How to keep rodents out of my garden?

Discussion in 'Gardening' started by Couture Family, Jun 6, 2016.

  1. Couture Family

    Couture Family Out Of The Brooder

    Does anyone have any tips to keep rodents out of the garden? I have all these big beautiful green tomatoes out side and as soon as they are the least bit pinkish I find them half eaten [​IMG].

    I grew big luffa's only to find huge bites out of them and had to throw them out. All the cucumbers that were behind the trellis near the fence were eaten.

    Oh! And the corn, I was so proud of all the nice corn that was coming up and almost ready to pick when I went out and found that Pete (that's what I named the squirrel, although I'm aware their are a lot of Pete's) had peeled back the husk and gobbled the corn off the cob. And now that the corn is gone Pete climbs up the sunflower stalk and eats the seeds right off the flower. Pete is no longer a friend of the farm.

    I've seen a small rat out in the compost bin but I'm not sure if all of the damage is from rats. I've heard huge critters out side at night and am assuming that it's a opossum or a racoon? But for sure it's a rat eating the tomatoes and cucumbers because nothing else would be small enough to support itself on the trellis while eating.

    So, can anyone please help save the farm from these critters? I feel as if I'm not growing my own food but growing food for a rodent sanctuary. I didn't have this issue last year and am not sure what changed? All of a sudden rodents just moved in as if someone told them they knew where free food was.

    I can't do traps because I don't want the chickens finding dead rats and feasting on them [​IMG] or hurting themselves in the trap, nor can I put any poison down because I don't want the dogs finding it. So I need an all natural method that really works. I'd go down to the pound and get a cat but I wouldn't trust it not to harm my girls.

    So what say you all?

    Thanks for any help and happy week!
  2. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

    Nov 7, 2012
    Cats not likely to do the job. I'd put out some live traps, as well as some contained (to keep them out of reach of larger animals) snap traps around where you're finding signs of damage. Your chickens and dogs are not going to get hurt if you remove the bodies before they have a chance to rot. One year, I got rid of 29 chipmunks in a single season. Squirrels, rats, and chipmunks can do a lot of damage. If you can find the rat's holes, you might put some poison down them. Again, cover them over to keep dogs and cats away from them. Any poisoned rats are likely to crawl down their holes and die there. Depending on where you live, a pellet gun, or even a .22 might be an option. In my yard, this would be war. You have a true infestation on your hands if you are seeing this much damage. An infestation requires drastic measures, IMO. You might want to put an electric fence around your garden to protect it from coons and possums. It takes at least 3 strands, with the first one being very close to the ground, but not touching the grass or weeds.
    1 person likes this.
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    Is your garden fenced to keep the chickens and dogs out? If it is you are a lot freer to use traps, which I consider natural. Don’t just throw up your hands and say you can’t use a trap, think of ways you can safely use a trap. To me, traps are your best option, especially live traps. A good fence can keep rabbits out but most other things can climb.

    It would really help to know what critters you are dealing with. Rats, rabbits, ground squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, and groundhogs immediately come to mind, possibly a combination of these critters. Is the damage occurring at night? Then it probably isn’t squirrels or groundhogs as they usually don’t come out at night.

    Can you see tracks or poop? Digging up ground and leveling it can help you find footprints. Spreading flour can help find tracks too. The poop can be pretty distinctive if you can find some. Can you see tooth marks? Those might give you a clue as to what is biting. If the damage is this bad, a game camera might be a viable option.

    Rabbits and groundhogs are really hard to trap for me. They don’t seem interested in bait. I’ve got a few rabbits by building a box to put over a small live trap, making it look like a safe hiding place. They like to go into holes. I’ve never managed to trap a groundhog, they are tough. It’s challenging to even get a shot at them, though I’ve shot a few. One spring I shot 16 rabbits out of my garden before I got the one that was eating the beans just as they sprouted.

    Squirrels, chipmunks, and ground squirrels aren’t impossible to trap. A very effective bait is BOSS, black oil sunflower seeds. I scatter a few around the entrance of the trap and more leading to the area behind the trip plate. If you are worried about trapping a good animal, build a fenced enclosure around the trap so they can’t get in but the target animal can. Or use a live trap and release them if you get them. I’ve caught song birds, doves, and even feral cats and released them unharmed.

    Don’t be so sure it’s rats doing the climbing and eating. You might be surprised at how high a groundhog can reach standing in its hind legs. They can climb really well too but they are heavy. Squirrels also climb and don’t weight that much. Are birds doing some of that damage up high?

    A lot of this does sound like it could be rats though. I’ve trapped an even dozen rats since the start of the year, about half from the garden and the others around the chicken coop and compost pile. The rats built a nest near the garden. They multiply so fast you can’t totally wipe them out by trapping but you can get their numbers under control. Do you have piles of trash, mulch, or brush near the garden that give them a good nesting area? A general clean-up in the area may help you a lot.

    My garden is fenced to keep dogs (among other things) out. I built a box that rats could enter but most other things cannot and used rat poison. It took a while, you have to keep the bait supplied over time as one feeding usually doesn’t kill them, but that got rid of that rat infestation and kept the poison away from non-target animals.

    I’m not sure what your objection is to the chickens feasting on rats. I regularly feed critters I trap to mine, not if I’m using poison of course, but other times. The chickens greatly enjoy the feast. Still, that’s your decision, not mine.

    I’ve tried several of the “natural” methods. Putting dog hair from brushing my dogs in the area, using Irish Spring soap as the smell is supposed to be a repellent, putting up a decoy snake, I even got some coyote urine and spread that. At best I found these to only be a temporary help. These critters are pretty adaptable, it usually doesn’t take long for them to determine there really isn’t a threat. Still, you can do a search on natural repellents and see if you want to try any of those. I haven’t tried various lights or predators eyes, radios that play in the night, or a sprinkler activated by motion. I’m cynical about them being a long-term solution but some people say they work.

    I think trying to identify what is causing the damage is pretty critical. That’s not always very easy. You might find some type of fencing or netting can really help. Try to eliminate denning or nesting areas in the immediate vicinity. It can discourage them some if they have to cross open terrain to get to you garden but some can be pretty bold, especially at night. A dog or cat can help with a lot of critters but if a dog can get in the garden itself it can do quite a bit of damage.

    My first line of defense is probably live traps. I often have some set somewhere around here. I’m out in the country so I can and do use a gun when appropriate, usually a 12 gauge because of the limited range and I don’t always have to hit the target perfectly. That can be hard to do with my .22, especially when they are moving and there are too many cattle and horses around here to indiscriminately fire a rifle. I’ve passed up shots with my 12 gauge because I knew livestock was downrange.

    I wish you luck with it. This is challenging and frustrating.
    1 person likes this.
  4. Couture Family

    Couture Family Out Of The Brooder

    Thank you for all the info :)

    Let's see, I don't think I have groundhogs in my area? I'm in Central Florida. And I know there are no chipmunks. I wish we had those I've only seen one once in my life (up in Georgia) and they were pretty cool looking. The squirrels (Pete as I call him/them) has been in the garden eating things but those huge bites I'm not sure he did? I guess he could have done. But I have seen a rat/mouse out in the compost bin and in the bird feeder so that's why I assumed it was him/them that have been doing the damage.

    We do have opossums (why is that spelled with an "O") but I don't think they are small enough to get up on the trellis to take a bite out of things without simply pulling them off the vine.I guess they could be but I never see any tracks. I also never see any poop which frightens me because the area where the cucumbers are trellis (in a huge metal container) are near where the dogs go so if there is poop perhaps they ate it? Or, it's behind the bin and I just can't get to it to find it.

    here is a pic of the bin where the damage was done, all the cucumbers behind the trellis have been eaten. I keep the chicken wire in front of the bin because the girls are really good jumpers and would have it torn up in minutes.

    and the damage to the veggies

    This trellis sits just outside that bin. I have this on the other side of the fence from where the dogs go.

    With the traps I'm afraid the girls would find their way to them. The main garden is fenced off but the other garden beds have chicken wire in front of them to keep the girls out but those girls are pretty sneaky when they want to be and although it is fenced off I've found them in the garden a couple times. As far as letting them eat critters.........I can't. I just can't. I don't think I'd look at them the same again. And what of the eggs? Doesn't what they eat come out in their eggs? What I mean is what if a critter had say....rabies wouldn't it somehow get into the egg??? I like to think of my girls as pretty little princesses although they just poop at will (I'm trying to encourage them to be more lady like about it but it's not working) but the idea of my little angels eating a rat just doesn't go over well. The most meat they've ever had is shrimp peels and fish skin besides the assortment of bugs they find out in the yard.

    As far as a place for the rats to live, it's my neighbors [​IMG]. We have a privacy fence all around but the critters climb over it. I did although just last week go over next door and got some branches they had laying on the fence and burned them. But the neighbors behind me are also probably harboring critters. Our place, we keep very clean because of the girls and because I have a bit of the OCD.

    Have you ever tried those solar ultrasonic thingies? I'd like to give them a try but I don't want it to bother the girls.

    As for the gun, I'd love to be out there getting whatever is in the garden but in the city I'd more likely get into trouble instead, but it sounds really fun!!!

    I've got to do something about this quick because I'm loosing too many fruit and I have bananas and a pineapple now coming and I'm afraid it's a race to see who gets it first before they are large and ripe enough to bring inside.

    Also do you know what could have eaten the grapes? There were tinie tiny little grapes (our first) coming out there and now they are gone. Do you think the birds could have eaten them? They were just tiny barely big enough to identify. I had about three clusters and they are all gone. I'm telling you I'm running a farm for feeding the animals. I'm pretty sure this isn't what God meant when He said He provides for even the birds.
  5. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

    Nov 7, 2012
    Those bite marks say squirrel or rat.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by