Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Rats!

Rats. They've practically evolved alongside humans, and certainly have occupied the same spaces throughout human history. The Black Plague is long gone, but when they take up residence in the chicken coop, they've got to go. This kicks off an 8-part series exploring rats, their place in human history and language, behavior, biology, the damage they do and finally our local rat problem and our efforts to get rid of them.

We built our chicken coop and run with keeping predators out as a priority. We started with a foundation of cement blocks sunk into the ground, and then built a solid wood structure starting with beefy 2x6 treated lumber. Upon that foundation we built the rest of the structure so that we could “sandwich” hardware cloth between the uprights and batons to keep anything from prying the wire back to enter the run.  We were generous with our screws and staples so it was all very secure. The doors are locked with raccoon-proof carabiners each night. Our coop was secure against hawks, ferrets, weasels, possums, coyotes, dogs, skunks, raccoons and anything else that wanted chicken for dinner.

So sometime in March when I discovered some holes in the chicken coop “run,” that’s the screened in porch that our chickens spend most of their time when not sleeping or laying eggs, my first thought was that the chickens were digging holes out of winter boredom.

A few weeks later I discovered some light excavation between the foundation of our house and the coop (there is a 2-3 inch space between them) and about that time our neighbor and chicken co-parent/owner Matt told us that he had seen two rats helping themselves to chicken feed one evening. After seeing new holes and excavations in our compost bin, I wasn’t particularly surprised, but I was unexpectedly overcome with a sudden urge to kill any and all rats within a 10-mile radius of our coop.

I baited some rat traps (I keep them on hand for occasional chipmunk raids on my tomato beds) and almost immediately caught one. However, no matter the bait I used or the location I put the traps, I couldn’t catch the second one that Matt was sure he had seen feeding in the run.

I either (or simultaneously) gave up, forgot about or denied that “it” was still there and the spring moved on into summer. And then I was reminded of them.

This is the first in a series of blog posts about rats. I’ve learned a lot about them, thought I’d share. As the posts are published I'll include links to them here.

The Rat Series
Rats #9: Good riddance at The Eggplant

To be continued….