Gruesome, I know. I don’t like looking at it any more than you do.
So here’s the deal. Rats are everywhere. If you think you don’t have them… you likely do. I’d bet money on it. Not too much though, I’ve got rat traps to buy.
When I first started this foray into keeping chickens, I faced a lot of criticism and concern over rats. There’s this misconception that chickens attract rats, which is patently untrue. Rats are attracted to food, plain and simple. Chickens are NOT food for rats, as a full grown hen is a formidable force and could easily kill and eat those little guys in the pic (not the big honkin’ one on the right hand side). As such, part of our ordinance dictates how you store feed for your chickens- always enclosed, always in a rat proof container. It’s essential that this is followed, and essential that your coop is built in a way that keeps rats OUT.
So, if I’m following all those rules, why am I catching rats in my backyard?
The short answer is because rats are finding food and shelter elsewhere. They are NOT in my chicken coop, and not eating my chicken feed. Rats can travel up to 300ft every night in search of food – that’s a lot of opportunity across the area. Possible sources of food include:
- dog poo
- bird seed
- tree seeds
- vegetables from urban gardens
- trash (residential & commercial)
- soy based plastic (found on auto wires)
- tree fruit
- tree nuts
- grease traps outside restaurants
- dumpster drippings
- anything else edible
Note, for clarity: chickens do NOT attract rats (they actually predate rats) and chicken waste does not attract rats (chickens process food efficiently enough that the waste isn’t attractive like dog waste is).
These suckers are tenacious, and I’ve been quietly catching them throughout the neighborhood since I’ve gotten chickens. I feel a personal responsibility to keep the population down, since I repeated ad nauseum that getting chickens wouldn’t bring rats into the city. I stand by that, and data is backing me up. The rat issue is far more widespread than I imagined. Data points are from 8/10-8/23/2016.
That’s a LOT of rats. Yellow is a sighting, blue is a burrow or evidence, and red is a kill. People have said for years that they think they’re concentrated around the train line, and that’s clearly inaccurate. They are everywhere, not just by the train line, not just downtown by the restaurants. And these are just the ones being reported, by the people who know about the reporting form.
Update 2018: I’ve been making the rounds across SE MI lecturing about rats. During the past few years I’ve killed thousands (estimated, since I don’t get an exact count when they get killed in burrows). Ferndale Rat Patrol is going strong, and neighbors are helping neighbors, with the end result being far less rats than I’ve seen in previous years.
Here’s the live link to my presentation: