As a caring pet owner, it can be a bit of a surprise to be wandering around your backyard and to come across a chicken swallowing a mouse. That, in turn, can lead to a bit of worry over whether or not your chicken is going to be OK (the mouse is usually beyond saving at this point).
Chicken Ate A Mouse – Should You Worry? No, not really. Chickens are omnivores and while they don’t normally eat mice, no real harm will come to them. However, rats and mice do present dangers to your chickens and we’ll show you how to tackle these to keep your flock fit and healthy.
Do Chickens Eat Mice?
Chickens are not natural carnivores though as omnivores you can see them happily munch on worms and bugs as well as their favorite grains and seeds. This doesn’t mean, however, that they’re entirely adverse to eating rodents.
In fact, there are records of chickens eating mice, frogs, snakes, etc. They’re not the brightest of animals, so it appears that in their brains, as long as it moves, and it fits in a chicken’s mouth – it’s fair game to be eaten.
Do Chickens Hunt Mice?
No, chickens don’t hunt mice, and, in fact, chickens only really seem to get excited about eating mice when they come across baby mice. These are more along the lines of the size of food that a chicken normally eats.
So, if a chicken comes across a nest of mice, it might well go to town and eat as many babies as it can but that’s not hunting so much as it is blind luck.
It might help to remember that a chicken is thought to be direct descendent of the carnivorous dinosaurs, so we can consider ourselves lucky that they’re not bigger and hungrier than they are!
Is Eating Mice Dangerous For Chickens?
No, eating mice is not dangerous for chickens. In fact, as omnivores, chickens are very well placed to digest pretty much anything that they eat as long as it’s organic (no animal can digest plastic, for example) and edible.
Can Mice Make Chickens Sick?
Eating mice can’t make chickens sick but rodents can make chickens sick through a variety of means and in particular their droppings and urine can be really dangerous to the health of not just your chickens but anybody who comes into contact with them as well.
Because chickens are kept outside, it’s not uncommon for their coops and roosting boxes to end up infested with vermin and when this happens – unpleasant possibilities may become a reality for your chickens.
Chewing On Chickens
While you may be appalled at the fact that chickens occasionally chow down on mice, it might give you some comfort to know that mice and rats regularly bite back.
When they sneak into chicken coops when the chickens are roosting, they are in search of food and they’re happy to snack on the chicken’s feathers and feet if they can’t find anything else that they feel like eating.
Of course, this is not good for the chickens who may end up with open sores, which are easily infected, on their feet and legs. Any such bites should be cleaned, disinfected and given a little antibiotic cream to try and prevent infection.
As you will see a little later, these kinds of bites can be prevented from taking place at all by adjusting the design of your chicken coop.
You’ve almost certainly heard of salmonella. It causes food poisoning in human beings and can be transmitted by chickens and their eggs to humans too.
Rats and vermin carry the salmonella bacteria in their droppings and around their mouths and when they start raiding your chicken’s food bowls, they’re not cleaning up after themselves, instead they tend to leave their droppings mixed in with your chicken’s food.
It should come as no real surprise that this can lead to easy infection of your chickens with salmonella, who will enjoy it no more than you would, and they can get very sick from it.
Weil’s Disease is a fairly horrible condition that is transmitted mainly from rats and mice to other animals in their urine.
It is most common amongst people who commonly do water sports such as canoeing where they are likely to encounter water rats but it’s also not unknown for the disease to be caught by chickens when rats and mice foul their water supply.
You are at a genuine risk of catching this disease too if it comes into your coop and it’s something best avoided if at all possible.
They reckon that up to 5% of mice carry Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis in much of the world. It is, as it sounds, a form of meningitis and causes a viral infection of the brain, as well as the spinal cord and fluid. It is thought that the main transmission vector is rodent droppings.
It can cause a wide-range of symptoms in birds and in humans and while it is rarely fatal, if you contract it – you can expect to spend a couple of weeks feeling very poorly, indeed.
It is particularly hard to treat in pregnant women as it may not be safe for the unborn to take the powerful antibiotics that are needed to combat it.
How To Safely Clear Away Mouse And Rat Droppings
OK, if you do find that you’ve got rat and mouse droppings in your chicken coop – you need to clear things up safely so that neither you nor your birds are at any risk of infection or problems.
You want to take your flock to a clean area while you clean up – this is going to stop them from picking up an infection while you clean.
You should also buy a good quality respirator mask which prevents the flow of dust into your own lungs. You have no need to get sick either.
We’d also recommend using some rubber/disposable gloves while cleaning up so that your hands are safe. If you want to use them again – make sure to completely disinfect them when you’re done.
Bleach The Droppings
Before doing any cleaning, get a solution of bleach or maybe a strong disinfectant and coat the droppings thoroughly in it. Then wait about 5-10 minutes before you even think about getting started. This should kill anything nasty living in the droppings.
Clear Straw With A Shovel
Not only can you get infections from picking up droppings, but you can also get infections from particulate matter in straw. It’s best to clear it with a shovel and you really want to get it all gone.
Rinse The Coop
Once everything is clear, give the coop a thorough rinse with some clean water. You don’t want to leave any bleach or disinfectant behind which might make the chickens sick.
Throw Away Any Contaminated Feed
If you’ve found any droppings in food containers – it must be thrown away (all of it) and then replaced. Otherwise, the bacteria may already be breeding in it.
Once you’re done, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly and then you can start moving chickens back into their home and making it nice again.
How To Keep Mice Away From Your Chickens
You must not use any kind of trap or poison when trying to keep mice and other rodents away from your chickens. We know that it’s going to be tempting but you’re as likely to kill your chickens as you are to kill any mice and that would be the worst possible outcome. Instead, there’s a range of simple precautions you can take:
Get Rid Of Small Openings
Mice (and other even less pleasant rodents) can squeeze their way through tiny holes in coops. No opening should be larger than 1/2” in diameter and if it is, you want to plug it up. Cover any venting with a breathable cloth and seal it.
Move Food At Night
Chickens have terrible night vision, so they can’t see to eat at night. Rats and mice, on the other hand, are attracted by food. So, get it out of there.
Improve The Roosting Space
You want to make sure that your roosting spaces are wide enough for your hens to lay flat, this stops vermin from chewing on their feet when they sleep.
Rodents, for some reason, aren’t keen on mint, so it can act as a natural deterrent to them. Plant some around the outside of the coop or sprinkle some inside (fresh or dried).
Consider Getting A Cat
Cats won’t eat chickens if you teach them not to and they will happily snack on any rodents that do turn up, instead. Dogs are also capable of keeping rats and mice at bay but can spook your chickens more easily too.
Buy Vermin Proof Feeders And Containers
You can also buy automatic feeders and containers that are vermin proof and that’s going to reduce the risks of them getting in and contaminating the food and water supply for your chickens.
Chicken Ate A Mouse – Should You Worry? No, it’s just chickens being chickens and as omnivores – chickens are fine to eat mice. However, you should be aware that rats and mice can pose dangers to your chickens and potentially to you and your family too and if you find signs of them in your chicken coop – you should take action to keep them away in future.
Here are some of my favorite products for chickens and their coops: