Rodents not welcome!
by Patrick Laurie
As soon as the first frosts begin to bite, the countryside starts to become an unwelcoming place, particularly if you are small, furry and value your creature comforts. For rodents like rats and mice, now is the time to head for somewhere warm and comfortable to pass the winter, away from the snow and ice. The grass dies back, and with the exception of berries and windblown apples, natural supplies of food are few and far between, so where better to look for board and lodging throughout the winter than in your farm buildings, sheds and chicken houses.
It doesn’t take long for the tell tales signs of rats and mice to appear. Feed bags and stores will show signs of being nibbled, and how the feed is eaten will give you some important clues as to the identity
of the culprits. Mice like to nibble cereals and poultry corn, removing the husks
and eating the
heart out of each little kernel. By comparison, rats chomp through the whole grains, leaving little more than crumbs that may have visible teeth marks. Rats and mice are both quite messy eaters, and paying careful attention to the foodstuff they leave behind will give you good clues as to the identity of the raiders.
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As a general rule, mice will live more or less anywhere in your outbuildings or sheds. They will build a little nest and then venture out at intervals to feed wherever they can. Rats need to drink large quantities of water every day, so their colonies are more often found near ditches, water butts and even leaking taps. They will establish complex run systems leading to and from their homes, and these will often follow the course of any obstacles in their path.
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Country Living Page 12
Both rats and mice are extremely vulnerable to predation from a huge variety of different birds and animals, and they are correspondingly cautious when they scuttle around. If you look carefully along the foot of walls, boxes and fences, you will quickly find these little paths, which look like muddy motorways. When a rat run crosses wood or metal, these dirty animals often leave a telltale greasy streak which is a sure sign of rats rather than mice.
Rats and mice respond differently to various baits and traps, so having worked out what kind of rodent you are dealing with and knowing where they are moving, you can start to plan a programme of traps or poison which will be specific to your problem species.
It is surprising how often people
begin trapping or poisoning rats and mice without addressing the causes of their problem. No matter how many rats and mice you kill, these rodents will keep using your buildings and stealing your feed if you don’t take steps towards maintaining high levels of hygiene and cleanliness. Try storing feed in rodent proof containers, and leave large stores in the middle of a room rather than against a wall. If rats are a problem, try and fix all leaks and broken drains to limit their access to water, and be sure to give all the likely spots a good clean out and tidy before the weather really starts to cool down.
Has been involved in agriculture and land management for the past ten years, writing articles on a variety of subjects relating to livestock, poultry and practical conservation in a number of national magazines since 2008. Based in South West Scotland, Patrick manages an isolated 1,600 acre hill farm in Dumfries and Galloway, and has worked with Solway Feeders for three years, field testing new products and developing poultry keeping equipment.
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