Rather than leaving food out for the chickens all day like he did when he first bought his coop, Andrew Moyer now feeds his hens at specific times according to what they need. This reduces the amount of food around for pests to feed on. (Lauren Boothby/VICTORIA NEWS)

Victoria chicken coops can cause rat problems, but only for irresponsible owners

Keeping food safely stored away avoids problems, says pest control expert

Which came first: the chicken or the rat? That’s what neighbours living on urban streets with chicken coops want to know.

Chickens have been living in Victoria for years. The City’s bylaws don’t currently restrict the number of hens, provided the eggs are for personal use only and the birds are housed correctly. Roosters are not permitted.

But rats have been in Victoria even longer, so the presence of chickens can’t be blamed for their existence. Chicken coops, however, can provide an excellent source of rat food.

“(Rats) are amazing animals that aren’t to be underestimated at all,” said Kurtis Brown of Victoria Pest Control. “If we’re not storing food properly … we are certainly inviting rats.”

Any stable food source can attract rats.

There are two species of rats in Victoria: the “brown” rat and the “roof” rat. Brown rats’ diet mainly consists of grains, which also happens to be chickens’ bread and butter. Chicken feed, if unattended, will feed a rat family, or even a whole colony.

And it’s not just the feed, either. Roof rats are omnivorous and will eat anything, including chicken eggs, baby chicks, and chicken manure. Rats are cautious, but clever problem-solvers. If it’s possible to get into the coop, they will figure it out.

“They can accomplish many things,” said Brown, laughing.

He is reluctant to blame chickens for rodent problems in a neighbourhood, a general issue recently brought to light by a Victoria News letter writer.

“Sanitation is pest control,” he said. “If there’s no food, there’s no rats. It’s as simple as that.”

Mayor Lisa Helps, who keeps chickens herself, thinks having hens in an urban area like Victoria makes sense.

“We live on an island, we’ve got limited space for growing food,” she said. “To me it makes sense that backyard chickens are allowed, but the chicken owners do have a responsibility.”

[gps-image name=”8336060_web1_170906-vne-backyardchickens05.jpg”]

Andrew Moyer and Monica Pozzolo are among these local chicken owners.

Behind a canopy of fruit trees and a formidable vegetable garden, the couple have kept chickens since their daughter was young. The original reasons are what you might expect – fresh eggs and meat – but there is also educational and entertainment value.

“We call it chicken TV,” Moyer said. “You can’t have fires in the city (and) when you’re camping, you have to have a campfire to look at. We sit by our chickens and watch chickens do things.”

“Watching a lumbering animal without arms running around like a dinosaur is kind of fun,” he said, laughing.

The couple hoped to teach their children about the “circle of life,” Moyer said; how they grow, live and eventually end up on their plates. He also thinks learning farm chores is good for their daughter.

Keeping the coop clean is just like any other household chore, he added. “I think it’s like maintenance anywhere in a house. If you’re good at cleaning up your garbage, great. If you leave your compost bucket from your kitchen outside for a couple days, raccoons and rats and whatever else are going to get into it.”

In hindsight, Moyer admitted he hasn’t always been the best chicken owner. At the beginning they would use an open feeder, where the hens had access to food all day – which may have attracted rodents. Sometimes they would forget to put the chickens in at night, which led to problems with raccoons.

More recently they’ve tried to be good chicken owners and they rarely have issues. “We put them in at night, and built a good cage that’s sturdy and has a bottom in it so they can’t dig out and other things can’t dig in.”

Even if they don’t see rats, Moyer knows they are around.

However, if residents are keeping food contained, chickens shouldn’t be a problem for Moyer, and not a problem for Keith Brown’s pest control: “I’m all for chicken coops,” he said. “Backyard chickens are awesome. But you better build your coop right.”

lauren.boothby@vicnews.com

 

Backyard chickens at Andrew Moyer and Monica Pozzolo’s home are fed grains. Moyer says problems with vermin such as rats and mice can be avoided by paying closer attention to feeding patterns and access to food. Lauren Boothby/ VICTORIA NEWS

A hen stands in her coop in the backyard of a Fernwood resident. (Lauren Boothby/VICTORIA NEWS)

Just Posted

‘Beauty amongst such tragedy:’ B.C. photographer captures nature’s trifecta

David Luggi’s photo from a beach in Fraser Lake shows Shovel Lake wildfire, Big Dipper and an aurora

Susan Simmons begins a 24-hour swim from Victoria to Port Angeles and back

The MS Athlete and ultra-marathon swimmer wants to be the first person to make the journey

New Victoria mayoral candidate, three more council candidates step forward

Four people from NewCouncil.ca jump into the race for the Oct. 2018 municipal election

PHOTOS: Tour de Victoria takes off

1,800 cyclists took off in the Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria for a city-wide loop

Vancouver Island woman to attempt historic swim across Juan de Fuca Strait today

Ultra-marathon swimmer Susan Simmons to attempt to swim from Victoria to Port Angeles and back

Oak Bay brothers scoop 10 kg of poop from park paths in 30 mins

Family picks up dog poo to give back, inspire others to be more responsible

Five things to do in Greater Victoria this weekend

Puppy yoga, horses, cars, water guns and more make up this weekend’s list of events to see

Lions give up late TD in 24-23 loss to Argos

B.C. falls to 3-5, fumbling away last-minute chance in Toronto

Eagle tree cut down legally a 1st for B.C. city

Planned eagle preserve ‘a first for City of Surrey’

Smoky skies like a disappearing act for sights, monuments around B.C.

Haze expected to last the next several days, Environment Canada said

Canadians react to death of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan at age 80

Nobel Peace Prize-winning former UN leader died early Saturday following a short illness

44 drownings so far this year in B.C.

Lifesaving Society urging caution to prevent deaths while on lakes, oceans and in pools

Most Read