Grit Blogs > Le Coop Du Jour

Chickens and Rats or Just Rats!

Chicken ManI have had rat problems off and on for the past 15 years that I’ve lived here. This year, the rat population seems to have exploded! It is purely anecdotal, but this is also the first year I’ve had chickens! These are not roof rats, but rather fruit rats ... much smaller, which in all candor, make them more difficult to catch. They are really too big to be caught in a smaller mouse trap and too small for the rat trap. Plus they seem to be Mensa Rats, because they are smarter than years past. Which makes them smarter than me. So, we are now in for a battle and a HUGE conundrum. So, let’s hit the launchpad.

Adorable ratI am by nature/up-bringing conservative, but I have have a strong bent towards proper stewardship of the our planet and balance between man and beast. Rats, for me, are the tipping point of environmental consciousness and militant insanity. And, now with the wonderful movie, glorifying the incredible humor, love and culinary abilities of rats in Ratatouille, killing them has become a little tougher. I see Remy in all of them.

I go to my local hardware store looking for rodent control . My mind races between the simplicity of a snap trap and devising new, yet invented, robot rodent killing machines. I have even jumped on Raytheon’s website in hopes they have a some military grade laser rat destroyer, maybe something they’ve used in Iraq ... hmmmm? Or maybe a mutant cat, that I can stuff into my crawl space and seal it up. Listen for the tussel and then coax the cat back down with some catnip. Anyway, my mind races between joy and guilt ... as I stand there I juggle “green/humane” option or utter mayhem. If you’ve seen Ratatouille you saw what the grandma (assuming she is a grandma) did to the ceiling of her house with the shotgun – yep that’s me.

With a nod to “green” I begin with sticky/glue traps. I put my finger on it to test and it is like a tractor beam. I can barely get my finger out of it. I nearly grab the trap with my other hand only to catch a glimpse of myself in the future, with both hands stuck together as I struggle to release myself from it, only to fail and die of starvation. Irony? I proceed to nail them to the tops of fences where I know these germ infested creatures are making their midnight dashes. I put out a scooch of peanut butter to draw them in, and with anticipation I go to sleep. I awaken with an extra jump in my step to see the peanut butter gone and no rat, nothing, not even a mark in the glue trap. Are you kidding me? I barely get away with my life, and these rats dance across it like it was a parquet floor.

Fine, let’s try this again. Repeat the same steps with more peanut butter, and push it into the glue a little deeper. Awaken the next morning and shame on me … peanut butter is gone and not a tarred rat in site. Honestly, how can they sell this stuff? If rats dance across it, how can Rat Glue Inc. or whoever it is … still be in business? You know, I think when stuff doesn’t work, most of us move on. You know, just “Oh well, it was only $4.99, it didn’t work,” and move on to Plan B. I think this is wrong … however, I didn’t complain.

I now elevate my quest to – snap traps and these stooooopid “plug-in” electronic emitters, which are suppose to attract them and then make them nuts and drive them away. I get two rat traps, which take super-human strength and dexterity to set and of course nerves of steel to take your hand away while the spring of death is “loaded.” Hoping beyond hope that that hook is making full contact with the clip. I put peanut butter on the trap – organic of course ... want to make sure their last meal is healthy, and plug in the emitters. Keep in mind the rats are in our crawlspace and are keeping my kids up and freaking them out (me too). They truly sound like they are acting out a scene from Bonanza with stagecoaches and horses galloping through the attic. Guns are firing and horses are snarling. I hear one yell, “Pa! Get Hoss!”

I set the traps and come out the next morning only to see the peanut eaten down to the clip and no rats. You’ve got to be kidding me! Are these “zero-point gravity” rats? I can’t breath on the trap without it springing, and these things are eating off it? Argh!

I leave well enough alone and decide to set the traps that evening. As I lay my head on the pillow I remember, “set the traps.” All snuggly, wuggly in bed, I get out, slip on some flip flops and a t-shirt, go to the kitchen to get the peanut butter. Walk out to the fence, stand on a log, where I pull the snap back, slip off the log and the snap gets my left index finger spot on the knuckle. I think my cursing scared the rats away that night. My knuckle swells up like a balloon.

I set the traps and again, the next morning bait is gone, and so are the rats. Let me explain something. These things are powerful and have been known to slice these rodents in half. I am thankful my finger did not suffer the same fate, but hang-on … “Idiot alert!” I tried to load this thing in flip flops while balancing on a pine log. Brilliant … utterly brilliant. I think my wife was hoping I would get caught!

Now, the internal struggle begins – these rats are not going away, not getting caught in the glue, not tripping the traps and not put-off by the Waste ‘O Money noise emitters. Noise emitters, letting out hypersonic sound to drive them away. Right, they are little plug-ins of the Rolling Stones and The Police … I am surprised there aren’t 1000 rats sitting on beach chairs and barbecueing garbage while holding up a lighter in my yard.

On top of all this, they have my entire family sleeping in different rooms because of the cacophony of noise they are making. I am beginning to become militant. This is where the eco-friendly, semi-pacifist leaves and the rat killing, camo-wearing mercenary appears.

I have had to resort to guns and poison ... and while I hate it! I know it works. I proceed to nail the poison to the tops of the fence so pets don’t get it. I would normally remove it in the morning so not to kill squirrels and birds, but I don’t have to, cause every piece of bait is gone! I repeat the process the next night – again, every piece of bait is gone. For five nights I do this and each morning all the poison is gone. I have rats, and not Weight-Watcher rats, I have “All You Can Eat, Heavy Footed Rats” Finally, on Saturday, I see a rat, which is “in process” of dieing. My biggest fear is unraveling in front of me ... I believe in instant death of these creatures, not a lingering death ... I know ... it is a rat, but ugh, I hate to see this. My Dad always said, “get it over with” when referring to homework or dinner or buffing is shoes ... So I applied adage to rat-extermination as well. As humanely as possible, I would kill it so to not have it suffer unduly.

The problem was; my pellet gun was out of pellets, and the rat was crawling up a drain pipe to safety – on my roof. I quickly grabbed the hose and stuffed in the other end of the drain pipe. The rat comes flying out of the other end trying to get air. He pops up and having run to Big 5 Sports for pellets and ready for him, I fire and it appears I’ve quickly accomplished my goal, yet the rat continues to crawl. Uh oh – I have a the Cyberdyne Model T-1000 on my hands and I am going to need to pump more rounds into this rat. I fire … fire … fire ... fire.... The rat keeps crawling and crawling. I am freaking.… My heart is raising and my imagination has run amuck, this rat is going to launch itself onto my throat and kill me! I scramble only to have my daughter tell me that each of pellets have fallen out of the end of the rifle. I was putting .171 into a .22. I knew it looked wrong, but tried anyway – I was not going to drive back to Big 5 to have a discussion over the caliber of pellets. The rat crawls in to the catch-basin and drowns. Good grief – this is how it ends? A slip and fall into water? There are still more in the crawl space.

More poison is going to get placed in the crawl space. The gun is getting put away, my head is hanging low – I am afraid if I lived in the time of my forefathers I would be living in the field, and the rats would live in the house.

ellen hollenback
9/25/2009 9:53:11 AM

I'm against poison. We had a rat problem once and a dog that liked to chase and eat rats. We put out poison out for the rats - out of reach of any of our pets. Then one of our dogs died within four hours of finding her sick. It was a painful terrible death. In her yard, we found a half eaten rat. The only conclusion that what could have happened to our beatiful healthy young dog was that she ate a poisoned rat. Keep your food in metal, rodent proof bins. Keep the chicken coops off the ground. Minimize the rat's ability to make a hole in the coop.


jacqueline ryckman
9/12/2009 1:40:11 PM

I hate poisons, not only for the fact that the death is not always a clean or quick one, but also if the mouse or rat gets caught by a cat or dog prior to the mouse / rat actaully dying then it can cause injury to that animal as well. This may sound cruel but when I was a kid my brother would shoot the rats (the actual rats that were too big for the barn cats to take on) with his pellet gun. That seemed the most affective way of handling the giant rat problem.


jane r
9/11/2009 10:15:05 AM

We have had chickens for 24 years now and from time to time we have had a rat problem..sometimes because of building in the area ..they discover FOOD galore and try to move in. I do not like glue traps or the snap ones..I think traps are cruel because they don't always kill and there is the chance you can get another less-pesty kind of animal in it...like chipmunks. I also hate poison..BUT it is what I use when they get too plentiful. (yeah I know that cna get other animals too) I dump it right down the holes, and hope other animals are staying out of them (which I think they do). Keep the chickens in if they are around the chicken house of course for a few days... Right now they have eaten a hole in the chicken house floor right under the water bucket.. and have excavated the dirt from under the chicken house into the house itself! So I need to dig out the dirt they have deposited and nail something over the hole and before I try the poison on the outside...... We do not have outside cats. We used to and it cost too much to repair injuries and other cat problems that you get when your cats run outside (like disease)... so our cats are confined inside and so far so good as far as inside the house goes. The main problem I have here is the close proximity of other neighbors and if they see a rat they freak...so I have to stay on top of it. I hate to kill them but they can be oh so destructive not to mention disease they can carry...I have had Lyme disease more than once now and it is no picnic...they also carry ticks...... I keep feed in a separate area, away form the chicken house or horse stall, in closed containers...


willy_2
9/6/2009 1:26:23 AM

Just remember, if you use poison and they go off to die somewhere in your house, you have to deal with the smell!


barryl
8/11/2009 11:51:18 AM

I do not agree with glue traps. They are unnecessarily cruel, and torture the animal to death. Why use them when something like a snap trap works just as well, and is far more humane? They are anything but "green". I've seen a lot of animals suffer vicious injuries from them, trying to get off. Peeled off skin, broken bones... gnawed off limbs. Let's not forget that if you just leave them on the trap, it will starve to death. Some people throw them into the bin, still alive. That is just disgusting. I think that they should be banned. Snap traps FTW.


barryl
8/11/2009 11:50:51 AM

I do not agree with glue traps. They are unnecessarily cruel, and torture the animal to death. Why use them when something like a snap trap works just as well, and is far more humane? They are anything but "green". I've seen a lot of animals suffer vicious injuries from them, trying to get off. Peeled off skin, broken bones... gnawed off limbs. Let's not forget that if you just leave them on the trap, it will starve to death. Some people throw them into the bin, still alive. That is just disgusting. I think that they should be banned. Snap traps FTW.


kahuna
8/10/2009 12:18:44 AM

What great tips from everyone. Snakes - out Cats - maybe Dog - have, thinks barking is effective. Doc Green - mentioned "plants" how cool is this? Smelly herbs? Just planted some, but more to come. The other plants? Count on it. I did hear Terriers are awesome ratters - Oh Duh! There is the Rat Terrier! Great comments and fun things to implement and try.


doc green
8/9/2009 10:35:35 PM

Dear Kahuna, Every gardener I know has from time to time, had trouble with rodents of one form or another. I too am strongly bent towards proper and humane stewardship. I believe “security” of any form should be thought of in layers, like an onion. My first tier of defense is a natural enemy. Natural enemies like snakes and owls are wonderful to protect gardens. A friend of mine is a snake fancier and at one time had rat trouble due to escapees. All he did to solve his problem was to let a few of his snakes out to roam free in his house. They can go anywhere rodents can and will not only catch mice/rats that come into the house but will follow their scent and destroy them little ones in the nest as well. Problem solved. If you don’t want snakes running around you can keep one in a terrarium. The smell of snakes in the house might be enough to discourage then vermin to move out. Other animals like cats and some dogs are good “mousers”. I am lucky to have both a good cat and nine dogs that are wonderful vermin destroyers. My cat does the aboveground work while my little terrier “Spanky” guards my front and back yards plus the floors inside the house. My other dogs guard and protect my other animals and garden areas. “Pepsi”, a Rottweiler Shepard mix protects “his” rabbits, while Sally stays with the chickens, protecting them from vermin of all sizes and other wild animals like birds. If you can’t handle snakes or for whatever reason can’t have cats or dogs. Another line of defense I use to deter them from coming around is to grow/ plant "barriers" of perennial sweet peas (Lathyrus latifolius), which will repel mice. You will enjoy the beauty of these plants for many years to come too. Daffodils (Narcissus spp.), wood hyacinth (Scilla or squill) and grape hyacinth (Muscari) are said to repel rodents. Plant a pretty spring blooming border of them to help protect your house and plants year round. Planting herbs with a powerful scent will repel mice


gloria williams
8/8/2009 7:46:03 AM

What a hoot! We have Miss Kitty who destroys everything crawling, jumping, running. She will take down, mice, rats, lizards, frogs, bugs, moles. She is a blessing in fur. Oh yes, we also have chickens but have never seen a rat in their barn!


lee shafer
8/8/2009 2:18:59 AM

I am still laughing :) I can really relate! Only my fight is with field mice! Every year when the alfalfa field across the street is mowed the mice move into, over, and throughout my place. I HAVE an incredible master mouse hunting cat... BUT she only hunts and catches the ones that try to come in the house and brings them to me... it's not her fault that I'm so slow they get away! She is NOT an incredible master mouse killer! unless we are camping and she feels its her job to supply food for us :( when she leaves half of her catch for me... ich! I would try the pellet gun approach except I got the wrong ammo too :)


maryellen
8/5/2009 11:32:14 AM

I am having a difficult time at the moment even typing this comment due to the fact I am still laughin' and rollin' on the floor with the visuals in this blog entry. I can totally relate to the Rat Fest problem. We also have chickens, and Fat Rats on our farm. My husband is an official Vermont hunter and president of the "I Hate Rats Association", but he, like you has not had much luck baiting the "Little Buggers". The hardwood floor in our kitchen one night came victim to my husband actually drilling the traps into the floor..still... no luck. All we can do for now is commiserate with each other and hope all rats will never learn to swim! We are hoping to adopt a very, very hungry rat eatin', mean barn cat.