NFU Mutual Smallholding Insurance

Author Topic: Rats and Chicks  (Read 740 times)


  • Joined Dec 2018
Rats and Chicks
« on: December 30, 2018, 10:22:20 pm »
Hi All

I am looking at getting chickens again and I am considering hatching eggs this time rather than POL.  I have been doing some research about this and I am a little confused about the best way to deal with the period from when they can be inside in a box to when they are ready for their hen house outside with electric fence enclosure.

I am worried about rats - both attracting rats with the chicks being messy with food and also them potentially getting in and killing the chicks.

I have a couple of outside shed options but neither I would say is completely rat proof.  We are rural and our close neighbours have a lot of chickens so I suspect there are plenty of rats around.

what age could they go into permanent housing and at what age could they have the electric fence on?  I am in no hurry so when would be the best time weather wise to get started?

Does anyone have any clever cheap rat proof options?

Sorry lots of questions I know but I can't get my head around the best course of action.

Thanks so much for reading
Voss Electric Fence


  • Joined Oct 2018
Re: Rats and Chicks
« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2019, 09:35:44 pm »
Hello :)

Nothing is completely rat proof unless it is all metal. Could you live with them inside your house?? That could be the only option for you. there may not be a lot of rats around, if the neighbours are particular about sanity and feed storage it may not be a big issue.
Once they are off heat 6-8 weeks or more they can go outside. weather depending i would wait until the spring. April time is about right for hatching to have them off heat by May. The best/strongest chicks grow with the sun :thumbsup:

electric fencing at abt 12 wks

hope this helps


  • Joined Dec 2011
  • Gascony, France
Re: Rats and Chicks
« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2019, 09:43:16 am »
You need some flexibility as it all depends on the weather at the time. We moved ours from the house at 2 weeks into a heated trailer (lamp and electric hen), simply because of the feather dust they generate. They stayed in there until 6 weeks, although they did have warm days out after 4 weeks- we have sheltered runs made from 12mm weld mesh.

Rats are potentially a big problem, which is why we built the special runs in England, having heard so many cases of chicks being taken. This is where a broody hen works well and is what they do here- put day old chicks under a broody and let her rear and protect them.

Yes they do grow best in sun and they also do well listening to Classical music during the day- don't know why but we've tried it and it is true (must be classical).

I think though Baggins11, unless you are going to be hatching and rearing regularly, it's a big investment for little return. Remember at least half your hatch will be males and you need to be able to dispose of them. Hatchers or power supplies can fail and you will need a backup and an alarm.


  • Joined Dec 2018
Re: Rats and Chicks
« Reply #3 on: January 05, 2019, 06:38:28 pm »
Thanks to both of you that is a lot to think about.

I do think there will be rats around as the neighbours set up looks like a haven for rats!

I have already thought through the implications of hatching males but thanks for mentioning it.

I think I need to think about the costs v return as I might sell a few hens but probably not enough to make it financially worthwhile.  Also I don't know the demand for hens in the area.

Thanks again  ;D


  • Joined Aug 2012
  • Clackmannanshire
  • Qui? Moi?
    • ABERDON GUNDOGS for work and show
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Re: Rats and Chicks
« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2019, 02:03:24 pm »
Market research is the first thing they teach you in business studies - well worth checking first. 

There's always a market for free range eggs, even if it's just a top up from the supermarket ones - at the right price for your area.  Check that out

Very many people think that cages for hens have been banned sompletely - they are always very surprised to find out they still exist, although enlarged and better managed.  So promoting free range always helps - a sign at teh gate before you start selling eggs. 

You could have a dual purpose breed - less eggs but good meat, also promoting free range.

Get your pricing right too before you start - again market research needed.

Good luck with the fox thing - more and more people in towns are feeding them in the mistaken belief it stops them killing for food - such a fallacy.
Always have been, always will be, a WYSIWYG - black is black, white is white - no grey in my life! But I'm mellowing in my old age


  • Joined Dec 2018
Re: Rats and Chicks
« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2019, 05:39:55 pm »
Yes I totally agree about foxes. I am not sure we have many around as our dog is a roller and has only found what I think is badger poo so far. I know the fox poo smell well (sadly) and she hasn't found any yet in our field.  We have seen them half a mile away so no doubt we will be visited.

We are rural now but our last house was in the centre of a town and our neighbours garden was used regularly as a toilet by the foxes. Like you say it's well meaning people feeding them and they have quite a nice life in the towns.  Doesn't stop them killing for fun though.


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