Unfortunately this post also concerns rats.
Recently I had major trouble
with wheat not sprouting, and going off in the sprouting bag. My first
assumption was that rats were climbing over the bag, contaminating it
with droppings and urine, and thereby causing the wheat to go off.
However after I'd dealt effectively with the rats nibbling through the
bag, the off wheat continued, so I felt it must have been pre-germinated
or otherwise damaged before purchase (see my other post about off
Once I stopped rats getting to the sprouting
bag it seemed there could be no other source of micro-organism
contamination. My soak times were always 24 hours, never more, and the
ratio was 3/4 water to 1/4 grain (important to prevent fermentation).
My feed bins were in good shape and generally air-tight. The wheat was
brought fresh. Weather wasn't a
problem as it hadn't been too hot. Perplexingly, shortly after being soaked, the wheat smelled
rotten, not mouldy. I couldn't understand where the contamination was
coming from, but it did seem bacterial.
Then I had a little thought. I looked at my soak-bucket and
realised some of the grains (ones still trapped in a hull, and
occasional sunflower seeds that had gotten mixed in) were floating on
the surface of the water. I suddenly realised that this might be
attracting rats to the water-filled bucket.
So that night, I put a lid on the bucket, and the next morning
the lid was sprinkled with rat droppings. Then when I drained the wheat
and hung it to sprout, it sprouted beautifully.
So this is what must have been happening all along:
I was leaving the wheat to soak overnight without a lid, thinking that
nothing could harm wheat sitting at the bottom of a water-filled bucket! The soaking wheat was a good 40cm below the water's surface. The water came right up to the brim.
- Apparently rats were perching on the bucket rim to
snatch food floating on the water overnight. Some of their droppings
would have fallen into the water.
- The rat droppings were causing the wheat to break down and rot faster than it could sprout.
This was a very sobering discovery, not least because the birds
were sickened by eating what should have been perfectly good feed. And
goodness knows what germs I'd been bumping into while handling the bag
of feed and the rotting sprouts. Needless to say I owe the feed store an apology for casting aspersions on their grain.
I must admit, I'm astonished at the ability of rats to find food (and foul it). Unfortunately the
neighbour's property provides ample cover (there's a huge lantana
patch crowding against the fence) and these are tree rats, so very agile. But at
least I can stop them fouling the water I soak my sprouts in!
Since adding a lid I've had no more smelly grain, no sick birds and plenty of eggs!