Saturday, August 13, 2016

Rats #8: The Dirty Secret: Rats in Our Neighborhood

As I said in Rats #1, I first noticed the potential for rat inhabitants in or near our chicken coop and made a half-hearted effort to get rid of them. I did get one right away in a physical trap, but next door neighbor Matt had seen two, and the evidence was clear that the second one was still hanging around. I don’t recall how it started, but shortly after discovering our own rat problem, my two-doors down neighbor, Jenny, stopped over and in a hushed tone asked if we were having any rat issues, and shared that she had them in her compost pile and around her chicken coop.

Jenny may not have actually whispered the news, but we both agreed that rats and chicken coops don’t seem to be talked about much. Jenny knew we were going to be on the Mad City Chicken coop tour in a few weeks, and dared me to bring up the topic of rats and coops as people visited our setup.

In hindsight, it’s interesting to note that in anticipation of the coop tour, Jay and I cleaned out the coop and the run and conveniently wiped out any trace of the rat tunnels in the floor of our run. Even before Jenny’s dare, looks like I didn’t want to talk about rats either, and was quietly going about my business to get rid of them.

On Madison’s news and neighborhood internet sites, there’s been talk about an increase in the rat population on the city’s east side where I live. See this June 14, 2016 story. Some suggest it’s due to increased chicken coops, and from my experience, I can’t deny that’s a likely factor. I did a quick search and found that the best things to do are keep grasses around coops and buildings clipped short enough to expose holes, remove sheltered areas for them to hide like piles of stuff against buildings, removing food sources and thorough extermination programs.

From the June 2016 news article linked to above, Doug Voegeli, Madison Dane County director of environmental health, said "It's not just a single entity that is causing this infestation, it's the whole area that is providing adequate food, adequate water and shelter for these rats." I guess that makes all of us partially responsible if we see evidence or inadvertently provide shelter and don’t do anything about it.

In addition to removing shelter, disturbing hiding places and poison or traps, for those who keep compost piles, it’s important to turn them regularly, disturbing any rat habitation. In fact, now that Jenny and I are talking about rats, we share success stories. She was turning her compost pile and found a nest of five babies and she was rather proud of herself for dispatching them.

In the next and final entry in this series about rats I’ll detail how three grown men using smoke bombs, shovels, traps and poison took care of our rat problem at The Eggplant.

Rats #9: Good riddance at The Eggplant