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My Chicken Ate Rat Poison: What Should I Do?

You suspect that your chicken ingested rat poison directly or ate a contaminated creature like a poisoned mouse, rat, snake, cat, possum, or raccoon—now what?

Here is some of the most important information for you to know, including your options, how you can help your chickens, and how to prevent this from happening again.

How Long Does It Take for Rat Poison to Kill?

Rat poison is not instant at all and is often incredibly painful.

Rat poison, often called an anticoagulant, usually takes the following duration to take effect:

If a human ingests rat poison, it could take up to two weeks for them to pass away if there isn’t medical intervention.

dead chicken due to heat wave

Can My Chicken Survive Eating Rat Poison?

The survival of a chicken after ingesting rat poison depends on various factors, including the type and amount of poison consumed.

Exceptionally, small doses in larger chickens with stomachs full of healthy and fiber-packed foods may survive with little to no issue.

Smaller chickens who ingest more poison with an empty stomach are not as likely to fare so well.

Rat poisons often contain anticoagulants that interfere with blood clotting, leading to internal bleeding.

Chickens are susceptible to these effects, and the severity of the poisoning can vary.

Prompt veterinary attention is crucial for the best chances of survival.

Veterinarians may employ treatments such as vitamin K1 supplementation.

This counteracts the anticoagulant effects, but success depends on the speed of intervention and the specific circumstances of the poisoning.

Symptoms of Poisoning in Chickens

Chickens that have ingested rat poison will exhibit a range of symptoms, and usually all at once.

These often include

  • weakness
  • lethargy
  • difficulty breathing
  • halted egg production
  • a pale comb and wattles
  • blood in feces
  • blood“vomit”
  • noticeably swollen abdomen, in severe cases

Observing any of these signs or suspecting poisoning should prompt immediate veterinary intervention.

Early detection and treatment are crucial to minimize the impact of the poison on the chicken’s health.

Chickens Ate Rat Poison: Here’s What To Do

Offer Supportive Care

While waiting for professional assistance, providing supportive care is essential.

Place the affected chicken in a quiet and comfortable environment to minimize stress.

Ensure access to fresh water and offer easily digestible food, like chick feed, soaked grains, or fermented feed.

Close monitoring is crucial during this period, as any deterioration in the chicken’s condition should prompt an immediate visit to the veterinarian.

If the chicken seems to be in poor shape and is not saveable, consider culling the animal.

Supportive care aims to maintain the chicken’s overall well-being until specific treatments can be administered.

Consider Culling Out Of Mercy

In cases where the poisoning is severe, and the chicken is experiencing significant suffering with a poor prognosis for recovery, considerations may be made for humane culling.

Remember that poisoning is a relatively slow process that is painful every moment until death.

It is not ethical to let your chicken pass this way.

Euthanasia is preferred, be it by you, a vet, or a trusted chicken keeper with more experience.

ALSO READ: How to Humanely Kill a Chicken

Call Your Local Vet’s Office

It is rare for a veterinarian to have the time or resources to help poisoned chickens, but it’s still a wise idea to call your local office to see if there is anything you can do to help your birds.

Some will have advice on how to help your chickens out.

Others will offer you the support and guidance you need to euthanize your chickens humanely.

If nothing else, they can offer euthanasia services for you if you can’t do that yourself.

Do not let your chickens die of poisoning if you know they are lethally poisoned.

This is a painful way for them to die, and there are much more ethical dispatching options for you to use.

How Do Vets Save Animals with Rat Poisoning?

Vets will immediately remove the stomach contents, either via a tube or surgery.

Usually, this is only done for larger animals, like cats or dogs, but it might be an option for chickens in special cases.

Then, they administer active charcoal to help heal the damage and then give the animal medication to help them rehydrate and urinate more.

These medications must be administered for two to four weeks to increase their pee volume and frequency, and they will help flush out more toxins.

Is There an Antidote for Rat Poison?

There is no universal antidote for all types of rat poisons.

The specific treatment for rat poison ingestion in chickens depends on the type of poison involved.

Some anticoagulant poisons may be countered with vitamin K1 supplementation, which supports normal blood clotting.

However, be warned that the effectiveness of the treatment hinges on early intervention and a thorough understanding of the specific poison.

Veterinary consultation is crucial to determine the appropriate course of action and improve the chances of a positive outcome for the chicken.

Will Rat Poison Hurt People?

Rodenticides are toxic to humans, and this can cause lots of issues for you and your family.

If ingested, it absolutely has the potential to be lethal. It’s also dangerous to handle or breathe.

The active ingredients in many rat poisons are designed to interfere with blood clotting, and they can be harmful if ingested or if there is contact with the skin.

Ingesting rat poison accidentally can lead to serious health issues, almost always some amount of internal bleeding.

Handling rat poison with extreme caution is crucial, following the manufacturer’s instructions for use and storage.

If there is any suspicion of exposure or ingestion, seek immediate medical attention.

Keep rat poison out of reach of children and pets, and consider using alternative methods for rodent control that do not pose a direct threat to human health.

gentle chicken breeds for backyard flock

An Ounce of Prevention Is Better Than a Pound of Cure

Sometimes, your animals will roam onto the neighbors’ properties, where they can come into contact with unpleasant items like rat poison.

You can’t control what your neighbors do, so do what you can to manage your flock instead.

If you notice your animals visiting the neighbors more often, consider building a fence to contain them or only free-ranging your flock for a few hours in the evening.

Limiting their free-range time will ensure they don’t travel as far, keeping them safer.

Also, you should consider forgoing the poison altogether, if possible.

This will avoid lots of issues in the future, and the risks of using rat poison often outweigh any potential benefits.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Rat Poison

Using rat poison raises ethical, environmental, and practical concerns.

Here are some reasons why you might want to reconsider using rat poison.

Cruelty and Inhumane Treatment

Rat poison typically causes a slow and painful death for rodents.

The animals may experience internal bleeding, seizures, and a prolonged period of misery and suffering before succumbing to the poison.

Non-Target Animals

Rat poison is not selective, and other animals– like chickens or your pets– may accidentally consume it.

This can include songbirds, fragile species, owls (other birds of prey), and wildlife.

Secondary poisoning can occur when predators consume animals that have ingested the poison.

Environmental Impact

Rat poison can enter the ecosystem, affecting non-target species and disrupting the balance of local wildlife.

The poison can also contaminate water sources, threatening aquatic life.

Incomplete Elimination of Rodent Problem

Killing individual rodents does not address the root cause of infestations.

Without addressing the factors that attract rodents, such as food sources and entry points, new rodents are likely to move in, and the problem may persist.

Resistance and Ineffectiveness

Over time, rodent populations can develop resistance to certain types of poison.

This can render the poison ineffective, leading to the need for stronger and more harmful substances.

Risk to Children and Pets

Rat poison poses a risk to children and pets who may accidentally ingest it.

Even if used in bait stations, exposure still has potential, especially in households with younger children or curious animals.

Regulatory Restrictions

In some regions, there may be strict regulations on the use of certain rodenticides due to their impact on the environment and non-target species.

Ignoring these regulations can lead to legal consequences.

California’s governor Gavin Newsome recently signed a bill specifically to restrict the use of rat poison.

Cost and Ongoing Maintenance

Continuous use of rat poison may become costly over time, especially if infestations persist.

Implementing more sustainable and preventive measures can be a more cost-effective and long-term solution.

Health Concerns for Humans

There is a risk of human exposure to rat poison through direct contact or ingestion.

This can occur during handling, accidental spillage, or through contaminated surfaces.

Alternatives and Integrated Pest Management

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) focuses on addressing the root causes of pest problems rather than relying solely on chemicals.

Implementing alternative methods, such as sealing entry points, proper waste disposal, and maintaining cleanliness, can be more sustainable and effective in the long run.

We’ll discuss this in more detail in the next section.

Repairing Chicken Coop - Spring Chicken Checklist

How To Get Rid of Rats Without Using Poison

I commend you for looking at other options!

Here are some of our best alternative ideas for reducing or eliminating the rat population in your backyard or farm.

Use some or all of these recommendations to help you (and your flock) out.

Lift the Egg Boxes

If your hens are laying eggs in boxes on or near the ground, it’s really easy for rats to find and feast on the eggs.

Consider lifting these boxes so they’re harder for a rat to access.

Remember that rats can climb wood, but metal, glass, and some kinds of plastic are much harder for them to scale.

Remove Excess Feed

Rats are naturally attracted to easy and consistent food sources.

Make sure to store chicken feed in fully sealed containers.

Regularly clean up spills and crumbs, and consider switching to daily feedings rather than automatic feeders.

Seal Entry Points

Identify and seal any possible entry points around your chicken coop and run.

Rats can squeeze through small openings, so it’s important to close gaps in walls, floors, and switch to hardware cloth if that’s possible.

Of course, you should also close the coop door every night, too.

If you haven’t already, think about switching to an automatic coop door so it’s consistent, solid, and secure at night.

Be Responsible With Your Trash and Waste

Keep trash in tightly sealed containers, and avoid leaving bags of trash outside for extended periods.

If you have a hen pass away, dispose of the body properly and promptly.

Decaying bodies are fast predator attractants.

Regularly clean your garbage cans to eliminate odors that may attract rats, too.

Use Snap Traps in Smart Locations

Snap traps are an effective and humane way to catch and instantly kill rats.

Place traps along walls where you’ve noticed rat activity, with the trigger side facing the wall.

If your barn or coop has exposed beams or rafters, put the snap traps up there.

The traps will likely fall after catching a rat, but they will already be triggered and won’t pose any threats to your flock.

Bait the traps with a small amount of peanut butter.

Empty these traps several times a day, or else the rest of the rats will wise up to your methods and avoid them.

Hire Hunting Animals

Some animals, such as terriers or large barn cats, are natural hunters and can help control rat populations.

I trained my Catahoula dog to bring us dead rats and mice for high-value treats. He happily trades them off for pieces of meat.

He also loves the chase, which is good for his health and mental well-being.

If you plan to bring new hunting animals onto your property to help you out, be careful.

You may need to keep your flock caged or penned up while these hunters visit to keep your chickens safe.

Confined Run

Train Chickens To Hunt Young Rats

If you kill a rat with a method other than rat poison, toss the carcass into the pen with your chickens.

They will pick apart and eat most (if not all) of the carcass and will soon learn to associate rats as a source of food.

If your chickens don’t seem to know what to do with the rat or mouse, use an axe or hatchet to cut it in half first.

This will give your chickens easier access to the inside of it, and they will soon figure out how to dissect and eat them on their own.

While chickens usually can’t take down large rats, they will be on the lookout for young rats and most mice.

They will hunt them all on their own. This is really proactive at reducing or eliminating rat and mouse nests.

Use Small Live Traps

Live traps can catch rats without harming them.

Once trapped, you can release the rats in a location away from your property or dispatch the animal in a humane way.

Check traps frequently, at least twice a day, to avoid causing unnecessary stress to the captured animals.

sick dead chicken

If the Chicken Dies, What to Do?

If a chicken accidentally consumes poison and subsequently dies or has to be culled for the sake of being more humane, be proactive to prevent further harm and poisoning.

Don’t Let The Carcass Be Eaten

If you suspect the chicken has ingested poison, prevent other animals or scavengers from consuming the carcass.

This includes keeping other chickens, pets, and wildlife away from the area.

Bury the Body Deep in the Ground

Bury the chicken deep in the ground to prevent other animals from accessing the remains.

Make sure the burial site is far away from water sources, wells, or areas frequented by humans and animals.

You do not want the poison to seep into your precious groundwater or local streams.

Consider Consulting a Veterinarian or a Nearby University

If you have concerns about the cause of death or suspect poisoning, contact a veterinarian as soon as possible.

They can provide guidance on potential treatments for surviving animals and help determine the type of poison involved.

They may also conduct an autopsy for educational purposes, and they can point you in the right direction for properly disposing of the body if burial isn’t an option.

Universities may also be interested in the carcass for dissection and examination of the body and the effects of poisoning.

My Chicken Ate Rat Poison

My Chicken Ate Rat Poison: FAQ

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions, plus our best responses.

Can Chickens Survive Rat Poison?

Survival after ingesting rat poison depends on factors like poison type and the amount consumed.

Immediate veterinary attention is crucial for better chances of survival.

What Is the Antidote for Rat Poison in Chickens?

Unfortunately, there’s no universal antidote; treatment depends on the poison type.

A veterinarian will determine the appropriate course, often involving vitamin K1 for certain poisons.

What Are the Symptoms of Poisoning in Chickens?

Symptoms vary but may include weakness, difficulty breathing, isolation, depression, exhaustion, and blood in feces or vomit.

Seek immediate veterinary assistance if you observe such signs or suspect poisoning.

What Happens if My Chicken Eats a Poisoned Mouse?

If a chicken consumes a poisoned mouse, there is a risk of secondary poisoning.

The poison can be transferred to the chicken through the contaminated mouse.

My Chicken Ate Rat Poison: Before You Go…

In conclusion, swift action is paramount if your chicken has ingested rat poison.

Contact a veterinarian immediately for guidance tailored to your situation.

Early detection of symptoms, such as weakness or bleeding, is crucial.

Providing supportive care while awaiting professional help can make a significant difference in your birds’ quality of life.

Remember: there is no universal antidote for rat poison, emphasizing the importance of prevention and the urgency of seeking professional assistance.


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