Are rats the problem?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by thethreems, Dec 2, 2014.

  1. thethreems

    thethreems Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 17, 2012
    Hi all, need some advice with a problem we are really scratching our head about. Sorry also for the duplicate posting on this forum and the behavior forum, not sure which would be best.

    We have 6 hens all in excellent health, laying, no problems at all. They have a plastic hen house with plenty of room with an auto pop hole. 4 have had lived this house
    for over 2 years and 2 hens for about 8 months with no problems going into the run when the light is fading then going into the house before its dark and the door closes. We have had hens for about three and half years now.

    They are free range but kept in a large run when we are not around but they are mostly out and about. Not one of the girls perches on a night preferring to sleep on the house floor which has equine bedding which I have always used and is cleaned out each week.

    But over the past 6 weeks or so, not all the girls have been making it into the house before the door is down, some times one is out sometimes three, last night all 6 were in the house but tonight just spent another 10 mins getting them all in, yes all 6, not one went into the house....Im having to check each night to make sure they are in as it starting to get really cold.

    We really cannot figure out why, other than the dreaded rats are really scaring them. We have always had rats (were in the sticks) but not had problems with them other than trying to get under the house, which as it surrounded with metal plates so they cannot dig under.

    And recently found out the rats really dont like digging in stone chips so have plenty around the house. We have rat poison down in traps and its been eaten (the girls cannot get to it) but not seen any rats out and about.

    Oh and the feeder is an auto stand on one so the hens feed when they like but I do put a brick under at night to stop any rats feeding as they figured (as in the rats) out if 2 stand on the plate it opens, caught them doing that last year

    We have foxes, and other than that those and rats they are the only predators we have here. However today I found 2 eggs eaten in the run, the girls rarely eat the eggs as I take them out as soon as I can and none are left in the house, never ever had any in the run before.

    So whats stopping and really spooking the girls from going into the house?????

    Any idea/advice would be most welcome as Im getting concerned that they will get stressed
     
  2. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    Nov 23, 2010
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    Where do you live?

    The cold isn't the concern for them going in at night, it's being locked out with predators.
    If it weren't for predators, the chickens could stay outside right through the winter.
     
  3. thethreems

    thethreems Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 17, 2012
    Hi ChickenCanoe, we are in the North East of England, of course we dont get mass low temps at this time of year (for UK that is, but has been down to -14 here) and no snow at the moment! but even our local farm will not leave the hens out in the cold (are we getting too soft with them!?)

    The girls go into a big closed run after being free range during the day and the run door is secured so fox cannot get in or weasels (not many around here), then go into the hen house. We have made the run as predator proof as we can and have never had any problems before.
     
  4. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    IMO, it's unusual for adult hens not to roost. Not going in the coop could be lots of things. Fresh air being one.
    I have a friend with what seems a similar setup to yours. Nice coop, nice predator proof covered run. Her hens choose to roost in the pen and only go in the coop to eat and lay eggs. They've slept on a roost in the run for about 3 years. It was down to -19F (-28C) last winter.
     
  5. thethreems

    thethreems Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 17, 2012
    Yes I thought it was strange that none of the 11 hens we have had over the years have ever roosted in the house all sleep on the floor, just thought they felt quite safe doing so.

    They have plenty room in there and 2 large nesting boxes but this not going into the coop only started 6 weeks ago especially odd with the older hens.

    I have thought about more ventilation, maybe trying to find a way to keep the main lid open a little more. But even during the summer they all went in no problem.


    Really we are scratching out heads with this behavior, but really appreciate your comments and feedback, esp with regard to not worrying about leaving them out in our 'cold'
    weather!!!
     
  6. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    So you have 6 hens. How large are the ventilation openings? 1 sq. ft. per bird is recommended.

    How high are the roosts?
     
  7. thethreems

    thethreems Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 17, 2012
    Yes 6 hens in this house now, the ventilation comes from the large handles on the sides (to move the coop) 4 of them which we had to cover with chicken wire as something was getting in (left muddy prints into the house)

    this is the house which I use....with a large extended run and gives you an idea of the roosts


    http://www.durhamhens.co.uk/Durham Hen House.html
     

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