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.