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 Post subject: Rat or possum attack?
PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2012 12:17 am 
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Clucky Hen
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This morning when letting my chooks out to free range I found my beloved Speckled Sussex hen, Juliet, on her back with horror of all horrors most of her face chewed off. Even worse she was still alive and breathing, god knows how she basically had no face :(
My husband was called and we quickly sent her to god - RIP Juliet :(
I had heard the roosters making a racket about 10 mins before I let them all out but I didn't think anything of it - however when I opened the door most of the chooks were still roosting up high and all the bantams that usually sleep in the nesting boxes were in the outside run in the rain. I am pretty sure their behaviour was definitely because of what happened to Juliet.
I know we have rats now as we have caught some in a Ratzapper (recently purchased) that works on and off but tonight we found a possum, quite small, inside the chook shed too - now evicted after 1.5 hours of chasing it around the rafters. Husband patched up all the holes we could find, I am not sure if we got them all, I'm hoping!
I was quite certain a rat had attacked Juliet but now am wondering if it's possible for the possum to have done it.
Our only mouser, Pippin, has been put on guard duty in the chook shed tonight and fingers crossed there aren't any more attacks overnight. I also have a baby monitor installed in there with the speaker in our bedroom. Not sure I will get much sleep with worry.
I feel really awful this has happened and wonder if it has happened to anyone else?


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2012 12:37 am 
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Proud Rooster
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Both of those seem to me unlikely to attack a full grown healthy hen. Are either a quoll or ferret possible?


Last edited by Gippswest on Fri Aug 10, 2012 1:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2012 12:49 am 
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Site Administrator
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Yes, that sounds like rats. As a group they will attack large chickens and they will eat from the face. It sounds like you need to get serious about rat control. We have lots of problems with them also. You always have a lot more than what you see.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2012 8:55 am 
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Golden Phoenix
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I'm so sorry about your poor chicken. What a terrible thing to find :(

I have a rat zapper too and I find that you need to use lithium batteries to get it to deliver enough charge. And you only get one rat at a time.

Would you consider using poison?

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2012 9:16 am 
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Clucky Hen
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I thought it was a rat until I saw the possum and then wondered, but I guess that was just coincidence, and I've turfed it out anyway and plugged up whatever holes I could find. I'm sure there are more though :(

A sleepless night later all chooks accounted for and cat is now taking a well-earned snooze on the couch.

I am very wary about baits due to my cats/dogs other chooks eating dead rats or mice.
I was up all hours reading the various posts and still am undecided about baiting. Have asked husband to go to the trap store and get one of those live traps for inside the chook house for starters. I like the ratzapper but it's very slow with only one catch per night (sometimes none) and the one I have works on and off, red light blinking but new batteries and nothing inside so I think in the meantime the population has increased while I haven't made it a priority to sort :(

We have never had rats in 4 years and the cats seemed to keep the mouse population under control but suddenly they are here. Chicken07 you are right - time to get serious.
thanks everyone


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2012 9:26 am 
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Champion Bird
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I have read stories about the terrible things rats do to chickens. We have a lot of rats here in suburbia. They are huge as I have seen the size of their droppings (possum poo size) and I saw the damage they did to my neighbour's tomato crop. I am always worried about them getting into the coops and chewing away at the chooks. We have killed some of the juveniles but big daddy and big mumma are still out there breeding.

I feel for you sandradotcom. I found my little frizzle hen Ethel dead after she choked while trying to swallow a small rat. That was awful and it took me a long time to recover but your experience is so much worse. Poor Juliet and poor you. :grouphug:

It is so difficult to eradicate rats when you have chickens,pets and a fruit/veggie garden. There's always food around for them. Poison is dangerous as there is a risk of secondary poisoning of chooks and pets and while it has been the most effective way of reducing numbers for us, our little mini foxie ate a dead rat and eventually died. As did the neighbour's cat.

We purchased a live trap and the rats wouldn't go inside it. We left it open for 3 days with lots of nice goodies then set it on the 4th night. The term 'rat cunning' has taken on new significance for us.

So far we have spent $400 on baits, traps etc this year. If I had to start over I would probably buy several rat zappers (the best ones) and use them.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2012 9:35 am 
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Clucky Hen
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Thanks konopiste. I feel like I let poor Juliet down by not sorting out the problem - I seriously didn't think it was that bad - and she suffered for my negligence.

And I am utterly paranoid about secondary poisoning :(

I'm hoping keeping a cat in the chook shed overnight and a combined live trap and ratzapper might help. We are moving in a few months - if we can just hold out until then without any more losses.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2012 9:52 am 
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Proud Rooster
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Looks like I will have to redouble my rat trapping and baiting efforts as there are always a few around.
I had considered rats to only be a problem with chickens. Some of my pens can never be rat-proofed so I will also relocate some perches in the hope that they are more secure if well clear of the walls. Some of my Sussex seem to prefer to sleep on the floor so perhaps they are more at risk.


Last edited by Gippswest on Fri Aug 10, 2012 1:32 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2012 10:23 am 
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Phoenix
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Location: Tarago, near Goulburn
We, too, have rats here for the first time. The dog's caught one but we've been unable to trap the others. Like others, I prefer not to use poison but as rats are MUCH harder to get rid of - and more of a danger - than mice, I may have to consider some selective poisoning and hope that the chooks don't like to eat rat. (They didn't fancy the one that the dog got, so maybe it's just too large for them).

The real concern is, of course, that the mice will also eat the bait and they're the ones the chooks DO eat.

There are some good discussions about rat traps, poison, etc in the Housing, Feeding and Husbandry section.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2012 10:33 am 
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Golden Phoenix
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Yes, I must say that I've always avoided poison too. Unfortunately, nothing is as effective as poisoning them.... :(

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2012 11:19 am 
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Proud Rooster
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Primary poisoning is caused when a pet eats the rat bait directly. The commonest way this occurs is when a pet gets into a container of bait that has been incorrectly stored. None of us are infallible and sometimes we can forget that we have a container of rat bait on the shelf in a shed. If the packet is accidentally knocked to the ground, spilling its contents, a pet will readily eat it.

Secondary poisoning is different. It occurs when an animal eats a poisoned rat. The residue of bait in the rat’s stomach is the cause of the toxicity. Often this occurs when an affected rat, perhaps slower and more lethargic than a normal one and thereby less able to defend itself, falls victim to a dog or cat or to a bird of prey such as an owl, a hawk or a falcon.

Rat and mice numbers are on the rise as the cooler weather forces them to search for food closer to our homes, especially sheds and garages where we feed our pets and in the house, too. Be aware that rat baits might be out on neighbouring properties and contact your vet if your pet appears off-colour.

There are many rat poisons on the market, and some are safer for pets and wildlife than others. No matter which rat poison you use, be especially aware that all of them pose some danger to pets. This danger can be minimised by the careful choice of baits, by using effective baiting procedures and by ensuring you store baits safely.

Multi-feed versus single feed rodenticides ...

Most rat baits that you can get from the supermarket are based on anticoagulants. These baits are of two basic types. The first are those generally termed multi-feed rodenticides and the second are those that are single-feed rodenticides.

The oldest anticoagulant bait is based on the chemical warfarin. Ratsak is the most commonly recognised. Another readily available rodenticide is based on the chemical coumatetralyl available as the Bayer product Racumin. Both warfarin and coumatetralyl are multi-feed rodenticides. This means that the rat must eat these types of baits over several days to become affected by them. This means that pets and wildlife are less at risk because they either have to consume a large quantity of bait in one sitting or consume small quantities of bait over a long period.

Single feed rodenticides act more quickly. These rat baits are more toxic to rats and pets and a single dose is more likely to cause poisoning. Single feed rodenticides are those containing brodifacoum (e.g.Talon) and bromadialone (e.g.Bromakil). They are commonly available from local supermarkets.

Brodifacoum is at least 40 times more potent that warfarin and is much more likely to cause the death of a rat, a pet or a wild animal with a single feed. Secondary poisoning is also more likely to occur because a rat can have enough bait in its stomach to poison a dog and certainly a bird.

I breed rats and have over 100 :) and I also have them wild living under the hen house. I dont bait or live trap them as I find the girls themselves have so far kept the numbers down. They breed and the babies enter the hen house like the parents to nibble on the food and the hens kill the babies. I find them dead all the time on the floor.

Rats are very smart when it comes to poisons and the reason they dont work after a short period of time is that the one who eats it first when it feels unwell will go back to the nest to die and the others will smell the poison on them and will then not eat it. So the best way is to have a huge amount of poison around for 2 weeks and then use a different poison in a large amount for a further 2 weeks. Rats have a 21 day gestation so the idea is that you kill as many adults within that period so there isnt anything old enough left to breed. They can breed as young as 5/6 weeks of age.

Hope this helps.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2012 11:26 am 
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Golden Phoenix
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That is very good info, Sessieau, thankyou.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2012 8:24 pm 
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Week Old duckling
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sandradotcom could the small possum you saw possibly have been a phascogale? They attach to a hens chest amongst the feathers and maul their throats. Look lovely but very aggressive to birds. Hunt at night. Usually only the size of a small rat, grey and white, pink feet, look quite cute like a tiny or baby possum. Australian native, protected I think.

http://www.marsupialsociety.org/01au05.html

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2012 8:35 pm 
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Clucky Hen
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OMG Chirp it definitely was a phascogale!! I am so glad I spent almost 2 hours last night evicting it from the chook house and patching up the two holes I found in the wire I was positive it could get through.
We let it go about 50 metres away from the chook house, I hope it isn't thinking of coming back :(


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2012 8:57 pm 
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Champion Bird
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The BYP community is so clever. Who would have thought of a phascogale? Thanks Chirp for your information.

Thanks also to Sessieau for your info about rats. I have now put out LOTS of a different kind of rat bait.

Even though the outcome for poor Juliet has not changed I think it must be better to know you have chased away the phascogale and therefore you don't have to deal with rats.

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