food and bird food.

Sadly rats have increased by 25% so you are more likely to see them.

Personally, I would still invest in some of the killing traps and be patient. It took quite a while for us to catch them.

And make sure if you do dispose of them, that you put it in a bag, that it doesn't have a hole in the bottom.

I always get the job of getting the rat out, hubby held the bag open for me to drop it in, only it fell out of the bag and onto the floor by my feet. You have never heard such a big squeal from me, even though I knew it was dead.

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We've had a big problem with rats here over Winter, basically because the farm 200 metres away has been moving stuff around and has disturbed them. Problem with rats is they are smart, too smart to take poison readily. As said earlier humane traps have been the only thing that worked, baited with chicken feed or bird fat balls. We tried peanut butter, grain and chocolate but they didn't work. Takes a lot of patience as it takes a long time for them to approach the trap. We've had them in the outbuildings and in the loft and accept now that they will keep coming. Snap traps can be dangerous for you, pets, toads, snakes and hedgehogs, so we don't use them. They don't always kill outright either and have to be tied down. Rats caught in the cage traps are shot. Fortunately the big rats (coypu) are staying well away, down in the ponds and streams in the valley.

We had a big problem in England as well and it was neighbours feeding the birds that started it. Poison stations were a complete waste of time and we never got completely on top of the problem because the neighbours kept feeding the birds (and rats). The rats here are going nowhere near the chicken feeders outside, so what they are usually eating I don't know?

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5 hours ago, Beantree said:

 Snap traps can be dangerous for you, pets, toads, snakes and hedgehogs, so we don't use them. They don't always kill outright either and have to be tied down. 

We have the type that is in an enclosed box.

The only thing we caught that perhaps wasn't intended were mice - they are still a nuisance but at least a bit cuter.

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We had a bit of a problem with rats in around March of last year, where we would see young rats running across the garden, or in the run with the chickens. I used to have pet rats, so I don’t completely hate them! It was just that I didn’t want these ones inviting their mates around - also a concern was the neighbours, I didn’t want them seeing the rats and pointing fingers at the chickens and it all being a big mess.

At the time I was chucking a small amount of corn for them in the run to keep them busy in the morning, food bowls were put on the ground. But when the rats moved in I changed a few things up. 
 

All the feeders for the chickens are either hanging (fruit/veg holder is a hanging bird feeder) I used to give them dry layers/corn mix in their bowl, but I changed that to a layers mash mix (it’s like dust, which is not that appealing to rats) and is also in a coop cup not on the ground but hooked on to the side of the run, at the end of the day before they go to bed I go out with a bowl of corn for them to eat from then it goes back in, all food is taken in at night and the water is also thrown away. There is literally no food on the floor, day or night.

We also used snap traps to get rid of the rats, think we put chocolate, peanut butter on them and they worked a treat. We put them in places other animals couldn’t get to (I.e in the run) Doesn’t sound nice, but I wouldn’t use poison.

Havent seen a rat since, they basically have no real reason to go into the run at night, and even during the day, the food options aren’t that appealing. There were also a couple of holes in the garden which we blocked up. We know it won’t stop them but it just makes it unappealing for them!

Edited by ThreeChooks

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