Requirements will vary on many factors

  • Is the coop mobile?
  • How much time are you willing to spend cleaning?
  • Bantams or Jersey Giants?
  • Breeding stock, layers, or meat birds?
  • Replacement layers growing out?  Culling the roosters eventually?

“So for larger birds figure four square feet per bird with constant fresh ground, eight square feet for layers.  If you try to pack more birds in per square foot you are going to have behavioral issues and disease.  .”

 

 

One of the first decisions…

How Many Square Feet of Space is Needed per Chicken?

That is a lot like asking “How much is a new car?”  Size matters, style matters, brand matters, and longevity matters. Are you wanting a Yugo, a Ford Escape, or a BMW?  With a coop you need to know how many and what size of birds, how long they are going to be using the space, and for what purpose.

A coop that is too big costs more money and if you want it to be moved to fresh ground on occasion a bigger coop is going to be heavier and riskier to move without damaging the coop.  But if you crowd your birds in too tightly you are either going to be finding a need to build additional space or dealing with diseases, aggression, and other overcrowding problems.  When you decide to raise chickens the single largest initial cost is going to be the cost of the chicken coop so you need to get the size determined before you get started so you can plan the design and estimate the costs involved.

How you manage that coop is going to be a factor.  If you have a small chicken tractor and move it to fresh ground each day you can house more birds as they aren’t walking in their own waste each day..

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of each day. Only during the summer is there not fresh grass, but even then, chickens start the day with fresh ground, free from their own manure and the birds have fresh ground and grass to keep them occupied.  The same size coop that isn’t moved turns into a mud hole quickly as the birds dig dusting areas which retain water and the grass is gone and won’t be returning till the coop is moved.  You are going to be able to keep a lot more birds in the mobile coop than the stationary coop.

Then there is the size of the birds.  A flock of Jersey Giants are going to need more room than a flock of bantams.  And if you are raising meat birds that have a lot of the natural instincts bred out of them there can be more birds per square foot than a heritage breed that is active and seeks distractions.   How old the birds are is a factor too, chicks don’t need a lot of room, pullets more room but they won’t be in the grow out pen for long, but long term layers or brood stock will need the most room because of the infinite time they will be living in the space.  Meat birds will grow quickly and while it is less humane they are only going to be the most crowed for three weeks or so before they are butchered.

Breeding stock requires the most room because you have the most invested in them and healthy breeding stock puts out healthy eggs and chicks.  A meat bird that has its back pecked up is going into the freezer, not so for a prize hen.  A good rule of thumb for breeding stock is to allow 8 to 20 square feet per bird if they are large breeds and if you are moving the coop to fresh ground every few days.

 

Coop in the garden

  • Stationary coops need more room per bird
  • Behavioral issues come with crowding
  • Plenty of ventilation helps
  • Ammonia from the manure will harm chicken’s lungs
  • Inclement weather requires more space per bird
  • Bantams will take up about 25% less space

“There is roost space to consider too and for larger birds you are going to need a foot of roost space per bird and enough room between the roost bars that they don’t bump into each other, around 18” center to center will work. ”

 

 

A small flock of replacement feathered out chicks could be squeezed into a pen with 2 square feet each until they are 7 weeks old and at that age you can usually pick out the roosters and split them off, giving the hens four square feet each, again assuming you are constantly moving the coop to fresh ground.  In another 7 weeks you would need to split the pen again as the larger birds are going to be too crowded.

So for larger birds figure four square feet per bird with constant fresh ground, eight square feet for layers.  If you try to pack more birds in per square foot you are going to have behavioral issues and disease.  You can go a little more if you keep clean litter, have excellent ventilation, move the pen to fresh ground often,  get rid of ill birds immediately, have good protection from rain and wind when it is cold, and have plenty of good quality feed and fresh water available in abundance.

Crowded conditions will stress the birds, they will fight or pick on each other more if for no other reason than they can’t get away from each other in a small pen.

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So far we have been talking about a combination of  coop and run space on a constantly moved mobile coop.   There is roost space to consider too and for larger birds you are going to need a foot of roost space per bird and enough room between the roost bars that they don’t bump into each other, around 18” center to center will work.

If you over crowd chickens the increased amount of stress and contact with their waste will increase the chance of one bird coming down with a disease that will quickly spread.  They will bully and peck each other more, the coop will require more frequent cleaning, ammonia from their manure builds up and harms their lungs, more stress will be present, fewer eggs and more broken eggs, less exercise as the birds can’t really move around without bumping into other birds, and you might lose more birds to suffocation if they pile up at night instead of roosting.

But if you have a stationary coop you need to allow more square footage per bird.  For larger breeds figure on at least four square feet inside the enclosed coop for those days when it is snowing or raining and the birds stay inside and at least ten square feet per bird out in the run.  For bantam breeds you can cut the footage requirements by about 25% at least.   You are going to need to spend more time and effort cleaning the pen and keeping deep litter to avoid having health problems than you had.  If you are allowing the birds to free range or have a large penned in run figure about 300 square feet per bird.

 

A small stationary coop

  • Access to gardens are a great way to increase bird density
  • Plenty of room equals relaxed chickens
  • Allow plenty of roost room including flying up and flying down to the coop floor
  • Height of the coop  is for the caretaker’s access
  • Plan for nest boxes, waterers, and feeders in your footage plan

“There is roost space to consider too and for larger birds you are going to need a foot of roost space per bird and enough room between the roost bars that they don’t bump into each other, around 18” center to center will work. ”

 

 

Having a garden for the birds to forage in helps as the birds will gravitate to where the loose soil, bugs, and plants are.  If they don’t have loose soil they will start digging dusting areas and over graze your lawn creating bare spots and the chicken manure is going to cause problems if the outdoor space is crowded.

Increasing the amount of garden to grass can help, you might even want to plant a garden just for the chickens, ideally surrounding the main garden to act as a chicken moat that bugs have to pass through before getting to the main garden.  The higher quality forage will keep the chickens healthier and happier and your grass lawn will remain healthy.

Another way to  increase the number of chickens on a particular plot of land is to split the area up into paddocks and rotate the birds every week to allow the areas to rest for three weeks before the birds come back to forage.

Chickens that have plenty of room to live will behave very differently, more relaxed.  It is not pampering a bird to allow as much as fifteen square feet per bird inside the coop, that is less than the size of a bathtub to put it in context.  Most backyard chicken flocks aren’t high production, they don’t need to squeeze in the birds due to ROI requirements, the people are after healthy and responsible and sustainable food.

Vertical height is far less important as the birds don’t need more than a foot over their heads for normal activity.  The roosts do need to be above the nest boxes to encourage roosting.   However cleaning and maintaining a two foot tall run isn’t fun unless it is a mobile coop, even then retrieving a dead or sick bird is going to take some effort.   A run high enough for someone to crouch over in is a good investment and a coop high enough to stand and work in is almost a necessity unless you have just a few birds.   If you keep the nest boxes at least 18” off the ground the birds will utilize that space or have the next boxes project out of the coop so there is no lost footage and the eggs can be collected from the outside.

 

A simple chicken tractor

  • Manure trays easy cleaning
  • Birds will share waterers easier than feeders
  • Plan conservatively, better too much room as too little

“Chickens will jockey for position on roosts and they need room to get up and down off the roost, usually by flying, so make sure there is more than enough room for a few birds to fly ”

 

 

Don’t forget to plan for the space needed for feeders and waterers.  Birds will take turns eating and drinking but if you use limited access feeders like treadle feeders plan on no more than twelve to sixteen birds per feeder unless there are other sources of feed during the day or free range available.

Your roost needs to be over an area that has a manure tray as a lot of the manure generated will come from under the roost.  That leaves the coop that much cleaner and more sanitary. Chickens will jockey for position on roosts and they need room to get up and down off the roost, usually by flying, so make sure there is more than enough room for a few birds to fly up to a crowded roost and enough room on the floor to avoid hitting nest boxes, feeders, and waterers. 

 

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Feed scraps to chickens is good

  • More sustainable to produce part of your feed
  • Less waste in a landfill
  • Good nutrition for the birds
  • Saves money on feed
  • Chickens really, really, love table scraps or anything different than laying pellets and crumbles, like going out for dinner!

“As far as the “Yuck!” factor of using road kill,  most pets that are euthanized at a vet or animal shelter wind up in the local rendering plant where they are cooked down and the oil sprayed on pet food for flavoring..”

 

 

What’s Good, What’s Not?

Feeding Table Scraps to Chickens

 

Chickens will eat about anything that a human will eat. Table scraps, canning waste, fruit or vegetables going bad won’t hurt the birds and it won’t disrupt their nutritional balance.  They aren’t going to eat citrus rinds, banana peels, or avocado skins, shouldn’t eat green colored potato peelings, and probably won’t eat onions unless they are finely ground and mixed into other foods.  Just watch what they leave behind and put that stuff into the compost bin.

Regular potato peels are fine.  Vegetable scraps and seeds, any kind of meat including fish of any sort, oatmeal or any cereal left over from breakfast. Bread, lettuce, pepper tops and seeds, bones that have meat left on, fats, over ripe bananas, lawn clippings, weeds, almost anything that grows, crawls, or flies.  Crushed egg shells and shells from shellfish are all edible, old yogurt, milk turning sour, pumpkins, squash, watermelon or watermelon rinds.

If you are generating more scraps than can be fed to the birds such as after a holiday meal (and yes, that turkey carcass should also wind up in the coop) you can freeze it in small batches for later use. The chickens will drink any broth or water left over from cooking potatoes or pasta, just use a separate bowl to keep their main water supply clean.

 

People also use road kill, both cooking it and hanging it over the coop for a ready maggot supply. Wild animals killed by cars are fairly safe but to be sure cook before giving it to the birds.  They will eat it raw though but you never know if that wild animal got ran over because it was sick and moving slow or if it was just dumb or unlucky.  Wild animals are also carriers of disease and parasites so cooking it is the only way to go.  As far as the “Yuck!” factor of using road kill, most pets that are euthanized at a vet or animal shelter wind up in the local rendering plant where they are cooked down and the oil sprayed on pet food for flavoring. Some of these products coming out of rendering plants are used in cosmetics too!   Rendering plants will take any kind of animal that is rejected at slaughter houses or found dead laying in a farmer’s pasture.  Fish guts or offal from butchering any animal or fish are okay to feed raw as long as it was freshly killed.

 If you have ever seen people buying or picking up free rooster on Craigs lists or the Facebook groups chances are they are going to be fed as live food for reptiles but some will grind them up for feeding chickens.  I wouldn’t feed too much chicken back to your chickens and I would cook the meat before feeding but moderate amounts aren’t going to cause problems or disease.

As long as you have high protein commercial feed available at all times the birds won’t overeat on scraps, if they are craving protein they will eat the pellets or crumbles.  Raising show birds especially meat birds can be a different matter so be a bit more selective in feeding them.

What are your thoughts and experiences?  Leave a comment or more info on feeding table scraps to chickens below in the comment section.

 

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“if you  wind up with weevils purchase some diatomaceous earth, DE, and mix it in well with the feed.  The DE won’t harm the chickens and it helps kill fly larvae as well.”

soccer-player

 

Keep it safe, keep it dry

Best Practices for Storing Chicken Feed

First you don’t really want to store crumbles or laying pellets long term as they have oils that can turn rancid.  Whole grains can be held long term.  For crumbles or pellets a two or three month supply is about you will want to hold.  Always clean out any old feed before dumping new feed into the container and use the older feed first. The paper feed bags don’t do much more than allow the feed to be moved around, zero protection against insects or pests.

Chicken feed is a magnet for critters ranging from weevils to raccoons to rats.  A bag of dog food in a house might be okay as it is inside but any feed stored outside or in an outbuilding is quickly going to attract pests.

Feed containers can range from metal trash cans to plastic buckets with lids but metal is better as it prevents rodents from chewing a hole to get to the feed.

 

If you do use plastic check if the plastic is food grade.  Usually grade #1 and #2 are food grade or call the manufacturer to find out.   There are lots of plastic 55 gallon drums on the recycling market and some 30 gallon drums but they will fetch a higher price due to limited numbers being used.if you  wind up with weevils purchase some diatomaceous earth, DE, and mix it in well with the feed.  The DE won’t harm the chickens and it helps kill fly larvae as well.

Metal trash cans make the best bulk feed containers.  Easy to get the lid off, impossible to chew through, the right height from bending over and scooping out the remains of the feed.

  A typical galvanized metal trash can is going to hold two fifty pound bags of feed.  Some of the more humid areas might have problems with metal containers sweating inside so try it out before you purchase too many.  Sweating is caused by moist air condensing out moisture on cool metal surfaces.  Wrapping the trash can in insulation can prevent the sweating.

The 55 gallon metal drums are much heavier but also much cheaper and some have a lid that clamps on with a ring that wraps around the top.  A 55 gallon drum will hold over 200# of feed.

 

Diatomaceous earth

 

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Frozen water can be a problem

  • Thirsty chickens
  • Less resistance to cold if they are dehydrated
  • .Possible to slow down the freezing even if there isn’t electricity in the coop
  • Cookie Tin heater works well
  • Concrete block heaters
  • Bird Bath heaters work really well at low power consumption
  • Plastic heated poultry water dispensers are available

“If you need a quick solution in sudden freezing weather set a few of the chemical hand warmers under the water dispenser.  These won’t last but for a day or so but it does work on the smaller mason jar water dispensers used for quail or chicks..”

 

 

A Winter Essential

Preventing Frozen water in the coop

If you live in an area that has cold winters you know it can be a chore to keep the chicken’s water from freezing up.  People that don’t have electricity in their coop have even a tougher time. 

There is really only four solutions, heat the water, heat the coop, replace the water three or four times a day, or move to Florida.

If you do have power in the coop one of the old standbys is the cookie tin heater where you take a metal cookie tin that is 12” to 15” in diameter, drill a hole to insert a light bulb socket, using the light bulb to heat the cookie tin which in turns heats the water container sitting on top.  You aren’t limited to cookie tins, concrete blocks or even flower pots can be used to house the light bulb.   Use whatever wattage bulb you think you need depending on the severity of the cold weather in your area.  A 40 watt bulb should take care of the water down to around 20 degrees.

There are also electrically heated plastic water containers available if you aren’t the handy type.  A two gallon heated plastic water dispenser is going to cost you about $25.00 to $30.00. Check the customer reviews though as some of the plastic dispensers are quite thin and difficult to fill.  The heaters that run between $30.00 and $60.00 are going to be more durable but as with all things online shop that brand around for pricing.

Heated dog bowls can work, I actually used this method for a few years but they get filthy fast and I wound up filling mine with water and sitting my galvanized water dispenser on top. They will run $25.00 to $40.00 at most pet departments or farm store

 

Heat tapes that are used to protect pipes and faucets will work as long as you wrap some insulation around the container to hold the heat in and protect the heat cables.  There are also gutter de-icing tapes available.  Most will turn on only when it gets close to freezing to avoid wasting power.

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Coops up north will insulate the coop and the combination of ground heat, heat from the chickens, and a cookie tin heater will suffice.  Others will use stock tank heaters in larger containers that use the nipple watering devices and reports say that it works as low as -22 degrees even if kept outside.  A 250 watt stock tank heater will keep thirty gallons of water thawed out in the worst of weather.

You can buy fish tank heaters sold in the pet section of any Walmart or department store although they are more suited to the less frigid areas of the U.S.  Most of these small aquarium type heaters are quite small, some as low as 5 watts but if one shatters there is a shock hazard.  Look for a shatter proof aquarium heater if you go that route and pay a little more for peace of mind. Or look for a bird bath heater as they are actually made for outdoor use.  Steer away from the cheaper models and expect to pay around $70.00 for a durable bird bath heater.

 

Bird Bath Heater

Frozen water can be a problem

  • Oil pan heaters
  • Aquarium air pumps can keep the water moving and slower to freeze
  • .Salt water bottles
  • Chemical hand warmers
  • Larger tubs of water freeze slower

“Years ago before farm electrification farmers had kerosene heaters, even kerosene brooders.  Even something as simple as an insulated hole with a hot rock dropped into the hole, sitting the metal water dispenser on top will prevent water from freezing for many hours.”

 

 

Another innovative method is the oil pan heater that is designed to stick to the bottom of an engine oil pan.  These plug into an extension cord and you sit the water dispenser on top.  Cost starts at around $18.00 plus shipping.

Another method of slowing water from freezing is to keep the water moving.  Water that is cold is also dense so the water on top of a bucket of water will sink, bringing the less dense water to the top of the bucket. That thinner layer of less dense water will actually freeze faster than the larger amount of dense water at the bottom which is why we always see lakes and buckets of water freeze from the top down instead of the bottom up.  If the water is moving the water is mixed, requiring more heat to be transferred out of the water before it can freeze.  Something like an aquarium air pump can help lower the freezing point of the water by as much as 7 degrees.
There are also electrically heated plastic water containers available if you aren’t the handy type.  A two gallon heated plastic water dispenser is going to cost you about $25.00 to $30.00. Check the customer reviews though as some of the plastic dispensers are quite thin and difficult to fill.  The heaters that run between $30.00 and $60.00 are going to be more durable but as with all things online shop that brand around for pricing.

A lower tech method if you don’t have power in the coop is to use the heavy rubber tubs that can be flipped over and the frozen water popped out.  Insulating the water container helps, something as simple as a small bucket fitted inside a larger bucket with leaves or sawdust used as insulation.

 

Another way to prevent freezing if you don’t have power is to use large tubs of water.  The larger the tub, the slower to freeze, a 40 gallon tub of water will stay liquid much longer.  Be sure and partially cover the top to prevent birds from falling into the water.

 

If you need a quick solution in sudden freezing weather set a few of the chemical hand warmers under the water dispenser.  These won’t last but for a day or so but it does work on the smaller mason jar water dispensers used for quail or chicks.

Another method that some people swear by is adding jugs of salt water to a larger tub of water.  The salt water inside the plastic jugs has a much lower freezing point so as the larger tub of water cools down it the jugs of salt water also soak up some of this “cold”.   Water freezes by heat being removed from the water so there is actually no such thing as “cold” but it is a lack of heat.  Still the heat is harder to remove from the salt water so the trick will work.

 

Heated Poultry waterer

Air pump

A wooden floating top will help slow down the freezing and keep combs and wattles out of the freezing water

 

Concrete block heater

“Moving water freezes slower by preventing stratification, keeping the colder, more dense water from sinking.”

 

 

 

Years ago before farm electrification farmers had kerosene heaters, even kerosene brooders.  Even something as simple as an insulated hole with a hot rock dropped into the hole, sitting the metal water dispenser on top will prevent water from freezing for many hours.  A long burning candle in a properly made fire safe metal container will do the same thing.  Place it below ground, surrounded by masonry to absorb the heat and store the heat as well as making the pit fire safe.

 

If your temperature just barely swings below freezing you can try using black rubber water dishes kept outside with a few ping pong balls floating on top.  Some flock owners from the South claim that the slightest breeze will move the ping pong balls around, stirring the water and slowing down the freezing of the water.  No doubt the black water dish absorbs more sunlight too.

If you have another solution or want to share your experiences on preventing water from freezing please make a comment below.

 

 

Chinese Prefab coops

  • Cute as can be
  • Cheap to ship
  • Easy to assemble
  • Large enough for maybe one or two adult hens
  • Poor ventilation
  • Super soft balsa wood type materials used
  • Difficult or impossible for an adult to enter to tend to the birds
  • Not moveable at all, will break apart if moved often
  • Cheap to buy, cheaply made

“A sixty to seventy pound prefab coop isn’t going to take a gust of wind without tumbling over or withstand being moved a couple of times a day to fresh ground..”

 

 

Are the Chinese Prefab Coops an Option?

Once you get started in thinking about raising chickens you will run across the Chinese made prefab chicken coops marketed by the big box stores and every other Tom, Dick, and Harry online.   Most resellers will rebrand the product on their website or Amazon page, some will even have new box labels printed up, but few will let on that the products come from China and are very cheaply made.

But they are as cute as a bug, usually two tone paint or nice stained wood, looking like a little doll house and claiming that they will hold four to five chickens.  Sizes range from 5 to 7 feet long, usually three feet wide, and maybe 40” tall inside, and might weigh 60 pounds including the packaging that it ships in.  The actual hen house is usually around 24” x 24”, enough room for two hens if it is cool otherwise they would turn it into a sweat box on a warm summer night.  There is usually an exterior accessed nest box that adds another three square feet.  A slide out floor makes it easier to clean and expect three to four man hours to un-box and assemble the product.

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Seems like a good way to house birds for a beginner and it might be if you need a coop quickly and are okay with replacing it quickly.  Despite the claims of holding four to five birds they are usually capable of holding one or two regular sized birds.  The industry seized upon an old 4H handbook requirement of 4 square feet per bird and then counted the run, nest box, and inner coop as square footage.  Four square feet is fine for a hen house where the chickens have an outdoor run or are free ranged, otherwise four square feet is only 24” x 24”, basically like asking a chicken to live on a two foot long section of your kitchen countertop.

Most city ordinances require ten square feet per bird for the coop itself and less than ten square feet of run is going to cause problems from overcrowding.  Before purchasing one of these prefab coops you should see it in person because they are much smaller than how they appear in the pictures.  One would think that a product that held chickens would show chickens in the marketing pictures but to do that would emphasis just how tiny the coops are.   I’ve yet to see a marketing picture with a human being in the picture either; in fact the pictures are usually bare of anything that could be used to scale the photo.

Still…between $150.00 and $300.00, and as cute as can be.  People fall for them and convince themselves that they will get some use out of them.  

 

Chinese Prefab coops

 

 

As you read the online customer reviews from the customers with buyers’ remorse (ignore the positive one that are shills or company employees) you find that the wood is soft and flimsy, splits easily when assembling, but they usually go together in a few hours.

The comments will cover how difficult they are to clean as an adult can’t go inside and few of us would want our kids crawling in chicken poop, they leak, some use chicken wire instead of hardware cloth and when hardware cloth is used it is lighter than the 19 gauge wire we use here in the U.S..  Chicken wire can be ripped to shreds in seconds by an adult dog as the joints are simply wrapped or twisted together.

Besides being marketed with grossly overestimated capacity, the material has to be thin and light to keep the product shipping weight down to where UPS and FedEx will accept the package.   Container loads of these coops can be bought from $50.00 to $60.00 each so the competition on price is immense with each Chinese manufacturer competing for the lowest price and lowest cost of materials to still make a small profit.  The Chinese government subsidizes exports, paying a percentage of the export to the manufacturer.    I have had manufacturers tell me that they sell for their costs of making the product, labor, materials, overhead, and the Chinese government rebate is their profit on the sale.

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Generally the coops are like particle board furniture and entertainment centers, you don’t move them once assembled without breaking them into pieces.  The wood is so soft that the screws strip out if you try to move one much less drag it around the yard.  The ventilation will be poor, any pull out poop tray will be shallow enough that you have to clean frequently to get the tray out without it jamming.  If they have roost poles they are too narrow or set too close to the walls, after all 24” wide box minus the floor hatch where the angled ladder comes in doesn’t leave much space for anything else.  The roost poles, if they have them, will be 1” x 1” or 1.5” x 1.5” if you are lucky.

The Chinese would happily make a heavier duty coop but it wouldn’t sell in the U.S. because it would cost twice as much to ship.  Remember that manufacturers these days are forced to sell for one half to one third of the retail price or stores simply won’t buy their products.   Even at that the retailers aren’t willing to subsidize the shipping, they think they need 2/3rds to ½ of the sales price as gross profit to stay in business.   You won’t find any manufacturer, even at Chinese wages, able to make a lightweight, sturdy, inexpensive coop at one third to one half the retail price.  In all a person is better off taking the $200.00 and buying material to build their own.   A sixty to seventy pound prefab coop isn’t going to take a gust of wind without tumbling over or withstand being moved a couple of times a day to fresh ground. 

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Chinese Prefab coops

 

 

These pretty but useless prefab coops rarely have decent handles that can be used to pick up the coop without breaking some part of the coop, they are light enough to move but nowhere to grab hold of the coop.

Given that the coops are only five to six feet long and the upper house takes up a chunk of that length, the ladder either has to be very steep and it almost always ends up six inches away from the wire wall.  Coming down or going up, the birds aren’t going to like bumping into the wire and if there is a dog or predator outside they won’t get close to the wall to escape into the house to hide.  There are extensions made for most of these coops but they generally will cost $100.00 to $160.00, nearly as much as the coop itself.

Chickens won’t know to go upstairs to roost and would prefer not to be packed into an enclosed box that is 24” x 24” with three or four other chickens so they will try to sleep the first few nights on the ground.  Getting inside the coop to get to the bird to move them is going to take someone the size of a small child and is willing to crawl through chicken poop.  Same thing if you have a sick or dead chicken, how are you going to reach it short of having help to pick up the coop and move it so you can retrieve the carcass.   Most of the ventilation is from a single window, unusually around 6” x 7” that is placed at floor level instead of being up high where the hottest air will be.  Most aren’t screened, some are clear plastic, the upper part will turn into a hot box once late spring and summer arrive.

A few years back one of the importers showed up on backyardchickens.com, saying they were entering the market and wanted ideas to build a better coop.  As the months rolled by you can see consumers giving the guy tips on what needs changed and a very appreciative company acting like they were going to act on the suggestions.  The thread ended with a recent customer writing a post with a liteney of complaints, it was too small and sold to hold four chickens when two would crowd the coop, arrived with parts chipped and cracked, door hinges broken, paint rubbed off.   The parts weren’t fitting well, ¼” gaps, the grooves not lining up with the other parts.  The customer lived in Colorado and once he realized how small the upper part was he realized that putting a light bulb inside for winter heat would probably bake the birds to death.  The only positive things they said were that the instructions were good.

A coop made out of proper lumber like 2 x 4s and ½” plywood is going to weigh six to eight hundred pounds.  Anything short of inflated tires isn’t going to move the coop on grassy ground, in dry weather at that.   Add another $200.00 to the shipping cost and use a trucking company instead of UPS and you might ship it a few states away.  The average licensing requirement is four square feet of coop, ten square feet of run, and one square foot of nest box per bird.  But the prefab coop industry is using the four square foot of space for hens living in egg battery cages, hardly the conditions a backyard chicken flock owner is wanting.

Chinese Prefab coops

 

 

There are now much larger prefab coops on the market but they are selling for nearly one thousand dollars each and made out of the same lightweight and soft wood all in an effort to keep the costs low enough that the retailer can make his 50 to 66% markup and still ship it at reasonable rates.  Manufacturers are in the business of providing such a product, not worried about the chickens or the customers that buy the coops.

So in the end the best practice is to bypass the inexpensive doll house style prefab coops and build your own or get ready to pay over a thousand dollars for a locally built coop.  It isn’t going to be easy to move, it is going to be quite heavy so you aren’t going to be trundling it around the yard.  Purchase a lightweight chicken tractor for that.  The prefabs are going to hold a dozen feathered out chicks up till they are a month old and it will be difficult to take care of and clean.  Save your money and buy a good locally made coop.

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Chinese Prefab Coops

 

  • Birds fill up before dark
  • .Crops store food for digestion at night
  • Birds generally don’t see well in the dark and will stay on the roost
  • Chicks do grow faster if feed and water is available at night
  • Use a rat proof chicken feeder if feed is left out at night

“It is critical that the birds have plenty of feed available before going to roost in the winter as the digestion keeps their body temperature high and the nights are much longer than the summer nights.”

 

 

Do Chickens Need Feed and Water at Night?

Chickens have a crop that they fill with food before going to roost at night and digest what is in their crop during the dark hours.  Adult chickens do need constant feed and water, they will graze all day if they have food available, unlike predators that eat once every few days.  As long as the birds can access feed once daylight comes they will be fine without nighttime food.   Most won’t come down off the roost anyway during the night unless there is a source of light such as a heat lamp or other light that allows them to see well enough to fly up and down from the roost. 

 

During summer time having water available is a good idea as the birds can drop down to drink before it gets totally dark.  Even with good ventilation the heat buildup in the roof takes a few hours to dissipate so a water source at night in summer is good husbandry.

It is critical that the birds have plenty of feed available before going to roost in the winter as the digestion keeps their body temperature high and the nights are much longer than the summer nights.

A good reason not to provide feed at night is rodents are more active at night and there will be non-stop feed theft unless you have a treadle feeder that is actually rat proof like this one.

Chicks on the other hand will grow faster if they have food and water available at all times.  As there is almost always a heat lamp they can see and will be active at night.  Rats and mice are almost never a threat as most people are going to have the chicks inside the house or in a secure rat proof brooder.

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  • A tiny hen sized door

    Inside view of a goat proof chicken door

“Some animals like goats and horses can come to great harm if they eat too much chicken feed through bloating or foundering.”

soccer-player

 

 

Don’t believe them…

No Such Things as a Goat Proof Chicken Feeder

A lot of people raise goats and chickens together and keeping the smaller goats out of the chicken feed is a task.  If you have never had a goat they are incredibly clever and persistent at finding into where they aren’t supposed to be and out of where they are supposed to be.  They can jump like deer and climb on top of anything under five feet tall.

They are contortionists too, will lay down and wiggle through or under almost anything.  As goats will bloat and even die from eating too much feed you have to make certain the feed is locked up with a goat proof latch that can’t be pushed open.  The goat proof chicken hatch to the left works because even a small kid goat can’t bend its body sharp enough to gain entry.

Treadle feeders are of no use to defeat goats, dogs, or other large animals.  The weight and reach of a large animal is much more than a chicken so don’t depend on the treadle feeder to protect the feed unless you have the feeder inside an enclosure.

Dogs love chicken feed too for some strange reason.  The chicken feed won’t really hurt the dog although it is low in fat .  Some cats will eat laying pellets as well although it is less common.

Small breeds of dogs and cats will be difficult to keep out of chicken feeders unless the feeders are high off the ground and a cat has nothing to climb to get up to the feed. 

Larger animals can easily rip through chicken wire, even a small dog will have no problems tearing through as chicken wire is simply twisted together.   Always use hardware cloth to prevent dogs, racoons, or other predators from ripping through the coop.  Occasionally horses are persistent enough to knock over a small coop to get to the chicken feed.  Most people won’t have hogs near chickens as the hogs will quickly eat every chicken it can catch and can easily over turn a coop to get at the birds or feed.

 

 

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  • Tree rats is a better name
  • Will kill chicks and eat eggs
  • Carry pests and disease
  • Will chew electrical wiring
  • A gardener’s worst nightmare at times
  • Killing squirrels just causes another squirrel to move into the territory
  • Rarely will there be more than one squirrel unless it is a mother and litter or a park where the squirrels are being fed
  • Wide platform treadle feeders are not squirrel proof

“Squirrels will eat eggs and chicks especially when they have a litter and have a protein deficiency.  Squirrels also eat baby birds and bird eggs.”

 

 

Cute or not…

Squirrels Will Kill Chicks

Squirrels are rats with a good P.R. department.   They are called tree rats for good reasons.  Besides stealing your chicken feed they naturally feed on wild bird eggs and wild bird chicks while they are nesting and have a protein deficiency.

Rats will also steal eggs and kill feathered out chicks and any baby chick they can get hold of.  Some of the diseases and pests they carry are host specific but some are not.

Keeping squirrels out of a chicken coop is going to take hardware cloth and very tight gaps on any door or junction. If there isn’t a hole a squirrel can quickly chew through 3/4″ plywood or even solid wood to make an entry hole.  Worse, if the place is enclosed like an attic or tool shed they will make winter nests in the insulation and are not tidy enough to urinate and poop outside.  They can make a mess and even cause electrical fires that will burn down your home.

 

Video of a squirrel killed chick

Video of a squirrel stealing eggs

 

 

A bumper crop of acorns and other nuts will cause squirrels to have two, even three litters a year, causing a population explosion.  Luckily squirrels have a high mortality rate too from cars, predators, and disease.  Many squirrels don’t make it more than a few months after they leave the nest.

Squirrels like to avoid open areas if possible and prefer some sort of passageway like nearby tree limbs or a fence, anything that keeps them off the ground and safe from dogs.  If you have nearby trees wrap a two foot wide strip of sheet metal around the tree about six to eight feet off the ground to prevent the squirrels from using the tree as a refuge or highway to the coop.  Don’t nail the tin in place, use wire and springs that will allow the tree to grow and expand.

A hole the size of a child’s fist is large enough for a squirrel to enter so a coop needs to be pretty tight to keep them out.  Of course a good treadle feeder with a distant treadle and a spring loaded door is a must if you leave the coop open during the day.  Dogs make good deterrents but most squirrels are quite adapt at evading dogs.  Squirrels can be easily trapped.  Once though as they are clever animals.

 

Squirrel proof chicken feeder

Live traps

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Bird Dangers

  • Avian or Bird Flu
  • Mites
  • Lice
  • Internal parasites
  • Many, many different diseases
  • Feed theft
  • Large poultry companies attempting to get laws passed outlawing backyard chickens by claiming they help spread disease
  • When outbreaks of bird flu hit commercial flocks the health officials will euthanize all flocks of poultry in a ten mile circle including backyard chickens

“Not a lot of people realize that the infamous Spanish Flu that killed millions of people at the turn of the century was a form of avian flu..”

 

 

 

For your Safety

Wild Birds Must be Kept Away

 

When wild birds start stealing chicken feed most flock owners worry about the cost of the stolen feed but what they ought to be worried about is the disease, parasites, and pests the wild birds bring with them.  The bird flu has been a real problem with commercial flocks and those birds are locked away in some pretty tight housing where backyard flocks are wide open to wild birds.

The bird flu or avian flue can be carried by wild birds and ducks without the carriers becoming ill but the chickens will have no immunity and the virus mutates rapidly.  It is just a matter of time before the lobbyists working for the commercial poultry industry attempts to clamp down on backyard flocks by blaming them for spreading the disease.   Being a responsible flock owner means doing all that you can to isolate your chickens and other poultry from wild birds for your own safety as well as the future of the backyard chicken movement.

 

The bird flu in China has already crossed over to humans with bird to human transmission but if it mutates into human to human spread disease we will have a problem on our hands to the point where even the most enthusiastic chicken owner won’t hesitate to get rid of their flock.  Not a lot of people realize that the infamous Spanish Flu that killed millions of people at the turn of the century was a form of avian flu.

 Preventing wild birds from stealing your feed is as simple as not allowing them to eat the feed by using a rat proof chicken feeder.   Avoid the treadle feeders with the wide steps that allow wild birds to reach the feed when enough bids land on the treadle.  If the door is counter weighted and spring loaded that is even better.   But if you research this topic online you will find a lot of the focus is on either trying to block the birds out, scare them away somehow, or only feeding by hand a few times a day.  For some reason people initially reject the idea that a treadle feeder fixes the problems so we will cover the other methods too.

Some people have set large plastic trash cans over their feeders, taking the covers off twice a day for a half hour at a time.     Not sure many of us have the luxury of being there every day much less the time and discipline to remember to unblock the feeder.

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  • Fencing birds out is difficult
  • Plastic Owls?  Don’t work
  • Bird netting helps but doesn’t completely stop
  • Bird poop like you have never seen before
  • Cut off the food and the birds will leave
  • Treadle feeders will fix the problem quickly

 

 

People that thought chicken wire would stop sparrows learned otherwise, only hardware cloth will stop a sparrow or netting.  Others rely on fluttering tape or even old CDs hung on strings, thinking that the fluttering and flashing will scare the birds away.  Some have sworn that buying a plastic owl would stop the wild birds only to find that their chickens were afraid of the plastic owl too and wouldn’t come out of the coop.  Unfortunately the wild bird eventually realize that the owls are fake, some people report the wild birds will roost on the fake owls.

People have tried making lightweight doors that wild birds can’t push open but chickens can, fine until they realize that chickens aren’t likely to want to go around pushing doors open, most will stare at it and make a fuss waiting to be let in or out.  Others have resorted to ending the free range and cooping the chickens up 24/7.    Pens that are made out of chicken wire, chain link, or fencing wire can be closed off somewhat using bird netting found at many of the larger garden stores.   A big roll is around $20.00 and will cover a lot of chicken pen.  When hawks are the biggest problem and you have an open run some people have had success with using mono filament fishing line strung closely together across the top of the pen.  The sharp eyed hawks and eagles can see the wire and won’t risk betting trapped but of course that won’t stop smaller birds like crows or starlings, both of which can and do kill baby chicks.

The truly epic wild bird problems can involve thousands of birds mobbing the pen, cleaning out the feed and water in minutes and leaving gallons of bird poo over every surface in sight.  There is one story out there on the internet about a free range flock ran by Fifth Crow Farms.  They got a grant for a few dozen rat proof chicken feeder and not only solved their feed loss problems, those same wild birds had been snacking on their loose leaf lettuce crops and just a few bird pecks were enough to ruin the salability of an entire lettuce bunch.  Plus the birds pooping over the lettuce fields on the way to or from the chicken feeders.

The problem with rats is two fold; available safe space for nesting and a ready food supply.  Birds don’t need the safe nesting places, they only need access to the chicken feed.   A wild bird living a natural life has little time to spend doing anything other than searching for wild food.  Once you purchase a proper treadle feeder with a narrow step and a spring loaded door the birds will have no choice but to look elsewhere for their food. 

 

Learn more about treadle feeders

Purchase a bird  proof chicken feeder

 

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Methods of getting rid of rats
  • Buy a rat proof feeder
  • Ultrasonic repeller
  • Live traps
  • Rat Zappers
  • Snap traps
  • Homemade traps
  • Glue traps
  • Guns
  • Poisons
  • Cats
  • Terriers

Rats can be Deadly

They put your flock at risk so get rid of them as soon as possible

We are going to look at the eleven best ways of getting rid of rats and my experience with some of the methods then you can decide which method is best for your flock.


  1. Having chickens doesn’t mean you have to have rats. 
  2. Good housekeeping is essential for preventing rats from colonizing your backyard or barn.
  3. Use these tips to decide which way you want to go about removing rats from your property
  4. If you have any other methods please comment at the bottom of the article so that others can learn other methods of dealing with rats

 

 

 

Please Learn From My Mistakes!


 

Rats?  Not Me, ever….

No way I would ever have rats, or so I thought.  By the time I allowed myself to accept there was a problem I had a huge rat colony under my coop.  When you see evidence of mice or rats start working on driving them away or killing them immediately to avoid a lot of headaches.

I don’t recommend any of these methods nor do I say not to use them, I am just listing ways of dealing with rats.  Your situation or sensibilities are going to be different so pick and choose which methods you think are best for your  flock

 

Rat Proof Chicken Feeder from The Carpenter Shop

 Why treadle feeders work

  • the door keeps the mice and rats away from the feed
  • Chickens are heavy enough to depress the treadle
  • But rats are too light
  • The enclosed eating area also helps with feed scattering
  • If they have a protruding lip on the inside of the feeder that will prevent most birds from billing feed out of the feeder
  • Prices start at around $60.00 plus shipping costs

Buy a Rat Proof Chicken Feeder

Fastest and cheapest way to get rid of rats

To the left is our favorite rat proof chicken feeder, made by the Carpenter Shop in Oklahoma City.  What makes it stand out from the crowded field of treadle feeders is that narrow and distant treadle instead of the wide treadles on most feeders.  Why is that best?  Because a chicken has a grasping claw and can easily hold the treadle down AND the rats can’t gang up on the step and reach the feed if they managed to push the treadle down.


  1. A good treadle feeder uses both weight and reach to keep the rats, wild birds, and squirrels out of the feed
  2. Choose a feeder that has a spring loaded door and a counterweight system to prevent the vermin from just pushing the door open.  Many of the popular brands will allow mice and rats to push their way inside..
  3. The guillotine style doors will take weeks to train the birds, the swinging door feeders are much easier for training
  4. Other methods of rat control usually not needed once a treadle feeder is in place

 

 

 

Other Considerations


 

Weather proof?

Check the customer reviews carefully as some feeders do leak and are difficult to clean.  Some models are indoor only and some companies have indoor and outdoor versions

 

Is there a soft close door option?

Chickens are going to be reluctant to use the new contraption in their world and a bit leery of it.  The soft close door is a big help in the initial training although it is a luxury as the birds will accept the swing in type feeder doors fairly quickly if motivated by hunger.

With the feed safely out of the way of the rats and mice the vermin will quickly begin to starve and either leave to search for other food or become susceptible to poisons and traps

 

Methods of getting rid of rats
  • relatively cheap
  • Easy to use
  • Non violent
  • People say they work on roaches and bugs

Ultrasonic repeller

  • Small devices that plug into the wall sockets and emit highly pitched noise that rats can hear but humans cannot hear.  Rats and mice are supposed to dislike the noise and might leave the area

Do they work?
  1. Probably useless if you already have rats as noise isn’t going to drive rats from a ready food supply and a safe burrow
  2. They might act as a deterrent if you don’t already have rats but there isn’t a lot of proof out there that they actually work on rats..

 

 

 

Consumer Warning!

The FCC is warning that these products probably won’t work and have warned several of the companies not to make unsubstantiated claims.

 

What I think…..

My experience in my own home showed me that mice ignored any noise that they might have put out so I personally don’t recommend buying an ultrasonic repeller.  However if you already had one it might be worth a try.

 

Methods of getting rid of rats
  • Humane but the rats will be back
  • Doesn’t harm the rat if you are against killing creatures
  • Won’t harm other creatures
  • What do you do with a live rat once you have caught it?  Release it upon someone else far away?
  • Doesn’t work but a few times unless the rats have no other food available

Live Traps

Purchase starting at $24.00

Metal traps are the best but avoid any plastic traps as even a mouse can chew through plastic quickly.

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  1. Set the trap in the location where the rats are traveling, against a wall if possible.  Block the door open and bait the trap for a few days so the rats get used to stealing the bait.
  2. Once you do set the trigger and activate the trap it might catch several or just one rat.  After a couple of times the rats aren’t likely to fall victim again unless they are starving.

 

More info on live traps

 

 

Humane but Does it Shift the Burden to others?


 

Costs of disposing of the rat

Experts say that turning the rat loose at least five miles away will most likely prevent the rat from returning to your property.  The fuel and mileage on the car are a consideration if you have a lot of rats to catch.

 

Dumping your Problem on Others?

It might be five miles away but someone lives there and will have chickens or other livestock.  Or the rats might find a home or business.  If nothing else they will hunt the wildlife in the area or damage crops or find a farm to live on.

 

Methods of getting rid of rats
  • Battery operated
  • Some have remotes indicating a killed rat
  • Effective, 8000 volts for two minutes
  • Only kills one rat at a time
  • Battery life, 10 to 12 kills
  • Start at $49.00

Rat Zapper (fatal)

Quick, humane kill

Battery powered the rats enter the device to steal the bait set over a metal plate, triggering an electric shock that stops the rat’s hear.   Since rats can actually restart their heart the voltage continues for about two minutes.


  1. A clean kill, no blood, little suffering on the rat’s part.
  2. Excellent method of controlling rats that wander onto your property without endangering other small animals, pets, wild predators that help keep the rat population down naturally.

 

 

 

How to use


 

Bait it but don’t set it yet

Rats are cautious critters, let them steal the bait for a few days.  Best set along a wall or corner so the rats don’t have to venture out into the open to get to the device.

 

Tips

Don’t believe the marketing hype on battery life.  Keep fresh batteries in it and watch for the flashing red light that indicates low power levels.

Snap Trap

 

Quick and effective, but messy.

  • Deadly and cheap
  • Simple to use
  • Instant results
  • Cheap
  • Kids and rat traps don’t mix
  • $1.99 per trap

Snap Traps

Dependable and Cheap

Advantages.
Kills instantly so the rat doesn’t suffer, cheap enough to deploy several for severe infestations.
Disadvantages.
Having to dump the dead rat out of the trap isn’t fun, not for the squeamish or faint at heart.   
Snap traps aren’t that effective as the rats are smart enough to figure out that they are bad news.  Keep changing the location and type of traps if you want to keep them being effective.

Rats love peanut butter, just a small amount will do


 

Snap Traps

 

 

 

How to use them


 

 

  • Rats don’t like to venture out into the open so place the snap traps along a wall, in a corner, or inside a box or pipe used to conceal the trap.  Keep pets, chickens and small kids away.   As a child I remember stepping on rat traps in one of my Grandfather’s barns.  No fun indeed!

 

 

  • Bait the traps but don’t set the trap for a few days to lull the critters into false security.

 

Homemade traps are
  • No cost if you have the makings
  • Clever idea to deal with rats
  • Good if you need a lot of traps for a bad infestation
  • Usually needs tweaking
  • Time consuming at best
  • You’ll waste a lot of time scheming and might get hooked into building a better mouse trap

Homemade Traps

Clever, but not always reliable

One of the most popular homemade traps uses a water filled bucket, some thing for an axle, and a plastic bottle that you can smear bait on.  When the rat reaches for the bait if will fall into the bucket and drown


  1. Advantages.
    Certainly cheap enough if you have a bucket on hand
    Disadvantages.
    Takes a bit of experimentation and tinkering till you have one performing.
    Not for the squeamish as it takes some time for the rat to drown
    Mixed reviews from users, if you are handy you can likely make them work

Homemade traps

 

 

Interesting to read about online but not always the most effective method


 

 

Many different types

A bit of time spent online searching will turn up dozens of homemade traps.  They usually revolve around enticing the rat to reach for the bait or walk onto a precarious board that will tip it into a bucket or barrel.

One of the most intriguing is a fabric covered barrel with an X marked in the center.  Using a sharp knife slice the fabric along two legs of the X and scatter bait or grain  close to the cut part.
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Simple as can be
  • $ 1.48
  • Unwrap and place the trap
  • Toss the entire thing a way after catching a rodent
  • Keep away from pets, chickens, and kids, especially kids!

Glue Traps

Even if you hate rats this is a tough way to see any creature go


  1. Profession exterminators love these things because they are cheap and allows them to deploy a lot of traps.
  2. Nothing more than glue on a backer, rat walks into the glue, rat stays in the glue.  You can even buy the glue to make your own traps
  3. Usually the rats starve to death or struggles till it has a heart attack or dies from exhaustion.  If you are humane you still need to kill the rat before tossing the trap. Drowning in a bucket is best.

 

Glue trap sources

 

 

How they work.


 

Advantages.
Cheaper than snap traps but single use
Disadvantages.
Anything that walks or crawls across it is going to be caught like it or not.

You need to really hate rats if you are going to use these things because it is not a humane method of killing rats.   I personally would find another way unless it was a huge infestation and there was no other choice

 

Simple as can be
  • Lay in wait in the dark
  • Night vision scope makes it easier
  • Expect to spend upwards of $100.00 for a decent rifle plus the night scope

Guns

If you have plenty of time and are a good shot this might be a way to go


  1. Modern air rifles are powerful and accurate and can kill a rat instantly. 
  2. .22 caliber are best but even the smaller .177 will kill a foot long rat with ease.
  3. One sure way of getting the rats that are too smart for poisons and traps
  4. If you have an old beat up .22 caliber rifle you can buy rat shot, like a small shotgun shell, that makes it easier to hit a moving target.

 

Air Rifles

 

 

Is it legal?


 

Of course, as long as you are on your own land or have permission to shoot on the land.  Rats are considered pest, not wild animals, so there are no game laws or daily bag limits.

If you are in Europe you might need a license for a gun but most places in the U.S. do not license or permit air guns.  Some of the pump or Co2 air rifles are quite powerful and accurate at short ranges.

 

Not a long term solution.
  • Might work on the first few rats that eat the bait
  • A rat’s keen sense of smell means they can detect some poisons
  • Best used where the rats are hungry and less able to pick and choose what they eat

Poison

 Poison works if the rats are hungry


  1. Usually when people discover a rat problem they will try poisons first to try to knock down the numbers.    You really do need to kill the vermin as they expose your flock and your family to disease.  No one likes killing living creatures but these aren’t wild animals making a living off the land, they are vermin that will destroy wild animals, nests, and anything they can catch.
  2. The use of poisons carries its own risks though if a dead rat or mouse dies out where a chicken or pet can get hold of it.  Natural predators are also killed from a slow build up of poison from eating poisoned rodents.

 

Rat Poison

 

 

Problems with poisoning rats


 

Finding the carcass and disposing of it

Poisoned rats will crawl up into a sheltered spot to die.  That might be a wall in your house or attic.

 

More rats will move in to eat the dead rats

Killing off a few rats with poison just leaves the area open for more rats to move in.  If you have space and food, more rats will come to replace the poisoned rats.

Not all rats will eat the poison and not all rats that doe eat the poison will die, some build up immunity to the point that the poison doesn’t affect them.  Entire generations of rats are bred to be poison resistant as the immune rats pass on the genes.

 

The right kind of cat is needed
  • Some breeds are better mousers than others
  • The right cat will constantly hunt rodents around your property
  • Cats will kill song birds, snakes, insects, anything they can catch

Get a Barn Cat

 House Kitties need not apply


  1. If you combine a cat with rat traps you can make a dent in the rat population but there will always be plenty of new rats to replace what the cat catches.   If you don’t remove what is attracting the rats your problem won’t end.   If you live in a rural area you already have wood rats and field mice around but they will live where there is  a food supply and have to scratch for a living instead having a hopper full of chicken feed to eat.
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Rat Poison

 

 

Problems with poisoning rats


 

You need a larger barnyard bred cat that is used to living outdoors and had a mother that taught it to catch rats.  The average house cat wouldn’t be bold enough to take on a rat a quarter of its size.

Cats will kill chickens too, from chicks right on up to a full grown hen.  Cats will come with the costs of feeding along with vet bills  including keeping the cat’s rabies vaccinations up to date.
Humane societies and pounds don’t like to re home cats for rat control or on farms.

 

The right kind of terrier is needed
  • Some breeds are better  than others
  • The American Hunting Terrier is the best
  • Jack Russell Terriers will work too

Rat Terriers

 Find a local terrier owner


Terriers were bred over the centuries to chase down and kill rats.  The dogs are very quick and once they catch a rat they shake it to death.  Some farms still keep a rat terrier around specifically for rat hunting.  The dogs do enjoy the hunt as it is what they were bred for but they only catch the rats that are running away as the babies and any other rats in the tunnels will be beyond their reach unless you have a pro smoke the rats out for the dogs to catch.
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Rat Poison

 

 

Terriers are great rat control


 

However terrier hunts are for getting the numbers down as they will not eliminate the rats underground.

Probably the most humane method killing rats is the terrier and the cat but you will never eliminate the rats until you have removed either the food source or the space the rats are using.

 

Methods of getting rid of rats
  • Rat proof feeders are best
  • Ultrasonic repeller, usually ineffective
  • Traps of all sorts will work initially
  • Guns absolutely work at controlling the numbers
  • Poisons are too dangerous
  • Cats and terriers work well at reducing the number of rats but will never eliminate them.

The Take Away

Can you eliminate all rats?

No, but you can drive them away through eliminating their hiding and nesting  places and eliminating their ready food supply with a proper rat proof chicken feeder.


  1. Trapping and poisoning will take a few of the rats down but unless the rats are starving they will be too cautious to eat rat bait or risk messing with a rat trap once they have seen it kill
  2. Once the food is stored in rat proof containers and in a rat proof feeder the rats will be motivated enough to risk the bait and traps.
  3. Driving the rats away leaves them more susceptible to natural predators and any other nearby rat colonies will drive them away from their location.

 

More info on rat proof feeders

 

 

You are going to have to spend $80.00 to $100.00 to buy a rat proof feeder if you are going to win the battle with rats

 


 

Once you have the feeder  purchased and the bulk feed stored in steel containers the expense is done, no more poison to buy, no cat food, no time spent trying to shoot rats.  The best feeders will have sides and an inner lip that prevents most birds from flicking feed out when searching for choice bits of feed. The feeder will quickly pay for itself in feed savings from the feed waste alone plus any savings from preventing rats and wild birds from stealing your feed.

 


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