Tracks

4-toed front and 5-toed back prints.
Rat map

The Rat

Rats are medium-sized, long-tailed rodents which have razor sharp teeth. They are a common pest anywhere there is food made available to them. They are a particular problem anywhere where poultry are kept, due to physical damage they cause to the structures and environment, contamination of the environment with harmful disease-causing pathogens, and threat to baby chickens, ducks and other poultry, eggs, and sometimes adult chickens. Rats also serve as an attraction to snakes. There are many different species of rats, which differ in their appearance, geographic region, habitat, and behavior. Some common rat species that bother poultry include:
  • Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus)
  • Polynesian rat (Rattus exulans)
  • Australian swamp rat (Rattus lutreolus)
  • House rat (Rattus rattus)
  • Rice-field rat (Rattus argentiventer )
Rats are responsible for many disease outbreaks, as they serve a a vector for a number of harmful pathogens including numerous parasites, protozoa, bacteria, and viruses. Rodents can transmit as many as 35 different disease that affect humans as well as other domestic animals. They often carry Salmonella and carry parasites such as lice, mites, and fleas.

Habitat
Rats build their nests in a variety of locations--such as within deep vegetation, in sewers, open fields and woodlands, basements, under dry manure, into deep litter, inside hollow walls, into insulation in walls and ceilings, into dirt floors, beneath the edges of sidewalks or patios, and pretty much anywhere that provides food and shelter. Rats usually occupy an area of about 50 to 100 m (164 to 328 ft) in diameter. Holes made by Norway rats tend to be 2 to 3 inches wide and appear smooth from repeated use.

Behavior
Rats are secretive and predominately nocturnal and often active at dusk. They are excellent foragers and are omnivores. Rats may exhibit aggressive behavior when threatened; they may fight, chase, bite or box.

Exclusion

Close up openings : All openings to poultry houses should have closures that fit tightly and they should always be closed. Also, rodent-proof drains or spaces around pipes and exhaust fans. Any openings needed for ventilation should be screened or rodent-proofed.

Remove rat hiding spots : Relocate any wood piles or junk that rats can hide in.

Keep landscape well-trimmed : Mow grass regularly to prevent tall grass or weeds.

Remove food sources : only feed chickens what they need, any leftover feed that was not eaten during the day should be discarded. Collect any eggs promptly, and don't leave in coops overnight.

Keep area clean : Any spilled feed should be cleaned up

Fencing : use weld mesh instead of chicken wire, as weld mesh is far stronger and cannot be pulled out of shape or bitten through as easily as chicken wire can be.

Plant deterrents : Plant peppermint, spearmint, sagebrush, balsam fir, hyacinth, daffodils, cayenne, oregano, or black pepper may help repel rats from the premises.

References

  1. Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage. Editors, Scott E. Hygnstrom, Robert M. Timm, Gary E. Larson. 1994. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 2 vols.
  2. Cabi.org,. (2014). Rattus norvegicus. Retrieved 18 December 2014, from http://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/46829
  3. Extension.missouri.edu,. (2014). Retrieved 18 December 2014, from http://extension.missouri.edu/p/G9446
  4. Extension.org,. (2014). Rodent Proof Construction - eXtension. Retrieved 18 December 2014, from http://www.extension.org/pages/11132/rodent-proof-construction#.VIo5MTHF98E
  5. Ipm.ucdavis.edu,. (2014). Rat Management Guidelines--UC IPM. Retrieved 18 December 2014, from http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74106.html
  6. Wdfw.wa.gov,. (2014). Rats - Living with Wildlife. Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife. Retrieved 18 December 2014, from http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/rats.html
  7. http://www.orkin.com/rodents/rats/rat-habitat/