The saying that someone “eats like a pig” makes perfect sense once you have heard a pig munch on something. They smack.. loudly! Although it’s adorable in the pig pen, it’s not quite as adorable at the dinner table. They also make a mess when they eat, rooting for the best pieces. Even if they are fed their food in pellet form and it’s pretty much all the same, they still root for the best pieces and it’s inevitable that there are lots of crumbs and pieces left all over the place. Unfortunately it’s not left over for long. The rats that live in the woods suddenly realized that it’s near perfect living around the pigs. They provide food. They provide shelter (the rats burry under their thick stall mats) and lastly, the pigs are too slow to catch them as they scurry through their pens.
I am not particularly afraid of rodents, just weary of the potential diseases they can transmit. And of course, I do NOT like them running over my toes at twilight when I’m standing still filling up the water tanks. They actually don’t just transmit disease, they attract predators who like to eat rats, such as racoons and fox. Neither of these are welcome here especially when we are – like now- expecting more little piglets. Although the racoons look sweet enough, they have long and sharp claws (they are well known for ripping the head of chickens by sticking their hands through the opening of the chicken wire) and they are often infected with rabies.
I brought the issue up to my sweet hubby who dutifully started setting up the traps.
Since I try to avoid killing animals that are only doing what they are meant to do we used the live traps to catch a mother and her two kits. We then drove (we as in the royal we.. it really was Scott!) to a state game land preserve where we released them. Well, with the racoons gone, the rats now felt free to take over completely. And they apparently are a lot smarter than the racoons. And us. They consistently were able to eat the bait without springing the traps, whether they were live traps or the killing ones I eventually resorted to. We even found traps kicked down the hill- but still empty. So what do you do if you can’t catch them, and don’t want to put out poison? (Birds and other animals may eat the poisoned rodent, who then get poisoned in turn. It’s really bad for our birds of prey, but I also wouldn’t want one of my pigs to find it and eat it.
Having had this rat issue many years ago in MA when I had the alpacas, I knew what to do. I was reluctant… it’s rather time consuming.. but after searching the web for better and quicker alternatives and coming up empty handed I almost gave in. Reading that one pair of rats can multiply to over one THOUSAND rats in a year pushed me over the edge.. or in this case.. pushed me to search for some adoptable ferrets. And we found them, a brother and sister, 3 years old in search of a new home.
Meet Fiona and Shrek! (He used to be called Banjo- but Annika renamed him!) Sweetest little things ever. They love sleeping, and pretty much sleep 22 hours a day- no matter if they are held or in the middle of playing!!
Ferrets are natural predators to rodents. The smell of them got all the rats that I had in my MA barn fleeing just by the mere scent of them. At a later time we had mice in our basement- an old stone foundation, sigh- and instead of getting the ferrets I got some ferret poop from a friend. It worked like a charm. We were completely mice free. So Miss Fiona and big boy Shrek are ferrets with a job. We collect their poop and place it outside where the rats are living, and inside our new friends are patrolling the garage and mudroom in their new harnesses. I’m excited that we could adopt these adorable little fur balls- they play like cats but without the claws, and are afraid of absolutely nothing.
In the end we are hoping for a rat free, racoon and fox free healthy environment for our pigs, sheep and chickens! And now I’m a lot less nervous about welcoming our next batch of piglets- Miss Olivia is due with her first litter of piglets around Thanksgiving! Stay tuned!
PS If you by chance have an issue with mice or rats and want to try a more gentle way of getting rid of them- contact us!