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Rates and Mice = Weasels / Skunks / Snakes?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Howard E, Mar 16, 2017.

  1. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    For those of you who have had issues with weasels, skunks and snakes hanging around and inside your coops, prior to that, did you also have issues with rats and mice? We might also need to add cats to that list.
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2017
  2. trifecta

    trifecta Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Can't say anything about weasels and skunks, but down here we have lots and lots and lots of snakes.

    They are definitely attracted to rodents. I think the chooks are just an easy sidebar meal. Last year I had a large 3+ meter brown snake chase/try to kill my 10ish week old pullets and we frequently saw brown snakes and red bellied blacks in the yard. After that, we went on snake rampage- we removed large portions of overgrown hedge, baited for rats (we knew they were a problem- not in the coop but around the house, eww), and made our coop with the ultrafine snake/mouse proof hardware cloth. Also switched over to a treadle feeder. FWIW I don't really have a gripe with snakes- but all the ones I have seen are incredibly venomous, and they have 2000 acres of pasture they can live in- I just try to discourage them from living near the house. I would like to switch our compost pile over to a fully sealed unit to help with rodents but then we can't have the girls till it up. So I left it for now.

    This year, we lost 3 chicks out of a total of 20ish raised. Fairly certain one was lost to a snake- Duckie the araucana was about 8 weeks old and would squeeze out of the fence to go wander on his own- problematic as he had such a fluffy head he had trouble seeing anything.. He was suddenly missing one day, no evidence of feather pile,etc- just gone. Also lost 2 smaller chicks similarly (but hard to say- they were small enough they could have met their demise many different ways).

    I have only seen 1 snake in the yard this year, but found a HUGE shed under the house- so I believe the big brown snake is still hanging out. Based on the number of snakes we saw last year, vegetation control + rodent control significantly reduced our snake problem. I have not seen any pythons at the house yet, but they are notorious for getting into the coop, eating all the chooks, and then being too fat to get out the hole they snuck into. Total snake elimination for us is unrealistic as we live on a large farm with a high number of snakes (we knew this before we moved to the property) and ideal habitat for them.
     
  3. Folly's place

    Folly's place Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    Here snakes have not been a problem; we see some non-poisonous small rodent catching types, and our one rattler is small and rare. Keeping rodents down is a constant problem, and recently we had rats in the coop, a very bad situation. They are gone, along with many mice. My barn cat works at it, but is afraid of the chickens, and can't be locked in the coop at night. Weasels, skunks, raccoons, and foxes, also hawks, are our major predators, with dogs being a random (large!) threat. Hardware cloth, a safe coop and run, and free ranging when possible, minimizes issues here. We never have food outside of the coop and run, and will set traps if needed. Right now I've got a bait station outside for those rats, but try to nearly never use one. Mary
     
  4. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I edited the thread title and here is what I'm thinking. When you look into the natural prey of varmints like weasels (and the cousins), skunks, snakes, etc. what you find is their number 1 prey is often rats and mice. For weasels, they say that rats, mice, moles. gophers, etc. make up nearly 90% plus of all they eat. If not for their nature of killing our birds, some might think the best thing you could have for a rat infestation would be a pack of weasels descending upon them.

    Same for snakes, etc. Skunks are said to be efficient mousers on par or better than cats.

    So it could be that these same predators that attack our birds to not arrive looking for birds, but instead are following the scent of rats and mice hanging around the coop, but being opportunistic killers, it is easy for them to transition to our birds. If all this is true, then it could be the best way to keep them at a distance is not to attract them in the first place, and that means we need to be vigilant with rats and mice.

    So that means things like rat proof feeders, treadle feeders, feeding only in the day and keeping stored feed locked up safe somewhere.

    But back to my original question.......for those of you who have had problems with these predators, prior to those bad guys showing up, did you also have problems with rats and mice that might have lead to the predators being attracted to your coop?
     
  5. trifecta

    trifecta Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yes. I wholeheartedly agree that 50% (or more) of the reason that we had so many snakes last year was due to rodents around the house. We did not have rats in the coop but did have them in the attic which attracted snakes near our home.

    Only once have I seen a snake actually stalk my chickens- they were free ranging out into the paddock. Otherwise I think its an opportunistic grab. However, I am concerned that once they learn its an easy meal (thinking pythons at night here) they will return- just like any other species looking for food.

    Our rodent control measures were to switch to a treadle feeder. We store our feed in a large coleman 5-day cooler so the rodents can't chew through the bags. Prior to the treadle feeder, I was taking up the gravity feeder at night, but there always is some spillage and I just felt like we were still feeding the rodents. Right now I'm waiting to see if the problem returns as the birds I have in quarantine just have a regular hanging feeder, so there always seems to be some spilled feed around. I try to only hang what I think they should eat in a day but some always ends up on the ground. The treadle feeder was a bit of a painful investment, but honestly its one of the best things I've bought for the birds due to the cost savings on feed. Periodically this year I've had to hang up their old feeder for various reasons (largely due to introducing young stock) and I noticed that they tend to eat out of the hanging feeder "just because" its right their in front of their faces. With the treadle feeder they seem to forage more, plus I'm not feeding anything other than my chooks with it.

    The only downside that I've experienced with the treadle feeder (other than cost) was that on one occasion it sunk a bit into the mud after a hard rain and the plate got stuck. Of course this happened when we were away on vacation for 10 days, and I had an inexperienced chicken sitter who didn't realize that the birds were unable to get to their feed. So, lesson learned, will definitely explain how it works to anyone that chicken sits for us in the future. The ordeal cost me a month of eggs (basically a force molt for my year old pullets that were laying great) and the life of one of my girls, who developed sour crop after reintroducing feed. I'm grateful that was the extent of the damage thinking about how bad it could be- most of the girls were smart enough to fly out of their electronet run to go forage in the yard for what they needed.

    We also heavily baited our attic and under the house- I really like the weatherproof wax blocks. I kept the chickens penned up for the month of baiting/dead rodent clean up as I didn't want to risk them coming across any blocks that might get dragged off. Also its possible for them to develop relay toxicity from eating the rodent carcasses (eww, but chickens seem to eat anything).
     
  6. yellowflower

    yellowflower Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I also agree, that rats in peticular attrack other predators. I've had chickens for 10 yrs and used welded wire and chicken wire for there run which was always covered. I have a camper as their coop. I had a lot of dogs when I first got them. Shepherds... some penned and some loose. And I had an extra fence around the coop and run. Never had any issues until last yr. A raccoon was getting into my run and eating the feed. Only the feed, he never touched a chicken. So I patched all the holes and they left finally. Then I start seeing rats and they were making holes into the run to feed on the dropped feed and I even saw them during the day. Then I found they were getting into the coop which I thought was full proof as it was metal. Well, they got in and I was working on erradicating them when I mink came and within 3 days he wiped out my small flock of chickens. mostly silkies. I do believe that the rats were the attractant at first and then the chickens were there to grab. I also saw a bobcat right up by my coop in the last month before the slaughter so yes again. The rats. The feral cat took care of the mice but not the rats.

    So the camper is going and my new coop and run will be fortified with hardware cloth and electric wire. There is nothing more devastating than to open your coop door to see all your chickens dead. :(
     

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