I thought that my pretty little henhouse was secure, but I was wrong. Yesterday when I went out to gather eggs I noticed a couple of tunnels inside the run, and the chickens certainly didn’t dig them! I have rats in the henhouse!
At least I think the culprits are rats, the holes (and the wire through which they gained entry) are too small for raccoons, and if it were mink, I’d probably have dead (or at least very stressed out and frightened) chickens.
The hens however, are unperturbed; I guess they don’t mind sharing their feed with rats. I, on the other hand, am not so happy about feeding the wildlife. And I’m sure if I let it go on the rats will discover how tasty eggs are!
I should have expected this, because although the rest of the run is protected with 1 inch wire mesh, the portion of wire that runs along the bottom of the back fence is regular chicken wire, which is small enough to keep chickens in, but not small enough to keep rats out. In my defence, this wire was in place long before we built the chicken run. I installed the chicken wire shortly after we built the fence to prevent wild bunnies from making my veggie garden their buffet, and it’s worked very well for that purpose.
I thought I could get away with just this one little strip of chicken wire to keep critters out of the run. What WAS I thinking? The holes are quite adequate for even a well-fed rat, and the little buggers only had to tunnel through a few inches of soft mud and chicken crap to gain entry to a never-ending supply of tasty layer pellets supplemented with daily lashings of chicken scratch and kitchen scraps.
Hopefully I’ve got it solved now. I went out this afternoon (the rain actually let up for a few hours) and dug a new trench along the back fence, then cut a wide strip of 1 inch wire mesh, stapled it to the bottom of the fence and tucked it down into my trench to dissuade them from any more tunnelling efforts. I also patched a suspicious looking spot on the other side of the fence where the rat(s) may have sneaked in. And now we wait…and watch…