We have rats. The tunnels started appearing in the raised beds and the hoophouse a couple months ago, but I didn’t worry too much because there’s nothing in the raised beds or the hoophouse. But then they breached the chicken coop.
Our coop has poultry fencing across the bottom, under about six inches of dirt and wood chips. Poultry fencing is different from chicken wire – it’s a heavier-gauge wire, and the mesh has holes that are about two and a half inches by an inch and a half. It’s small enough to keep out any predator of chickens (although I hope a fisher cat never gives it a go), but large enough to let in pilferers of feed.
Rats in the chicken coop aren’t a catastrophic problem – at least not now, since they probably can’t do anything but harass a full-grown hen. If, however, we had chicks, we’d have to keep the rats out. Since we’re not getting chicks this week, I didn’t feel as though it was a pressing problem, and I just filled in their tunnels and put some rocks outside the coop. You can imagine how well that worked.
Since they broke in every single night, and started stealing an appreciable amount of feed, I got more serious. Plan B was to shovel the dirt and wood chips off the part of the coop that was being invaded, and put one-inch chicken wire down over the poultry fencing. Although that did succeed in keeping them out of the part that was being invaded, they simply invaded another part. So I wired that part. So far, that’s kept them out, but I don’t expect it will take them long to figure out that there are parts still unwired.
Meantime, they dug enough tunnels under the concrete pavers in the hoophouse that the floor started caving in.
And then we heard scratching in the roof. The roof of the house. The house where we live.
We can’t say for sure that it was rats, but just the idea that it could happen was enough to convince me that we had to take action.
From all that I’ve read, the only way to get rid of rats is to kill them. Once they’ve made themselves at home in your chicken coop, hoophouse, or living room, you will not successfully persuade them to leave.
I like rats. They’re smart and resourceful. Although they’re invading our space and causing damage, they’re not doing it maliciously. They’re just being rats. I don’t like to kill them.
Kevin put a couple of snap traps, baited with peanut butter and almonds, outside the hoophouse, but the rats just laughed and stole the bait. Now, a snap trap isn’t a bad way to go. If it works properly, it snaps your neck instantly. If you outwit it, though, you force the homeowner whose property you’ve invaded to take other measures.
We’ve been poisoning them with a product called Havoc. Like most rat poisons, its active ingredient is anticoagulant. A week or so after ingestion, the rat hemorrhages to death. It’s not a good death, and I’m not happy about it. I don’t want the rats to suffer, but I also can’t allow them to take over the property, threaten the livestock, compromise the garden, and move in with us in the big house.
We think everything we kill for food should have as humane a death as we can possible provide, and we’ve gone to some length to make sure our birds and pigs, as well as the fish we catch, die well. To then turn around and poison the rats with this godawful stuff feels rotten, rotten, rotten.
I recognize that my obligation to an animal I raise and kill for food is different from my obligation to an animal that arrives uninvited and competes with me for food and shelter, but that doesn’t change the fact that a whole battalion of intelligent animals is going to die unpleasant deaths at our hand.
It’s rotten. Rotten, rotten rotten.