Rodent season is upon us. Whether it be mice, rats, or other vermin, Autumn is the time of year where we hear about them the most.
As temperatures cool down, mice and rats will start looking for a nice, warm place to hide. Your hen house offers a great option for rodents; safe at night from predators with a great food source.
This year is predicted to be particularly bad for rodents because most of the country has had a good summer and there’s been plenty of food around for rats and mice. This means they would have had a good breeding season.
During warm months, mice and rats breed seemingly non-stop. This may not seem like a huge problem until you realize each mouse can have up to 60 babies per year and rats can have up to 24. Mice also take only three weeks to reach sexual maturity so those babies can also contribute 60 babies to the environment.
Here are five easy tips to help keep rodents out of your hen house:
1. Make it hard for rodents to get into your hen house
Mice and rats (as well as stoats and weasels) can get through a hole as small as one inch. Make sure all hen house windows, vents and other openings are covered with 1/2″ wire mesh to prevent rodents from entering. Make sure hen house doors are shut at night time.
Outpost sell optional floor kits for their NZ built hen house kitset so if rodents are a problem we recommend you get this. You can also put a layer of wire mesh under your floor to further prevent rodents from entering.
2. Get a cat or dog
Cats and dogs can both do a great job of keeping your home and chicken run free of rodents. They don’t actually need to go inside the hen house or run, their scent and presence in the area will help prevent mice and rats from hanging around.
3. Minimise the food left out for rodents
Try not to over feed your hens food scraps so that there’s nothing left to attract rodents at night. Collect your eggs every day or rodents may find them and start eating them. Keep chicken feed in predator-proof covered metal, wood or thick plastic bins or containers. Rats can eat through plastic containers so check them regularly for holes.
4. Plant mint around your hen house
Mint is a natural rodent repellent. Spearmint, peppermint and even lemon balm which is also in the mint family, will all help deter mice. Try planting some mint around your hen house and run in the spring. Sprinkle fresh or dried mint in the hen house and nesting boxes year round.
5. Rat Traps
There are several rat traps available on the market from wire cage types and spring traps to electric rat ‘zappers’.
These different types of trap use different methods to trap or kill a rat but they have one thing in common, the rat needs to go into or on the trap which can be difficult to achieve. Even then, sometimes there seem to be a few ‘wise old rats’ that are scared of new things in their environment and just won’t go into the trap!
If you do want to try using traps there’s some tips in this blog here Controlling Rats around Chickens
Rat poison can be used but it does pose a serious health hazard to your chickens as well as other animals, so you need to be very careful about how you use it and perhaps leave it as a last resort.
These 5 tips can help to keep mice and rats from deciding to make your hen house home for the winter.
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