The last couple of days have felt like spring and with the weather warming up comes all the little problems you don't notice as much in the winter. Like mice. Anytime you have feed around you're going to have wild critters looking for a free meal. Luckily, we haven't had too much of a mouse problem in the coop over the last few years though there have been a few. I've had more problems with chipmunks and squirrels chewing through feed storage containers but the mice are a close second. Normally they get caught before they can do too much damage because unlike squirrels and chipmunks, mice like to move in when they find a good food supply. I have a few different methods I use to catch them and it usually doesn't take long between when I find evidence of mice and when I get rid of them.
I did have one mouse that took a long time to catch though. When I finally got him I wasn't real sure if he was just a huge mouse or a small rat. (see picture) We decided he more then likely was a mouse but all that layer feed must have made him grow bigger then normal. Whatever the reason was, I did not want to see one like him again! Getting rid of rodents is a 3 step process. First you need to get rid of the reason they are there, next you need to get rid of them and finally you need to block their way back in.
Step 1, take away the reason they are there:
Rodents come around looking for food, obviously. The fact that water is often nearby and readily accessible just makes it more comfortable for them. First things first, block all access to food and water. If this means bringing the feeder in at night, well then you gotta do it. You can get a treadle feeder that doesn't open up till the chickens step on it if you absolutely can't bring their food in each night. You'll also need to secure whatever you are storing their food in. We use a thick rubber garbage can that holds about 150lbs of feed. Make sure you check your storage container often in case something starts to chew on it. You might even want to go with a metal storage bin.
Empty water bowls at night and refill them in the morning. I've heard that some people switch to a nipple watering system when they find mice. While this will keep the chickens water cleaner, it will not deter mice at all. Think about the last time you saw a mouse in a cage in a pet store. What was it drinking out of? More then likely it was a water bottle with a nipple style tip. They will learn to drink out of whatever a chicken drinks out of. The only way to make sure mice don't drink out of the chickens water overnight, is to dump it.
Step 2, get rid of the current rodent population:
Snap traps: I use these in my garage anytime I think there might be a mouse hanging around. I bought the newer style plastic traps and they are e-v-i-l! Do not get your finger snapped in one of those...or so I'm told. Anyway, if you use these make sure they are only placed where the chickens can't get them. I often put them down at night after I lock the chickens up and pick them back up before I let the chickens back out in the morning.
Bucket trap. I don't have a picture but its easy enough to figure out. Get a 5 gallon bucket and fill it with water up to a few inches from the top. Toss some sunflower seeds, peanuts in shells and/or crackers in the water so it floats on top. Literally any food that floats will work. Make it a pretty thick coating so it doesn't look liquid. Lean a board up against it so they have a little ladder. They'll climb up then jump into the bucket to get the food but drown.
Safe trap: If you have anything bigger then a typical field mouse,
you might want to get a safe trap. These are the same as the raccoon
traps just smaller. Set it along a wall since mice tend to run alongside
the wall. It also helps if instead of just throwing bait in the trap,
you actually smear it on the trigger plate. I smear peanut butter on the
trigger plate and as they lick and bite at it they always activate the
Cat: Most barn cats do a pretty good job of keeping the rodent population down. You should be able to find a rescue cat that's been fixed and vetted for a small adoption fee. Just provide a safe place to sleep, food and water and it'll catch the mice for you!
Step 3, keep them from coming back:
Seal off cracks and holes that mice might be slipping through. Use a staple gun to secure a piece of hardware cloth over ventilation areas near the top of the coop or cover any holes or weak spots in the wood.
areas around the coop clean. The less places they have to hide and nest,
the less likely they are to stay around. Don't leave wood or equipment
laying around and keep the grass trimmed.
Mice hate peppermint oil. Dab a little peppermint on the baseboards of the coop and mice will steer clear of it. I know peppermint essential oil can get expensive, but peppermint flavoring will work just as well and can often be found in dollar stores for candy making. You could also plant mint around the base of the coop though there's only anecdotal evidence of this working.
Have a great weekend!
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