rodent control

Let us talk about the ‘R’ word.  Yes, that’s the one:  Rats.

Now, don’t misunderstand!  Ours is a clean farm, if we do say it ourselves.  It has not always been so; you don’t learn to manage bushels of farm-derived nutrients all in a day, or a decade.  But we’re far enough along on that path that we’re fairly good at moving buildups from point of surplus to point of deficit.  There are not piles of things lying around that rats would want to rummage.  No spilled feed in any quantity (the poultry don’t waste much), and only so much left in the pig trough on odd days to show that we’ve fed too much that morning, or that the pigs are growing a little bored with shredded apples from the cider-making.  The compost bin contains manured bedding and coffee grounds almost to the exclusion of anything else, well, maybe the corpse of a coon or possum gone to his just reward, but only once in a while.  Nothing to make a passing platoon of rats take a second look and decide to set up housekeeping.

Nothing except beautiful gardens full of sweet baby beans, tender corn on the cob, juicy tomatoes — and a guard dog who is a little too slow to catch a rat, but keeps the foxes and coyotes at a more than respectful distance.  A surplus of delicious food, and not enough vermin control.  After twenty years of limiting ourselves to a maximum of three cats, all toms (so that after a bit there’s generally only one of them), we’re discovering why the iconic farm has multiple cats, many cats, cats on every fence post.  Cats are working members of the farm community, and we don’t have enough of them.

Time to adopt a half-dozen kittens, and make sure at least two are chickens with catfemale.

11 thoughts on “rodent control

  1. The Polish say that tom cats ‘are for nothing’ (a rough translation) although I haven’t seen a rat or evidence since our two toms moved in. Mind you winter is coming which will no doubt test their effectiveness. I think you are right though, much like in the human world, it’s the females that do the real work!

    1. I can’t accept the last, complimentary though it is!  But I’m interested in the Polish assessment of tom cats — we never had a rodent issue while we kept rat terriers, but when the last was gone (disappeared, maybe road hit) we couldn’t find another.  Maybe our toms have never been much good, and we never knew it.  Well, the two new tabbies are half-grown, we hope for great things —  Shawn and Beth Dougherty The Sow’s Ear Check out our new book, The Independent Farmstead

      Library Journal starred review: *Dougherty, Shawn & Beth Dougherty. The Independent Farmstead: Growing Soil, Biodiversity, and Nutrient-Dense Food with Grassfed Animals and Intensive Pasture Management. Chelsea Green. Sept. 2016. 336p. photos. index. ISBN 9781603586221. $39.95. AGRI Husband and wife Shawn and Beth ­Dougherty have written about the “self-sustaining” grass-based farming movement on their blog, ­ Their first book, a well-organized overview of managing a diversified “farmstead,” takes the concept of backyard hobby farming to the next level. Drawing on their 20 years of experience on the Sow’s Ear Farm in eastern Ohio, the Doughertys offer practical know-how on a variety of farming topics, with photos and philosophical considerations of their methods. Although not exhaustive on any given issue, there is enough information for most readers to get started with confidence. They encourage readers to adopt holistic and creative problem-solving techniques. Oft-ignored subjects such as seasonal rhythms and interpersonal dynamics—the “people aspect” of the farm ecosystem—are addressed. Easily navigable sections let readers skim as needed, but the conversational style lends a cohesive narrative. With a compelling foreword by holistic farmer Joel Salatin, this is right at home on a workbench or bedside table. VERDICT A solid choice for those embarking on a serious animal-based hobby or enterprise, aspiring homesteaders, and sustainable farmers who already have basic knowledge of animal husbandry and agriculture. The authors’ blog provides a nice supplement; for more introductory guides, try Carleen Madigan’s “Backyard Homestead” books.—Amanda ­Avery, Marywood Univ. Lib., Scranton, PA  

  2. We’ve ten acres – and generally run between ten and fourteen cats. More than that, I’m buying cat food. Less than that, I’ve mice in the house, the barn, the feed room…….thankfully – no rats up here 😊

  3. It is a bit of a conundrum. We have a pair of “wild, feral, farm cats” (who love to be held and skritched). They are great with rodents but also very efficient with our wren, bluebird, robin, and occasionally swallow populations. Can’t put up any bird houses to attract new residents while Ike and Mike are on the prowl. When the boys get too old to do the job we’re seriously considering switching over to some sort of rodent fighting breed of dog. My partner is thinking about Rat Terriers or Schipperkes. Our pair of Great Pyrenees often team up with the cats to contain and destroy any rodents who invade their territory so hopefully the two breeds of dogs would operate in a similar manner.

    1. We love rat terriers, used to have three, and wouldn’t be without one, only we don’t want to breed them ourselves (why not, I can’t really say, except if you keep a bitch you have to shut her up if you really want to know whose puppies she’s giving you), and we haven’t been able to find any within four hours or under five hundred bucks. They are terrific dogs.

  4. Hi there! Just stopping by your blog and am happy to supply one donation towards your need for (future) tom cats! : ) LOL! God provides in marvelous ways, yes?! : ) So glad to have had our paths cross with yours, Beth.

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