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Keep Rodents out of your Chicken Coop without Traps or Poison

When the cold weather arrives, rodents start looking for a warm safe spot to spend the winter. Don't let them make your chicken coop their home.

This is the time of year when the temperatures are dropping and the field mice and rats are looking for a nice warm, safe place to spend the winter as well as a readily available food source nearby. 

Your chicken coop is looking pretty good to them right about now. It's filled with soft bedding, chicken feed, and protects the rodents from predators like weasels, mink and fox who enjoy a little mouse snack!

Keep Rodents out of your Chicken Coop without Traps or Poison

A couple of small field mice in your chicken coop might not seem like a big deal, but it's actually a pretty bad idea to let them live around your chickens.

Why Rodents in the Chicken Coop are Bad 

Mice and other rodents not only can carry disease and contaminate the area with their droppings, they can transmit lice, mites or ticks to your chickens, and they will eat your chicken feed and chew all kinds of things you don't want them to.

If you have your chicken coop wired for electricity, the mice can get into the walls and chew the electric wires, leading to a fire.

Not only that, often snakes, weasels or other varmints will travel using the tunnels mice dig - and that's the last thing you want. So ridding your coop and run area of mice is really important.


Signs that you Might Have a Rodent Problem

Besides holes and tunnels in and around your chicken coop and run, there are some other signs that you might have a problem with rodents getting in or trying to make your chicken coop their home. Signs that you might have a rodent problem include:

  • round 2-3" holes and tunnels in the ground around your chicken coop and run
  • piles of fresh dirt around the chicken coop and run
  • chewed cords and wires
  • rodent droppings (the example below is rat droppings)
  • round holes chewed in feed bags
  • items knocked off shelves 
  • missing eggs (or baby chicks)
  • eggs moved from the nesting boxes to the floor or ground
  • rustling noises when you approach after dark
Since most rodents tend to be nocturnal, you might not actually see any moving around during the day, but putting up trail cams can catch them after dark.


Don't Use Traps or Poison

Of course using poisons or traps isn't really feasible around your chickens or other pets. Poisons are especially bad because often hawks, eagles or owls will eat a mouse that has been poisoned and lose its life in the process.

While I'm no fan of aerial raptors, I certainly don't want them to die a slow death from poison.

And a regular spring-loaded mousetrap is too much of a danger to your chickens or other pets. However, as an alternative you can try setting up a Hav-a-Hart or similar humane mouse trap.

The most effective foods to bait a mouse trap with include:

  • peanut butter
  • cheese
  • grains
  • wet cat food
  • chocolate
  • seeds
  • nuts
  • marshmallows
  • gum drops
  • jam
  • deli meat
  • hard-boiled eggs

Rodents caught in the humane trap will then need to be relocated far from the chicken coop or otherwise disposed of. 


Don't Chickens Eat Mice?

But, by now you're thinking, "but my chickens catch and eat mice." And you would be right. Chickens are omnivores, which means they'll eat almost anything, including mice (another reason why you NEVER want to use rat poison when you raise chickens).

But the only problem with thinking you're going to use your chickens for rodent control is that mice and rats are mostly nocturnal, and as you know, chickens can't see very well in the dark - and plus, I hope that they're safely locked up in their coop at dusk. Once they go to roost, they tuck their head under a wing, and it's lights out for them.

And that's when the mice emerge from whatever nook and cranny they have bedded down in for the day. The rodents, hidden from sight, are pretty safe in your coop during the day. Chickens don't smell their "prey". Chickens have a pretty poor sense of smell actually. They find food by sight.


Cats are Great for Keeping Rodents out of your Chicken Coop

A chicken can run a whopping nine miles an hour, compared to the land speed race record of 8 miles an hour held by the lowly field mouse (a rat can also run 8 miles an hour). So a footrace between a chicken and a mouse would be close.

Now compare that to the almost 30 miles an hour your average house cat can run, and you can see why having that barn cat is so important on a farm!

Our cat Linus is 16 years old and spends his days roaming our property looking for mice to eat. He sleeps in the house to keep him safe from the coyotes and owls and fox in the woods, but he sure puts his time outside to good use.

Even at his advanced age, he still catches his share of mice. He knows all their favorite hiding spots! 

If you don't have a cat, sprinkling or spraying coyote pee  or fox pee (yes, you read that right!) where you see signs of rodents can help to deter them. 

Mice will smell the urine and believe that there's danger from a predator they fear nearby.

Rodents and their Sense of Smell 

Mice and rats have terrible eyesight, so instead they use their noses to sniff out food. They also use their sense of smell to detect predators and other threats.

Because their eyesight is so bad, they actually have a crazy strong sense of smell to compensate. They use pheromones, or scent markers, to locate feed, communicate with each other,  navigate and find their way around, and of course sniff out predators. So-called "background odors" interfere with all of these activities.

And this is the key to keeping rodents out of your chicken coop. Mess with their sense of smell and they'll likely find another place to stay.

It's All About Food and Lodging

Of course you need to remove the initial lure of your coop first. The mice are looking for two things when they consider a suitable winter home: food and lodging. Remove those and they'll likely move out with little encouragement.

I never feed my chickens in the coop. All the feed and water stays outside year round. I dump out the water tubs and pick up (or cover up) the feed when I lock the chickens up for the night.  I store all their feed and treats in covered metal pails. Therefore, there's no food for the mice in the vicinity.

Now for the lodging part. Rodents, like other animals, need to feel that the place they choose for a home - to sleep in and raise offspring - is safe and secure.  By introducing strong, overpowering scents to your coop, you mess with the mouse's sense of smell.

If a rodent feels it can't adequately use its sense of smell to know when a predator is lurking, it's not going to feel that's a safe place to bed down, congregate or raise their young. (And remember, since chickens don't have a strong sense of smell, the scents won't bother them.)


Add Some Mint to the Equation

Scents that are especially effective in repelling mice are balsam or pine, citrus, rosemary, lavender and mint. Since mint grows like a weed and is a perennial in much if not all of the country, I focus on planting mint all around my coop: in the flower beds, in containers and in the window boxes.

Mint in the Coop and Run

I also regularly toss fresh mint leaves into my chicken coop and the nesting boxes. I also dry lots of mint to use in the coop through the winter and like to make this lavender mint coop refresh spray.

Peppermint essential oil is a good solution if you don't grow mint, or if its the off season. Saturate cotton balls and stuff them down any mouse or rat holes you find in or around the run. 

Then use a screwdriver or long stick to push crumpled balls of aluminum foil into the holes. Be sure they're pushed down far enough that the chickens can't yank them out. I doubt a chicken would eat it, but best not to take any chances.

Mint and Cayenne in the Chicken Feed

Rodents also don't like the taste of mint, nor do they like cayenne pepper. Chickens don't have the taste receptors for "heat", so they won't be bothered if you add a sprinkle of cayenne pepper to your chicken feed.

Adding some dried mint leaves and cayenne pepper to your chicken feed - just a sprinkle of each - should also help keep mice out of the feed.

Especially in the winter, cayenne is actually beneficial to your flock because it helps improve circulation, which can reduce the chances of frostbitten combs and wattles.



There are also some commercial all natural, safe herbal mouse repellent products available that I've used with varying success, including: 

Fresh Cab

Grandpa Gus

Mouse Magic


Maybe mint works to keep mice out of my coop and run and maybe it doesn't. But it's free, easy and safe. And since I've been using mint in my chicken keeping (somewhere around 2011 I guess?), I haven't seen a single mouse in our coop. So you be the judge.



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