The Rat Trauma
I grew up on a small farm. We had chickens, horses, and cows. I was young, but the one thing I remember was mice. I never really thought about the mice as a kid because they mostly lived in the barn. We had a cat out there and set traps on occasion. We were never over run with them, but they came out in bigger numbers after plowing the field and when we were feeding grain. As soon as I got the chickens, my mom warned me I should watch for mice. The reality is that chickens don't attract rodents, but messy coops and available food and water definitely do. One night while going out to feed, I saw a rat scurry up the wall. I immediately became concerned because I figured there is never just one rat around. The last thing I needed was for one or - worse yet one hundred of them to think it would be a good idea to come into my house. So, I checked the coop and there didn't seem to be any damage or entry points. My coop doesn't have a wire bottom or floor of any kind, but it is sitting on pavers. I figured that would make it more difficult for any animal to burrow up into it. That weekend I rushed out to the feed store and purchased a rodent proof feeder and waterer. That being said I don't really know if anything is rodent proof, but it does seem harder for a rodent to access and the water stays fresher in the tube than it did in the flip over plastic waterer I had been using.
After all that, I figured I was covered. However one night my daughter's friend was looking out the window and said she saw a rat in the chicken area. I was hoping she was mistaken, but I set a big rat trap anyway. This was a first for me as well. I actually watched several youtube videos on the process and carried the set trap like it was an explosive device from my house to the outdoor run. It took several days, but sure enough we caught it. I have to admit here in this blog post that I was too grossed out to deal with it. I had to call on one of my dearest friends to help. Take note that for that kind of an icky job, it is a long time, best friend you call. An acquaintance is not going to help you with such a task. Anyway, the trap was reset but I have not caught or seen other rodents. (Whew..and another sigh of relief). I have to admit I'm a little nervous every morning when I walk into the chicken yard and have to inspect that trap. Hoping, hoping, hoping to see peanut butter and nothing else.
After the rat trauma and the purchase of the new feeders, I took other preventative measures as well and started feeding the chicken snacks only inside the coop when the chickens were locked up. Occasionally I will still feed them outside snacks but I feed much less to ensure they finish it all off within a short period of time. I have always cleaned the coop at least weekly, but now I make sure to sweep up the outside yard area as well just to recover any possible left overs a rodent may enjoy. Please feel free to share any other wisdom you may have on this topic.