Just about every carnivore
likes to eat chickens, but chicks most often fall prey to only one —
rats. Rats won’t harm an adult chicken, but chicks up to about
six weeks old are easy pickings, especially at night before they learn
to perch out of reach. Sometimes, rats will drag the unlucky
chick away to eat it and you’ll only notice the problem when you count
heads, but you might also find a dead chick abandoned on the coop floor.
Success With Baby Chicks and Raising
Poultry on Pasture
both mentioned that rats are the biggest cause of chick losses for many
operations. We never had a problem until we lost a quarter of our
chicks to rats during our first two hatches of 2011. We let a
broody hen raise our third batch and she did a good job of keeping rats
at bay, but our last batch had to be motherless — how to protect them?
If you can’t find any other
way to get rid of rats, poison is supposed
to be a very effective solution. This farmer killed 83,450 rats
in nine months (and won a new TV to reward his prowess.) On the
other hand, although poison definitely works, I wouldn’t want to risk
killing our chickens, cats, or dog.
Another option is to
keep your chicks in the house as long as possible. However, by
the time good foraging breeds are three weeks old, they’ve heartily
outgrown their brooder and want to hunt down bugs. Mark went to
work chinking in all of the gaps in their coop, which helped a lot, but
I think the biggest reason our month old chicks
are all still alive is that I stopped making a stupid mistake —
leaving food out in the coop.
Rats are attracted to
chicken feed, not to chicks. Sure, they’ll take those tender
morsels if the opportunity arises, but you won’t have rats in your coop
in the first place if they have nothing to eat when chicks aren’t
present. I made the rookie mistake earlier this year of leaving
the chick feed unprotected in the coop — after all, chicks were too
small to break into the bag. But once I sealed
the feed away in a metal trash can and spread the day’s ration
out on the ground in the pasture, there was nothing to attract rats to
the coop. Within a few days, our chicks will have passed the six
week trouble period with no predation — maybe we’ll have 100%
survival this time around?
are another cause of chick losses, but our POOP-free chicken waterer protects