Friday, 23 January 2015

Rats in the Coop

Rats are a perpetual problem with poultry and to be fair, I tend to take a bit of a view as it's impossible to clean up every scrap of spilt food each night, and there are sheds and hedges and the carport and all manner of places for them to hide. However, I have had to review that attitude since losing one of my gorgeous little Buff Sussex bantams to a rat attack.

I noticed Gloria had blood around her vent and feet, so bathed her cuts in warm saline solution and used gentian spray on her wounds. Putting her in the puppy crate in the shed with food and water, I also put her on antibiotics to address any secondary infection and assumed perhaps a fox had tried to snatch her through the wire.

The following day, I let the hens out of the coop and saw that Esme, the other Buff Sussex bantam was looking hunched up with a mess of damp feathers around her back end. I bathed her too and rang the vet. He diagnosed vent pecking (where the hens peck at the rear end of another hen, usually while the vent is distended and reddened just before laying an egg) but I didn't agree as a) that doesn't tend to happen at night when the hens are calm and it's too dark for them to see and b) the bantams roost on the low perch and the larger hens on the high one so I didn't see how they could have found the bantams to peck...

Sadly, little Esme looked so terrible this morning I took her back to the vet and he put her to sleep. Having cleaned out the coop yesterday I found a few rat droppings and the pophole had been gnawed at the slightly warped edge, producing a small access hole. So, whilst Gloria is still in the shed recuperating, I have blocked the front door of the coop with a metal grid and will do this until the replacement coop arrives.

The coop I've chosen is the Haven Hen House and as a long-time devotee of Flyte So Fancy, I'm confident that the hens will be safe from predators as well as damp and cold. I'd made the coop they're currently in for when I had a large cockerel who couldn't negotiate his way up the ladders, but Emu is now no more and it's time to pension off the home-made house in favour of something more fit for purpose. I will cut a large opening in the front so the hens can still use it as a shelter so it won't be wasted.

Hopefully Gloria will recover her faculties and soon be fit, well, and back laying eggs. I have the two other Buff Sussex bantam hens with Bertie, their rooster, so I'll be putting a couple of eggs under the first broody hen I have so that I can rear some replacements.

Gloria, looking quite perky in
the puppy crate

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