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No matter how clean you keep your barn or chicken coop, at some point, you will notice mice or rats scurrying around. Mice and rats pretty much go hand in hand with farming, unfortunately!
There are a number of steps you can take to minimize or even fully eradicate a rodent infestation, but you shouldn’t be embarrassed by the sight of rodents. There’s a reason why they’re deemed “pests”—they’re hard to get rid of.
But, instead of being horrified, just know you can keep mice and rats out of your chicken barn. I’ll show you how to do this below, by improving the security and cleanliness of your barnyard, as well as by regularly setting traps.
Why you should never use poison around the barnyard
Poison such as D-con used to be the #1 go to for eradicating rodents. While it’s still obviously very effective in quickly eliminating a full-blown infestation, using it in a barn where you keep animals is a massive risk.
If you have any animals with access to the barn—chickens, goats, barn cats, etc—you absolutely do NOT want to ever use poison. It is far too easy for a few pieces of poison to be carried out by a rodent and consumed by something else. In addition to that, it can be lethal for a cat or chicken to eat a mouse that has eaten poison.
In fact, many retailers have stopped selling the old-fashioned D-con style poison entirely because of the risks to pets and children involved. You can still buy poison if you really want to, but there has been a huge push towards manual traps over poison.
Simply put, no matter how safe you think you’re being, that poison still poses a massive risk to pets, livestock, wildlife, and children. Why risk it, when other methods yield great results?
What type of traps work best?
While I feel many readers will be hoping for a magic bullet in the form of something other than traditional kill bar mouse traps (I know I was), they really are still the most reliable way to kill mice.
Personally, I have the best luck with Victor Power Kill traps or other models made with the same design, such as the Koyrau mouse trap. They make a variety for mice and a variety for rats. As you can tell from the pretty hardcore Power Kill name, these traps don’t mess around. They kill instantly, which makes them far more humane than many options on the market.
Most importantly, since nobody likes getting their fingers crushed, these plastic traps are VERY easy to set compared to the traditional flimsy wooden mouse traps we all remember from the past.
To set these traps, you need to bait them first. I prefer to use peanut butter—it’s easy to spread and attracts rodents fast. After using a toothpick to dab a bit of peanut butter on the bait tray, all you need to do is pull back the kill bar.
Instead of being at the mercy of finicky hair trigger clips like old-fashioned mouse traps, the Power Kill and Koyrau traps are very easy to set. All you do to set them is to pull back the kill bar. It clicks easily into place with minimal risk of accidentally crushing your fingers.
I’m really emphasizing just how easy these are to set, because if I can set them, anyone can! I didn’t want to use manual traps because I thought it would be impossible to set them. This style of mouse trap quickly proved me wrong.
The best part is, the traps themselves are very affordable, and we’ve only had to buy replacements a few times. They are made so well that each trap can be reused over and over again.
Just using these traps—not even on a nightly basis—my family has eradicated over 300 mice from our barn in a year’s time. I shudder to think how many mice there would be now if we hadn’t started using these traps!
However, these traps aren’t without a few downsides...
You shouldn’t leave these traps where any type of animals can reach them. A chicken, or a cat, could easily break a foot by stepping on the trap and setting it off.
And, you need to constantly have a spreadable form of bait at your disposal. The traditional piece of cheese on a trap doesn’t really work too well, but spread cheese does. I’ve found the easiest bait to be store brand peanut butter.
The final downside is the fact you need to pry the bar open and remove the mouse’s dead body, which can be a very gross experience, especially if you’re squeamish. However, the bar is easy enough to pull up that you don’t really have to look at what you’re doing if it bothers you.
Are there any other traps worth trying?
You’re in luck!
There are a few more types of traps that yield good results if you just can’t bring yourself to go through the hassle of setting multiple bar-style mouse traps every day.
Roll bar traps
The first I’d recommend is a roll bar style trap. These work by placing ramps on either side of a tall bucket with the roll bar over the bucket. The idea is to bait the middle of the bar, and when mice try to walk across the bar, it rolls and sends them into the bucket.
This bucket can either be filled with water or left empty. The trouble with leaving it empty is, what are you going to do with a bucket of live mice? If you release them elsewhere in your yard, they’ll just come back. And if you fill it with water, that means the mice will drown, which can pose an ethical concern—drowning is not humane the way a traditional mouse trap’s instant kill is.
At the same time… they’re mice. They’re disease vectors and will happily destroy everything you own. In addition to that, they’re cannibals, and I’ve discovered live mice eating a trapped mouse more than once. So, don’t feel too bad for the fate of the mice you trap in your bucket.
The other type of trap I’d recommend is an electronic trap. These traps work by placing bait on the far side of the trap. The rodent has to walk all the way in and then an electric current instantly kills them.
These traps are nice because the construction makes it virtually impossible that a cat, dog, or chicken could get inside. They contain no poison and are considered far more humane than drowning style traps.
Another bonus is the fact a light shows you when the trap is full (i.e. has a dead rodent inside) and you can pick it up and dump the offending rodent in the trash without ever looking at it. A definite plus for the squeamish!
The main downside with electronic traps is they can be extremely finicky to set up and use. When they work, they’re fantastic… but sometimes they just don’t go off, despite the bait being gone the next day. Other times, they go off, but there’s nothing inside.
Still, if you have a bit of extra money to try and like the idea of an electronic trap, they can definitely be worth the money if you don’t mind a bit of trial and error.
What traps should you NOT use?
I don’t recommend using glue traps under any circumstances, especially for people who keep backyard poultry.
Glue traps are awful for the environment, since it’s very easy for something unintended, like a song bird, to land on one, become trapped, and die a gruesome death.
They also aren’t humane in the least. I would argue they are even less humane than drowning traps, since rodents may lay on one for many hours and may even gnaw off one of their own limbs to try to escape—if something else doesn’t start eating them first.
Then, if you have animals of your own roaming around, such as chickens or cats, it’s way too easy for a nasty poison-filled glue trap to wind up attached to your own pet.
In my opinion, there are way too many effective methods to keep mice and rats out of your chicken barn to bother with glue traps.
Are there any steps to take to naturally reduce rodents?
You can definitely help reduce the number of rodents you have around your barn.
- Analyze where the mice or rats are coming from. Is there a particular place where you can tell they live? Focus your efforts in trapping around this area. If you notice holes mice are running in, fill them in.
- Declutter your barn. Mice gravitate towards messy environments where they can hide.
- Keep your hay and straw bales elevated. Mice like to live underneath them and you can make them at least a little more inhospitable by keeping the area under them clean and frequently disturbed.
- If you can afford it, build a sealed feed room to keep rodents from being able to access your grain, hay, and bedding. If you can’t afford a whole sealed feed room, definitely make use of sealed tubs to put your grain in.
- If you spill grain on the floor, sweep or rake it up quickly; don’t let food waste accumulate.
The absolute most important tip I can offer is a simple one…
Don’t ever leave grain out if you can help it!
I used to put a cute feed trough for the poultry just inside my barn. They’d eat it throughout the day and then leave pieces of grain on the ground, which I’d ignore, since they were unobtrusive.
That is… until I saw THIS:
My security cameras picked up LARGE RATS running around my sleeping horses!
I was absolutely horrified, since I hadn’t seen rats in my barn til that point.
I started putting the grain trough inside the duck house rather than the barn aisle and stopped seeing rats (with the rationale that the ducks would scare away and/or eat any rodents brave enough to try for grain in front of them).
Now I keep the barn aisle raked out and the rodent population is way down.
The long and short of it
There is no method for keeping mice and rats out of your barn that is perfect for everyone. You will probably need to try a few different methods before you come up with a solution that works for you.
The only constant is the fact you need to be vigilant. Clean up grain frequently, set traps as often as you can, and make sure your barn is not overly cluttered.
I’m not sure a barn exists without at least one mouse living in it, but if you follow these steps, you will eradicate even the most stubborn infestations!