Rodents, such as rats and mice, can be a major cost factor on the poultry farm because of the food that they eat and spoil with faeces and urine, the damage they do to the housing and equipment. Further, the diseases they may carry can result in flock health problems, staff health problems and/or food safety concerns regarding the products produced on the farm.
The cost of rodent infestations on poultry farms
Rodent infestations on poultry farms can result in economic loss in a number of ways:
Feed loss– Rats will eat almost anything that could be classified as food including rotting materials and manure. However, they prefer good quality, fresh food – and this is plentiful around the poultry farm. Each rat can consume up to 30 g of food per day and will spoil much more. In addition, food stored in bags will be wasted if rodents are given the opportunity to establish themselves. At a consumption rate of 30 g per day, 1000 rats will eat approximately 11 tonnes in a year. In addition, rats and mice can often waste (through spillage) and spoil (through contamination with faeces and urine) more feed than they eat.
Damage to buildings and equipment– Inside poultry houses rats, and to a lesser extent mice, cause damage to building structures, including foundations, water lines, electrical cables, etc. Damage to electric cables can lead to short circuits and are often the cause of fires and electrical failures.
Damage to flocks– Rodents not only physically damage the building structures and equipment but they can also break and eat eggs and kill young chicks. Rodents are also major vectors (carriers) and reservoirs of poultry and zoonotic pathogens (pathogens that can be spread from animals to humans), including Pasteurella multocida, Salmonella typhimurium, S. enteritidis and influenza and infectious bursal disease viruses. After cleaning and disinfection of a poultry house, mouse populations can remain infected with bacteria and viruses that infect poultry for at least 10 months. Rodents also carry parasites such as lice, mites and fleas. In addition, rodents cause general nuisance for birds in the house due to their noise and movements. The birds may be frightened, which results in poor performance.
In relation to problems on poultry farms, mice can be considered to be small rats and pose the same problems in poultry sheds, particularly in relation to carrying disease.