Tips for Pest Control Around Chicken Coops
Rodents and predators are attracted to chicken coops for different reasons. These tips will help control both pests.
Rodents and predators are pests that can impact the health of a chicken coop. These pests carry parasites, can transmit diseases, contaminate food and water, and cause stress resulting in a drop in egg production. Protect your birds by understanding the habits of these pests that can negatively impact the health of your flock.
By and large, rodents are attracted to chicken coops for the chicken feed, while predators target the chickens. However, while mice are content with feed, rats are opportunists and will eat eggs and baby chicks. Likewise, predators target available protein, which puts eggs, baby chicks, and chickens on the menu.
These tips help keep your chicken coop healthy and your chickens stress-free.
Eliminate Food & Water Temptations
- Keep chicken feed outside a coop. Putting food inside a coop will invite rodents to explore for routes into the coop.
- Elevate, cover, or remove feeders at night. Keeping food out of reach will deter rodents from searching the coop and returning. A mobile chicken feeder stored somewhere inaccessible to rodents is ideal.
- Reduce feed spillage. Feeders with dividers are useful in controlling spillage.
- Remove all eggs at night. Pests are on the move at night, so avoid leaving them a dinner invitation.
- Use a treadle-style feeder. This automatic chicken feeder with a levered lid opens when a chicken steps on a metal plate. The action not only thwarts pests but keeps feed dry.
- Clean up spilled feed. Rodents are more than happy to return for spilled feed night after night.
- Store feed where rats cannot get it. Galvanized containers and plastic 5-gallon buckets with secured lids are ideal. If possible, store food away from the coop.
- Protect the water. If water is placed in a run with the chicken feed, which is common, keep pests from it by using nipple waterers or removing waterers at night. Otherwise, enclose the water within the coop or remove it at night and store it with the mobile chicken feeder. Replenish it in the morning.
- Dogs and cats. Cats will not only hunt rodents, but their scent also deters them. Just be aware that a cat may be tempted to go after baby chicks. Dogs, if trained properly, can be helpful protection against chicken pests. While some dog breeds lack the prey instinct to hunt pests, others, like rat terriers, excel at it.
Fortify the Coop & Run
- Provide a barrier. Hardware cloth with ½- to ¼-inch openings is an ideal barrier for keeping rodents and predators out of coops and runs. Snakes, weasels, and all but the largest rodents can squirm through chicken wire openings, and hawks can reach through it to nab a chicken with a talon. Chicken wire is helpful to keep out predators but not a guarantee. A hungry raccoon can make short work of chicken wire.
- Dig in. Whether your run is protected by chicken wire or hardware cloth, dig a trench and bury the bottom end of material a foot deep. For extra protection, widen the bottom of the trench to accommodate an extra six inches of barrier material laid flat, splayed outward from the coop (think “L”). Any creature digging to get under the barrier will encounter the material, stopping its progress.
- Pesky birds. If predatory birds like hawks, falcons, and owls are a threat, consider covering a run with chicken wire or netting. The covering will also keep out birds like starlings seeking chicken feeders for easy meals, especially in winter.
What About Insect Pests?
- Flies, lice, and mites. These are the most common insect chicken pests. Once you know your enemy, it is easier to know how to solve the problem. Fortunately, these pests are common, and dealing with them is relatively easy.
- Flies. A chicken coop is full of chicken poop, which translates to a feast for a fly. A coop is also frequently moist from rain, spillage from a waterer, and poop, which translates to a breeding ground for a fly. A clean, dry coop will go a long way in preventing a fly infestation, so clean it often. Also, fly traps will help cut down the horde.
- Lice. These pests spread easily, so if you identify lice on one bird, it is likely the entire flock is invested. The most common way to treat lice is by dusting each chicken with food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE). Concentrate on the base of the feathers under the wings and the vent area. If you are looking for a more natural method, use wood ash from a wood stove or firepit.
- Mites. If you have identified mites on your chickens, chances are they came from chickens recently introduced to the flock or local wild birds. Unlike lice, mites are not permanent residents on a chicken. At night, they travel from hiding places in the floor, walls, and nesting boxes, looking for a blood meal. To get rid of mites, you must first roll up your sleeves. Food-grade diatomaceous earth also works well on mites, but dusting each chicken is the last step. First, it is essential to clean the entire coop and chicken run. When both are clean and all the waste is properly disposed of, sprinkle everywhere with DE dust, including the walls. Check often for mites, repeating the process until there are no signs of mites.