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Hugelkulture function stacking more than I bargained for

 
pollinator
Posts: 163
Location: Ashland Ky
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I am in zone 6b in kentucky and I made a large hugel bed at the base of a steep hill. I made small sales done the face of the hill and planted berry bushes and brambles trying to catch as much water as possible and using the mound to get rid of some trees the utility company kindly downed and left in my yard.

I filled the  cracks of the pyramid shaped base  of logs with compost rabbit manure quail manure woodchips and topsoil .

As  it ages it settled and I had erosion problems from the rain. I fixed that with deeper swales and it settled in beautifully.
I went to planting and threw seed all over it with all the old half used seed bags I could find and some clover. It looked really awesome so to add to the aesthetic I added wild flowers.

It served so many functions for me but the one that I did not intend is the habitat it created. First I saw insects then I saw birds then voles. All fine and dandy
After the first year I started having rat problems and figured out they had created a kingdom down there.

They got into my quail feed and peed in my rabit feed  fixed that with hard containers  but now they have taken to catching my quail by the feet and eating their legs off.

I dont want to use poison so after the following season of horrors
I finally tore it all down.
If does anyone know where I went wrong or how I can build it better to avoid this next time?
 
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cats, big outdoor cats, raise them outdoors from kittens.
 
Clay Bunch
pollinator
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bruce Fine wrote:cats, big outdoor cats, raise them outdoors from kittens.


Ha thanks Bruce my grandfather said barn cats are the best but to be honest these rats might hurt a cat. Haha

I'm also concerned with the ecological impact of a group of cats running feral.

It might come to that though
 
gardener
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Location: Western Washington
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I knew a couple once who trained their dogs to hunt rats and then hired that out as a service. I'm not sure what became of them. I did see it in action once and it seemed fairly effective. I'm sure you wouldn't get all of them though.

I've had voles in my hugel mounds and that leads to them eating the roots of things, and then coyotes digging up the hugel mounds to get the voles. Keeping the grass mowed down around them helps because birds of prey are better able to control them. If you could find a way to increase your weasel population that might help too.
 
Clay Bunch
pollinator
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James Landreth wrote:I knew a couple once who trained their dogs to hunt rats and then hired that out as a service. I'm not sure what became of them. I did see it in action once and it seemed fairly effective. I'm sure you wouldn't get all of them though.

I've had voles in my hugel mounds and that leads to them eating the roots of things, and then coyotes digging up the hugel mounds to get the voles. Keeping the grass mowed down around them helps because birds of prey are better able to control them. If you could find a way to increase your weasel population that might help too.



I had several owls around and plenty of hawks. I thought the snakes would have been good at keeping the rat population down but they got a foothold.

I think I'd have to move from central kentucky to get more weasel action.
The grass down there was never mowed be cause it wasn't really grass hah lots of native low growth and the deer mowed it for me.
Next time I'll hit it with the weed eater to give the birds a kill zone
 
pollinator
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The issue, to me, not FIRST securing the food and livestock - my "go to" is metal roof panels: fencing, exterior walls of coop, feed shack etc. Concrete or other solid base for floors. Then add a dog for rodents, these come small, med, or large.

I don't think the "beds" themselves were the issue, it was more not keeping the access to everything else was.
 
Clay Bunch
pollinator
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I believed the beds to be the issue because the rat pressure was not there before the beds and the colony was housed in the hugel bed.
You are correct I was lax in storing my feed because it was in a shed and I hadn't had problems before. The quail were also inside in a commercial cage with poop trays under neath but the ranta would squeeze in there to get at their feet or in the tray that hangs on the front with feed.

I definetly need to rethink how to seal off the shed better and make access to water and cover more difficult.
Thank you lorinne!
 
pollinator
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Only piece of advice I could think of is to incorporate rock stacks around the mound. This will make snake and lizard habitat and should at least encourage prey animals to find shelter elsewhere. The potential vermin habitat does seem to be the biggest risk with large mounds
 
pollinator
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If cats aren't an option, what about two or three Rat Terriers? More than one, because dogs coordinate when hunting together.
(I've never used Terriers myself - I'm a Pyrenees guy, because they're oh so big and fluffy, and staggeringly intelligent, but not very helpful with rats)
 
gardener
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Sometimes it also just takes time. Predators tend to show up after the prey does--I'm not sure how long you waited but it could take a couple years for enough predators to show up to bring the prey into balance. Doing what you can to create habitat for the predators helps too. Large rock piles and log piles can be good. These will house the prey too but the predators will also move in. I have a vole issue so I'm planning to install barn owl boxes each year for the next few years until I have a good 6+ resident barn owls. Might even go for more. I'm also going to add a bunch of large log piles away from my core growing areas but close enough that predators like weasels and even coyotes can take shelter in them.

Also, I have found with hugelkultur beds that the more careful you are about filling in all the cracks and spaces between the logs the less issues you will have with voles, rats and other similar sized critters. I stopped using smaller branches in my hugelkultur beds because it was impossible to fill in all the gaps--instead I just cut those up and use them for mulch on top of the beds. My hugelkultur beds settle a lot less and there aren't any ideal spaces for tunneling animals. I get a few of these critters still but a lot less. I'm also adding log piles and rock piles around and on my hugelkultur beds to make more habitat for snakes. I'm still hoping one day a weasel shows up but so far I haven't seen one on my property.

As I have been doing this the last few years my vole population has steadily declined and rats are a lot rarer then they used to be. But I still need to get the barn owl boxes up and add more habitat features. To me it comes down to having enough habitat for the predators and then playing the long game knowing that the prey will show up first. This is why habitat features and features like the barn owl boxes are so important. They give the predators a reason to stick around.

Good luck!
 
pollinator
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I had mouse problems in a hugel key mound for about 2 years and then the snakes showed up.  I had no snakes or reptiles, now I have everything.  I have a hugel key mound right outside that the deer are bedding down in. I almost ran into a deer in my driveway one night.  I still have mice/rats but I think they are in a rhythm with the critters that eat them.  Last winter the mice moved into the house but this year I didn't have one mouse in the house.  


I've noticed that everything takes longer doing it the natural way.  Many of the permaculture functions stack on one another, the more you do and the longer it grows, the more biodiverse the more you start to see balance.   I have some heirloom roses that I started last year.  I was just thinking about how tempted I am to use fertilizer, but I won't do it.  It's not worth it.  I will keep amending the soil and eventually I'll have healthy rose bushes that explode.
 
Clay Bunch
pollinator
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Jamin Grey wrote:If cats aren't an option, what about two or three Rat Terriers? More than one, because dogs coordinate when hunting together.
(I've never used Terriers myself - I'm a Pyrenees guy, because they're oh so big and fluffy, and staggeringly intelligent, but not very helpful with rats)



I was hoping to keep the animal input low but I have heard about this guy and his  mongruel hoard  I dont know of it was jack spirko or if my friend told me about the rat hunting teams but I have considered it. I was a dog trainer for a while but to be honest trainings multiple dogs is hard work when you have another job and I like to be lazy haha

It is a good idea but I  dont know what to do with all the rat bodies after they get them. These things were the their to half size of rat terriers haha I know they could handle them but surely that can't eat them all and effectively control the population. There were so many.

As soon as I tore down the mound it was like a horror show rats poured out like blood from an open artery
So the mound had to go.

I was wondering if adding clay and sand to the cracks between the layers of logs as I build it would help because this is under some good compost action for a while and it made beautiful soil but the logs were nearly pristine  and as it composted it  made open space for the myriad of rat tunnels
 
Clay Bunch
pollinator
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Daron Williams wrote:Sometimes it also just takes time. Predators tend to show up after the prey does--I'm not sure how long you waited but it could take a couple years for enough predators to show up to bring the prey into balance. Doing what you can to create habitat for the predators helps too. Large rock piles and log piles can be good. These will house the prey too but the predators will also move in. I have a vole issue so I'm planning to install barn owl boxes each year for the next few years until I have a good 6+ resident barn owls. Might even go for more. I'm also going to add a bunch of large log piles away from my core growing areas but close enough that predators like weasels and even coyotes can take shelter in them.

Also, I have found with hugelkultur beds that the more careful you are about filling in all the cracks and spaces between the logs the less issues you will have with voles, rats and other similar sized critters. I stopped using smaller branches in my hugelkultur beds because it was impossible to fill in all the gaps--instead I just cut those up and use them for mulch on top of the beds. My hugelkultur beds settle a lot less and there aren't any ideal spaces for tunneling animals. I get a few of these critters still but a lot less. I'm also adding log piles and rock piles around and on my hugelkultur beds to make more habitat for snakes. I'm still hoping one day a weasel shows up but so far I haven't seen one on my property.

As I have been doing this the last few years my vole population has steadily declined and rats are a lot rarer then they used to be. But I still need to get the barn owl boxes up and add more habitat features. To me it comes down to having enough habitat for the predators and then playing the long game knowing that the prey will show up first. This is why habitat features and features like the barn owl boxes are so important. They give the predators a reason to stick around.

Good luck!



Thanks daron
I was thinking that my base being built and then packed in could be part of the problem.i am going to lay the logs on top of my small brown green clay and sand mix them ad it to the top of that row then build up in a pattern like that

Also I'm going to get some owl boxes built and maybe try to make coyote calls of the evening ha

I already have at least 2 owls I'd love to have some more
 
Clay Bunch
pollinator
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Scott Foster wrote:I had mouse problems in a hugel key mound for about 2 years and then the snakes showed up.  I had no snakes or reptiles, now I have everything.  I have a hugel key mound right outside that the deer are bedding down in. I almost ran into a deer in my driveway one night.  I still have mice/rats but I think they are in a rhythm with the critters that eat them.  Last winter the mice moved into the house but this year I didn't have one mouse in the house.  


I've noticed that everything takes longer doing it the natural way.  Many of the permaculture functions stack on one another, the more you do and the longer it grows, the more biodiverse the more you start to see balance.   I have some heirloom roses that I started last year.  I was just thinking about how tempted I am to use fertilizer, but I won't do it.  It's not worth it.  I will keep amending the soil and eventually I'll have healthy rose bushes that explode.


I agree with you it takes longer and I am hoping that redesigning the mound from the ground up  will allows for a slower influx of the rats. I dont want them gone I just want them to be in balance . They were over whelming. I'd go out and feed the quail inside a locked building and then minutes later I'd go out and the food that lasts the quail two days would be gone.

I like the bringing predator habit in idea and I like the idea of packing down my base better. I think those are low input high impact
That get better each year.

Good luck with your roses!
I just mix garret juice some fish emulsion rain water and urine to put on mine and it seems that the microbiome accepts the offering ha that's the purplest thing I've ever said
 
pollinator
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Sometimes the simplest answer is the right answer. I think tearing it out was the answer. I prefer to make my systems less complex  for me to handle, rather than more. You could get cats or dogs (I have both) but in my opinion, it isn't worth it to have animals if it is just to keep your hugel rat free. All animals need time, care, money.  There are certainly other answers to the problem, but nature doesn't always think the solution is what we think it should be. Nature may be perfectly happy with a giant rat colony living there. I think you did the right thing.
 
Clay Bunch
pollinator
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Trace Oswald wrote: Sometimes the simplest answer is the right answer. I think tearing it out was the answer. I prefer to make my systems less complex  for me to handle, rather than more. You could get cats or dogs (I have both) but in my opinion, it isn't worth it to have animals if it is just to keep your hugel rat free. All animals need time, care, money.  There are certainly other answers to the problem, but nature doesn't always think the solution is what we think it should be. Nature may be perfectly happy with a giant rat colony living there. I think you did the right thing.


Thanks trace, I definetly dont want to bring in more animals to care for. I have a dog and she does get some of them but i dont think i can give that level of quality to my livestock and additional animals.

I am going to rebuild but with a much less lazy and more intentional building method

Also probably smaller scale.
 
gardener
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I'm so sorry to hear about the rats attacking your birds, that sounds horrible!

I found voles in my above ground hugel as well.
I'm not sure if the structure has voids or if it's simply a good environment for burrowing.
I still use buried wood, but now I bury my wood  below grade,use a variety of wood at each layer, and pack soil in at each layer.
This doesn't seem to attract rodents in the same way.

I am not sure how you feel about traps,  but I have found a handful of sunflower seeds floating in a bucket half full of water to be an effective trap for rats and mice.
 
Clay Bunch
pollinator
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William Bronson wrote:I'm so sorry to hear about the rats attacking your birds, that sounds horrible!

I found voles in my above ground hugel as well.
I'm not sure if the structure has voids or if it's simply a good environment for burrowing.
I still use buried wood, but now I bury my wood  below grade,use a variety of wood at each layer, and pack soil in at each layer.
This doesn't seem to attract rodents in the same way.

I am not sure how you feel about traps,  but I have found a handful of sunflower seeds floating in a bucket half full of water to be an effective trap for rats and mice.



I have used those traps and electric traps And spring traps ha
I was gettin two or three every time I set them but they just overwhelmed me.

It's probably from the neighbor that feeds all the the strays ha

I like the idea of putting them below grade and I've been thinking about how to pack it tighter this year.

Thanks for sharing your experience
 
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