Mice are among the most deceptive creatures on Earth. While they might appear cute and perhaps even harmless, they are actually quite troublesome and dangerous to people, pets, and structures. Though they are hard to detect, they haunt plenty of structures and outbuildings. Barn owners, in particular, should be concerned about these little critters due to the tremendous damage they can create when a local population gets out of hand.
Rats should be a similar concern, too. Both they and mice can also infest horse stables, chicken coops, and other farm structures, and every effort should be made to eradicate them.
3 Problems Caused by Barn Mice and Rats
Once mice and rats discover a barn or other farm building, they move in and wreak havoc. These rodents create a number of problems, including:
- Problem 1: Contamination — Barn mice, even in the smallest numbers, contaminate hay needed for livestock. Even if just two mice are active inside a barn for six months, they can devour as much as four pounds of grain and leave up to 18,000 droppings. Rat and mouse droppings are the most damaging because they contaminate food, water, and other supplies.
- Problem 2: Destruction — Rats and mice can cause serious damage with their hyperactive need to chew. These rodents will gnaw anything they can, including support beams, walls, doors, and insulation. This damage can weaken the structures over time, putting people, livestock, equipment, and supplies at risk.
These rodents also have a tendency to gnaw away at exposed power cords and insulated wiring. That behavior puts internal wiring, electric tools and vehicles all at risk for malfunctions. Worst of all, gnawing electrical wires can lead to blackouts and possible fires. In fact, at least one in four unexplained farm fires are believed to be caused by rodent activity.
- Problem 3: Infection — Mice and rats are also notorious for spreading bacteria, causing infections and transmitting diseases. For centuries, rodents (and the bugs they attract) have triggered outbreaks, plagues and mass epidemics all over the world. Diseases mice are capable of transmitting to humans include hantavirus, roundworms, rickettsialpox, salmonellosis, and tapeworm.
4 Safety Tips to Avoid Mice Germs and Diseases
If you do end up with mice or rats in your outdoor barn space, here are some safety tips to keep in mind. Following these tips will help ensure diseases and other bacteria aren’t spread as you work to eradicate the infestation:
- Safety Tip 1 -- Disinfect areas where mice and rats have been — If you suspect mice and rats have defecated or been present in a particular part of a barn or outbuilding, don rubber gloves and wipe all the walls, surfaces and objects in that area with a disinfectant solution of 10 percent bleach and 90 percent water.
- Safety Tip 2 -- Don't sweep infected areas — Don't use brooms or vacuums in areas where these rodents have defecated, feasted or nested. Humans contract rodent diseases via aerosolized particles, so it's dangerous to kick mice germs into the air. If such an area must be swept or vacuumed, only do so while wearing an appropriate facial mask.
- Safety Tip 3 -- Avoid physical contact with mice and rats — Never make bare-handed physical contact with a mouse or rat, whether it's alive or dead. Many rodents carry parasites that can spread bacteria and disease to you and your livestock. If the parasite’s host is dead, the parasite may seek out another host if it gets the opportunity.
If you find a dead mouse or rat, put on rubber gloves and double-bag the remains in two sealable bags. Then, place the packaged rodent in a tightly sealed trash can. Wash your rubber gloves in the bleach and water disinfectant before removing them. After that, remove and throw away the gloves and wash your hands thoroughly with hot water and soap.
- Safety Tip 4 -- Keep farm animals safe — Regularly de-worm farm animals, as well as any household pets, that wander near the barn or other location where mice and rats have been. Furthermore, keep grains and animal food stored in sealed, chew-proof containers.
4 Steps to Get Rid of Mice and Rats in Your Barn
Keeping your barn “clean” is understandably difficult, but you can handle the problem of barn mice in four straightforward steps.
- Step 1 – Sanitize the barn – First and foremost, sanitation involves disinfecting areas where rats have fed, nested, defecated and met their end. Follow the safety tips in the section above to help you accomplish this task. Further, dispose of unconsumed animal food and store it in a secure, rodent-proof container.
- Step 2 – Reduce barn openings – Barns are simple structures that often include areas open to the outside. You need to try to keep rodents from entering by making sure doors and gates seal completely and by patching holes and gaps in the structure.
- Step 3 – Eliminate attractants – Remove opportunities for nesting sites, namely by eliminating areas that go undisturbed for long periods of time. Your focus should be on making the structure less inviting to rodents. Mice are less likely to stay inside a barn that offers nowhere to nest and little to eat.
Also be aware of their habits – mice love to chew on leather. Therefore, you should keep horse saddles in mice-proof bins during nighttime. Another idea is to fully illuminate your barn or coop since most rodents prefer to go about their activities in the dark.
- Step 4 -- Exterminate barn rodents — The most effective way to keep a barn free of rodents is to make the structure unbearable or even deadly for the critters. One device that will send mice running fast in the opposite direction is the Victor® Ultra PestChaser®, which emits a range of ultrasonic frequencies only mice and rats can hear.
The Ultra and PestChaser® PRO devices are easy to set up and activate and do not use chemicals. The PestChaser® line works by emitting a high-frequency noise that effectively repels rodents by making it uncomfortable for them to remain.
If you opt to take things further, the Victor® Clean-Kill™ is highly effective and safe for use around livestock. This trap kills any mouse that enters with a single snap. Another option is the classic Victor® Metal Pedal Mouse Trap, which you can buy in large quantities and set up around your barn. You simply bait the trap with peanut butter, place it along the edge of walls near openings to the barn — in areas not visited by other animals, of course — and check back the next day to see if mice have been caught. If days pass by with nothing caught, but you still suspect barn mice have been making their way inside, move the traps to different areas and try again.
Areas to Place Mouse Traps and Rat Traps in Barns
For maximum effect, you should strategically place traps and bait at locations where mice and rats travel or congregate. The zones generally favored by these rodents include:
- Near the path that leads from a rodent's nesting grounds to its food source
- Along walls and at the openings of burrows
- Along the juncture between walls and floors, especially at the corners
Mice and rats naturally prefer to perform most of their activities in the cover of darkness and sleep in the day. In a barn, this tendency compels them to locate their nests in dark places, including in haystacks, under grain piles, beneath floorboards and inside of anything that shuts out daylight while they rest.
How to Spot Mice and Rat Droppings in Barns
Mice and rats are rarely active in the light of day, and because of this, they are rarely spotted directly by humans. Therefore, if an infestation occurs in a livestock barn or poultry coop, it's important to recognize the evidence. The primary indicator of rodent activity is the discovery of rodent feces inside your barn. Since each individual rodent produces dozens of droppings each day, this sign rodent activity is usually easy to detect. More specifically, a mouse can leave up to 80 droppings each day, while a rat can leave at least 40. You can identify rodent droppings by noting their shape and size:
- Barn mice – 1/4 in, pointy on at least one side
- Norway rat – 3/4 in, rectangular shape with blunt ends, found clustered
- Roof rat – 1/2 in, sausage-shaped with pointed ends, found scattered
Judging by the appearance, droppings serve as indicators of when rodents were last present. For the first 48 hours, droppings appear dark and soft, after which they become light, dry and harder looking.
However, droppings aren't the only problem when it comes to rodent defecation: Their bodily waste can spread diseases such as brucellosis, cryptosporidiosis, leptospirosis, and toxoplasmosis to people and farm animals.
5 Tips to Rid a Chicken Coop of Mice and Rats
When it comes to rodent infestation, chicken coops and poultry barns are among the most vulnerable of farming outbuildings. Rats, as burrowing rodents, are more likely to invade coops during fall and winter due to diminished outside food harvests. Mice, which are generally indoor creatures, are liable to raid the chicken coops year-round.
Rats, in particular, pose a danger to chickens. While infesting a coop, rats are capable of killing fowl of all ages. Young chicks are an especially vulnerable target. Within a matter of days, a pack of rats can wipe out hundreds of newly hatched chicks. A chicken farmer might overlook a potential rodent threat, only to find the majority of a coop was wiped out overnight. With the following steps, you can help protect your chickens or other birds from rat and mice invasions:
- Tip 1: Keep the coop clean — Rats and mice are less likely to come near a coop if the surrounding area is neat and clean. Keep the nearby grass trimmed on a regular basis and clear away foliage, stick piles or lumber that might otherwise accumulate in proximity to the coop. Don't let feed sacks stack up around the coop, either. Ensure partially consumed bags are stored in sealed containers away from the coop and properly dispose of any empty sacks and other refuse.
- Tip 2: Set up barriers — Despite the ability of rats and mice to squeeze through coin-sized slots, you can minimize their ability to enter a coop by reinforcing the floors, fencing, and doorways. In elevated coops, the connecting points between floors and walls are particularly vulnerable. Focus on the corners and add a little reinforcement to deter them. Line these areas around the outside of the coop with mesh cloth or sheet metal. This will make it virtually impossible for rats or mice to chew their way inside.
- Tip 3: Store feed in tight containers — Rodents scavenge throughout the night for food. Therefore, unused chicken feed needs to be kept in tight, preferably metal, containers.
- Industrial drums are the most fool-proof type of container, and they're available in capacities of at least 55 gallons from retailers of farm equipment. Alternately, tightly lidded galvanized metal trash cans are also effective at keeping feed inaccessible to rodents. However, any type of container you use should be cleaned on a regular basis.
- Tip 4: Monitor Water — Like any animal, these rodents need water, especially during hot months. You should never leave water bowls in a poultry barn overnight. It’s unlikely your birds will drink during this time, after all, and doing so will only provide water for any rodents and other pests.
- Tip 5: Kill mice and rats — If rodents have already made their presence known, it's time to get tough. Victor® sells snap traps in a variety of designs that you can place around the outside of coops at the spots where mice and rats are most likely to attempt entry. For mice, one of the best options on the market include the Clean-Kill™, which efficiently silence mice the moment they step inside. If you need to eradicate a rat infestation, the high-voltage shock of the Rat Zapper Ultra will kill off 60 of the rodents on a single set of batteries.
How to Get Rid of Mice and Rats Without Poison
For obvious reasons, it's unwise to use poisonous products to repel rodents in places such as barns, horse stalls and chicken coops where livestock are present. Unfortunately, you can find numerous articles that advocate the use of rodent poisons to handle an infestation with little regard to the safety of the animals you want.
For these reasons and more, Victor® advises the use the hassle-free rat traps and mouse traps. These traps are safe to use when used as directed. Alternately, we also sell a variety of environmentally friendly scent repellents and rodenticides that provide an effective yet more humane method to eliminate your rodent problem.
Your Rodent Solutions on the Farm
For years, owners of farms and grasslands across the United States and beyond have turned to Victor® to get rid of field mice, rodent-proof chicken feeder areas and get other mice control tips and products, and we will continue to do so for years to come!
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