Yesterday I had a couple sunny hours ahead of me before dusk, so I decided to tend to a few minor repairs on the chicken coop. The roof had been leaking in a couple spots and a damp coop can increase the likelihood of pests and disease infiltrating the coop. An even bigger issue, I have been noticing that something has been burrowing into the coop at night.

This larger, more serious problem I noticed a few days ago. Mounded soil, like a mole hill, began appearing right inside the coop fence with a small hole. I narrowed the culprit down to either a rat or an opossum. The critter did not seem to be after the hens sleeping upstairs in the hen house, so I assumed it was coming in to steal food under the cover of darkness.

I searched for the entry point to the tunnel on the outside of the coop to no avail. An hour or so later, I had managed to detach the hen house from the run and moved both away from the coop site. Unfortunately, when I moved the hen house, I discovered large droppings under the floor which sits about 4″ above ground resting on cinder blocks. Ew: A rat had taken up residence.

Mice = I can deal with. Rats = yuck.

I still hadn’t found the source of the hole, so I began moving cinder blocks. I traced the hole under several cinder blocks until it eventually went underground deeper. This is all a rather disgusting treasure hunt I had been on. I was now deciding whether to fill the hole, cover it with a heavy object, or flush it out. I figured I would flush it out with water to discourage the rat from returning to live in damp quarters.

Here I am: three inches from the ground, crouched over a gross rat hole, shoving a hose down there and filling it with water. Everything seems to be going fine. Sometimes the water gets plugged up, so I shove the hose further down until the water gets cleared again. A couple minutes into this endeavor, the water begins gurgling. An air pocket perhaps is rising to the surface. But, no…

A GIANT RAT!!! It flies out the hole, inches from my fingers, right in front of my face! It’s little beady eyes… It’s wet, scraggly fuzzy fat body goes scurrying across the yard!

Pearl, my old americuana, decides to make a run for it. Hey, protein is protein I guess. Luckily (I think?), Pearl was not fast enough and the rat got away.

Why do I share this totally jarring, gross story with you? It’s entertaining. It’s disgusting. And it is just one of those ridiculous stories that comes with the territory of keeping urban livestock. I have been so fortunate to avoid run-ins with pests and disease in general, but it is all too common to have an occasional pest problem.

The next step is to trap the rat and I look forward to returning to the days of pest-free chicken keeping.

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Written by Renee Wilkinson