Rats and chickens have a complicated relationship. If you’ve noticed rats around your chicken coop, you may be worried that they pose a threat. So, will rats actually kill chickens? The short answer is yes, rats can and will kill chickens under certain circumstances.

However, it’s not always a simple black and white situation. In this detailed article, we’ll look at the complex factors that determine how rats and chickens interact.

Rats can kill chickens by spreading diseases, eating chicken feed, causing stress or trauma, and direct attacks. However, they usually only do so under specific conditions like overcrowding, hunger, or confinement in close quarters.

Healthy free-range chickens kept in sanitary coops are far less likely to fall victim to rats. Proper management and preventative measures can minimize the risks rats pose.

How Rats Pose a Threat to Chickens

While rats may seem harmless, they can actually pose a significant threat to chickens. Let’s take a closer look at how rats can cause problems for these feathered friends.

Spreading Diseases

Rats are known carriers of various diseases, and they can easily pass them on to chickens. Some of the diseases that rats can transmit to chickens include avian influenza, salmonella, and Newcastle disease. These diseases can cause severe illness and even death in chickens.

Therefore, it is crucial to keep rats away from chicken coops to prevent the spread of these harmful diseases.

Eating Feed

Rats have a voracious appetite and will not hesitate to feast on chicken feed. This can be a major concern for chicken owners, as it can lead to a shortage of food for the chickens. Not only does this impact the chickens’ nutrition, but it can also result in financial losses for the chicken owner.

It is essential to store chicken feed in secure containers to prevent rats from accessing it.

Causing Stress and Trauma

Rats are natural predators, and their presence can cause significant stress and trauma for chickens. The constant fear of being attacked can lead to reduced egg production, weight loss, and even death in extreme cases.

Chickens that are constantly on edge due to the presence of rats are more susceptible to illness and have a lower quality of life. It is crucial to create a safe and secure environment for chickens to minimize their stress levels.

Direct Attacks

In some cases, rats may directly attack chickens, especially when they are vulnerable, such as during the night or when they are brooding. Rats can bite and injure chickens, leading to wounds that can become infected. These attacks can be fatal if not treated promptly.

It is important to take measures to keep rats away from chicken coops and provide adequate protection for the chickens.

According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, rats are responsible for the deaths of thousands of chickens each year. Therefore, it is crucial for chicken owners to be proactive in preventing rat infestations to protect their flocks.

By understanding how rats pose a threat to chickens, chicken owners can take the necessary steps to ensure the safety and well-being of their feathered friends. From implementing pest control measures to maintaining clean and secure chicken coops, it is possible to create an environment where rats are unable to harm chickens.

To learn more about effective pest control measures and how to protect chickens from rat infestations, visit the Backyard Chickens website, a reliable source of information for chicken owners.

Circumstances Where Rats are Most Likely to Kill Chickens

Confined Living Conditions

In situations where chickens are kept in confined living conditions, such as small coops or cages, the risk of rat attacks increases. Rats are notorious for their ability to squeeze through small openings and can easily find their way into chicken enclosures.

Once inside, they may target chickens as a source of food or as a result of territorial behavior.


Overcrowding can also contribute to the likelihood of rat attacks on chickens. When there are too many chickens in a limited space, it creates an ideal environment for rats to thrive. Rats may view chickens as competition for resources, leading to aggressive behavior and potential attacks.

Hunger and Limited Food Sources

Rats are opportunistic feeders and will seek out any available food sources. If chickens are not provided with adequate food or if their food is not properly secured, it can attract rats to the area. In situations where rats are hungry and food is scarce, they may resort to attacking chickens as a source of sustenance.

Mother Rats Protecting Young

Mother rats are fiercely protective of their young and will go to great lengths to ensure their safety. If a rat feels that its offspring are threatened by chickens, it may become aggressive and attack in an attempt to eliminate the perceived threat.

This can be particularly common during nesting season.

Unhealthy or Wounded Chickens

Rats are more likely to target chickens that are weak, injured, or otherwise vulnerable. Unhealthy or wounded chickens may be easier for rats to catch and kill, making them attractive targets. It is important to regularly assess the health of chickens and provide appropriate medical care to prevent them from becoming easy prey for rats.

It’s important to note that while rats have been known to kill chickens, it is not a common occurrence in all situations. Taking preventative measures, such as securing chicken enclosures, providing adequate food and water, and maintaining a clean living environment, can greatly reduce the risk of rat attacks.

If you are experiencing issues with rats or have concerns about the safety of your chickens, it is recommended to consult with a pest control professional or seek guidance from agricultural extension services.

Preventative Measures and Solutions

Keep Coops and Surrounding Areas Clean

One of the most effective ways to prevent rats from targeting chickens is to maintain a clean and tidy coop and its surrounding areas. Rats are attracted to clutter and garbage, so regularly cleaning the coop and removing any food scraps or spilled feed will discourage them from sticking around.

Additionally, keeping the coop free from debris and ensuring that it is well-sealed can help prevent rats from gaining easy access.

Use Rodent-Proof Housing and Feeders

Investing in rodent-proof housing and feeders is another crucial step in preventing rat attacks on chickens. Rats are skilled at finding entry points, so it’s important to use sturdy materials and seal any gaps or holes that could serve as potential entryways.

This can include installing metal mesh around the coop’s foundation, using rat-proof feeders, and securing doors and windows with strong locks or latches.

Remove External Food and Water Sources

Rats are opportunistic feeders and will take advantage of any available food sources. To minimize the risk of attracting rats to your chicken coop, it’s important to remove external food and water sources.

This can include storing chicken feed in secure containers, cleaning up any spilled or leftover food promptly, and ensuring that water sources are not accessible to rats.

Keep Chickens Healthy and Reduce Stress

Healthy chickens are less likely to fall victim to rat attacks. By providing proper nutrition, regular veterinary care, and a clean and stress-free environment, you can help bolster your chickens’ immune systems and overall well-being.

Additionally, reducing stress factors such as overcrowding or excessive noise can help minimize the chances of rats being attracted to your coop.

Employ Natural Rodent Deterrents

There are several natural deterrents that can be used to keep rats away from your chicken coop. Planting mint, lavender, or other strong-smelling herbs around the coop can help repel rats due to their dislike for these scents.

Additionally, using motion-activated lights or ultrasonic devices can help deter rats by disrupting their normal patterns and making them feel less secure in the area.

Use Baited Traps and Poison as a Last Resort

If all preventive measures fail and you still have a rat problem, baited traps and poison can be used as a last resort. However, it is crucial to use these methods with caution and follow the instructions provided by manufacturers.

Place traps strategically in areas frequented by rats, and if using poison, ensure that it is inaccessible to chickens or other non-target animals. It’s also important to regularly check and dispose of trapped rats to prevent unpleasant odors or the spread of disease.

Signs of Rat Infestation and Chicken Predation

Seeing Live or Dead Rats

If you notice an increased presence of rats around your chicken coop or in your backyard, it could be a sign of rat infestation. Rats are nocturnal creatures, so you might not see them during the day. However, if you spot rats scurrying around your property or find dead rats, it’s a clear indication that you have a rat problem.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rats can transmit various diseases to humans, including Salmonellosis, Leptospirosis, and Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome. Therefore, it’s crucial to take immediate action if you suspect a rat infestation.

Tunnels and Burrows

Rats are skilled diggers and will create tunnels and burrows near your chicken coop. These underground pathways provide them with easy access to food and shelter. Keep an eye out for small holes in the ground around the coop, as well as disturbed soil or fresh dirt piles.

It’s important to note that rats can also burrow into the coop itself, compromising the safety of your chickens. Regularly inspect the coop for any signs of rat activity, such as chewed wood or droppings.

Damaged Eggs or Missing Chicks

If you’re finding damaged eggs or noticing a decrease in the number of chicks hatching, rats may be to blame. Rats are known to steal eggs and even prey on young chickens. They have sharp teeth that can easily break through eggshells and cause harm to chicks.

To protect your chickens, it’s essential to secure the coop and make sure there are no gaps or openings that rats can access. Additionally, consider using wire mesh or hardware cloth to cover nests and prevent rats from reaching the eggs.

Wounds or Illness in Chickens

Rats are not only egg thieves but can also attack adult chickens. If you notice wounds or signs of injury on your chickens, rats may be the culprits. These wounds can lead to infections and other health issues for your feathered friends.

Regularly check your chickens for any signs of illness or injury. If you suspect rat predation, it’s best to consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Chewed Feed Bags and Containers

Rats have a voracious appetite and will chew through feed bags, containers, and even plastic bins to access chicken feed. If you find chewed-up packaging or containers with gnaw marks, it’s a clear indication of rat activity.

To prevent rats from accessing the chicken feed, store it in sturdy, rat-proof containers. Metal containers with tight-fitting lids are an excellent option to keep your feed secure and prevent rat infestation.

Remember, rats can pose a threat to both your chickens and your own health. Taking proactive measures to prevent rat infestation and addressing any signs of predation is crucial for the well-being of your flock.

If you’re unsure about how to deal with rats or suspect a severe infestation, consider consulting a professional pest control service.

When to Call a Professional Exterminator

If you are facing a rat infestation in your chicken coop, it is important to know when to call a professional exterminator. While there are certain situations where you can handle the problem on your own, there are other instances where professional help is crucial.

Rat Population is Out of Control

If you notice that the rat population in your chicken coop is increasing rapidly and becoming difficult to manage, it is a clear indication that you need professional assistance. Rats are known for their ability to reproduce quickly, and if left unchecked, their numbers can multiply at an alarming rate.

In such cases, a professional exterminator can employ effective methods to control and eradicate the rat population.

Preventative Measures Have Failed

If you have already taken various preventive measures, such as sealing off entry points, using traps, and implementing proper sanitation practices, but the rat problem persists, it may be time to consult a professional exterminator.

They can assess the situation, identify any weaknesses in your current preventive measures, and implement more advanced strategies to eliminate the rats.

Signs of Serious Health Issues in Flock

If your flock is showing signs of serious health issues that may be caused by rats, it is crucial to seek professional help immediately. Rats can carry diseases, parasites, and bacteria that can be harmful to both chickens and humans.

If you notice any unusual symptoms or a decline in the overall health of your flock, it is important to have a professional exterminator evaluate the situation and take appropriate action to protect your chickens.

Rats Exhibit Unusual or Aggressive Behavior

If you observe rats displaying unusual or aggressive behavior, it is a definite sign that the situation requires professional intervention. Aggressive rats can pose a threat to both you and your chickens, and attempting to handle them on your own can be dangerous.

Professional exterminators have the necessary training and equipment to handle aggressive rats safely and effectively.

Want to Fully Eradicate Rat Threat

If you want to completely eradicate the rat threat from your chicken coop and ensure that they do not return, it is best to consult a professional exterminator. They have the knowledge and experience to not only eliminate the existing rat population but also implement long-term solutions to prevent future infestations.

Their expertise can help you achieve a rat-free and safe environment for your chickens.

When it comes to rat infestations in your chicken coop, it is important to prioritize the safety and well-being of your flock. Calling a professional exterminator when necessary can help you effectively manage the problem and protect your chickens from potential harm.


In summary, rats can be a dangerous nuisance to backyard and commercial chicken flocks when conditions allow. But a proactive integrated pest management approach can help control infestations. By understanding rat behavior and eliminating conditions that attract them, you can protect your chickens’ health and safety.

With proper preventative measures, rats and chickens can peacefully coexist on farms and homesteads.

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