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RATS: FECES, URINE, DIRT, COMPOST (?)

 
Nichole Fausey
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Location: Denton, TX
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Before I even heard the word Permaculture, there was evidence of rodents on my property and we got them out of the garage when we got chickens and they ate through a bag of feed. We were pretty sure the rodents were rats.
My chickens are in a large chain link fenced area with a smaller coop inside for nighttime protection. My husband found a baby rat drinking from the chicken waterer and we have a pretty sizable community of rats on the property. I found that they were living in the shed, in a corner of it where I had stored a bunch of old pots. The shed has no floor and they were of course leaving their excrement heavily in that corner. It smelled/smells awful. My husband removed all the contents from the shed and shoveled out a whole lot of dirt, which did cut down on the smell, but I'm thinking it's the urine soaked into the area that's really the remaining odor.

Okay... a couple questions. BackYardChickens.com didn't have good answers about rats.

Last night, we put out this powdered repellent stuff in the neighbor's yard. We think they are living in their garage right now and coming onto the property to eat the chicken droppings.

So... can the rat feces laden dirt that my husband took out of the shed be composted? Is it safe? I've heard geoff lawton say that he composts roadkill regularly. Are rats different? If I use traps, can I compost the rats. To be honest, this gives me the Willies. UGh.

Any advice on getting rid of the rats? People always recommend cats. I got friendly feral cat... it was awful. It only brought other cats to the yard and then they used my blueberry beds for a litter box and killed three new transplants from the spring. I'm considering a rat terrier, but I don't know if I have the time necessary to put into a dog that is that social.

Please please advise me.

Thank you so very much!
 
John Elliott
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I'd let you have the big, black snake that hangs around my patio, but first I would have to catch him. And he is fast.

Seriously, rats are at the bottom of the food chain -- every predator from snakes to possums to cats to hawks eat rats. You just need to have some more predators. But good predators, no lazy cats that only forage from metal bowls. Even chickens are known to kill and eat baby mice. I wonder why they didn't attack the baby rat. If you can find a good predator and keep him happy, in short order he will clean out all the rats.

As for composting, yes, it will kill rat-borne pathogens. If you lived in a hantavirus area, then it could be a serious health problem, but as it is, it is only annoying -- the smell is "awful". If you get a regular spring trap and bait it with peanut butter, you can set them out and get rid of them one by one and compost their carcasses. Just have a lot of wood chips (known as "browns" in the compost biz) in the pile to take care of all the nitrogen a rat carcass provides.
 
David Hartley
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You certainly can compost the rodents



For trapping them: use a 30~55 gallon drum. Add water high enough they can't stand above the water line, but low enough they can't jump out. Affix a rod across the top of the barrel, roughly 1/3 the circumference (less than the diameter, which would be 1/2 circumference). Attach a plank to the rod so that it reaches the short distance to the edge of the barrel and is balanced slightly to the edge when the end floating over the barrel is baited. Stack various stuffs to facilitate the rodents reaching the plank.




Hope this makes sense.
 
Nichole Fausey
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Location: Denton, TX
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John Elliott wrote:I'd let you have the big, black snake that hangs around my patio, but first I would have to catch him. And he is fast.
Even chickens are known to kill and eat baby mice. I wonder why they didn't attack the baby rat. If you can find a good predator and keep him happy, in short order he will clean out all the rats.


I've been thinking of installing a barn owl house or perch. My property is urban, .4 acre and the yard is completely surrounded by trees beyond which are houses (or driveways). Do you think that would be overkill and would my chickens be in danger right at dusk?


John Elliott wrote:As for composting, yes, it will kill rat-borne pathogens. If you lived in a hantavirus area, then it could be a serious health problem, but as it is, it is only annoying -- the smell is "awful". If you get a regular spring trap and bait it with peanut butter, you can set them out and get rid of them one by one and compost their carcasses. Just have a lot of wood chips (known as "browns" in the compost biz) in the pile to take care of all the nitrogen a rat carcass provides.


Okay, that's good to know. I don't think there's hantavirus in this area, but I'll check into it. Looks like, though, I could only compost 1 rat in a square meter of 18-day compost, so this might not be a great solution to the whole problem.

The dirt, infested with feces and urine... what do I do with that? My husband put it in a big garbage can for the moment, but..... what now? Thank you so very very much!
 
Dale Hodgins
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I'm going to only address safety issues, leaving extermination to others.

Rat poop, hair and carcasses can harbor disease which is why they are such a concern. A good quality dust mask should be worn during clean up. A full face, asbestos grade mask is ideal. If only a cheap mask is available, the area being cleaned should be dampened in advance, to prevent dust from becoming airborne. Rat fleas are also a concern, so clothing exposed to rat waste should be washed in hot, soapy water. The same goes for the people doing the work. Special care should be taken to cover hair and to check hair after accidental exposure.

If a whole out building has been exposed to dust, it can be hosed down with water followed by a bleach solution. Whitewash will brighten the space and seal in or destroy odors.

A hot compost seems like the best place for waste.

Edit --- There were no replies when I started typing. We're a busy bunch
 
Nichole Fausey
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Location: Denton, TX
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David Hartley wrote:You certainly can compost the rodents



For trapping them: use a 30~55 gallon drum. Add water high enough they can't stand above the water line, but low enough they can't jump out. Affix a rod across the top of the barrel, roughly 1/3 the circumference (less than the diameter, which would be 1/2 circumference). Attach a plank to the rod so that it reaches the short distance to the edge of the barrel and is balanced slightly to the edge when the end floating over the barrel is baited. Stack various stuffs to facilitate the rodents reaching the plank.




Hope this makes sense.


Thank you! I'll show this to my husband. Sounds like a pretty quick solution.
 
Nichole Fausey
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Location: Denton, TX
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Dale Hodgins wrote:I'm going to only address safety issues, leaving extermination to others.

Rat poop, hair and carcasses can harbor disease which is why they are such a concern. A good quality dust mask should be worn during clean up. A full face, asbestos grade mask is ideal. If only a cheap mask is available, the area being cleaned should be dampened in advance, to prevent dust from becoming airborne. Rat fleas are also a concern, so clothing exposed to rat waste should be washed in hot, soapy water. The same goes for the people doing the work. Special care should be taken to cover hair and to check hair after accidental exposure.

If a whole out building has been exposed to dust, it can be hosed down with water followed by a bleach solution. Whitewash will brighten the space and seal in or destroy odors.

A hot compost seems like the best place for waste.

Edit --- There were no replies when I started typing. We're a busy bunch


Thank you, Dale. I told him to wear a mask. I should have thought of wetting the area. I'll pass along your reply. Thank you so much!
 
Rebecca Norman
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Also, to deal with smell from soaked soil after removing what you could, you could spread a thick layer of fresh nice soil from outside over the smelly soil.

I think you can compost a lot more rats in a small compost heap than you mentioned above.
 
Alder Burns
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As an alternative to hot composting (which I have trouble with any which way I try) you could always direct bury the dead rats and contaminated soil, etc. under permanent plantings (provided they are not root crops or low-growing) or other non-food crops. I've done this with humanure and slaughter trash for years....always having a hole or three in the yard where I intend to plant a tree or shrub. Another possibility is black soldier fly larvae, a thriving colony of which would break a dead rat down into poultry feed in a couple of days....
 
Kay Gee
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i would hot compost or only use it with trees. rodents in many areas carry very nasty stuff. they also play carrier to some things and also spread stuff to other carriers we may touch like slugs and snails. careful with it. an old friend used to raise rodents for pet feed and all the left over wood shavings that were soiled he would composting hot heaps and apply to his garden. seemed to work well, but still always avoided using it in things like root crops just in case.
 
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