Keeping a barn cat in the chicken coop?


10 Years
Mar 15, 2009
Camino, CA
This past year the rats have been pretty bad in our chicken house. I don't want to poison them though because we have several dogs and other animals that I defiinately do not want to have access to poison and i don't want to maintain traps. There is a program in our area that provides people with feral cats to be used for barn cats. I was wondering if anyone has ever tried this. Would I potentially have to worry about the cat(s) bothering my hens? Would it be better to get a kitten and raise it around the chickens... I just don't really want to end up with another lazy house cat and I want these darn rats gone.

Thanks for the input.
My dad has a barn cat that stays in the same barn as all of his birds. He has a flock that includes chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese... She is a great mouser, and has never bothered his birds at all, not even the babies.

But she was raised with them since she was a kitten, so that may affect things.

I would think you could easily find someone giving away kittens in your area, or adopt one from a local pound or SPCA that would be young enough to think of your birds as "family" and not "food"...

I would hesitate to bring an adult cat into the flock, because most cats will take birds as prey, given an opportunity.
I adopted a 5yr old barn cat from a local farm, she lived in the house for a month before she went outside for the first time. She is the best mouser(and ratter!) we have ever had! She's never bothered the birds or chicks, even when they were in the house in the brooder. She will run around the geese almost like she's playing with them because she knows they don't like her
. I think it depends on their personality some but momma cat needs to teach them too. My cat has trained a kitten i took in and also brings mice to the puppy trying to train her... Inky loves teaching her babies.

Then again, there's a VERY skittish stray tom cat that will come and sleep in my coop once in a while, he likes the dark duck nesting boxes... never bothered the babies either.

I think it's worth a try with the feral cat placement, most places will take them back if it doesnt work out. they usually require that you have a safe place(building or shed) to house them in for a little while before they get to free roam, that's also where they are fed so that they're easy to capture if they have to see the vet.
So far I've only spent the last couple years with chickens next door and around the neighborhood. But.. I do know cats.

Good mousers are trained by their mothers or an adopted sibling. All cats I have known, born indoors to a non-mouseing mother , and without a mentor at a very young age, have never learned to do more than be curious and all attempts to catch or play with the mice are just sad. I've had difficulty finding mousers here in the city, and did end up with a couple cats that never got the hang of it. My first great mouser and the guy I have now were living on their own surviving, so I got lucky twice.

This sounds like a perfect fit for most ferals. They have had to learn to catch their own meals. Even better would be a couple of feral siblings. Less fear and wandering off.

You say "In the coop". As long as your chickens are in a coop, the cats would be blocked from them, and have full access to the rats. They would have time to get used to the chickens, and you would see how it looks like it's going to work out. I would suggest not making that judgment call the first few days though.

Our neighborhood cats have all grown up with chickens, but my bad boy, working cat had never seen one. I worried and worried. Turned out they were only a mild curiosity for awhile, and he has'nt bothered to check them out for a long time now. He is a day sleeper for the most part and hunts starting as the sun begins going down. I have encouraged this by how I interact with him and food only appears on his hours. One bonus is wild birds have never been bothered either, what with their day shift. I do know of one feral colony and they seem to keep the same night shift hours as my cat.

So it all sounds doable, and the rescue people would be able to narrow the odds of you receiving the best choice for your job. Obviously cats are individuals, but I believe your absolutely on the right track. I am assuming city and country cats aren't really all that different ?
Last edited:
there is a big difference between a mouser and a ratter. most cats leave rats alone, al least large ones. Cats generally kill no more than they eat, so you wouldn't want to feed it. The best hunter is one with young to feed, but then you have lots of cats. You don't want a lazy male cat. Cats can and will kill young chickens, and eat eggs. Not to mention they are hard on native birds, if left to feed themselves. You are much better off trapping the critters, they make small live traps that work very well.
Not true.

My cat Scrapper is part ferel.His home is outside.We recently got him his rabie shots.He is pet-able.

He kills AND eats,mice,field rats,rats,baby bunnies,baby squirrels,chipmunks.We give him cat food to suppliment when no prey is around or when he just wants to piggy out.

He doesnt hunt birds.Too many endless feathers.
seen him kill some,but then just leaves them there.

Got him off craigslist for free.We were having mice and rat problems having the chickens.The lady who had him said she has 9 cats (4 indoor) and Scrapper almost bit the nose off the alpha male.

Lost him for a week durring the 4th of july because he was chasing some flusey female in heat.But came back and hasnt left.

Last night he iced a brown mouse in the yard.I went to go check the chickens and came back to him and he was licking his chomps clean.

But I love him
he a good boy!!!
Perhaps if you were to do some good gumshoe work and look for a free pair of farm raised barn kittens that had close contact with chicks and chickens. That way they would be likely to have been imprinted to both important factors... hunting skills and non-aggression towards poultry.

I sorta lucked out with my city kittens (they're cats now). The momma J.A.C. showed up with four babes that she was in the process of weaning. Completely feral the lot of them!! They lived out of the dumpsters in the neighborhood, and decided that my backyard was safe, daytime lounging grounds. I don't leave trash bins out, nor do I feed outside cuz I didn't want to draw that sort of population. My other half on the other hand, is a bigger sucker and he started taming them with food. Now we have 5 yard cats (ALL FIXED that was a mint) that are scrappers and hunters and little pigs for the cat food too-boot.

Well, at the same time we adopted the cats and had them all fixed, we started raising chickens. The kittens had already had a lot of hunting training from JAC (including snakes), and now they were in the garage with the chickens. They would circle the chickens like it was a platter with a feast on it... but they would just sit and watch. JAC never showed any inclination towards the chickens, and apart from some curious bats to the head, or playful roll and tumble, the kittens never did either. After another year of the kittens growing and becoming adept hunters of all things that move, I would not trust them around chicks. But I trust them implicitly around the chickens that are old enough to give them a good thump in the eye when one of them runs up to test the waters!

They're still pretty feral cats. Mike can touch all of them.... I can only touch JAC and one of the kittens. They are all scared of strangers. BUT they are GREAT hunters, I am always finding baby mice and mounds of feathers left on the sidewalk. Despite my less than secured food bins, that should at this point be over-run with rodents, I am not at war with mice in the garage or house.
I have a cat who I raised from a kitten indoors- taken from his momma too young (I rescued him from a bad situation as a 4 week old) so he never had anyone to teach him to hunt- but he is the best mouser, ratter, and gopher catcher I have ever seen. He is indoor/outdoor and has 24 hr access to cat food- it has not in any way stopped him from hunting and killing rodents- he just doesn't eat them- which is fine with me because I don't want him to get worms. There was a period of two weeks where he would leave a dead gopher on the front porch EVERY DAY. We used to joke about renting him out for gopher exterminating. I got chickens when my cat was already 2 years old, he was very interested in them as chicks, but as they grew he completely lost interest, now he lays around in the backyard while they are free ranging and barely even notices them.
I would say definitely give the feral cat program a try- most ferals are already accomplished hunters from living without humans.
I have three cats and they were all grown when I got my chicks. They were interested in them but didn't stalk them. Now that the chickens are full grown they like to watch them but the chickens will run them off if they come too close! I highly recommend getting a young male cat (neutered!) and let him have at it with the rats. My female doesn't go after mice or rats but my two males do. Even if they're not hungry (I feed my cats as much as they want with good Blue Buffalo) they will go after and kill the mice/rats.

JMO, but I think you'll be happy with a nice cat! Good luck!
Last edited:
I had a dog that loved to kill rats and other small rodents but never bothered the chickens. She didn't have to live in the coop with the chickens, but was always ready first thing in the morning for me to open the coop door so she could go hunting.

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom