|photo source: flickr|
Soft bedding on the floor, a convenient food source, a water source, and if your coop is inside an enclosed run, safety from predators. Although chickens will sometimes kill and eat mice if they find them, once the chickens are asleep, the mice are free to come and go at will.
Why are mice in your coop so bad? Chickens sleep extremely soundly and it's not unheard of for mice and rats to literally chew on chickens' feathers and feet, or pull out feathers to use for nest bedding while the hens sleep, so for this reason as well as the diseases and parasites rodents can carry, you certainly don't want mice in your coop!
It's a good idea to 'listen' to your flock. The presence of rodents can stress them. That can lead to a drop in egg production - rats will also steal eggs, another tipoff. If all of a sudden your chickens seem to not want to go to roost in the coop at night, there's probably a good reason why not. Never force them in. Instead try and figure out why.
Check the corners, raking the bedding away, and also check all the nesting boxes. If you do find rodents (or evidence of rodents) there are a couple of things you can do.
Evidence of mice gaining access to the run and feed:
NOTE: We DO NOT recommend putting out traps or poison for obvious reasons. There's just too much chance of the chickens or another animal being harmed by accident. Instead we recommend taking these preventative measures:
1) No Openings Larger than 1/2" - Mice, as well as snakes and weasels, can get through a hole as small as one inch. Staple 1/2" hardware cloth over all the windows and vents in your coop and be sure all other holes are plugged.
2) Plant Mint - Mint is a natural rodent repellent. They have a very keen sense of smell and don't like strong aromatic scents, so try planting some mint around the coop and run. Sprinkle fresh or dried mint in the coop and nesting boxes. (I also make an all natural lavender mint spray that I use as a coop refresher and rodent repellent.)
3) Get a Barn Cat - Our cat does a great job of keeping our barn and chicken yard free of rodents. He doesn't generally have access to the run, but just his presence around the perimeter is a deterrent. A dog can have the same effect if it spends time around your chicken yard.
4) Don't Leave Feed in the Coop - Chickens can't see well in the dark anyway, so they don't eat at night. Remove the feed from the coop to remove rodents' food source, or cover the feeders to prevent access.
5) Make The Roosts Wider - To prevent rodents from chewing on your hens' feet at least, replace your roosting bars with 2x4's with the 4" side facing up. This way the chicken's feet are not exposed - covered by their bodies from the top and the board on the bottom. Having a wider roost also prevents frost bite, so a wider roost is recommended regardless. (Chickens don't necessarily need to curl their feet like wild birds when they sleep, and actually prefer to sleep flat-footed)
6) Use pine needles or shavings or put pine boughs in your coop - Rodents dislike the scent of pine. Pine boughs will be the most effective of course, but pine shavings might help mice decide they don't want to bed down on the floor.
Making these few small changes can make your coop inhospitable for local rodents who hopefully will find another place to call home.
|~photo source: pinterest~|