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Dealing with Rodents on the Homestead
(And How I Got Rid of Them)
Yep, I said it. Rodents on the homestead. Plump, brown, smarter-than-you rodents. Nobody really wants to talk about this. Why? Because it’s kind of gross. There’s this taboo with rodents, and I totally get it. I don’t quite understand the people who have rats as pets but to each their own. On the other hand, my feelings towards rodents were neutral until we moved on the homestead. I debated writing this because I felt so ashamed that it happened to me. My farm had rats. But it’s just that. My farm HAD rats. It’s not something never happens, and it happens more often than you think. But as I said, nobody wants to talk about it.
Look, a rat!
The first time I turned on the hen house light late at night and saw a rat I seriously thought I might wet my britches, run inside the house, and move immediately. I knew that seeing rodents on the homestead might be a possibility. I live on an acre of land with a 2-acre vacant lot with a house to my right and 2 acres in front and behind me and to my left. Where there is land and where there is food to eat and water to drink, there are rodents. I also live around many houses who also have farm animals. Whether you want to believe it or not, it’s all part of nature.
I’ll be honest with you, although I was totally freaked out after seeing a rodent in the hen house, in the end, it didn’t bother me. My eggs were untouched and the rodent was up in the banisters, no big deal. But remember, where there are food and water, there can be rodents. Not just one, but many.
This is the point where my neutral feeling towards rodents changed. I used to pick our eggs up in the morning like I believe most people do. Well, I started finding eaten eggs where eaten eggs were not supposed to be. The damned scoundrels were stealing my eggs! That wasn’t even the worst of it. I woke up another morning to go greet our first large, successful littler of kits (baby rabbits) and there they were: lifeless. One’s head was eaten off and the body just remained. One had its innards nibbled out. My sweet baby rabbits had died a gruesome death and thinking of the pain they felt still turns my stomach. That was it, folks. I couldn’t give any more pity towards the rats. Something had to be done.
On my homestead, I try not to interfere with nature if I can help it. Maybe people will disagree with that in some ways. This doesn’t mean I don’t care, but if a bunny digs a burrow when my intentions weren’t for her to have a burrow, I let her stay there. Knowing I had the occasional rodent on the homestead wasn’t something I worried about until it brought devastation to my farm. That’s when I knew I should’ve acted sooner.
The Rodent Race
I swore up and down there was no way I’d use poison. Absolutely not; forget about it. It was “cruel”. Well, would you like to know what else is cruel? Furry little baby rabbits being forced into a corner to have their innards torn out while still alive. The “eye for an eye” mentality isn’t my favorite, but the fighting side of my natural human instincts kicked in and I knew I had to do something, quick.
I didn’t use poison…at first. I tried the bucket method and it didn’t work. There was never a single rodent caught, not even a bug fell into that bucket. After that, I tried some of the “cornstarch, flour and sugar mix” DIY ideas…the only thing to find that avenue was the ants. I put out snap traps and caught 4 rats, then they got smart and avoided the traps. I tried disguising them, putting them in boxes, etc. We got a “barn cat” who ended up having no interest in catching anything but the occasional lizard.
Meanwhile, I had seen my first rat in the daytime. A rodent in the daytime is bad news, Y’all. Rodents are nocturnal so if you’re seeing them in the daytime, it means they’re set up camp and you might be in for a big battle. Also, keep this fact in mind when you see your very rodent in the daytime on the homestead: One female produces anywhere from 5-10 litters annually. Each litter consist of 5-6 young that are able to reproduce themselves at 30 days old.
Possessed to use Poison
I started reading about how to control rats and mice on a farm and came across this article. I had seen multiple YouTube videos of farmers using rat poison in their barns and such but I just couldn’t bring myself to “take the risk”. Meanwhile, I was risking many other things in return. Disease, electrical fires, loss of livestock, etc. Once I found Cynthia Smith’s article I started changing my tune. Then, my great friend Will Parsons up at The 144 in Kentucky, told me he also lost rabbits to rats and used poison to control the population.
First I want to say that Cynthia Smith is a veterinarian. Second, my story is not as intense or frustrating as hers. Third, you will never completely get rid of rodents. If you live in a wooded area, they’re going to be there. What you CAN do, is control their population. I’m here to tell you what I did and I do hope you read her article.
I found out that my neighbors use poison in their lot. They have pigs, chickens, goats, dogs, and children. My cat, Pete, is also a regular over there. Naturally, my main concern with poison was that I was going to poison something I didn’t mean to. I read the horror stories of people finding owls and other wildlife dying from eating an infected mouse and I didn’t want that on my conscience. I also didn’t want another tortured litter of rabbits on my conscience, either. Here’s what I read: If you put the poison near the rodents burrow, 99% of the time they’ll go into their burrow and die. They won’t die in an empty field for someone to pick up, eat, and die themselves. This proved to be accurate for me.
So, I’d given in to using poison. My neighbors told me they use “Tomcat” poison, so that’s what I tried first. I bought the little bait boxes so none of my other animals could get to the poison and set up the boxes. I set up two boxes in the hen house and that’s all it took. Two boxes, 8 cubes of poison and I haven’t seen a rat in the hen house for months. Over near my rabbitry is a different discussion. The Tomcat cubes were nibbled at, but I was still seeing rodent activity. I refused to mate my rabbits, but one was already pregnant prior to realizing I needed to get a rodent population under control. She had babies, and the babies were eaten on the first night. Another 6 kits were lost.
Will said he used Just One Bit and that’s what worked for him. Our local farm store didn’t carry it, so I bought it off of Amazon. Within the week, two blocks of the Just One Bite poison had been eaten. I only ever found one dead rat near the hutch, and I searched the area quite well and quite often. I feel bad for poisoning those rats, but I’m happy to announce that our doe Thump has successfully brought her first litter of 5 to 8 weeks old. They’ve been weaned and are hopping around in their own suite, now. There have been no more casualties due to rodents.
Rodents Be Gone!
So there it is. I had rats, and I “got rid” of rats. Yes, I’ve seen two rats in my yard in passing far away from my animals. There have been no signs of rodent activity in my hen house or my rabbitry. Just so you know, signs of rodent activity are things like little rich brown droppings and trails of urine. I think I could probably be an exterminator with the amount I’ve read on rodents. I’m not saying the natural methods don’t work. What I’m saying is, when you run a farm, you do what has to be done. Sometimes those decisions are so fun or friendly, but it doesn’t matter. I had to choose between sacrifices my livestock, or poisoning rats. I don’t regret the decision I made and until you’ve experienced the pure havoc that can be reached, I don’t accept your fury and disapproval.
I’ll leave you with my motto because it applies most here.
“Living simply is always simple, but it’s always worth it.”
If you have questions for me about details of my experience, I’d love to talk to you about it. Dealing with rodents on the homestead can be a frustrating endeavor and I’d love to help in any way.