Rats have a strong pair of incisors on both lower and upper mandibles for digging ground burrows in dip pit houses

Roof rats and mice have a long history of disease transmission in the human population. It is also true that their risks to poultry health are nearly as bad. Rats are known to harbour diseases like Salmonella and fowl cholera, and because they travel back and forth from contaminated poultry bedding to feeders and drinkers, these rodents are potential mechanical vectors of both parasitic and bacterial diseases of poultry.

Besides transmitting diseases, they also consume poultry feeds and destroy water lines and electrical installations, thus causing huge financial losses to farmers. Due to their migration habits, they may introduce diseases and parasites from nearby farms and, at the same time, make it much harder to restrict a disease problem to one house on a farm.

Some facts about rats

There are two types of rats, the roof rat, and the Norway rat. To distinguish the two, the roof rat has a long tail and pointed nose; an adult can be 47 cm long, while a Norway rat has a shorter tail. These rats range in color from grayish-brown to black on their upper body and white, grey, or black fur on their belly.

Rats generally have poor eyesight and therefore prefer to perform their activities at night. They rely heavily on smell, touch, taste, and hearing to locate their surroundings, find food, mate, and look for shelter. On average, rats will start to breed at three months of age and produce a litter of five to eight pups after a 21-to-23-day gestation. They can breed 17 times per year, producing 200 offspring per female.

How rats cause menace in a poultry house

Rats have a strong pair of incisors on both lower and upper mandibles for digging ground burrows in dip pit houses but prefer to live in the walls and ceiling spaces of buildings. These teeth are so strong that they can gnaw on equipment, side curtains, electrical wiring, timber wood, plastic, and metals.

They can destroy piping in the flock units, feeders, and nest boxes. Brown rats are known to exert a gnawing power of 500 kg/cm2 using their incisors. Each roof rat will eat up to 28g of feed per day, and in addition, roof rats contaminate feed with their urine and feces.

How to control rodents

For an effective control programme, one must do regular scouting to pinpoint areas of heavy rat activity in and around the poultry farm. Remove all clutter around the facility, and carry out good weed and vegetation control. Gravel barriers around the building perimeter and reduce the number of potential entry points in the units.

Types of bait

Baits have chemicals called rodenticides that kill rats. The baits can be wheat-based, block-based, or liquid in form. They are used in areas where little food competition is available. The baits should be placed in a baiting station, box, or inside a 12-inch-long and 4-inch-wide waste pipe along the perimeter fences, along and on the outside of chicken houses. Baits should not be accessed by wild birds, dogs, cats, or monkeys, and need to be securely and safely positioned.

On a long-term solution, the premises must be kept off-limits to non-essential staff or visitors. It is important to ensure that the level of cleaning, sanitation, and disinfection is thoroughly done at the end of the crop, and downtime of not less than 21 days is extended before the arrival of the next flock.

Minimise feed spills and remove any broken eggs from the units. Dead birds must be removed and disposed of on-site by burying. Eliminate harborage and maintain a minimum of 50 feet of open area around buildings.

Farmhouse control

It is known that people and their dwellings provide food, shelter, and water that rats need to thrive on. It is therefore equally important to control the rat and mice menace in our household by creating a clean and healthy environment so that the premises for our poultry workers are also free from pests and dirt.

Numerous commercial pest control solutions ensure that your premises comply with health and safety recommendations. Finally, please note that rodents can spread human diseases like hantavirus and leptospirosis.