Monday, July 18, 2011

Country Mouse

The chicken coop has new birth with a new mom.  One of our Americana hens went broody 3 weeks ago, and now the eggs are beginning to hatch, last night we were up to 5 little ones.  New birth is a miracle, and a special time of bonding for the baby chicks and the new mother hens.  We also have 9 chicks running around that are about 6 weeks old.  The moms have recently decided that the're old enough to snuggle together, and have resumed perching up high with all the other hens and rooster at night.  It won't be long and all the chicks will begin to move upwards too.  I am happy to report this year, now that the chicks are in the upper part, we finally have a totally predator proof coop. It can take years and many losses to get to the point where you realize, every wild animal wants to eat a baby chick, or small chicken.

We've had to learn the hard way to keep predators at bay.  Last spring it must have been a weasel or small rat that got more than half our baby chicks.  This took place in the bottom of the chicken coop that has a dirt floor.  I dug down and put the smallest hole stock wire to keep out all rodents, somehow they still got in.  We have literally had to create Fort Knox to keep the chickens safe.  If they are let loose outside, there is chance for a hawk to fly overhead and snag a baby chick.  They are vulnerable, and we don't let them run loose unless we are right their with them.  As the chicks get older and don't peep quite so much, they don't seem to be as vulnerable.

Rats can reek havoc on your farm.  I always wondered why old farmer Al used rat poison and not traps.  Now I know, it's the most effective way to get rid of them.  We've set traps, we've lived with them, we're finally resolved to have a rat control program in effect.  Particularly during the warmer months of summer, when their numbers seem to swell.  I buy the peanut butter flavored rat poison and put it out at night, by morning it's all gone.  You have to keep doing this for 7-10 nights until they don't take it anymore.  I can tell when we have rats because of the holes in the chicken run.  When I do put it out, I make sure none of our pets can get into it, or the chickens in the morning.  This is the time to be double checking.

Why do I have a rat problem?  Well, probably because I feed corn and grains in the chicken run, the coop is also where I have all my feed stored.   It's stored tightly in bins behind strong doors but inevitably some of it drops out of the bag, goat food, rabbit food, and chicken feed when I'm filling feed bowls. The rats and wild birds stick around where there's food.  I don't like setting traps for mice or rats, but set them I have. 

A house in the country will also be a welcome place for the country mouse.  They like to be dry and well fed too, just like we do.  Indoors we use mouse traps, and sometimes will catch several mice in a night.  We set traps every month or two, and go in spurts until we know they're all gone.  You don't want to put out mouse poison inside, because they may go crawl in somewhere and die, then you will have the most horrible smell ever and will have to find it to get rid of it. 

The farm cat is very useful in rodent control, but they need to live in the barn to be the best control, our cats are at the houses, so they are not effective in keeping the chicken coop and run rodent free. 
Rats are a serious issue that you should look at as the primary killers of baby chicks.  I am on night four this evening for being the exterminator.  Today I will buy more rat poison, if I'd been thinking I would have bought the bucket, rather than the package that is small and cheap.   So I say all this to myself to keep it up, and our farm and animals will be glad for it.


goatgirl said...

We had a rat problem here and when I opened a drawer and a rat flew out and landed on my chest I got out the poison. With a lot of careful maneuvering I was able to poison the rats and not the livestock. Right now I am enjoying be rat free....but they will be back.

Jewel said...

Hi goatgirl,
I read your post about the rat, and really got a good laugh, only because it was you and not me:) I'm sure if a rat jumped at me, I'd be running and screaming. Thanks for visiting, I really enjoy your blog, Beyond the Sidewalks.