Domesticated chickens are still something of a novelty for the average household – with ownership being primarily for those who live in the country. The number of people raising these amazing birds really has exploded in recent years as creative breeding programs have produced some very diverse and capable birds. For an in depth look at this wonderful fowl, visit Raising Chickens.
But for those of us who are fortunate enough to enjoy wholesome, farm-fresh eggs grown right in our own backyards, it can be a bit surprising at what chickens will actually eat.
Technically speaking, chickens are omnivores; meaning they can eat both plant and animal matter – with mice easily falling into the later category.
And mice aren’t the only thing that might surprise you as part of a chicken’s diet. Snakes and toads are also on that list, providing the prey is small enough.
Will A Chicken Kill A Mouse?
So now that we know that a chicken is capable of eating a mouse, does that mean it is capable of killing it?
An adult chicken is completely capable of catching and killing a mouse. But there are some variables to consider.
- Size – A rodent such as a ground squirrel, is much bigger than a field mouse. With critters this size, it would be very difficult for the chicken to make a quick kill – though completely feasible to see the fury creature run off, never to return.
- Escape potential – If a mouse found its way into an area where there was very little cover and no easy way to get away, then the odds are pretty much in a chicken’s favor. Roosters in particular would go after this pesky intruder with fervor.
- The chicken’s demeanor – Chickens raised in small runs, can be hard pressed for distraction. They can get bored and grumpy – something that is seen quite often in the winter months – if there is not enough to stimulate them. Should a mouse find its way in with these birds, then the odds of this mouse making the same mistake twice would be slim. However, chickens that are raised in a free range type of environment, get a lot more stimulation. In that situation, a chicken might give the rodent a quick pursue, but it would not be a relentless harassing as in the case of the flock confined to a small chicken run.
At What Age Can A Chicken Kill A Mouse?
Earlier this summer, I raised 14 chicks in a chicken tractor. This mobile chicken pen gets moved around the yard, providing the chicks an opportunity to experience the outdoors while still giving them protection against predators.
Without realizing it, I had placed this chicken tractor and its 6 week old inhabitants directly over a mouse nest. Within just a few hours of me moving the tractor, I came back to find 3 dead baby mice in and around the water dish. The chicks had managed to find the nest, dig it up and ‘play’ with all of its occupants – at all of 6 weeks of age. This is quite impressive to me. Considering how small baby chicks are when just hatched, to see them hunting and killing at 6 weeks of age is just amazing.
Can Mice Make Chickens Sick?
While outdoor chickens can have a diet that would leave most people appalled, this does not mean that they are immune to any disease that a mouse might be carrying. And let’s not forget the poisons that are put out, specifically to kill mice. Clearly, if a chicken chose to eat a mouse that had ingested poison, then the results could be fatal to the bird.
However, so long as the mouse is free of disease and poison, there is no risk for your chicken to eat a mouse. It’s disgusting to be certain, but not lethal or even unhealthy.
If this seems odd, then consider the turkey. A turkey is, in concept, a giant chicken. And while the primary diet of wild turkey is plant matter, they do a really great job of dispatching any mouse or small snake that they can find.
Should I Get A Chicken To Kill Mice?
Some would point to the correlation between chickens and the lack of residing mice as a reason to acquire chickens. In truth, most people would see having less mice around as a good thing. However, it should be noted, that while the smaller rodents are definitely discouraged at the presence of chicken, bigger rodents are not.
Because of this, you should never purchase a chicken with the intent of it reducing your mouse population. Chickens are sloppy eaters and rats will find this leftover feed as a reliable source of food (as will possums and raccoons). A while a rooster will challenge anything that he considers a threat, it is unlikely that he would be able to kill an adult rat.
How Do I Keep Mice From Eating My Chicken Feed?
Mice and chicken feed is a problem for flock owners everywhere. Even in industrial settings where a considerable amount of effort is put into the managing of a chicken’s environment, there will be challenges of keeping mice out. These furry little rodents can be extremely problematic if left unchecked.
The best way to keep mice from eating your chicken feed (and multiplying as a result) is to deny them access to this highly nutritious food source. And while this sounds relatively easy in concept, it is pretty much impossible in practice.
As mentioned above, chickens are sloppy eaters. They do not peck at their food carefully and as a result, feed pellets tend to spill out on the ground…right where mice can get at it. And while chickens can require a substantial amount of feed to fill their stomachs, a mouse can make a meal out of a lot less food.
For this reason, we store our 50lb bags of feed in a mouse proof garbage can, that sits on a concrete floor. This not only allows us to sweep up any small crumbs of chicken feed that may fall to the ground, but prohibits the mice from burrowing their way to the food. For a mouse, it’s a lot more risky to scurry across a concrete floor that has no cover than it is to pop up out of a hole next to the food.
But even in the best of conditions, you can still have mice problems. This is where population control comes in.
There is whole business dedicated to pest control. And while they are generally quite proficient (and enormously appreciated), having chickens on your property adds a new degree of difficulty to things as chickens can consume the very same poison that was meant for the pest.
Consequently, it is not unusual to see other means of controlling the rodents that are dining on your chicken feed.
- Cats – It should be noted, that your average barnyard cat is a much different animal than what you might find eating out of a can filled with ‘prime filets’. Barnyard cats are not pampered animals. They are tough and they are scrappy – exactly what you want for hunting mice.
- Dogs – With their strong jaws, dogs are actually better equipped at killing rats than they are mice. And this is perfect as I find that rats are actually a bigger problem than field mice. Rats are not only smarter than their smaller kin, but an adult rat can kill a sleeping chicken. Also, rats will not hesitate to kill baby chicks and a sizable aggressive rat could scare off mama hen, leaving the chicks defenseless.
### Important Note ###
Should you choose to utilized either a barn cat or dog, understand that these little hunters need to know that the chickens – or the baby chicks – are off limits. If you do not take steps to protect your flock, then the very tools you meant to deal with the rodents are certain to cause you grief.