Pest Control for the Chicken House
Kevin Felts 12.29.16
The chicken house is a prime target for all kinds of pests. Depending on your location, these could include opossum, raccoon, snakes, mink, skunk, rats, and mice, just to name a few.
Some chicken houses are pretty secure, and some are open to anything that makes its way in. How secure the chicken house depends on construction.
Some pest can chew through a wall, some slither in and some, need a good size entrance.
Chicken House Design
My first chicken house, back in the 1980s, was a lean-to off the side of a shed. I had problems with all kinds of predators. Late one evening I went out to gather eggs and did not bring a flashlight. When I reached in to feel for the eggs, I grabbed a chicken snake. In the matter of a few nights, a mink killed all of my ducks.
The second chicken house was three feet off the ground, had a hardware cloth floor, plywood walls, and a tin roof. The entrance was a ladder door that was closed at night. In the two years I used that chicken house, I did not lose a single chicken.
The third chicken house is sixteen feet by sixteen feet square, sits on the ground, dirt floor, has an open entrance that goes into the chicken yard, and a full sized door, which I use to enter the chicken house. So far, I have lost 3 or 4 chickens to opossums and a bunch of eggs to raccoons.
The only way to keep rodents out of the chicken house is for it to be totally screened in at ground level, or have some kind of metal shielding such as tin of flashing. Wooden walls can be chewed through.
Mice and rats go into the house at night and eat the chicken feed.
For the most part, mice pose little problem to chickens and chicks. Rats on the other hand will kill a chicken or chick.
For catching rats, I use a small live trap. NEVER put rat poison out and never use a classic style rat trap.
I take the rats several miles away from my house and drop them off in a rural area. A coyote, bobcat, or owl will make a meal out of them.
A chicken snake, aka rat snake, can get into the chicken house through a hole about the size of a half dollar, or maybe less. I saw a 4 foot long chicken snake squeeze through a space only a half inch wide and about two inches long.
Chicken snakes can be your friend, or they can be a pest. They eat rats and mice, but they also eat chicks and eggs. If you suspect there is a snake visiting the chicken house, check at sundown. Twilight is when most chicken snakes are on the move.
I usually take a hoe to the chicken house, pin the snakes head down, grab it, and either release it a long way from the chicken house or kill it.
If I see a chicken snake near the chicken yard, I usually leave it alone. They are beneficial in keeping rats and mice under control.
Four Legged Critters
Opossums and minks will kill everything from chicks to adult chickens by eating the head. I have had opossums reach through a cage and claw at the chicks in an attempt to grab them
Raccoons and skunks are usually egg thieves, but have been known to sometimes kill a chicken.
Cats will kill young chicks and chicks that are several months old.
I use a Havahart live trap to catch four legged critters. Never use a foothold trap where chickens can get into it. Over the years I have caught several chickens and a couple of guineas in the live traps. They were all released unharmed.
When it comes to dealing with pests, the chickens’ safety comes first. This means no poison, no rat traps, no foot hold traps, nothing that can harm the chickens.
If you suspect a predator is going around the chicken house, set up a wildlife camera. The pictures should give you an idea of what you are dealing with.