CO-Horts Blog

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Battle of the Mice

Posted by: Alison O'Connor, Larimer County Extension

The mice have invaded Henny Lane (my chicken run).
"Say whaaaaaaat!?" asks Dear Prudence.
Like many of my fellow hortie bloggers (Curtis, Susan and Cassey), I have a backyard chicken flock. Yes, they are pets and also have names: Dear Prudence, Lovely Rita, Polyethene Pam, Dizzy Miss Lizzy and Anna. You may sense a theme...
Henny Lane (Windsor, Colo.)
I've been tending my flock for nearly four years and lived in blissful ignorance that I never had a mouse problem. Now, I'm sure there were mice...but I didn't see them. Until recently. It started when a mouse kept getting into the feeder. A rat-proof feeder, mind you. It was the WORST. I would lift the lid in the morning to check the feed level and twice I found a mouse scrambling to get out. I'm sure my neighbors wondered why there was shrieking (and cussing) in the early morning.

So we had a mouse. But yeah, I know. It's never just one mouse. One night, as I went to close the coop door, mice (plural!) ran over my feet. And that was it. I declared Mice War. (Now, before you judge, please know that I am a huge animal advocate. I break for squirrels. Rabbits are cute. I catch and release spiders. I don't like to kill anything...but mice are dirty, vile and can have a host of diseases that are harmful to me, the dogs and my chickens.)

Traps. And chicken treats!
The Mice War has been going on for five days and we've caught and killed 13 mice so far (a baker's dozen!). Dad has assured me that it's likely a dent in the population.
The official dead mouse count. (The quote has nothing to do with mice. I just love "Caddyshack".)
Dad also told me that mice have babies every 20 days. Thanks dad. So I will continue to trap until I go at least five days without a catch.

We have given the mice their own jar of peanut butter.
This weekend I'm going to try to find and locate their nests--with additional shrieking and cussing, I'm sure. I suspect they've found a cozy spot underneath the plastic storage bin next to the chicken run.
Maple is pretty sure this is where the mice are nesting. By the way, beagles are not good mice hunters.
I have to say, it's difficult to trap mice when you have both dogs and chickens to think about. Poison baits are dangerous for non-target mammals (plus, you have to think of the risk of an animal eating the poisoned mouse) and traps left out during the day would likely be set off by the nose of a beagle or pecking chicken. So mouse-hunting, in my yard, happens from dusk to dawn using only snap traps. I am working on cleaning up the spilled feed (a difficult task) and eliminating other food sources.
Lovely Rita is happy the mice populations are decreasing.
The biggest lesson here is that anytime you are feeding outdoor animals (birds, squirrels, ducks, dogs), you're going to have mice. So setting out a few traps periodically is a good practice. Just keep everyone safe in the process. For more information, check out this U of Maryland publication.
Happy chickens and happy beagle.

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