Chickens will be chickens. That means that they will eat just about anything they can get their beak into, including fruits, vegetables, and even meat. That said, while many chicken keepers know their flock is omnivorous, spotting chickens eating mice can be shocking. This can also raise a lot of questions, like is it dangerous for a chicken to eat a mouse?
Today, you’re going to learn why chickens eat mice and if you should be worried about this behavior.
Do Chickens Eat Mice?
If given the chance, chickens will take the opportunity to eat a mouse or two. You won’t necessarily see chickens stalking mice in a field, but if one happens to scamper through the coop, there is a chance that rodent will be someone’s dinner. Furthermore, chickens are well adapted to catching mice. Once they spot their prey, they will give chase then attack with their beak and talons.
Whether the chickens are raised by hand or in the wild, they will always attack a mouse. This is perfectly normal behavior. Chickens can eat all kinds of vermin, as a matter of fact. This includes scorpions, worms, lizards, snakes, and rats.
Interestingly, since chickens have poor eyesight in the dark, mice sometimes attack the birds by nibbling on feathers and talons. Should chickens be startled and wake up, it will be an unpleasant evening for the mouse.
Is Eating Mice Safe For Chickens?
Now, while catching and eating mice is normal for chickens and to be expected, it’s not always the safest of choices. Mice can carry all kinds of diseases; so only the best mice are the ones free of that danger. All kinds of rodents — hamsters, gerbils, rats — can carry disease. Both humans and chickens are susceptible to these diseases, which include salmonella, leptospirosis, hantavirus, lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV), and tularemia.
Despite these diseases being dangerous, chickens are far more in danger of poisoning. If you happen to use rodent poison to control the mice population, it is highly possible that your chickens will get a hold of a poisoned mouse and eat it. Unfortunately, depending on how much poison the mouse consumed, your chicken could also die from the poison.
So you should be wary about any rodents lingering around the coops
Benefits for Eating Mice For Chickens
You should be careful about what you feed your chickens. Mice may not be the best option for your chickens to snack on, but there are some benefits to consider. The first benefit is that mice are an enticing addition to the regular diet. Adding in some meat could jazz up meals for your flock. Chickens may not need as much enrichment as other animals, but they do enjoy some excitement once in a while.
Secondly, mice can be a nutritious treat for birds. Chicken feed is designed to take care of most of your flock’s needs. Egg-laying hens, however, need a lot more vitamins and nutrients to sustain their egg production. Mice are a great choice for egg-laying hens, because the meat is high in protein. Plus, mice bones are a great source of calcium.
Chicken grit can easily replace mice, however. You don’t have to give your chickens mice in order to get high quality eggs.
That said, if your chickens do happen upon a mouse once in a while, it’s not going to ruin their diet.
Questions to Consider When Your Chickens Eat Mice
In many cases, a chicken eating a mouse shouldn’t cause you any worry. Mice sometimes find themselves in the wrong place and the wrong time and end up as a meal for birds. While it might be unusual for you, it’s natural for chickens to eat meat.
However, there are a few instances where you should ask why your chickens are going after mice.
Feeding chickens isn’t the most complicated task. You select some premium quality feed, mix in some occasional treats like fruits and vegetables, and allow for some free range feeding. Chickens that express abnormal eating habits, however, may be malnourished.
In some instances, starving chickens will hunt for food to meet their needs. This could mean tracking down mice to eat. Any animal would do the same.
The second reason chickens go in search of mice is a lack of protein in their diet. Chickens will eat their own eggs if it means correcting nutritional deficiencies. In this case, chickens venturing outside the normal diet isn’t surprising.
If you see your chickens eating mice regularly and know it has nothing to do with their diet, you might want to consider other factors. Eating mice isn’t dangerous when the mouse isn’t poisoned or diseased, but chickens eating a lot of mice can point to behavioral issues.
Think about the following if your chickens are acting strangely:
During periods of high stress and bullying, some chickens will take out their frustrations on smaller, weaker animals. Mice sometimes fall prey to a chicken’s frustrations.
Do your chickens have plenty of room to roam? There are many breeds of chickens that loathe confinement. Cramped coops and runs may increase stress on your flock, causing them to lash out at one another. If you suspect that your chickens are taking out their anger on mice because of a lack of space, consider widening the run or getting a bigger coop.
When the coop is dirty, it also raises the stress levels of the flock. Insufficient food, unclean water, and an excess of filth make the coop an inhospitable place. Keep the coop clean and make sure there is plenty of ventilation. Furthermore, make sure that none of the chickens are ill or have an infection.
Do chickens eat mice in self-defense? Mice might be cute, but they are a nuisance. In the wintertime, mice may invade the coop. During the day, they will hide, but in the evening, the mice will nettle your chickens by chewing on their wings and feet. Chickens are deep sleepers, so they may not realize when there is something gnawing on them. Plus, the mice will get into uncollected eggs, leftover food, and even wires and cables.
You don’t want that. Furthermore, any droppings that mice get in the food, water, or bedding could give chickens (and you) salmonella.
For these reasons, your chickens may be attacking mice out of self-defense. For example, if a hen notices a mouse or rat going after her eggs, she won’t be pleased. In fact, she may kill the mouse and eat it to prove a point.
How to Rodent-Proof Your Chicken Coop
Eating mice is normal enough for chickens, but you probably don’t want mice to be a large part of your chicken’s diet. After all, mice carry a lot of diseases and can damage the coop and eggs. Therefore, you need to know how to stop mice from getting into the coop.
Here are some ways to rodent-proof the coop:
Seal Up Gaps
While having gaps for ventilation in the coop is always a great idea, you shouldn’t leave those holes wide open. Instead, seal up the cool with some breathable mesh. You get to keep airflow while shielding your flock from predators.
Put Leftover Feed in Containers
One of the reasons why mice wander into coops despite the danger is food. If you want to limit their occurrence, you need to take away temptation. One of the best ways to do that is to keep the coop clean. Remove all excess food overnight. Seal up unused portions in airtight containers, too.
When you do set down feed for the chickens, make sure it is inaccessible to rodents. For instance, you might bin the feed in a metal bin that the mice can’t chew through or climb.
Peppermint oil and dried mint leaves have a scent that rodents don’t like. The scent weakens a rodent’s sense of smell. Use mint leaves and essential oil sprays around the coop and yard. Your chickens won’t be harmed, and you will see far less rodents rummaging around.
Don’t put down mouse traps. Instead, get an electronic rodent deterrent. These emit a noise at a frequency that only rodents can hear. Chickens won’t be bothered by the noise, but the rodents, including mice and rats, will stay far away.
Barn Cats and Dogs
Having cats and dogs around the yard is an excellent way to keep mice and other predators away from the chickens. And don’t worry about the cats going after the chickens. They will ignore chickens and eggs while hunting for rodents.
You were wondering if chickens eat mice, and the answer is yes. Chickens will attack mice and eat them with little effort. So don’t be surprised if you see members of the flock walking around with rodent tails hanging from their mouths! However, because mice aren’t always the best or safest source of food, it is best that you rodent-proof your coop to keep your chickens healthy.
Valerie has been content writing since 2016 for websites and companies all around the world. A traveler, dancer, martial artist, Valerie loves gathering experiences and wisdom. Her travels have taken her to over 20 countries, and she hopes to see more of the world soon.