Rats!

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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.

Caught in the act, on the VarmintCam

Caught in the act, on the VarmintCam

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.

George inspecting the rat-proofing

George inspecting the rat-proofing

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.

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Comments

  1. Here in Alberta a rat spotting makes the news….there’s a department(I have visions of sculking crazy prairie men with flashlight helmets standing guard at the saskatchewan/alberta border) called a “rat patrol” if you can imagine. I remember there was a spotting of a colony somewhere….it was a couple days till the news broadcast gave the “all clear”.

  2. B. Girard says:

    First and foremost, thank you for your blog, I’ve been lurking for quite a while and enjoy your posts tremendously.

    Other than that, thank you for considering the lives you are ending here, and the method you use. I share that concern with you. Sadly, while rats are intelligent, they are also carriers of pathogens and disease, for both you and your animals, so however painful it is for you to do so, this is in a very real way self-defense. Good Luck.

    • Couldn’t agree more; being consicentious of the rest of the lives for which you’ve already accepted responsibility can sometimes mean ending the lives of other creatures that would otherwise harm them, in the case of rats via pathogens, bacteria, and viruses. While it certainly feels distasteful to use such a nasty product, the fact of the matter is that your average rat’s fecundity means that it is really the only way to ensure a quick and effective solution to the problem before it gets out of hand.

      Yes, it’s an ugly part of working toward self-sufficiency, certainly, but a necessary one. Thank you, good luck, and please keep up this great blog

  3. Oy…we’ve had a horrible problem with rats at our house..in our garage, in my vegetable garden (eating my tomatoes–ugh) and most notably in our attic. They made a nest in the space over my daughters room, had babies, then one of the adult rats died (and was in the nest….partially eaten by the mother, I suspect). Matt had to lift up every piece of insulation to find them. The mother escaped, the dead rat was disposed of, and the babies (6) were taken to the woods..I’m sure they made a very nice snack for something. We even had to dig a dead rat out of the wall of our garage. And that was truly rotten, rotten, rotten.

    Our dog is very good ratter and I’ve found a few dead ones in our back yard. Good luck. They are VERY hard to get rid of. Ours, like yours, took the bait off of the traps every single day without being caught. Even the most sensitive traps. You gotta do what you gotta do…poison, cats, dogs (or all of the above).

  4. I don’t know how well it will work for rats but I use a tried and true method for mice. I put 6″ of water (with antifreeze in cold months) in a five gallon bucket. Poke a hole in the bottom of a soda can and run a string through the can. Tie the string from one handle to the other, crossing the top. The soda can will hang a few inches into the bucket. Smear some peanut butter on the can. Place the bucket next to something the mouse, or in this case a rat can climb to reach the top. They fall in trying to get the peanut butter, and drown. You’d probably need a bucket larger than five gallons for a rat. I think they could jump out.

  5. It’s ok, Tamar. They’re rats. Not only do they not play well with others and eat paste, but probably run with scissors, to boot.

    I saw that .. it was a good smile.

    Now go read this and you really will know that it’s ok to kill the rats.
    http://voices.yahoo.com/i-hate-rats-especially-improved-model-1022461.html?cat=15

  6. In addition to the damage that rats can do, and the injuries they can cause to adults, children, pets, and livestock if *they* choose to attack, they don’t get vaccinated. They might be a random disease vector, sometimes.

    I figure that our livestock has a right to expect us to protect them from predators and from vermin as well. We owe ourselves and our families a rodent-free (except for well-contained pets) home, with a reasonable control on direct and indirect (vermin droppings) control on cleanliness.

    Billll’s Idle Mind likes to make impromptu guns. Like a 20 foot air powered pumpkin cannon. His story, a few years back, of a friend’s air-powered de-ratter, with quick dispatch of the rodent.
    http://billllsidlemind.blogspot.com/2008/04/workshop.html

    Billll’s problem was squirrels, he ended up with a version of the can in a bucket trap.
    http://billllsidlemind.blogspot.com/2008/07/squirrel-gun.html

    You might note in the second post that Billll found a useful solution to the squirrel problem, with no moving parts, no air supply, no trajectories or loud noises. He seemed disappointed.

  7. While I share your feelings of wrongness in killing a living creature just because it is inconvenient for me, I hate rats. I hate that they not only chew into food containers, but then ruin what they don’t eat by urinating and defecating all over it. I hate that they get in everywhere, and then seem feel obligated to die in the most inaccessible spot they can get to so that I wind up tearing out dry wall to get the maggot infested corpse out of the wall. I hate that they startle me by popping out of boxes of Christmas ornaments as I carry them into the house. So while I agree that poisoning the little boogers feels wrong, there is a primitive part of me that does a wild victory dance around a blazing bonfire each time I trap one.

    BTW, I have success with snap traps by gluing a small piece of dog kibble to the bottom of the trigger with a small amount of peanut butter. If you put the bait on top of the trigger they can gently lick it off, but if it is under the trigger they will stick their nose under and set off the trap. I just can’t use snap traps anywhere near my animals. I know it should go without saying but put the bait under the trigger _before_ setting the trap. Baiting after setting the trap may result in dancing around the kitchen holding your hand and spewing out a stream of profanity that would impress your average sailor.

  8. Tamar, in the long run, exclusion tends to be the best option but it requires a control expert who really knows what they’re doing in terms of capping off the entry points. We had it done in our last place and it did work for roof rats.

    Would you consider something other than poison? I ask because of the extremely deleterious effects up the food chain.

    In the wildlife hospital, we accessioned rodenticide-poisoned hawks and owls, and it’s absolutely devastating to witness. Unless the formula has changed, Havoc contains Brodifacoum which is very harmful to raptors and other predators who eat the dead or dying rats. Here’s a bit of info on that from the Hungry Owl Project: http://www.hungryowl.org/services/rodent_control.html

    • I second this very important post. Many hawks and owls are poisoned in this manner every year. It is a devastating problem that all ornithologists are concerned about. Do you free feed your chickens? You should check out some different methods. Harvey Ussery talks about some great exclusion ideas and feeding methods that worked for mice and you could get some thoughts in his “The Small-Scale Poultry Flock”. Please don’t use poison. Good luck, I hope you get rid of them.

    • This is a new campaign from Raptors Are the Solution (RATS) that’s relevant to this discussion and definitely worth watching.

      Video: Got Rats? Let Raptors Do Their Job

      http://youtu.be/ZWf_ftRk88w

  9. Accidental Mick says:

    Have a look on Amazon. Here in England you can buy a simple gadget that you plug into any spare electrical outlet and it makes all the wiring in the house give of “vibes” of some sort (I’ve no idea how it works) that rodents find disagreeable.
    I have used one for years and it works on mice and squirrels but I have never had rats. Both my cat and dog didn’t seem to notice anything.
    I don’t know if they available/legal in the States.

  10. Humans and rats have been contesting territory for centuries. While I understand your feelings, stop and consider for a moment if the rats cared as much about humans when the bubonic plague they were carrying via their fleas killed an estimated 75 to 200 MILLION humans over the course of little more than 2 years in the 14th century.

    That’s a LOT of dead people. Consider that you are getting a little payback for our side. And I thank you for it.

    On another note I had really good luck catching mice that ventured indoors by setting unbaited snap-traps in various places along the baseboards. I had noticed that mice do not run across the room very often, usually they sneak along the baseboards. They do this even if you are in the room, I have seen them. So I just took advantage of their habits. Very effectively so, I might add.

    I would suggest learning more about rats and their habits, figure out where and how they live. Then note their travel paths and places that traps left for a week at a time would not endanger other creatures (because that would be tragic, killing others when trying to nail the rats). Try not to handle the traps much so that there isn’t much human smell on them. Plan to leave the traps in place for several weeks. And try to place them where you can visually observe the trap without approaching it. Maybe even set up a line of traps so that they have to be crossed sooner or later. I share your distaste for the poison option.

    On another note it is impossible for your limiting the local rat population to affect their overall numbers, so it is not like the species will die out even if you were to need to kill a hundred or more. They are survivors, you need to be also.

    Good luck, and good hunting.

    PS – If you really cared about their deaths you would eat them rather than wasting them, but I really DO NOT recommend this. Handle them as little as possible with gloves on and dispose of bodies quickly (bury, maybe even in compost) because they really really do carry dangerous diseases. And fleas.

    • Barb — You’re right that we should eat them, but even I draw the line somewhere. Although I always like the part in the Patrick O’Brien novels about the Napoleonic wars where the midshipmen resort to hunting and eating the rats in the ship.

      We’ll try snap traps again, in different spots, using Laura’s baiting technique and see if we can’t do a little better.

      • Oh Tamar, I’ve been reading your blog quietly in the corner for some time. But now you went and mentioned the Aubrey-Maturin novels, so I have to declare myself opening and ask you to be my best friend. Have you read the cookbook based on the series, “Lobscouse and Spotted Dog”? I don’t think it has a recipe for rat, but it does for drowned baby. (Note to those unfamiliar: drowned baby is not an actual drowned baby.)

        • “opening” should have been “openly.” OOPS.

        • PQ — A fellow O’Brien fan! Well of course I’ll be your best friend. I have seen the cookbook, but I haven’t tried any of the recipes. I do love all the silly names for the desserts. Thanks for coming out into the light!

        • Which it’s my pleasure, my friend!

  11. Kathy — Seriously? How did Alberta get rid of all their rats? Inquiring minds want to know.

    B.G. — THanks for coming out of the shadows. And for the kind words and moral support.

    Alison — Oy is right. Sorry you had such a rough go. That’s the kind of story I just don’t want to have to tell.

    Robin — I’ve read about drowning traps, and it seems a lot of people use them with success. Since rats swim at least a little, I’m not sure a drowning death is better than a poison death. But it has the merit of not putting poison in the food chain, so perhaps we should reconsider. Thanks for the blueprints!

    Jeanne — Thanks for the link. Even though there are real problems with rats, I still hate killing them. Argh.

    Brad — Those are great links. If only there were a projectile …

    Laura — That’s a great tip for the snap traps. We’ll give it a shot. Thanks!

    Ingrid — It is brodifacoum, and it does present a threat to raptors. That’s one of the reasons we were reluctant to use it. We’re hoping that, since our rats seem to be almost exclusively nocturnal, and we’ve seen very few raptors since we started keeping the chickens locked up, there won’t be collateral damage. But we need to rid a large area of a lot of rats, not just keep them out of our house, and I don’t see another way.

    Mick — I’m going to Google that. It won’t solve the rat problem altogether, but keeping them out of the house is a priority. Thanks.

  12. Oh, my; what a mess. Surprised the chickens are not ganging up on the chicken house interlopers and happily dispatching them. Ours actively hunt and consume all manner of vermin, including snakes. But, yes you have to do what you have to do. Short of sitting up all night in infrared lighting with your .22 loaded with ratshot, poison is the only way to “go” if there are a lot of them.

  13. Don’t feel bad about killing rats, just think “Bubonic Plague”. We had a similar issue last year and ended up digging down along each side of the coop and pouring concrete. What ultimately got rid of them, however, was getting a cat. Make sure that if you do get a cat you first get rid of the rat poison as it is tempting for cats too. We learned that there is a special animal poison control number and it costs $65.00 to talk to them and that the cure for rat poison ingestion is Vitamin K.

    There are things you can do to help such as pick up anything you can find laying on the ground. I found a nest of rat babies in my garden in the dead of winter under the wood from a raised bed. If you can figure out where they are nesting during the day you can dig them out. It was not fun but it was effective for us. Also, it helps you stop feeling sorry for them when you kill them.

    Also, be even more vigilant in cleaning up any spilled feed and even take the feed in at night and put it out again in the morning for the chickens.

    Check the compost pile for goodies that rats like. We found a lot of droppings on our compost pile so we had to make other arrangements for that.

    It is no fun. Rats are formidable foes.

  14. Barbara christensen says:

    We have same problem on our farm. We don’t use poison because barn cats would suffer if they decided to eat the rat bas***ds. Two solutions in addition to traps – when our Maine coon cat was alive, not a rat or squirrel was to be found. They are ferocious hunters as a breed. Word spread… We also fill tunnels with broken up glass. Just smash in a bucket to 1/2 inch size. They won’t dig through it to reopen a tunnel. We tried gasoline down a ground hog hole once, but the other end of the run came up in a hay pile…we have a crack volunteer fire company, thank God.

  15. We too felt that we should be able to co-exist with the rodents around our farm, until they started chewing through engine parts. We’re 25 k’s from the nearest town and need reliable transport to be available in case of emergency. We found there is a product made by a large chemimal company that does not kill rodent predators like raptors etc. which the normal anticoagulants most certainly do. Using this allows to at least feel that we are targeting the cause and not the environment.

  16. Chemical!

  17. Myrna — I want to know where you get your vermin-hunting chickens. If I could only get those, I wouldn’t need the cat. Although I like cats …

    Jessica — If we do re-cat, I’ll make sure the poison is all gone, and any dead rats are decomposed. We have managed to secure the chicken feed (no break-ins yet), but I harbor little hope of finding nests. We have two acres, mostly of woods, and they could be anywhere — but when the ground thaws, it would make sense to check the perimeters of the structures and raised beds. We have stopped putting the compost in the pile, and opt for the barrel (which closes) instead. They are formidable indeed, but we’re hoping the one-two punch of poison and winter does the trick.

    Barbara — Even our garden-variety housecat was great on vermin, so I can only imagine what a supercharged Maine coon cat could do. I do love the idea of a badass cat like that. I also like the broken glass idea!

    Fran — What is the poison you’re referring to? I’d love to get my hands on it.

  18. Boy did you get a lot of comments with this one!

    I remember watching with horror a rat twitching its last as blood ran out its mouth on my back porch when I let the dogs out one morning- it was awful and I couldn’t tear my eyes away.

    However, when you consider how hard rats are to exclude (they can get through some mighty small holes) how destructive they are (god forbid they decide to nest in your attic), and the diseases they carry (bubonic plague is not as probable these days as the hanta virus, which can kill you as well), you just have to get over killing them however you can get it done.

    If you really don’t like the idea, I second the idea of using one of those plug-ins that deter rats with subsonic sound, however I haven’t tried them, so have none to recommend.

    I must be quite heartless; I have no more compunction about killing rats than I do raccoons. Or great big bugs and spiders.

    Good thing i’m not a Hindu.

  19. I too need Fran’s poison info. Tonight I heard a “scrabbling” sound in the ceiling above my head. I know we have rodents outside. We are bird watchers and there is bird seed everywhere.

    I have three inside cats that mice (outside, wearing their harnesses and leashes) and a Western Screech Owl and a Northern Pygmy Owl that visit under my walkout deck to mouse. (Yes, the problem is that bad. There are rocks covered with English Ivy and the mice have established a colony.) My cats haven’t brought me many gifts from inside although there have been a few in the fall when the migration is taking place.

    I don’t know what to do. The rodents (ROUS’s) haven’t been in our food but they haven’t needed to. It’s just a matter of time though. We use snaps but it is a drip in the bucket. I need heavy artillery. I have danced on their heads when we have been moving things in the yard and found a nest so I am not squeamish. I feel badly for them but they have got to go.

    Any thoughts from your varied and very intelligent readership?

    • I started getting mice in the house a few years back (the mobile is 12 years old, now). I found the Victor traps with the yellow “permanent” bait works well. I take the new, fresh from the package trap, pull the staple from the trigger wire, and set the thing — without ever touching the yellow “bait” pan. I hold the trap upside down and dangle to get the pan to the right angle, set the trip wire, and set the trap against the base of a wall, pointed across where the mice run. I don’t know if they check out the yellow plastic, or just step on it in passing. It worrks, I have one in the barn some eight years old, I think, and it catches one every now and then, sometimes up to 4 and 6 a week, “in season”.

      When I dump a critter or have to reset the trap, I still avoid touching the yellow plastic tab. Then I wash my hands. Every time. I usually drop dead mice at the door to the barn, or off the deck. Neighborhood cats and other four-foots keep them from piling up, or even lingering very long.

      Keep the traps set, and you should eventually run out of mice, though it will likely take longer than with poison.

      I tried the TomCat brand of the seemingly same thing, but they didn’t work for me. So I stick with the Victor traps.

      Once you get the mice, you can usually trace back to their holes, and stuff the hole with steel wool. Mom claims that always works. Maybe it does. Keeping a strip next to the house mowed short seems to help divert them, sometimes. At least the short grass gives a better view to predators looking for mice.

      Luck.

    • In addition to the other suggestions, I would reccomend killng off at least some of the ivy. No place to nest and anyway, ivy is the adolf hitler of the plant world.

      • If that’s so, then pokeweed is the Goerring and false strawberry is the Himmler. And black-eyed Susans are Eva Braunn.

        • I don’t think this analogy really goes that far. And you haven’t even touched the bane of my garden, Johnson grass and bermuda grass, grasshoppers, and forgetting to water. ;0)

          • Actually, I use the phrase “adoph hitler of the plant world” for any plant that acts as if it wants to take over the world.

  20. There were rats in the roof of the my childhood home. Not on the roof, but between the rafters and the sheetrock ceiling. Their horrible crawling and scratching either gave me nightmares or kept me up for a month until my dad cut a hole above my bed and threw poison up there, and then re plastered the hole closed. The poison apparently is one that made them really thirsty so they leave the area to get water, and then die. No idea of the toxicness of it, but it worked.

    My thought is even if you can proof your hen house and the feed, they will move somewhere else and cause damage there.

  21. Ugh – we have some tunnels in the lawn and I wondered what the heck it was. . . I hope it’s not rats. I haven’t seen any and our chickens can and have caught mice and snakes amongst other things but I think if there are rats coming into the coop at night they wouldn’t do much, it’d have to be daylight.

  22. Paula — Nothing like rats to bring people together! I’ve read that the subsonic gizmos don’t work very well. The rats don’t like it at first, but they figure out it’s not dangerous in short order. Rats are like that.

    Brenda — Brad gave you better advice than I ever could. I think mice are easier than rats — not as smart. We have a few mice in our attic, I think, but I don’t have the stomach to go after them. If it gets to be a real problem, I will, but if they’re not doing anything but making the occasional nest in the insulation, I’ll try and live with it until we finally get to that gut renovation. Or hell freezes over, whichever comes first.

    Melissa — Ugh. What a story. I can see why you don’t oppose poison!

    Katie — I don’t think a chicken could take a rat. If you want to confirm, get a nifty trail camera and leave it out overnight. You’ll get lots of pictures of varmints, and it’ll be fun!

  23. Ew rats! Eliminate by any means necessary!

  24. There seems to be general agreement among your readers. When it comes to rats, it’s the War of All Against All.

    • Um, not at all. I figure this goes like my rule for snakes. Visitors to the chicken house (or my house!) cannot be allowed to survive the experience; once learned, they won’t go back to leaving the chickens/eggs/etc. alone.

      No one is advocating searching out and killing rats off the property they are responsible for, or for the most part even keeping them further than a reasonable distance from their dwelling.

      Setting out to rid all rats, everywhere was never mentioned, and I doubt that would be a good idea. Like wolves and snakes, in the wild they are living on something, and I am not prepared, yet, to say that eliminating all would be better, is almost certainly wrong. I certainly don’t want to use poisons, or traps, where I cannot control unintended harm.

      • Brad — I think Mom’s “All” is a metaphorical all, not a literal all. She’s saying what you’re saying — any varmint that comes into your house, threatens your livestock, or eats your food, has to go.

      • Brad, at least in our climate, rats don’t live in the wild. They die there. Rats come from the urban areas, they’re city folk by nature and also prefer warmer climates or at least where they can get to easy heat, water and food. In our cold winters here in northern Vermont they die off out here in the wild.

        Rats serve no good function out here. They are also non-native. Killing all the rats off is a good policy. The problem is how to do it without endangering their predators like the canines, felines, weasels, birds, snakes, etc.

        We have had rats brought to us from the city, unwittingly by truckers, three times. To deal with not having our livestock guardian herding dogs be affected by rat poison we teach our dogs to bring us dead rats they find, not to eat them although they normally hunt and eat voles and field mice, and to not touch the rat poison which is placed where they can’t get it but just incase a rat drags it out. Unfortunately I can’t similarly teach the wild weasels and owls who help keep down pests on our farm so that makes me hesitant to use rat poison even these rare (3 times in 25 years) that rats have been introduced. Killing off ALL the rats is a priority. Fortunately our harsh winters help with that.

  25. It’s Racumin by Bayer. That’s the name it’s marketed under in Oz, anyway. Not cheap, but better for the conscience.

  26. Indeed, a metaphorical “All”. The War is against those creatures who aspire to occupy the niche we are trying to carve out for ourselves. I remember my great-uncle Frank, a farmer in central Minnesota, removing a dead rat from a trap and saying, “I am truly sorry, sir or madam, as the case may be.” It’s a pity to have to kill them, but it’s a necessity.

  27. We lost every tomato on 50 Amish Paste plants this summer. Two plantings of heirloom organic sweet corn (seed snatched out of the soil). All my sweet potatoes. They even waited for the correct moon sign to dig them out. So far they are not touching my garlic, but they have destroyed my wintering turnips and cabbage. They are a legion, an infestation. We don’t want to poison our livestock guardian dogs (in case they would eat a dead rat). So, we are planning on putting up barn owl nest boxes all over the property. Fingers crossed. This farm had been abandoned for 40 years until we bought it. It is really bad. I catch 1 rat per night per snap trap and they never stop coming….4 traps.

  28. I have heard of using peanut butter laced with chocolate flavored laxative is effective for gophers. I would not use it in the house as the gophers poop themselves to death and die of dehydration. Supposedly, other gophers do not claim the tunnels because of the mess. This may be an old wives tale as I am slowly becoming an old wife.
    I have been fortunate not to need anything like this as we have two good mouser cats. I also would not use it because Shloh-the cookie-wookie cat likes peanut butter.

  29. Fran — Thanks! I looked it up, and racumin is also an anticoagulant. They say that it’s a multiple-dose poison, so levels are never high enough to do damage to a bird that eats the rat carcass. Worth looking into.

    Mom — I do love an Uncle Frank story.

    Jennifer — That’s terrible! I’m very sorry about all those vegetables. I know how much work goes into growing things to eat, and to lose crop after crop to rats would be terribly demoralizing. Could there be a badass Maine coon cat in your future? Or maybe several?

    Jean — I, too, am becoming an old wife. So, if this round of poison doesn’t do the trick, I just may go the laxative route.

  30. Good lord, I read a blog where I found the advice to let gophers “poop themselves to death” and instead of being squeamish thought “hmm…”

  31. hells belles. you write about fascinating stuff here. and what garners the huge response?

    rats.

  32. Karen — Yeah, that’s what varmints do to you. I have trouble coming to terms with it, too.

    Amanda — But rats *are* fascinating! And this is proof.

  33. I have no idea how Alberta keeps itself “RAT FREE”, but it prides itself of that distiction. Like I said….it actually makes the news…for days until they are hunted down and destroyed at the border.
    …no rats
    …no sales tax, cheapest gas…
    …no SPIDERS (here in Calgary anyway)
    …no fleas, never had to treat an animal ever..its amazing

  34. We’ve lived out in the Devon countryside for 20 years and never had a rat problem (or even mice etc in the house) because we keep cats. We’ve 4 at the moment and even though we do feed them bought dry food they regularly leave a dead rat by the back door. I also keep hens and I feed them daily instead of having a big grain feeder as I was probably feeding too many rodents that way. Most of my cats have come from local farms and that would be a good place to find one from good ratting stock. Cats are also a good deterrent to foxes and even though I stopped shutting the hens up at night and let them have the run of their fenced orchard I’ve only lost 1 hen possibly from a fox though it might have been a badger. I never use poison because of the effect on other wildlife and only occasionally use slug pellets as they too impact on larger animals that eat the dead slugs.

  35. katherine says:

    hello,

    I have a very big problem on rats, I’ve seen lots of rats running around my coop. just wanna ask your opinion if rat proof chicken feeder really eliminate rats. I saw a link where I can purchase one but not sure if its a good deal or not
    http://thecarpentershop.net/mediumplywoodchickenfeeder.html

    • Katherine, I’m afraid I couldn’t say. Rats are smarter than chickens, so it’s a tough situation. I wish you luck!