It turns out that the age-old question of “Why did the chicken cross the road?” has, in all likelihood, been answered within the larger scope of farm life. Indeed, it would appear from my most recent research that our jaywalking poultry is probably crossing the roadway to nab up a tasty mouse that managed to catch its attention.
Indeed, when we think about our backyard chicken population, we rarely think of them as stealthy killers, and it turns out they are more spastic than stealthy, but the mouse that ignores the chicken’s interest does so decidedly at its own peril.
Chickens will eat mice when given the opportunity. Indeed, as opportunistic omnivores, chickens will, by and large, eat anything that they can fit inside its beak, and that includes any rodents that might happen into their coop, run, or pasture in the event of free-range chickens. As such, chickens eating mice is a perfectly normal event in chicken coops across the country.
What Brings Rodent and Chickens Together?
The common denominator bringing foul mice and fowl chicken together is the chicken feed that draws the rodent in for relatively easy pickings when it comes to finding a seemingly free meal. Additionally, once inside the chicken coup, the enterprising rodent might attempt to abscond with the momentarily neglected or untended egg should an opportunity present itself.
The savvy reader will probably note the “seemingly” aspect of the aforementioned free meal. It is important to remember that in nature, an easy meal is not necessarily a safe meal to procure, and for an animal always alert for a possible snack at the end of its pecking beak, chickens can provide a serious downer for the dining plans of any mouse or rat thinking of dining at the local chicken coop.
That’s because the slightest misstep on the mouse’s behalf might garner the unwanted attention of the nearest hungry chicken. As such, you can imagine the mouse’s carefully crafted plan quickly go pear-shaped in the event the entire chicken community gets riled up at the idea of an uneaten mouse in their midst.
The Mechanics of Eating a Mouse
As mentioned above, chickens will eat just about anything. Once, on a visit to friends in the Portland, Oregon area, we were warned off from eating their chicken’s eggs owing to their penchant for eating cigarette butts thrown over their fence by bar patrons patronizing the establishment that abutted on their back fence. As I watched a Buff Orpington develop a significant nicotine addiction along the back fence, I marveled at the chicken’s willingness to eat just about anything.
This brings us to the mice.
As mentioned, a chicken will be more than willing to eat a mouse, and the mechanics of the deed are pretty straight forward, albeit disturbing. On the main question, if the bird can get the mouse inside its beak, the mouse will not have much of a future in show business or any other endeavor.
Additionally, it is truly an instance of “size matters” when it comes to the gristly details of whether your bird is likely to swallow the interloper whole or will take the time to rip it to shreds prior to consuming the newly surprising meal. As one might imagine, a baby mouse is likely to be swallowed whole while its chunkier brethren might be in for a rough time relative to being torn asunder as part of the chicken’s festivities.
Exactly HOW Gross is Eating Mice?
It’s pretty gross. That being said, however, you do not necessarily need to worry about your chicken’s mouse habit as they rarely show adverse effects. In fact, unless the rodent was sick or diseased, its passing (through your chicken) will probably not impact the bird’s health.
As any seasoned chicken farmer will point out, however, you rarely get the chance to examine the mouse’s health status before the start of the ruckus, and there is typically nothing left to see after chicken feathers have settled and the mouse is little more than a memory.
Those seasoned chicken farmers are absolutely correct.
Mice rarely hang out by themselves outside the animated Disney classic, so it would be likely that you might see an uptick in the rodent population, which might present a picture of the population’s overall health.
That being said, however, rodents are nocturnal creatures is difficult outside of an elaborate waiting ritual that may dwarf the efforts of Linus to meet the Great Pumpkin during Halloween.
Still, eating mice is pretty gross, and while a mouse nugget might be tantalizing for chickens, you might want to give your chickens a hand in controlling that population should you note an infestation.
Helping Your Chickens Control their Mouse Population
Since an available supply of food is the obvious draw for rodents, ensuring that your chicken feed is safely stored against the gnawing incisors of the standard house mouse is your best first line of defense.
Heavy plastic or metal buckets with sealable lids are ideal for this purpose. Further, moving the buckets away from the proximity of the coop should serve to lessen the chances of chicken on mouse violence in the hen house.
Rodent Proofing the Chicken Coop
For stronger measures, you may need to consider pulling out the tool belt and rodent-proof the chicken coop. This can prove a challenge. Anyone who has ever battled a being that has the ability to pancake itself into the size of a quarter has their work cut out for them in the best of circumstances.
Before calling in the big pancake guns from IHOP, however, consider implementing these steps as a way of ensuring that you have done what you can with the tools at your disposal.
Build Barriers—to discourage rodent entry. This means fixing doors, holes in floors, and sagging joints that might allow access. Attaching metal strips to those portions of the coop that meet, such as the floor and wall, will go a long way towards limiting access to your chickens.
Keep a Clean Coop—to discourage rodents, particularly rats, from moving in and setting up shop. Typical burrows include stacks of food and other debris, as well as removing grain bags and other potential hiding spots.
Portion Control—is important to remove the amount of available amount of feed to incite the rodents in the first place. By limiting the amount of food, your chickens can have at any given time means less overall wastage and general attractiveness to prowling mice and rats.
Manage Your Water Supply—by removing the water at night and replacing it in the morning. Ready supplies of water prove inviting to rodents looking for moisture during the dry and hot months. This also has the advantage of removing standing water that serves as a bug abatement measure.
Setting Snap Traps—is an excellent way to remove large numbers of animals at a time in the case of infestation. While rats may be wary of new things in their territory, mice will generally freely enter the trap to be captured in larger groups for removal from your coop. As rodents prefer to scurry about the walls and baseboards, setting these traps along these avenues of travel can quickly reduce your rodent population.
Poison—is the last resort for many owing to their concern for the health of their flock, other animals, and the danger of children accidentally ingesting some of the agents. Utilizing a poison containment box, however, removes much of this risk.
Colony Traps—are an excellent method for trapping and removing large numbers of animals at one time. Colony traps are multi-catch devices that allow the capture of more than one mouse at a time. Equipped with an entry hole on one side and managed by a one-way door, these devices work 24/7 with very little maintenance. While rats may be hesitant to enter the colony trap initially, mice will freely queue up to see what the fuss might be in their territory.
Contact a Professional—should your measures prove unequal to the task of handling your rodent infestation. The National Pest Management Association operates a website you can access for a detailed listing of pest management experts in your area. These professionals can enact a removal plan that considers your entire backyard ecosystem as it relates to secondary poisoning and the overall effectiveness of your rodent removal plan.
Rodent proofing your chicken’s coop, run, and pastures can appear a daunting task, and this is particularly true of a larger infestation. That being said, however, when it comes to eliminating unwanted mice and rats, you have a willing partner in your flock itself, which has proven itself more than capable of dispatching the occasionally errant rodent in your chicken coop.
It turns out that chickens do eat mice, along with just about anything else that might fit within the confines of its beak, so you do not need to worry about the occasional wayward mouse as your flock will certainly police its own area and punish any interlopers.
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