Tuesday, January 18, 2011

the fifty dollar mouse

If you're really sentimental toward wild rodents, don't read this, because you'll probably hate me. If you hate the little vermin, enjoy!

I used to equate rat infestations with poor management. And then rats moved in, and I realized that it's more about bad luck, because my management is just find. See, rats are pretty smart, and they figure out that a chicken coop is a great place to live. Food, water, not getting rained on, nice soft dirt to dig in, yeah! And I also think rats inherently know how to avoid getting killed. Unlike mice. Mice are stupid. I much prefer mice. Interestingly, when you have rats, you tend not to have mice. Though sometimes under really extra special conditions, you can get both. Conditions have been extra special lately.

It had been several years since there had been a rat problem. Until recently.

Now, I have to confess that I have some pretty mad skills when it comes to catching rodents. Like, catching, with my hands (and people wonder why I'm still single?). ;-) But rats are smart. And if the chicken coop has 5 individual pens, and they have built one hole in each pen, no matter how many bricks/logs/small boulders I stack on top of those holes while sticking the hose down the only open one, they still manage to use their super-rodent strength to elude me. It makes me gnash my teeth. Our former dog Jessie, bless her soul, would have caught, killed, and cooked the darn thing for dinner by now. She was the perfect assistant, I could leave one "escape route" open and know that should would handle that with aplomb. Angus is totally useless in this department, plus I don't quite trust his ID skills to differentiate a chicken from a rat in the heat of the moment.

I don't like to put out poison, because I don't want the cats/dog/barn owls/kestrels/anything else to eat poisoned rodents. Besides, rats are smart enough not to eat it anyway. Unlike mice. Mice are stupid. I much prefer mice. And since it's IN the chicken coops, I can't really set a snap trap, unless I move all the birds out of one pen, but even at that I have this horrible fear of setting the big snap traps. How wimpy, right? I just value my fingers a lot.

So my neighbors down the road a little bit were telling me about their electronic rat trap, in which they've caught 8 rats, 15 mice, and 1 cricket. Well sign me up!

So after a lengthy and arduous trek here there and all over the dang county, I finally found one. They're not cheap, they cost about fifty bucks.

I was so excited. I baited it right away, put it out in the chicken coop, and the next morning I had caught.... a mouse. I reset it, and the next morning the rat had dug a hole right next to it, rudely kicking dirt all over it in the process. I waited, and waited. Dejected, I read a little on line, and it said you're supposed to bait them but not set them for three days, so the rodents see it as a great little place to stop for lunch. Oops. See, the mouse was stupid. So I cleaned it out really well, lest there be any lingering smell of roasted mouse, put in fresh bait, didn't turn the trap on, and waited. And waited. It's been about a week and nothing but ants has any interest in the bait. Even though I put in fresh bait every other day. Peanut butter! Cheese! Cat food! Come on, how could a rodent turn that down! Probably because the rat, being infinitely smarter than the mouse, took one look at the fried mouse and said "oh h*** no, I'm not going in there!" and now it never will.

So that one mouse, that one dumb little mouse, cost fifty bucks.

I guess I'm going to have to pile up the bricks and boulders and logs and get the hose and dispatch this rat the old fashioned way. Maybe I can use the fancy shmancy trap on the next one that moves in.



Anonymous said...

rats suck. -BMc

Unknown said...

What IS it with rats this year? My mom's been battling them since last year, but up until that point, we'd never had a rat problem in the chickenhouses! Mice and voles from time to time, yes, but never rats. And I always thought we had a pretty rodent-deterrent setup!

And boy are these rats wily. My mom has the full arsenal of traps out (including an electronic one like the one you described), and the only time she's had success with getting any rats is when she surprised a group of them in the shed...and then it was the old-fashioned shovel method that did the trick.

There are still rats out there terrorizing my mom's chickens and especially my poor little Dutch! One of the males tore up his comb pretty badly last week when a rat got into his pen in the middle of the night (this happened to Moltres, my bike-riding rooster, a while ago too). Argh, rats!!!

I wish you the best of luck eradicating your rat problem!!

Jan Blawat said...

Even a mediocre terrier can be a rat-hunting machine. Melanie lives in town and has 3 Norwich Terriers. They seek out and kill all rodents, from mice up to half grown opossums. I've heard Dachshunds are good at that, too. Unfortunately you can't just stick a terrier in a box and store it when you don't need it.