How to Keep Backyard Chickens from Attracting Pests
A well built coop and good sanitary habits will keep your backyard chickens from attracting pests. Our clients with backyard chickens complain that their coops are magnets for rats, mice, and flying insects. Rats and mice are attracted to left-over chicken feed. Also, just like Templeton the rat in Charlotte’s Web, rats are happy to eat the eggs of your backyard chickens. Flying insects are attracted to chicken droppings and standing water. All of these pests may be controlled by careful attention to the housing and upkeep of your backyard chickens.
1. Fix the Coop!
Chicken wire is a terrible choice for a backyard chicken coop. The large wire openings allow rats and mice easy access to the coop and your chickens. Instead, line your coop with 19 gauge, 1/2 x 1/2-inch mesh to exclude adult rats; or 24 gauge, 1/4 x 1/4-inch mesh to exclude mice and young rats. A curtain wall of wire mesh 18″ below the soil will help deter rats from burrowing under your backyard chicken coop. Be sure that all doors and entry points are snug with no more than an 1/8 inch gap.
An alternative or addition to small gauge mesh for your chicken coop is electrification. Properly installed electric fencing will deter rodents and predators such as raccoons.
2. Keep it Clean!
There are many websites that discuss sanitary habits for backyard chicken coops. By keeping the coop sanitary, you’ll have healthier chickens and fewer pests. Cover chicken droppings daily with straw or other material. Keep your water system in good repair. Puddles attract pests and are a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Empty open water buckets or troughs at least every other day. Sweep up and discard uneaten chicken feed.
3. Feed Storage
Keep rats and mice from eating your chicken feed. Secure feed in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid. Rats and mice can chew through plastic feed buckets. If you store your feed in plastic, inspect the feed container daily, especially the side closest to the wall.
4. Natural Pest Control
Take care of your backyard chickens and they’ll provide your yard with natural pest control. Chickens eat all manor of insects. Our neighbors regularly provide their chickens access to their vegetable garden for just this reason. Then, at night, the chickens are confined in a well-maintained coop with small wire mesh. They are happy, healthy chickens!