I’m dealing with an upsurge of rats in and around the chicken pen – something I have had to deal with on and off for years. This was my own fault, because I got lax and began leaving the dishes of food in the pen for them to eat when they wanted. It had been a long time since I had seen a rat and I forgot that there are always SOME there and that the thing that makes their population grow is an increase in the supply of food. When I started noticing there was NO food left in the dishes at the end of the day – that even the lentils and barley were cleaned up – it should have been a huge red flag. But I was in the middle of a really big complex demonstration garden project at the local Fairgrounds and didn’t have the mental space to register what was happening.
Then a couple weeks ago I started noticing rats! And then suddenly there were RATS!!!@? Lots of them!! And I panicked and started thinking of all the things I did years ago to deal with them.
My first effort was a live trap and I caught and hauled away 25 rats – one at a time – over a months time! I took them to a wild place near a creek several miles from here. I was so happy to be doing something about the population that I blocked out the realization that I was simply moving them to a place where they would become someone else’s problem! Once I actually thought about what I was doing I had to stop. Fortunately for me, by then the population was under control for a while.
When the next upsurge hit two or three years later, I bought a rat “zapper” which electrocutes them – fast and tidy – no blood or broken body parts… I killed 7 or 8 before word got out to the rat family and they quit going in the thing – no matter how enticing I made it.
I studied up on the expensive pedal feeders and after reading enough reviews of peoples experience with them decided to save my money. It wouldn’t work well with wet sticky sprouted grains anyway.
In the meantime, I had decided on deprivation tactics and had moved my kitchen scraps into a garbage can composting system and all the grain got stored in 5 gal. plastic buckets with tight lids in my pantry.
At one point I was desperate enough to actually buy some rat poison! I’m ashamed to admit it – because I do not DO poison and haven’t for 50 years… although I have used borax on ants which I guess really IS poison to them. In the end I couldn’t use it. I had a cat – who although she rarely caught a rat that I knew of – might have caught one who was weak and wobbly from eating poison. And who knows what other creature might eat a poisoned rat? Hawks…raccoons…foxes? We have them all. That was the extent of my venture into poison land…
The thing that has worked consistently and cleaning – and WILL work this time as well – is just not feeding them. It’s being a little un-nerving I must admit. Right now I am putting the feed dish down on a large cloth (because chickens just love to scatter the seed looking for their favorite bits…) and sitting down nearby to be a rat guard! The more days we go without them having access to anything, the more desperate and brazen they get – trying to creep up on the girls eating and snatch some grain. I “pssst” them and point at them and toss little clods of dirt – and they leap in the air and scurry off… I can’t help but feel rotten, because I actually LIKE rats. We had them as pets when the kids were growing up. And these are CUTE rats! I just keep telling them they need to go somewhere else, and find a natural source for food as they would in the wild. It’s taking a lot of patience and time, two things I am very fortunate in having plenty of right at the moment. But I know once they get the idea and move on – and I FOREVER remain diligent in removing the chickens dish when they are finished eating, we will be back to normal again, with the few odd rats as a part of our normal wildlife population – just like the few odd birds, moles, squirrels, possums, deer, turkeys and coons and occasional hare that share the land with us. It’s all about balance, and sometimes – when we are the cause of an imbalance, we are the ones that have to find the way back…