Anyone with a farm has an ongoing rodent problem. I’ve noticed that other “alternative living” writers deal with this issue the same way they deal with everything — denial. (Of course, it helps that most of their readers live in the city.)
Once you’ve had an outbreak of rats in your brooder house and lose a whole batch of chicks to them (and you will — everything happens to you eventually), you won’t be able to regain the live-and-let-live attitude of yesteryear. But once you decide to make the area around hour house and barn a rodent-free zone, there are good ways and bad ways of doing it.
I hate snap traps and glue traps, and I assume that ultrasonic pest control is a scam, so that leaves poison. While a mousetrap has the kind of lethality you associate with joke-shop pranks, poison is the real deal. Let’s all be careful out there. The goal is to kill off the pesky rodents (preferably so quickly they don’t know what hit them) without injuring any other creatures or yourself. The techniques should be pet-proof and safe to any little kids in the neighborhood that wander through. Extra credit for being non-messy and long-lasting, so that intermittent attention won’t prevent the stuff from working.
Not that there aren’t other methods. My grandfather once filled a washtub mostly full of water and put a layer of rolled oats on top. Then he leaned a board against the washtub to give a ramp that mice could run up. He assumed they’d do a swan dive into the wonderful-smelling oats. After several days, the tub looked just the same as before, so he dumped it in disgust, and much to his surprise, there were at least a hundred drowned mice under the floating oats! No doubt there are plenty of other methods that I haven’t tried but work in the right circumstances.
This spring, I went upscale on my rodent control, buying store-bought bait stations for rats and mice rather than improvising them. This has worked very well, and I recommend this.
The Eaton Rat Fortress (shown above), is a big plastic bait station for rats and mice, meant to be left outdoors. It keeps the weather off the bait, and the wire bait rods prevent the rats from dragging entire bait blocks away to their tunnels. I hate it when that happens. By fixing the bait in place, the rodents have to eat it rather than hoarding it.
Also, when they gnaw on bait, little poison shavings get left behind. A good bait station hangs onto these so you can dump them responsibly, rather than leaving them scattered all over the place.
An allen-key bolt keeps kids from getting into the station, while baffles make the bait inaccessible to pets and birds. The transparent lid lets you see whether you need to add more bait. Very nice.
What I used to do was to nail bait blocks to pieces of wood or hide them inside lengths of plastic pipe. This was relatively ineffective. I hate it when the bait dissolves in the damp or when a mouse carries half a pound of bait pellets away one at a time and hides them in an old boot. I want the poison to stay where it’s put and be a hazard only to the target critters.
For mice, Eaton makes a cute little bait station with all the advantages of the big rat station, except that it doesn’t have a transparent lid. This works better than the D-Con bait trays I’ve been using indoors, for all the reasons listed above. The bait stations have a built-in lock that keeps kids and pets away from the bait.
I’ve been using these for over a month. For some reason, a lot more bait is being consumed around the house than around the barn. Go figure. I’m especially pleased by the effectiveness of the bait stations outside the house, since I selfishly prefer the rodents to keel over outdoors, where their decomposition doesn’t stink up the house.
The only question in my mind is the effect on cats if they eat the occasional poison-fortified mouse. Last time I searched for this kind of information, I came up empty. The cats have always seemed just the same whether I have had bait out or not, though.