Have you ever found little mouse droppings peppered throughout your coop bedding—black oval pellets about the size of a grain of rice? Evidence of rodents in your chicken coop can be unnerving, but it’s important to recognize that winter is a hungry time for wild animals. The reward of a warm bed and a full belly found inside a chicken coop is all too tempting for a cold, starving rodent.
Homemade or store-bought repellent concoctions might help shoo away rodents in more abundant seasons, but hungry ones won’t be deterred easily. Plus, you wouldn’t want to use those concoctions around your chickens, as chickens eat almost anything. With a little bit of common sense and ingenuity, it’s possible to minimize your rodent problems naturally. Here are tips I’ve found effective at banishing rodents from your urban chicken coop.
1. Patch Coop Holes
If you find evidence of rodents in your coop, inspect the entire inside and outside of your coop for holes. Small rodents can wiggle through cracks you might not even notice. If you happen to tear your hardware cloth (by dropping a coop door on it like I did), be sure to patch it or replace it right away. Torn hardware cloth allows rodents and even small birds to walk right inside.
2. Store Feed in Rodent-Proof Containers
I keep my chicken feed in a lidded metal garbage can that I purchased specifically for chicken feed. (It’s never held garbage.) Some people use plastic storage containers or plastic garbage cans, but a hungry enough rodent will chew through a plastic storage container no matter how long it takes.
3. Store Coop Bedding Securely
I’ll never forget the time I cleaned out the chicken coop and shoved my hand inside the bedding bag, only to watch two frightened mice scurry from a tiny hole in the bottom, run across the yard and dive into the old shed we’re replacing. Picking up a second metal container for the bedding is now on my to-do list, but in the meantime, I’m preventing mice access by balancing the bag on top of a bucket. The mice can’t climb the bucket, and there’s nothing nearby for them to climb to get to it. This temporary solution won’t last long, unfortunately. After all, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
4. Set Traps
If you find that you have a family of rodents nesting someplace on your property, consider using a humane trap to relocate them to a forest or field away from your property. Humane traps are often available where you buy chicken feed.
5. Use a Secure Feeder
In February, I’m taking on the project of building a weighted feeder. because my biggest “pest” problem has been wild birds eating our chicken feed when the flock is free-ranging. The feeder will not be able to open without the weight of a hen standing on the platform. There will be a learning curve for the chickens, but they catch on to new things easily.
Weighted feeders are available for purchase, but you can find plans online if you’re interested in building your own. I’m excited to share my weighted feeder project with you when it’s finished.
6. Avoid Poisons
Whatever you do to deter or eliminate rodents, never use poison. Killing rodents might seem like an easy solution, but a dead mouse is an invitation for a free-ranging flock to play keep away. Chickens love dead mice! The very last thing you want is to accidentally contaminate your flock, its feed and its yard with poison. Even if your chickens aren’t harmed, their eggs are your food. Always keep that in mind.
Have you ever had a rodent problem? How did you get rid of them?