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Pregnant- overwhelmed and now a Rat infestation!!

 
pollinator
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We have a problem with rats in and near our chicken run. During the day I often see a few rats jumping in the bushes when I move to the coop, and in the evening when the chickens are inside their coop, the run is  practically filled with rats! And these guys aren’t even scared of me, they’ll just be happily minding their business looking for food while I’m just a couple of feet away!

Aside from the rats near the chickens, we also have mice near our home (and whenever they find a new hole — in our home), and some type of squirrel-rats that are chewing up the insulation under our roof!! I love living in the countryside. But I’m pregnant, tired and overwhelmed, and this is just one worry to many to deal with! What do I do?

But let’s start by focusing on the rats - as these guys are seem to be the most urgent issue.

Our chickens are kept within a mobile coop with electric netting that is moved every month or so. We feed them grain that we scatter on the ground. We tried the automatic feeders with a pedal system that keep mice and rats away, but our chickens have a habit of throwing the feed out of the feeder to then eat it from the ground which doesn’t help. We also currently have a few chicks in the flock that don’t weigh enough to be able to activate the pedal to access the feed. So we went back to feeding the grain directly on the ground for now. We also give greens and kitchen  scraps to our hens. We don’t give too much grain that a lot of it remains on the ground at night. We feed in the morning, so by the evening almost all of it has been eaten by the hens. Nevertheless looking from the amount of rats I see, there must still be food to find for the pesky nibblers.

Now my question is: how much of a problem are rats really? Are they a health concern for me and my hens? Is there any permie-benefit at all to having this many rats around?
And if not, how should I go about getting rid of them?
I read that getting rid of rats needs a three pronged attack: removing their nest, removing their access to food and killing of whatever rats remain after that.
We live in a very wild and forested area with lots of piles of rocks, woods and leaves, and with a creek running through it, and lots of things for rodents to eat (lots of nut trees, lots of wild grasses that are in seed, berries,…) So really a forest creature’s paradise. So I don’t really see how I can remove their nests or stop them having access to food. Unless I clear our entire woods, and whatever beneficial foods and nesting areas for the other wildlife that we like to keep.

So that leaves the only other option: killing the rats.
I suppose the permie-way to do this would be to attract predators. But aside from owls, which I haven’t seen yet, there are already  snakes, foxes, eagles and stray cats in abundance. But clearly it isn’t enough to deal with this amount of rodents ( there is many talk in the village that the rodent population has really exploded these last years).
Also, because the rats get inside our electric netted paddock, cats and foxes can’t easily reach them while they are in there. And because our paddocks are in forested areas with much tree and ground cover, areal attacks from eagles or owls are also less likely to happen while the rats are in the paddock.

So whatever is left for me to do? Poison is ofcourse a big no. And I’m not to keen on having to touch the rats (Being pregnant, I really don’t want to have to touch these possible disease carrying critters on a daily basis), so the traditional traps that snap shut, where I have to touch the rats to get them out of the trap, aren’t going to work either. The live traps that let you release the rats elsewhere don’t seem like a good idea either, given that the village is already complaining of rats everywhere. And I’m not willing nor able to drive half an hour each day to release the rats in another part of the forest.
So what options do I have? Any advice would be very welcome!!

 
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When we were dealing with a rat infestation with our chickens, we found that any one type of trap was only effective for a little while before needing to switch to a different type.  Initially, you may find that the electric boxes that they go into and then get electrocuted may be a good option as you will not have to touch the rats, however with as many as you're describing, it sounds like it may not be enough.  Have you considered reducing the food of the chickens to try to get them to hunt the rats themselves?
 
S. Bard
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I’ve seen the chickens and rats happily co-existing, the chickens don’t seem te even be looking at the rats.
I am however worried that if I feed my chickens even less, there will also be less leftovers for the rats to eat, and the rats might feel more inclined to try and eat my chicks or even my small breed chickens instead!
 
master steward
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we found that any one type of trap was only effective for a little while before needing to switch to a different type.



This thread is about rat traps that might offer some suggestions:

https://permies.com/t/164132/RAT-trap

If I had this situation I would clean up any chicken feed that might be drawing them to the chickens.

I might even get some outside cats and/or even a dog.

Here are some other threads that might help:

https://permies.com/t/90070/RATS-rid

https://permies.com/t/164926/chickens-attract-rats-food

https://permies.com/t/166295/deal-rats-electric-fencing

 
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Rodent problems are difficult. I'm not an expert, but I have dealt with and read a lot about mice and rats.

As has already been suggested, reduce the amount of food given. I understand the concern that it may make the rats more desperate, and you may need to kill some off while reducing the food. If there is any food left on the ground after say the first half hour... then you are probably feeding your birds too much.

Being pregnant, this might be difficult, but I would highly suggest moving your coop more frequently. Is there a family member or neighbor who might be able to help? It would have to be a very large area or a small number of chickens in order for you to leave it for a month and not cause damage to that plot of ground. By moving it more often it would make the rats have to work harder and make them more vulnerable to predators.

If possible make sure all the weeds and grass around the pen are knocked down short. The more exposed the rats are the more likely they are to be seen by something that wants to eat them.

Dogs of certain breeds might help with the problem.

A trap like this https://goodnature.co/collections/traps/products/a24-rat-mouse-trap-home-trapping-kit could be useful. The lure is supposed to last for 6 months and the CO cartridge is supposed to last a couple dozen kills if I recall. The nice part about this trap is that it can be put outside, it auto-resets, and leaves the carcass below to be taken away by scavengers... which might attract more predators to look for the live ones too, who knows.

For some more extreme examples...

If you have someone to help you with touching the rats... I have heard that cutting up dead rats into bits and feeding them to the chickens, then slowly giving bigger pieces until it is recognizable as a rat, and then eventually whole dead rats... can train chickens, particularly roosters that rats are food and get them to attack/protect their own area.

Pigs - all pigs are omnivores, and many would gladly eat rats, mice, and things of that nature. Some pigs like the AGH were actually refered to as yard pigs, because they were specifically placed in the yard near the house in order to clear the rodents and snakes.

And lastly, for an effective, but probably not practical for the average person... mink. Check out Joseph Carter the minkman on youtube for what I mean.
 
S. Bard
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Matt McSpadden wrote:Rodent problems are difficult. I'm not an expert, but I have dealt with and read a lot about mice and rats.

As has already been suggested, reduce the amount of food given. I understand the concern that it may make the rats more desperate, and you may need to kill some off while reducing the food. If there is any food left on the ground after say the first half hour... then you are probably feeding your birds too much.

Being pregnant, this might be difficult, but I would highly suggest moving your coop more frequently. Is there a family member or neighbor who might be able to help? It would have to be a very large area or a small number of chickens in order for you to leave it for a month and not cause damage to that plot of ground. By moving it more often it would make the rats have to work harder and make them more vulnerable to predators.



Hi Matt,

Thanks for all your suggestions! I did read about that co cartridge trap. A bit costly, but if that could help solve my problem I’m up for it!

As for your questions about the feed. The chickens generally eat everything within half an hour, except for whatever feed they accidentally bury or kick under the coop in their scratching efforts. I can see the rats digging up those few grains that the hens accidentally buried or kicked out of reach. Ofcourse there are also the occasional food scraps that Qi feed my chickens and sometimes there’s something in there that they don’t seem to like, so it’s left untouched. But I was using my chickens as my composting system, so that’s why I left any scraps that didn’t get eaten in there.

I was wondering also about your comment on moving the coop more often. This is my first year with the moving paddock system. I currently have 6 adult chickens and 4 chicks. They have a pen of 50 meters electric netting, which comes down to roughly about 150 square meters or 1600 square feet. Is this adequate to be moving the chickens once a month? Or is it too small? Our coop needs 2 people to lift and move it. So far my husband and I have been moving it, but soon my pregnancy will be too far to still be able to lift the coop at all. We don’t have family close, and only one neighbour, but we wouldn’t dare disturb them with the task of moving the coop more often then once a month (and even that sounds like a lot to ask).

We don’t have a rooster in our flock yet, but once we do, I might be up for it to train them to eat rats. Would be interesting if it worked.

 
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pvc rat trap in action



and maybe  a couple 5 gallon bucket mouse traps around house
in this one he uses metal cylinder a dowel works just as well



both of these are very effective and there is a variation on the 5 gallon bucket one that uses a flap on top and mice drop into bucket
no poisons involved and can't hurt farmyard critters
 
Matt McSpadden
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Hi,
As I mentioned, I am no expert on these matters, but I can share what I am was doing (had to get rid of them recently due to a child reacting to them). People move chickens around for different reasons, and that can effect how often you move them and how much room you give them. I had two reasons for moving my chickens. I wanted them to fertilize, weed, and de-bug my garden spots. I also wanted to concentrate some manure on the field and help increase the fertility.

I had around 30 chickens (hatched a few, but lost a few to a fox). I used a 100' fence from Premiere 1 which gave me about 600sqft.

In the field, I attempted to move them every day, but it often turned into every two days due to life happening. I could get away with them staying a little longer if it was during prime grass growing season or on a more lush part of the field. On some more sparce areas, it was almost too much just for 1 day. For what it is worth it, I did not do this perfectly. I had a few bald spots in my field that took a while to grow back. They eventually came back very thick, but it took a while. If I did my math right, I would move them over the same amount of space per bird in a couple weeks that you would move yours over in a month. But each field is different. A thicker, more lush field can stand it for longer.

For the garden I did something that was good for me, and not as good for the chickens. I left them in the same 20x30 area until all the green was gone. This is not the healthiest thing for the chickens, but I wanted a weed free, bug free, fertilized spot in which to start my garden. They helped me get it. In that case it was in the same spot for weeks until it was cleared.

So, to answer your question, I don't think it is too small. If it were me, I would probably prefer a smaller area that is moved more often. If I was in your position, I think I would probably do what you are doing. A larger area for longer.

Back to your original reason for this post. If the whole village is complaining of an increase in rats, then there is a very good chance what you are doing is not attracting rats that much more than anything else. But I do think something needs to be done to knock back the population and keep it down. They are not cheap, but sometimes calling in a professional pest company can help. Most will want to try the easy options first (poison), but if you explain the situation, most are also willing to go with natural or non-toxic options.

How safe is your coop? Could you perhaps open the fence at night after the chickens are safely in the coop to allow the raccoons and foxes and weasels to more easily get the rats? I wouldn't risk it unless you have a really solid coop, but it might be a way to allow the predators to help without moving the coop?
 
pollinator
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Here in the UK there are quite a few people that do recreational pest control with air rifles. These are low power, short range guns. In our local rural community I know half a dozen people that would enjoy coming for a few evenings and helping with your problem.

Similarly, there is an active community of terrier dog owners who use their dogs to hunt rats. Terriers were literally selectively bred for that exact purpose, and are incredibly effective at it.

I see no problem using either of those on the face of a rat infestation.

You might consider reaching out to your local community. Ideally there would be someone you trust who can make recommendations. Most communities have someone like that who knows everyone.
 
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Michael replied with the two options I was going to suggest, either a terrier (my first dog as a kid was a rat terrier) that will chase/hunt rats relentlessly or an air rifle that you can sit on a solid object and after the chickens are in the coop and the rats are running around you can take some out. The latter depends on your area allowing an air rifle, they aren't very loud relative to a regular rifle but if you have nearby neighbors they may hear it or even worse a stray pellet ricochets out of your yard and hits someone/thing. A terrier tends to hunt the rats for sport, and you could train them to bring a rat in return for a treat to encourage that behavior.
 
pollinator
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My first reaction to your post was get a ratter!  But several people have already mentioned this.  There is a lot of very good advice going on here. Although someone mentioned minks and beside the fact that they are not natives to your part of the woods, I would very much fear for my chickens as they would be a far easier prey for them then the rats. In fact here in France pole cats, pine martens and similar are as much a problem as foxes if not more.

Mice and rats can easily be delt with (well, relatively speaking). but the critters that live in your roof and eat the insulation is another ball game all together.  I see that you live in the Italian Alps and it is not very far from France.  I can then safely say that you have what the French call a loir, the English call a glis glis:
http://www.planetepassion.eu/MAMMALS-IN-FRANCE/Edible-or-Fatty-dormouse-France.html

Whatever you call it, it is an absolute menace.  The danger is that they quite happily will chew on your electric wires (most website will tell you that they don't, I can vouch that they do!) as if destroying your insulation and wood work was not bad enough!  They are very difficult to get rid of, are very intelligent and don't get trapped very easily, or at least once or twice but then they learn very quickly.  Poison is not good as your cats or dogs could die after eating them once dead,.  If you use a humane trap you have to release them at least 25 km away or they'll find their way back - besides, by the time you've released one after a 50 km round trip, you'd have another family moved in!  Most people in France call a vermin control person, I would probably do the same.

We were very lucky though.  When we had an invasion of the critters, 2 snakes decided to spent the winter in our attic and in no time at all the problem was solved.  Any chance that you could create some snake habitat.  I know that Italy as well as France is home to vipers and you might not want to have them around all that much, although they'd rather keep away from you .  However, grass snakes like couleuvre are plentiful in your parts of the world and a blessing to have around.  They will even help with the rats and mice problem.

Don't despair, thingds will change.  You are in the right place for good advice.  Wishing you all the best
 
pollinator
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I am dealing with rats climbing the giant willow and accessing our deck.  For some reason they love a large bird cage (4 ft high, 2ft deep, 3 ft wide) filled with willow branches.  I leave the door open at night, wait until I hear them in there, then shut the door, the rat traps are already inside.  Then the cage remains locked until there is a rat in the trap.  Eventually it gets hungry enough to eat the nuts; the trap with peanut butter has yet to catch one, but the one baited with walnuts gets it within 24hrs.  

I am using the plastic "jaw" snap trap, nice because it is like a giant binder clip; just pick up the trap, pinch the jaw open, dispose of the rat, reset, and go.

I am not leaving the cage with the traps open during the day to ensure no other animals (squirrels, dogs etc.) get nailed.  

The only issue, is this is a very slow way to catch them.  The tree dude comes tomorrow to shave off the side of the willow so they will no longer have access.
 
pollinator
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That's sounds truly horrible. I hate rats, mice are okay, but rats, yuck.

I've tried lots of things to deal with rodents in general and by far, cats have worked best for me. Given that rodents are worst at night, I doubt that I would leave a small dog like a terrier outside at night to deal with them, but I'm very rural. Even the cats get picked off pretty regularly but we have so many feral cats it still works out okay.
 
Olga Booker
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I think a ratter dog outside in Italy would be fairly safe.  Europe does not have the same  predators that seem to plague you in the US: no mountain lions, no grizzly, no coyotes. no rattlers, etc.  There might be the odd wolf that was reintroduced, but for the time being, they don't seem to want dogs as dinner.  There are foxes of course but a fox terrier would give them a run for their money. So would a Jack Russell.
 
Anne Miller
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I was reading some threads and stumbled on this one that offers some solutions that might not be in this thread:

attract two different birds that eat rodents
            - describe the species and how you’re attracting them
            - probably building housing
            - perches for raptors
        - Plants that discourage rodents
        - pulse hogs/chickens/turkeys/etc. through an area with too many rodents
        - put out more food for rodents (thus attracting predators)
        - Improve food/grain storage
        - Create an exposed area around your garden that they won’t cross for fear of getting grabbed
        - Make an actual moat



https://permies.com/wiki/148858/pep-animal-care/Control-Rodents-Permaculture-PEP-BB

I liked the idea of putting out food for the rodents.

Put the food out in an area away from the chicken and bait that area with traps.  Just enough food to attract them than when the rodents are used to going to the food don't put out more food and use the bread crumb method to lead the rodents to the baited traps.

I also liked the idea of planting plants that rodents don't like.
 
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I can recommend a cat. We have a few cats, though not all of them are hunters there are a couple bigger boned ones we suspect may have a little Maine Coon blood in them that have hunted rats! One of our cats is particularly keen on rats and he has killed and eaten rats over half his size! (Not in one sitting though lol)
 
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To cull the rodent (rats or mice) this may be a savvy device for you or others.

[youtube]https://www.kogan.com/au/buy/ozstock-walk-the-plank-mouse-trap-roller-catch-mice-auto-reset-humane-bucket-rat-trap-ratwalkroll/?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Bing+PLAs&utm_term=1101400107879&utm_content=Ad+group+%231[/youtube]
 
pollinator
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You often  need to change the method of trapping etc because the rats work things out.
I have a friend who decided to shoot them as they walked along a fence, he set up the clothes line with some sheets,
and aimed at the fence through a gap in the sheets.
To get a good target he set an obstacle in place and the rats leaned over to get past.
He shot them, but after a while, they worked that out, so he turned the clothes line a bit and made a different obstacle,
until they worked hat out!!
 
Joyce Harris
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John C Daley wrote:You often  need to change the method of trapping etc because the rats work things out.
I have a friend who decided to shoot them as they walked along a fence, he set up the clothes line with some sheets,
and aimed at the fence through a gap in the sheets.
To get a good target he set an obstacle in place and the rats leaned over to get past.
He shot them, but after a while, they worked that out, so he turned the clothes line a bit and made a different obstacle,
until they worked hat out!!



Its called SURVIVAL of the 'living' adapt-ist.

OR they just hate having funerals every night.


 
Joyce Harris
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Im getting closer to using the water bucket method.
I have one or more rats and I dont want to share my Summer bounty with them in a few months.

I had one come along the bottom rung of a boundary fence where I was transplanting an advocate tree into the ground.
I had some composted waste I put midway beside the depth of the root system of the tree, to encourage them to root out and as it leached down to root down.
That rat must have smelled the richness of the dark moist compost and came within 3ft/meter from me, sniffing away not a care about me.
I had already buried it well by that time, and I have kept a watch to see if they have dug into it but thankfully no disturbance.

However they keep trying to get into my worm farm.
Evidence here and there ever few days.
So I keep monitoring for NO access.

Noticed in the last week that they have been feasting on fallen fruits - as the wind blows the small immature fruits off.
Evidence: in two locations there are 10-20 seeds and lots of tiny browned dry fragments of the fruit flesh UNDER a shelter of overhead foliage, safe from any disturbance in the night as they have their foraged supper.
So I am collecting the fallen fruits now and putting them in my worm farm for them to nibble the flesh instead.

Has anyone tried the water bucket method?
I have seen some videos, and seems very do-able.

Once they have drowned, what do I do with the evidence of capture???
Drain the water off  onto an area of ground that is not for food growing, and group body bag then into the urban/ municipal waste bin?

What are your water or other trap experiences in the urban setting?


 
gardener
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eI hope the remaining pregnancy went (or is going on) smoothly for S.Bard.
Regarding the critter problem I meant to comment on this long ago but somehow didn't get around.

Olga wrote about the glis glis or in English fatty dormouse https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_edible_dormouse
As you can see from the article, the "edible" stems from Roman times but in some countries (including Italy) there are still people eating these animals. The species is protected in Italy! So apparently the Calabrese Mafia is secretly and illegally hunting for it to serve during their feasts.

The animal could also be the garden dormouse https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garden_dormouse. The pressure on this species is even bigger, in Germany it is almost extinct currently and has been declared species of national responsibility (because a large part of the former European habitat lies in Germany). In Swiss it has been declared species of the year 2022 to rise awareness. They are actually very fascinating: The females get inseminated when they are only several weeks old (often by members of the same family) around June. They then hold off pregnancy until around next March and then have a very short gestation of about 23 days.

I know you feel different about an animal when it actually bothers you in your home and even destroys things. But even then, the priority should by to drive it out after hibernation (now they won't bother anyway) and then close even the tiniest holes (2 cm is enough for them). Strong smells annoy them (incense, lavender etc.). You can also set up wooden nesting boxes as alternative homes. Remove branches that touch the house / roof.

Both of these species are actually forest dwellers. They only come to buildings when there is not enough food/housing possibilities in the natural habitat.

I am aware noone here on Permies would encourage killing animals light-heartedly, but I wanted to draw special attention to the extinction pressure on some of these mammals.


Olga Booker wrote:
Mice and rats can easily be delt with (well, relatively speaking). but the critters that live in your roof and eat the insulation is another ball game all together.  I see that you live in the Italian Alps and it is not very far from France.  I can then safely say that you have what the French call a loir, the English call a glis glis:
http://www.planetepassion.eu/MAMMALS-IN-FRANCE/Edible-or-Fatty-dormouse-France.html

Whatever you call it, it is an absolute menace.  The danger is that they quite happily will chew on your electric wires (most website will tell you that they don't, I can vouch that they do!) as if destroying your insulation and wood work was not bad enough!  They are very difficult to get rid of, are very intelligent and don't get trapped very easily, or at least once or twice but then they learn very quickly.  Poison is not good as your cats or dogs could die after eating them once dead,.  If you use a humane trap you have to release them at least 25 km away or they'll find their way back - besides, by the time you've released one after a 50 km round trip, you'd have another family moved in!  Most people in France call a vermin control person, I would probably do the same.

 
I once met a man from Nantucket. He had a tiny ad
Wood Gasifier Builder's Bible, Ben Peterson --ebook
https://permies.com/wiki/137967/ebooks/Wood-Gasifier-Builder-Bible-Ben
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