MOUSE HUNTING 101
They may be Cute…But not in the Barn!
A mouse in the barn is never a good situation…but those little furry rodents love to share your barn with you! After all, there is feed to break into, things to chew on, and plenty of places to leave little poopy treasures. Besides a good mouse catching barn cat, the next best strategy is the good old fashion mouse trap.
I know there are mice when I slide open my feed room barn door, and get a brief whiff of a musty mouse smell. It’s best described as a “Musty” smell.
The poop chart shows the different types of mouse scat to look for. As gross as it may be, looking closely at the poop will let you know which type of trap to set. You’ll never catch a mouse with a rat trap or vice versa! Mouse poop is about the size of a grain of rice. You’re likely to find them along the walls or on top of lids & counters.
Mice are most active at dusk and into the night and can slip through a ¼” opening! It’s hard to believe that they can squeeze through such a small area. But to prove how flat mice and rats can become, look at the picture of the trapped rat. The jaws of the trap are pretty much closed and that rat is in between!
If you are seeing mice run around in the daylight, you may have an infestation and will possibly need professional service or several traps (and a lot of patience setting traps). With an infestation, it will take 2-3 weeks of daily trapping to break down the population.
For some of you, trapping mice may be emotionally sad or just gross, but the health risk to your barn animals and loss of contaminated feed and grain is too great a price. Mice spread diseases through their urine and feces as well as fleas and diseases. I only recommend mouse bait if you can get to the mouse once it has died…otherwise, the smell of the decaying mouse will make the previous musty smell seem like sweet perfume!
Types of Traps
For trapping mice, my preference is the wood mouse trap with the Yellow Cheese plate followed by the plastic snap traps. The yellow cheese plate offers a larger surface to place the peanut butter or other bait. Peanut butter is good because they can’t grab it and go. They have to lick it off and set the trap. The plastic snap trap is interesting because the main feature is that it doesn’t hurt your finger if it snaps on you. It is also simple to release the trapped mouse without touching the bar.
Bait for Traps
For setting mouse traps, add a dab of peanut butter or marshmallow and set it in the same location of the mouse poop. Place the trap next to the wall where they travel. I always attach a string of baling twine to the trap. This makes it easy to find if the trap gets pulled behind a bale of hay. Mice are very curious and this makes trapping them easy. They will eagerly check out the new trap! But, if you do not get any activity on the trap, move it to another location. Mice hang out near their nest and food source.
At your local farm or feed store, there is a wide variety of poisons in different formats such as blocks, cubes or pellets. My preference is the bait blocks or cubes. Simply, it’s easier to handle and I am less worried about dropping pellets that may be eaten by my other animals. Side note: Rats will sometimes take out of the cage portions of the bait back to their nest. This is a sure sign that rats are in the barn. Mice will slowly nibble on the bait in the cage. Mice are afraid of rats. So if you have mice, it’s likely that the rats are not around.
Setting Out Bait
My preference is a hamster or bird cage with the poison blocks safely inside. This ensures that I can control and protect the poison from other pets eating the poison. This cage can be tied to the fence for extra security. There are also tubes that can be purchased to hold the bait.
A Word About Bait
No Second Kill – Rat and mouse poisons manufactured today state that their poison will not kill any secondary animal that eats a rodent that has consumed poison. They call this “No second kill”. The old poisons were so potent that they killed anything that ingested the poison first or second. This was terrible for the barn cats, dogs, owls, & hawks.
Veterinarians have said that if a dog eats a rat who has just eaten poison and it is still in the stomach, that the dog could get sick from it. A good rule of thumb is to never let your pets eat rodents no matter how they are killed.
PREVENTION OF RODENTS
Mice Cause Problems By:
- Contaminating water & feed with their feces and urine.
- Transmit diseases and spread fleas that also spread diseases.
- Gnawing causes damage to barns, equipment, wiring and any non-metal item.
Mouse Prevention Steps:
- Mouse control in a barn or livestock area requires diligent management.
- Don’t stack fence boards, lumber or firewood near the barn, as this offers shelter to rodents.
- Keep weeds and grass mowed around the barn and pens.
- Block all holes or gaps larger than ½ inch. Rust proof wire mesh is a good choice.
- Keep blankets or other fabric items and feed in tightly-sealed containers.
- Close gaps and holes in walls and doorways. Below is an easy way to seal up a doorway using ½” x 3” trim. The boards over hang the door jamb to close up the gap between the sliding door and trim.
Hay Storage – built a wood platform to stack and store your hay. This keeps it clean and is easy to sweep up. Here the platform was built using plywood sheets attached to 4×4 posts (Even 2×4 boards could be used as a base).Careful attention was taken to make it as tight as possible to keep the little mouse varmints out! The white boards were to close any gaps. In 8+ years, there has not been any mice or rats under this flooring, which reduced the places they could hide! Installation Note: Place the rough side up on the plywood to make it more slip resistant. The smooth side is really slick with loose hay on top!
Pallets – may provide good ventilation under the hay bales, but they also allow mice and rats to build nests! Loose hay also falls between the slats and gets gross and moldy. The plywood sheets are worth the extra dollars for the cleanup factor.
DID YOU KNOW?
Mice are ready to start breeding at 6 weeks old and can breed up to 10 litters of 5-6 babies in each litter! One mouse pair can possibly produce 60 babies! With their babies producing at 6 weeks, a pair of mice and their babies can produce thousands of mice in one year if left untreated. Fortunately, there are other predators that help keep their numbers in check. But we have to do our part to manage their numbers around the barn! Mice can live up to 12 months.