Frustrated: snakes and rats-need help, please

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by 2overeasy, Sep 23, 2011.

  1. 2overeasy

    2overeasy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 28, 2010
    Birchwood, TN
    I have read and read on here posts that deal with these but can't find a satisfactory answer. Today I thoroughly read ml's posted article by Gail Damerow, as well. So, here's the deal: My chicken house is a 10X 24 ft metal shed that was originally a 3-sided shelter for horses ( before I built a barn then got chickens). It is set at the edge of the woods (1 side is wooded, other, not). It has a dirt floor. I have been fighting a battle with critters for 2 1/2 years. I know, we all fight critters when it comes to our peeps.
    I've learned so much on here about fortifying and identifying predators. Everytime I lose one, I come to the forum and read and post voraciously. I have plugged all holes 2 inches or larger to avoid weasels. I have moved everything off of the floor inside and around the outside. They free range 10 acres during the day, but it's completely fenced with field fence so I never have dogs, fox, coyotes come on the property. They get completely closed up at night and let out in the morning by me. I have shot 3 possums. I have killed two snakes in the hen house. More on that.
    Over the last 2 1/2 years I've found about 6 or 7 chickens - no younger than 4 months - dead in the hen house in the morning. I've never lost a young chick. The first 3 times were tophats with heads missing or torn off. The next times were simply dead bodies with no discernible injuries (I didn't, however, check their back ends to see if they were chewed up that way by a weasel - I learned about that later).
    I lost a frizzle cochin pullet to a hawk last year. Considering much of the 10 acres they free range is open pasture, I'm surprised there hasn't been more lost to hawks because I see them often. Just last week, I was sitting on the front porch and one swooped down right in front of me to snatch a chicken and missed when I yelled just in time. In the spring I found a young Orpington dead near the driveway and think a hawk snatched it but the dogs scared it before it could carry off the chicken. There were no marks (easily seen) on the chicken.
    Yes, I have 5 dogs. In nearly 3 years I've never had one catch, chase or show any interest in the chickens. Amazing, I know. I'm fortunate.
    So the ones that die are generally in the hen house at night when they are locked up.
    I say all of this to say, after learning how to eliminate other possibilities, I think the problem is rodents. As I said, my hen house floor is dirt. It's also sloped, from the woods long side to the lower pasture long side. I am more and more finding holes in the floor - every day there are several. At first I would stomp dirt in them or fill them with rocks and sticks. I considered snakes and rats. I found 2 black snakes in the house this past summer - one was curled up in a nesting box with a golf ball stuck in its mouth!. I killed both, and both were at least 4 ft long. I've been missing quite a few eggs. Now, however, after reading more, I know that they won't eat every day and certainly not several a day. And since I'm now sure it's rats, I'm sorry I killed them.
    Several days ago - following the advice of things I've read here - I bought snake stopper and sprinkled all around the house. I bought Tomcat rat poison, and when I find a hole, I sprinkle some down and stuff with rocks. Absolutely paranoid that my peeps can get the poison. Now, I've noticed that the entire lower side of the house has become, for lack of a better description, spongey. This leads me to believe that there is an entire network of dens, caves and tunnels under the shed where rats are thriving and breeding.
    I've racked my brain on how to stop this. It's impossible to get to the underneath of the shed. Because of tree roots, it's impossible to dig metal flashing or heavy fencing several inches underground around. I simply can't afford to pour concrete in that large of an area. Plus it's so sloped that I couldn't effectively do it. And I don't think the poison will effectively eliminate the problem. I think it's safe to assume at this point that there are far too many. I considered laying deer netting or something over the entire floor and securing it around the edges with tent stakes or something, but just read that rats can chew through almost anything like that. I've thought about buying some 1ft square landscaping blocks to lay around the inside but I'm not sure that will help.
    It know this is long, and I'm so so sorry, but please help - I'm at my wits end!
     
  2. harveyhorses

    harveyhorses Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 16, 2010
    Is there any way you could put in a sort of reverse skirt, only inside with hardware cloth? I am thinking nailed or stapled a foot or so up the inside wall and bring it down to floor level, run it a couple of feet or so to the inside and cover it up with rocks/dirt. Sounds like they have a pretty good set up.
     
  3. RMBGKY

    RMBGKY Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 29, 2010
    Bowling Green, KY
    I like harveyhorses' idea, but I would cover the whole floor with 1/2 mesh. Then cover that with sand. That would keep the rodents from tunneling unseen through the bedding.
     
  4. dandydoodle

    dandydoodle Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 21, 2010
    georgia
    I can't really picture what you mean by tunneling under your floor. Anyway I will tell you what I have done and hopefully it might help you. I can't think of the name of it but, they sell rat poison that are little pieces and it is bright green. It comes in a little black tray with the poison in it. I put the poison inside a box so that hopefully the rats don't knock the poison out. I also place it in two different places. Our chicken coop has 3 sections so I lock the chickens in two sections at night and put the poison in the third. In the morning I pick the poison back up and look around to make sure the rats didn't knock any of the poison out. It is a turqouise green so it is easy to find. After I get up all the poison I let the chickens in the third section. I also try to listen to see where they are hiding during the day once I figure that out I place the poison by the hole that is next to where ever they stay during day. That way it is the first food they see when they come out looking for food. This has been very effective I just finished wiping out a whole family of rats that had moved in a few months back. They have been gone about a month and a new family moved in about a week ago. So here we go again. Anyway I don't think there is anyway to keep them away permenantly but, get rid of them as soon as you can when they come to keep the numbers from blowing up. You might also find if you don't have as many rats you won't have as many snakes.

    Goodluck,
    Michelle
     
  5. halo

    halo Got The Blues

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    My Coop
    There is rat bait called Just One Bite that is very effective. I had a lot of rats last year, so many that I was seeing them during the day. Bad sign. I put out the Just One Bite, and was finding full grown dead rats nearly every day. In several weeks I found more dead rats, but they were half grown, and then finally I was finding very small baby dead rats. That stuff really works. You can hide it in boxes with holes in them that only rats can get to. It really works. You can reinforce the coops as best as you can, but if you dont get rid of the rats, they will just get worse.
     
  6. Agdketo

    Agdketo Out Of The Brooder

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    Aledo, Illinois
    If it's a dirt floor, put lime down. (limestone) Lime is the hardening factor in concrete. It may help, not 100 percent sure though.
     
  7. 2overeasy

    2overeasy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 28, 2010
    Birchwood, TN
    Good replies - thanks to all!
    harveyhorses: I've read that they can chew through almost anything. I thought of hardware cloth: so you don't think they can chew through that?
    dandydoodle: I use the green stuff and it's called Tomcat. I don't use the bait stations. I have no where to put them. Instead I sprinkle some down every hole I find then block it with rocks.
    Agdketo: I could try the lime b/c I always keep some for my horse stalls. Do you think sand would be expensive for that size area?
    I'm being as aggressive as I possibly can on this, I'm just stumped as to how to deal with the sheer numbers (I think) there are.
     
  8. harveyhorses

    harveyhorses Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 16, 2010
    I had not even thought of that, the stuff I have is pretty darned heavy, I have to give the wire cutters a serious squeeze, if you really think they could, go for expanded metal.
     
  9. Ole rooster

    Ole rooster Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 25, 2011
    Milner, Georgia
    It sounds to me like something could be hiding in the coop when you lock it up. Do you check it good before lockup? I do know that the only way for anything to get in mine at night. That's for me to shut it in. But then it should be there when you open it if it's a secure as you say.
     
  10. Agdketo

    Agdketo Out Of The Brooder

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    Sep 14, 2009
    Aledo, Illinois
    In my area, sand and even gravel is relatively cheap. You could put lime down, and then on top of that, perhaps gravel and then sand. The gravel would have to be at least two inches deep.
     

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