My neighbours say that my chickens will attract rats. What can I do to stop them? Paul Spencer, Newcastle

Laurence Beeken says: Chickens don’t attract rats – poor hygiene does. By following a few guidelines you should remain as rat free as possible (providing of course that your neighbour is just as tidy).

• Do not leave food lying around, only feed what your chickens need (about a handful). Keep feed in rodent proof bins. Do not feed meat left overs or excess kitchen scraps.

• Clean houses runs and feeding/drinking equipment regularly

• Clear away rubbish that may hide ‘rat runs’

• Fill any holes that appear

• If you find gnaw holes, then coat them with cribbox – a product sold to stop horses chewing

• Raise housing off the ground – a pallet is excellent if your house isn’t on legs

• Move houses regularly

Finally if you find you do have a rat problem, then get professional advice before the problem gets out of hand.