Why do we need another chicken blog or forum?

Many chicken forums are moderated to sell commercial feed, chemicals and ideology.
I prefer to find my own balance between nature, welfare and cost in raising happy chickens.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

One last post for the day: rats! UPDATED

Running rat tally: 26 rats caught in 4 nights. Still trapping!

Original post follows...

Gee I've rabbited on today!

But it's been a pretty chickeny weekend.

One of this weekend's maintenance jobs was to cull back some of the rat population. They've been building up for a couple of months and they don't seem to eat baits (besides which it seems the possums and antichinus inevitably suffer if baits are used).

Rats are incredibly smart, and very wary of any kind of trap. Forget buckets with water and a greased bottle on top; forget snap traps and automatic-closing cages. The rats are so smart, anything that smells dodgy will drive them away, and one near miss with a trap containing a moving part will deter them for good.

Here's where my chick brooder really shines, because it has no moving parts. Earlier in a post I mentioned making a tube of vertical rods to form a cylindrical entryway in the top. The rats can climb in easily but can't climb out because they can't grip the thin rods well enough. This tube can be taken out when the unit is to be used for chicks and put back again (opening the flap which sits on top) when it's going to catch rats.

I'm not sure why this unit works so much better than normal rat traps (even ones with a similar entry-hole), but I've caught more than 20 rats at one time using it. Perhaps the sheer size tends to put rats at ease; or maybe they're vaguely aware that it's a regular part of the chicken setup. Being large, I can also add a lot of food at one time, ensuring that all the bait isn't eaten before most of the rats are inside.

Another benefit of such a big cage (about 1.4m long) with so many hatches is that I can place food and water inside without touching the end of the cage where the rat entryway is. Rats are often deterred by human smell. They seem to have no hesitation in climbing into this particular unit. The only drawback with such a big cage is, of course, that I have to trap the rats a second time in order to dispatch them. I have my methods, but others might choose to feed the rats commercial poison baits while they're confined.

Yet again the unit has done its job, catching six rats in one night. The rats were a mixture of adults and juveniles. That's probably all I'll get out of the feed shed, so tonight I'll move the unit to the silkie/pekin pen, where I've seen evidence of rats under the concrete slab (which was badly made and is starting to break up). Hopefully I'll be able to reduce the population there to only a handful, or fewer. Of course I can't see myself catching all of them. But I find that doing this once every couple of months stops the horrible plagues I've seen in other people's chook yards (evidenced by rats coming out even during the day, because they're so crowded some don't get the chance to feed at night).

I'm sorry, rats! You're smart and amazing survivors... But you're not meant to be here.

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