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Dealing with rodents on the homestead

Dealing with rodents on the homestead. Yep, I said it. Plump, brown, smarter-than-you rodents. Nobody really wants to talk about this. Why? Because it’s kind of gross.

There’s this taboo with rodents, and I totally get it. My feelings towards rodents were neutral until we moved on the homestead. I debated writing this because I felt so ashamed that it happened to me. My farm had rats. But it’s just that. My farm HAD rats. I got rid of them.

rodents on the homestead

How I got rid of rodents on my homestead by dealing with them directly and making some hard decisions.

It happens to folks more often than you think. But as I said, nobody wants to talk about it. Rodents are considered dirty, and they are, but they’re also a part of life when you own a farm or homestead.

Dealing with rodents can be exhausting

The first time I turned on the hen house light late at night and saw a rat I seriously thought I might wet my britches, run inside the house, pack up and move immediately. I knew that seeing rodents on the homestead might be a possibility.

I live on an acre of land with a 2-acre vacant lot/house to my right and 2 acres in front and behind me and to my left. Where there is land, food to eat and water to drink, there are rodents. I also live around many houses who also have farm animals. Whether you want to believe it or not, it’s all part of nature.

I’ll be honest with you, although I was totally freaked out after seeing a rodent in the hen house, in the end, it didn’t bother me. My eggs were untouched and the rodent was up in the banisters, no big deal.  But remember, where there are food and water, there can be rodents. Not just one, but many.

The devastation of having to deal with rodents on the homestead

This is the point where my neutral feeling towards dealing with rodents on the homestead changed. I started finding eaten eggs where eaten eggs were not supposed to be. The damned scoundrels were stealing my eggs!

That wasn’t even the worst of it. I woke up another morning to go greet our first large, successful littler of kits (baby rabbits) and one’s head was eaten off and the body just remained. One had its innards nibbled out.

My sweet baby rabbits had died a gruesome death and thinking of the pain they felt still turns my stomach. That was it, folks. I couldn’t give any more pity towards the rats. Something had to be done.

On my homestead, I try not to interfere with nature if I can help it. Knowing I had the occasional rodent on the homestead wasn’t something I worried about until it brought devastation to my farm. That’s when I knew I should’ve acted sooner.

The Rodent Race

I swore up and down there was no way I’d use poison. Absolutely not; forget about it. It was “cruel”. Well, would you like to know what else is cruel?

Furry little baby rabbits being forced into a corner to have their innards torn out while still alive because you didn’t want to deal with the rodents on your homestead. The “eye for an eye” mentality isn’t my favorite, but the fighting side of my natural human instincts kicked in and I knew I had to do something, quick.

I didn’t use poison…at first. I tried the bucket method and it didn’t work. There was never a single rodent caught, not even a bug fell into that bucket. After that, I tried some of the “cornstarch, flour and sugar mix” DIY ideas…the only thing to find that avenue was the ants.

I put out snap traps and caught 4 rats, then they got smart and avoided the traps. I tried disguising them, putting them in boxes, etc. We got a “barn cat” who ended up having no interest in catching anything but the occasional lizard.

Meanwhile, I saw my first rat in the daytime. Rodents are nocturnal so if you’re seeing them in the daytime, it means they’ve set up camp and you might be in for a big battle. Also, keep in mind every female produces anywhere from 5-10 litters annually. Each litter consist of 5-6 young that are able to reproduce themselves at 30 days old.

Possessed to use poison

I started reading about how to control rats and mice on a farm, and deal with all rodents on the homestead in general, and came across this article. I had seen multiple YouTube videos of farmers using rat poison in their barns to control rodent activity on their homestead and such but I just couldn’t bring myself to “take the risk”.

Meanwhile, I was risking many other things in return. Disease, electrical fires, loss of livestock, etc.

Once I found Cynthia Smith’s article I started changing my tune. Then, my great friend Will Parsons up at The 144 in Kentucky, told me he also lost rabbits to rats and used poison to control the population. Cynthia Smith is a veterinarian and my story is not as intense or as frustrating as hers.

You will never completely get rid of rodents. If you live in a wooded area, they’re going to be there. What you can do, is control their population and deal with the rodents you have, while taking steps to repel them in the future.

Learn to use poison on the homestead

I found out that my neighbors use poison in their lot. They have pigs, chickens, goats, dogs, and children. My cat, Pete, is also a regular over there.

Naturally, my main concern with poison was that I was going to poison something on my homestead, other than rodents, that I didn’t mean to. I read the horror stories of people finding owls and other wildlife dying from eating an infected mouse and I didn’t want that on my conscience.

I also didn’t want another tortured litter of rabbits on my conscience, either. Here’s what I read: If you put the poison near the rodents burrow, 99% of the time they’ll go into their burrow and die. They won’t die in an empty field for someone to pick up, eat, and die themselves. This proved to be accurate for me.

Using poison responsibly

So, I’d given in to using poison. My neighbors told me they use “Tomcat” poison to deal with rodents on their homestead, so that’s what I tried first. I bought the bait boxes so none of my other animals could get to the poison and set up the boxes. You can also buy little bait stations like these.

I set up two boxes in the hen house and that’s all it took. Two boxes, 8 cubes of poison, and I haven’t seen a rat in the hen house for months. Over near my rabbitry is a different discussion.

The Tomcat cubes were nibbled at, but I was still seeing rodent activity. I refused to mate my rabbits, but one was already pregnant prior to realizing I needed to get a rodent population under control. Once she had the babies they were eaten on the first night – another 6 kits lost.

William said he used Just One Bite and that’s what worked for him. Our local farm store didn’t carry it, so I bought it online. Two blocks of Just One Bite poison had been eaten within just a week or two. I only ever found one dead rat near the hutch, and I searched the area quite well and quite often.

I feel bad for poisoning the rats, but I’m happy to announce that our doe Thump has successfully brought her first litter of 5 to 8 weeks old. They’ve been weaned and are hopping around in their own suite, now. There have been no more casualties due to rodents.

Successfully getting rid of rodents

So there it is. I had rats, and I “got rid” of rats and I safely did it with poison. There have been no signs of rodent activity in my hen house or my rabbitry (little brown droppings and trails of urine).

I’m not saying the natural methods don’t work but when you run a farm, you do what has to be done. Sometimes those decisions aren’t so fun or friendly. I had to choose between sacrificing my livestock or poisoning rats.

If you have questions for me about the details of my experience, I’d love to talk to you about it. Dealing with rodents on the homestead can be a frustrating endeavor and I’d love to help in any way I can.

rodents on the homestead

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12 Comments

  1. Nicely written, we came upon this dilemma on a community teaching farm, some members wanted to remove the farm animals, some wanted to try to more diy ideas, but the farm manager ended up with using poison in bait stations with support from myself and another. The folks that wanted the animals removed abstained from voting. It is a problem that no one wants, but one can’t avoid. As long as wildlife and farm animals/ people aren’t affected, you have to make the hard choice.

  2. I’m so glad to have found your article. Years ago, a small mouse got loose in the bank where I used to work. Amid the mayhem that followed, I ended up sitting on top of my desk with my feet in my chair. My attitude has changed a lot since then, and now the rodents are the ones that had better run. And I will use traps and poison. Absolutely! Many thanks.

    1. Hi Susan! I’m so glad you found my article useful. I want to say that poison is not my first choice of method, but instead, a method to use as a last resort. When my rodent problem spiraled, I had no choice but to use poison because my livestock and gardens were suffering because of the rodent activity. But yes, I do think that it is an okay avenue to take if you have to and do it properly! Thank you so much for sharing your story and I hope to hear from you again!

  3. I have rats, because I have chickens and also a walnut tree. I also have an extremely bad tempered, ex-feral cat who loves rats. He’ll never get rid of the entire population but the ones he catches get smaller in size and number every year. The cat is something of a handful at the best of times, but he’s a champion ratter and mouser. I once came home to four dead mice on the doorstep. FOUR!

    1. thegreenacrehomestead says:

      Hi Beth! That’s so great you found a good mouser. I did all I could to avoid using poison but the problem got so out of hand that damage control was required. Now that the problem is contained, I am free to take away the poison. My cat has caught one mouse and she was just playing with it alive, she never killed it. One day I’ll find a good mouser!

  4. This is a great share, and I know there a lot of people out there who will appreciate all of this information.

    1. thegreenacrehomestead says:

      Thanks, Chas!

  5. Dorlis L Grote says:

    i WORRY ABOUT USING POISON FOR RATS AND MICE BECAUSE IF MY CATS EAT THEM THEY MIGHT BE KILLED BY SECOND HAND POISONING.

    1. thegreenacrehomestead says:

      Hi Dorlis! I understand that concern as it was my main concern, too. If you strategically place the poison, you shouldn’t have fatalities. By saying that, if your cats often catch rodents, poison is not right for you. My cat is not a mouser so it was not as much of a concern as harming other animals such as an owl or hawk. I am sure to place poison in boxes where other animals can not reach it and also near the burrow of the rodents, so when they ingest it they don’t pass away in an exposed area but instead in their burrows away from the reach of other animals. Poison is not for everyone, I never thought I’d use it, but I had to make that hard decision. Good luck in your endeavor to rid your property of rodents and thank you for commenting!

      1. What if their burrow is in your home. My mom lives in my brothers farm in an older mobile home. I have been staying with her for months as she has dementia. I have been battling them for months. They have a nest under the stackable washer/dryer and I hear them in the walls. If I use poison they will die in the house and stink.

  6. Good overview on the dealing with rats, I had a bad case of them when I did a clean up and a small building take down, I shifted the outside rats an they moved into my little barn, lost some chicks to them as well as eggs but no baby bunnies thankfully. I have hunting barn cats, a colony of six altered working farm cats.. They hunt a lot.. and I was able to get a few more with the live traps and between the two, we were able to get it back under control..

    I know they are still out there because the cats are still bringing me parts but I have not seen any at night or in the day. Found you on the blog hop

    1. thegreenacrehomestead says:

      I’m so sorry to hear about your chicks! I’m actually surprised I never lost any chicks, but also grateful. My “barn cat” is currently sitting in my lap and is pretty much useless outside. I hated using the poison for the rats, but sometimes there are hard decisions that need to be made. It was the best solution for my situation, at the time. Now that I’m at a stage where I can prevent it from escalating, I’ll do different more natural things. It’s a learning experience! And yes, the rats will always be there but the idea is to keep them controlled.

      I’m glad you stopped by the hop and hope to see you next week, also!