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Pippa W

Mice and other questions

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We purchased our three beautiful silkies three weeks ago - in the intervening time we have discovered one is a rooster (she/he crows loudly every morning!), one is blind and one is now broody and requires gauntlets to move her off the nesting box! Last night while enjoying a nice glass of wine in the garden I noticed something moving out of the corner of my eye and to my horror it was a mouse! I have a couple of questions....

1. Our garden is now clean to within an inch of it's life and I propose blocking any access around the doorway into the alley but it's impossible to block up our garden completely, is there any other way that I can get rid of them? I don't really mind mice but i don't want them in the house and I definitely don't want rats!

2. Having discovered that Audrey is a boy, are two girls 'enough' for her? Would I see them mating or do they find a private corner? 

3. Will my blind chicken be okay with a boy (she's not laying yet)?

4. I purchased hardwood chips for the floor of the run but around the grub container there is lots of spilt food - I would need tweezers to get it all out and in the meantime It's like a buffet for mice. Does anyone put anything underneath the grub container to keep it clean?

Sorry, for so many questions. We are brand new to chicken ownership and I'm feeling somewhat out of my depth (and rather exhausted by Audrey's dawn chorus!)

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Hi, Pippa

I'll do my best, and no doubt others will dive in and correct my mistakes and fill in any gaps.

Mice and rats don't care how clean or not your garden is; they just care about the availability of food. Unfortunately, as you mentioned, chickens are not particularly tidy eaters and any food that falls on the floor is fair game for mice. Indeed, any food that doesn't fall on the floor, but is in some way accessible - such as in an open grub container - is still fair game for rats, acrobatic as they are. It doesn't really matter what you do to try blocking access points, vermin will find a way in if there is a benefit to doing so, and whatever you think is impossible for them to negotiate will simply serve as another source of amazement to you as they prove you wrong. As a result, the only course of action IMHO is a two-pronged attack:

  1. Remove all possible temptations by stopping chicken feed from being left lying around exposed. Don't over-fill your feeder, for instance, and that'll reduce spillage. Put your feeder on or over a metal tray and any spillage will be easier to pick up. Take the feeder in at night when the girls have gone to bed and spillage will be the only thing the vermin can get at. If you can get your girls to use a treadle feeder (such as this) that'll almost completely eliminate spillage. Oh, and get yourself a large galvanised metal dustbin for storing your pellets in since rats'll be able to gnaw through plastic bins.
  2. Kill the vermin. Despite your best efforts, there will be an adventurous rat or two that'll check out your setup. For those intrepid souls, a couple of well placed rat traps will help. My personal feeling is that poison is not ideal around chickens in case they have a peck at a dead poisoned rat, and that non-kill traps are only moving the problem elsewhere ready for the culprit to return a few nights hence. I use classic spring-loaded rat traps enclosed in plastic boxes ensuring chickens can't get in and any vermin deaths are instant (i.e. humane). I should also point out that the vermin-trapping part of the solution is only ever the follow-up and most of your effort should go to removing the benefit to them in the first place.

Of course, if you haven't done so already, this is an ideal excuse and opportunity for getting a cat. They're remarkably effective at keeping the rodent population in check.

As for Audrey, I'm afraid I can't say if just two girls will keep him occupied. However, yes, you're likely to see him having his wicked way.

Overall, I hope I'm not alarming you with the suggestions about the mice and rats. In general, it's pretty straightforward to keep things under control and it's not the horror scenario it seems. However, it is an ever-present issue and can quite quickly grow into a big problem if you don't keep on top of it.

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Thank you so much. We have been bringing the food in at night, it's the food amongst the woodchips that I fear is attracting them. I'll have a look at the treadle feeder but have a feeling I saw a horror thread with a rat INSIDE the feeder (I'd literally have a heart attack!) We do have a cat but she's 17 now and mainly observes the garden shenanigans from a comatose position, her mousing days long behind her.

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I don't know if you live in a town or the countryside, but it's well worth remembering that mice, rats and other rodents are around us pretty much all the time; it's only seeing them that tends to get people panicky. Before we got our current girls (the first we've had since we moved into this house 5 years ago), we pulled down an old shed and found a myriad of rat-runs under the flagstones supporting it. No food to attract them or anything, and that's even with us having two enthusiastic and relatively young mousers. Rodents are just a part of every-day life, so seeing the odd one near your chicken run is not some damning indictment of one's chicken-keeping failures. If things do become a problem - as perhaps every 5 years or so they might - a bit of intervention from a professional pest control company will get things back on an even keel again.

In other words, relax because there's always an answer.

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Ditto what the Major said - personally, I prefer to use galvanised trough feeders, see below, as there's no spillage and they are easy to bring in at night.  

image.png.5195d2a5d4885c9d09a79b3c18333593.png

 

My garden is very wildlife friendly and has quite a community of field and there mice, voles and other visitors - I prefer to embrace them and they don't ever come into the house or damage anything outside. My feed is kept in old galvanised dustbins. the run is on slabs with Aubiose on top, so any rat trying to burrow in will get one heck of a headache.

As Major said... "RELAX" and enjoy them.

 

 

 

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I meant to add that Silkie cockerels ar not know to be highly sexed, so he may be happy with just 2 wives, but if they start to look a bit threadbare and fed up, then you might need to add to his harem. Also the little blind hen may not be able to sense his advances quickly enough to get out of the way.

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Thank you for your replies. We live in London so it's quite a suburban set up and I'm afraid I'm a bit of a townie when it comes to rats! But you're right, I love our chickens, it's absolutely amazing how quickly they have become part of our family and what individual personalities they have, I can watch them for hours! So I guess pest control if it all gets too much. The trough looks better to me as there's no place to hide 😱  but doesn't that also provide a running buffet for mice, especially as it's ground level? Do you worry about the odd bit of food in the woodchip?

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I don’t think there’s any particular reason the mice would end up in your house. Like the Dogmother I have loads of mice in my garden and the only time I’ve ever had one in the house is when one of the cats has got one. I don’t bring my food in and so far (6 years of chicken keeping) haven’t seen a rat.

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We have periodic rodent problems but it's been a village wide problem. Finding an old fashioned rat catcher made the difference, much more effective than professional pest control companies. You'll find them word of mouth if you have one locally.

silkies are gorgeous

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I’m fine with the mice in my garden. They hide out in the shed sometimes. But I have a big tomcat who can’t resist hunting mice. So I know they are kept in check by him. Last year a rather larger tunnel appeared in a corner. Made Red the cat aware of the situation and the tunnel was quickly abandoned. 😉

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Think we need a new cat! Feeling reassured by all your mouse-friendly comments. Thank you.

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19 hours ago, mullethunter said:

I don’t think there’s any particular reason the mice would end up in your house. Like the Dogmother I have loads of mice in my garden and the only time I’ve ever had one in the house is when one of the cats has got one. I don’t bring my food in and so far (6 years of chicken keeping) haven’t seen a rat.

My cat does that too - brings them in then promptly loses interest. If the dogs don't snaffle them, I end up rehoming them back to the woodpile :roll:

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We see a lot of rats usually and deal with them as best we can. Strangely, although people are reporting seeing more in London during lockdown we haven't seen any this year at all. We only have the one elderly chicken now who ignores any cats who come into the garden, I recognise four big cats that regularly come through our garden and I think the cats are hunting the rats. We also get a lot of foxes but I don't know if they hunt rats. 

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1 hour ago, patsylabrador said:

....We also get a lot of foxes but I don't know if they hunt rats. 

That's an interesting point and one that prompted me to do a bit of research. It seems foxes are opportunistic omnivores and will eat most things including fruit and berries. However, the urban fox's habit of raiding dustbins will bring it into regular direct contact with rats, and it seems the fox will take full advantage. Apparently urban foxes are a very good means of rat control.

Who'd'a thunk? Foxes having a benefit for poultry keepers! Mind you, that doesn't change the fact that if I see one in my garden I'll take any and all legal and humane action I can to get rid of it.

  • Thanks 1

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Over the winter we had issues with mice and then rats that had overspilled from the farm.  They tucked into our potatoes.  I did notice that they must have brought takeaways as I saw rat killer in the corner of the workshop.  I knew the farm had called in the experts because she came here first - nice girl!  We found 3 big deceased rats in the garage, a little revolting as one was well decomposing!  🤢  It is dark at the back and there is about a 2ft drop down - we think that it may have housed cattle in days of yore, so nice and cosy for the ratties and the mice.  So we have been without them for quite a long time.  No mice either.  But while OH was looking for something and tidying up at the same time he came across a bag of garden netting - brilliant as that will be used for popping across the duckling run to protect from predation.  But then he spotted a box with fluff coming out at the corner.  Turned out it was a bag of rat poison that we'd brought with us and the rats had chewed into the very box, so committed suicide.  We said serves them right for being greedy!:lol:

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