Rats In The Henhouse

| 4/2/2015 4:23:00 PM

Larry ScheckelThe Scheckel family farm out on Oak Grove Ridge, near Seneca, in the heart of Crawford County, Wisconsin, raised a lot of chickens. Our red hen house was built about 1930, with stone wall foundation, wood frame construction, and a dirt floor. The west half of the 12-by-30-foot building had a wood floor raised above the ground. Which meant that beneath the floor boards was a hang out and haven for varmints, namely rats.

We frequently encountered rats eating out of the chicken feeders. They scrambled to the safety of the holes in the floor boards. There was a trap door on one end of the chicken coop. The upper end opened to the area where the chickens lived, but the lower part allowed one to peer below the raised floor.

Dad would shine a flashlight into that lower section, and you could see the rats scurrying around, their beady little eyes reflecting the light. Dad would take the .22 rifle at night, have one of us hold the flashlight, and he would pop off a few of those rats. Dad made sure none of the youngsters was on the other side of the chicken coop, because the bullet would go right out the other side of the chicken coop, leaving a series of noticeable exit holes as it tore away the splinters of wood.

Dad tried rat poison under the crawl space. But there were limitations. You couldn’t let the chickens get at the stuff. It would be counterproductive to poison your chickens along with the rats. You couldn’t set rat traps. Chickens would get in them. Cats and dogs also.

Those welfare rats just had to go. In 1953, when I was 11 years old, we came up with a solution to the rat problem. This was one of the most memorable days on the Scheckel farm. We removed the chickens from the chicken coop. The manure spreader was parked a few feet from the chicken coop door.

The floor boards were removed a few at a time. There was perhaps a foot thick layer of straw and debris that was home and haven for a big bunch of rats. We didn’t know how many.

4/6/2015 8:30:04 AM

Larry, rats are always a problem on the farms and homesteads. They can multiply very fast and become a problem almost over night. Our rat problem was always around the corn cribs. When the corn was taken out of the crib and shelled off the cobs the rats would come out of the corn at an incredible rate. The man that ran the corn sheller always had a couple of rat terrier dogs that lived to run down and kill rats. Many of our out buildings had concrete floors but still the buggers would try to breed in the walls if they were covered. It seems kind of brutal that killing rats would be fun but it was just part of life on the farm. ***** Have a great rat free day.

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