If you have a farm, there’s a good chance you’re going to run into a rat situation at some point along the way.
Mice and rats are two of the largest and most common vermin problems in the world. They are problems not just on the farm, but in homes and businesses everywhere.
Before racing out to buy the next trap or poisons to wage war, lets go over a few principles to get started.
First: Food, food, food!
Everything is attracted to food. It’s a major driving force for behavior. Rats in particular need an ounce of food a day to maintain their health. That’s a lot of seeds!
What we often see on the farm is a preponderance of seeds. Whether that’s undigested grains and seeds passing through an animal’s digestive tract, or free choice feeders over run with chicken grains for example.
Don’t forget those bird feeders! Bird feeders are responsible for more domestic rat problems outside of agriculture than almost any other single factor. On the farm, however, it’s almost always a grain issue of some sort attracting the rodents.
Rats are literally a symptom of the problem. The real problem is often that there is an excess of feed that the rats are capitalizing on. Not to mention, if there is enough extra feed lying around for the rats to eat, that means you have excess feed being wasted. It’s costing you money to attract these rats!
Clean up the food by limiting what you feed your animals. Also, make sure all feed is stored securely in containers rats can’t get into. These two simple steps are foundational to a better system. Clean up the yard, and the rats have a much harder time sustaining themselves.
Second: Remove Shelter
Most animals like their bedroom to be as close to the kitchen as possible. I’d be willing to bet that your bedroom and kitchen are both located in the same house. It’s unlikely your bedroom is at your neighbors and the kitchen is at another neighbors. Animals aren’t much different.
Rats may stick around even with minimal food if they can at least have sufficient housing to maintain energy. If you are super low on food, but have a warm and cozy energy conserving place to live, then you’re more likely to hang around and put up with minimal or sub par nutrition for a while, especially if they’ve been in the area for a while. They’re resistant to giving up their homes!
What can you do? Seal up the buildings where rats could get in: homes, garages, sheds, chicken coops, etc. Pick up old wood piles, trash, etc. There will always be hiding places and nooks and crannies they can utilize. However, the farther apart food and shelter get, and the more limiting the options become, then less likely rats are going to stick around and set up shop.
Take a walk around your property, look for low hanging fruit or other easy meals. Clean up the yard and start “fort knoxing” the entire place. We’re working on long term strategies here, not fly by night solutions.
Third: Trapping, Poison Bait, Repellents, Scare Devices, etc…
Every single one of these tools can be effective and useful at managing rodents and wildlife in general. The problem is that they have a very limited scope and only effect change in the short term.
-You’ve trapped and removed a rat. Congrats! Next week though, another one moves in to eat the grain that was never addressed in the first place. If the environment is such that it attracts and holds a rat, then it doesn’t matter how much trapping you do. There will always be more because other rats will find the environment attractive as well.
-You’ve used “Coyote Urine” or some other repellent to “scare” the rats away. Congrats! You modified their behavior, but then it rains or dissipates or they acclimate to it and are back within hours, days, or weeks.
Point being, short term tools are excellent tools for resolving a short term situation. I’m a big proponent of utilizing short term tools in conjunction with long term solutions.
There are some cases and situations where the tools above are the only viable long term solution. It could be too costly to rebuild a falling barn, or maybe the neighbors practically have a dump where they seem to be breeding rats and you’re catching the fallout as they migrate your way. Sometimes even just seasonal flux may necessitate some control methods. They are tools, but are short term tools for addressing symptoms of a problem.
The problem is the long term management of the farm.
The rats are just letting you know where the farm needs more attention. Fix the big issues, and long term you may not have any need for short term tools because the rats just don’t stick around. That’s going to free up your time, money, and effort where you can spend it better elsewhere on the farm.