The Rat of the Land

I finally got around to setting up my Critter Cam again and, unsurprisingly, it revealed the presence of rats in and around our chicken coop. I lock up the chicken food at night but the coop still seems to be a hot spot for rats. I’ve long had a suspicion that Los Angeles probably has more rats than Chicago and New York but there’s no hard evidence to prove this thoughtstyling of mine.

Unfortunately, it turns out that scientists have a hard time researching urban rodents for a number of reasons. Matt Frye, an IPM Extension Educator based in New York explains in a blog post,

As people who have conducted rodent research, we can tell you that rats are hard to study. They’re secretive, they nest underground, they’re nocturnal, accessing them is difficult — and they’re likely to croak before we can study them. Radio telemetry and Global Positioning System (GPS) rarely work because of interference from buildings and hard surfaces.

At the end of his blog post Frye has a nice collection of research papers on urban wildlife. I highly recommend one of those articles, which was published in Science a few years ago, Evolution of life in urban environments.

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26 Comments

  1. Get a ferret. These ferocious little creatures will go down rat holes and drag the rats out. You can also use them for the entertaining sport of “ferret legging” when they are not actually catching rats.

    Or perhaps not. Keeping ferrets is illegal in California. What on earth do you guys do for fun?

  2. Prior to trying chickens for the third time, we retrofitted the coop. The edges are concrete and the fencing is 1/2″ hardware cloth. I really think hardware cloth is the only way to go when it comes to keeping rodents and small birds out of the coop. All little holes and cracks have been sealed up. My previous neighbors basically left food out for their chickens all the time and my nearby shed became a rat haven. Ughhhhhhhhh.

    • Totally agree with you that hardware cloth is the only real choice for keeping chickens. Ours is dug in 18″ and then I have 12″ concrete pavers around the perimeter.

      We’ve had no predators despite the constant presence of coyotes, raccoons, skunks and hawks in our suburban Woodland Hills yard. No vermin infestations.

      When people complain that it’s too expensive I always have to remind them it’s cheaper if you install it up front. Replacing something inadequate with it later is when it gets expensive.

      As for rats, I know they’re out there. But so long as they’re outside the house and outside the coop and run, who cares?

      Lock up your coops! Lock up your feed storage!

  3. My dad used to trap rats with a live trap, then drop them off several miles away. He had a kind heart, and didn’t want to kill them.

    • Good for ur dad…rats have such a bad rap…just like coyotes, Lyons, bears, alligators, sharks..etc….WE as humans are the ones intruding on their habitats..and rats. Since they reproduce so quickly they have been habitually used for makeup, drug, food, and alt theory testing by scientist for 100’s 1000’s of years (just as rabbits) and (monkeys on more human orientated projects)….hence the domesticated pet rat, even the lab rat is smart….trainable, compassionate, friendly, and loving ( just is ANY animal when cared for PROPERLY!!) When taught and shown that a rat won’t be hurt or punished, just as a dog, cat or other socially acceptable pet would be treated, a rat domesticated (in a shorter time) or wild with in a guided environment WILL show intelligents, and should have the right to have it’s own “free space” too..and your father proved that by doing “live releases” of rats when caught in his home…I hope more people follow suite…..tell ur father, and I hope you as well, thank you!!

  4. I have a rat trap that electrocutes them. If I see a tail sticking out of the trap in the morning, I know that I caught one:)

    • SMH, is that how u would choose to die if u went camping on land that u used to live on…and just took what was around cause it was there …when it had been ur land to begin with? Thets include any and EVERY INDENIGIOUS INHABITANTS that was on the land ur home now exists on….should whatever comes a couple 100 years from now electrocute your “kin”???? Or u for that matter if they feel like u are “annoying” or “shouldn’t be there”… Every person and EVERYthing Belo ga in this Earth for a reason…making them suffer…or if u had done that even to a “subpar human” it’s considered 1st degree murder since u planned it….SHAME ON YOU…WE ARE ALL THE GODS CREATURES!!!

  5. Plaster of Paris mixed with oatmeal or flour half and half well mixed. Sprinkle a little over the top to entice them to start eating. They’ll eat more and more abs j. A day or two die from blocked intestines when the plaster solidifies with saliva and water. That and Rat X are the only two things we’ve found to work. Rat X wont harm pets even if they should eat the rats but be careful with the plaster baites around pets. It’ll do the sane to any animal that eats it so use carefully where rats frequent

    • And u are the worst of them all….are u German??? Cause making ANY LIVING THING suffer just cause it chews a hole in a rice bag or your newspapers …dosent mean it should explode from the Insides. ..so depressing is that ur comments displays society today…”if it bothers me I will f**k it up and kill it 6 ways till Sunday and I hope it hurts it .””” Though, as u think .. ‘ it won’t hurt me. I’ll sleep like a baby at night even though I cause a living entity to suffer…..’ weather a rat, skunk, coyotes, chinchilla, beaver, bear, buffalo, cow, bull, deer, lion, seal, panther, cheeta,.oh me oh my….I’m mentioning SOME AND ALOT OF animals that can/have and /are SKINNED (sometimes alive) to make coats, shoes, purses, belts,. Makeup, lotion, and all sorts of other stuff we hate to realize and admit… U may think rats are the nusicance BUT I’d bet it all that you lack of appreication for any and all life is just adding to the world’s distruction…rats can be a pain when people take their habitats just as sooo many animals…….they save people’s lives by being test animals…they literally die for us humans more than id bet us ever be willing to admit. The least u could do is show some respect to it’s cousin trying to survive in the winter passing thru ur garage…..if u don’t like it don’t make them suffer… CAULK YOUR GARAGE/HOUSE…whatever….just don’t be such a massicist

  6. Kelly your a f***ing nut bag! Going out this weekend and shoot prairie dog just for you usually get 30to80 on good day

  7. When I was keeping hens, and I saw a rat in the yard in the middle of the day, that was the last day I used the free feeder for the chickens. Instead, I switched to feeding the hens once a day in the morning, by tossing their daily allotment of chicken chow into their moveable pen. The rest of the day they were free to eat weeds and bugs. There was no way I was going to leave a dispenser full of spendy organic chicken food out to draw rats into my yard and feed the rats! The only time the self feeder is used anymore is if we go away for a trip.

  8. When I was keeping hens, and I saw a rat in the yard in the middle of the day, sitting eating from the hen food dispenser and looking at me… that was the last day I used the free feeder for the chickens. Instead, I switched to feeding the hens once a day in the morning, by tossing their daily allotment of chicken chow into their moveable pen. The rest of the day they were free to eat weeds and bugs. There was no way I was going to leave a dispenser full of spendy organic chicken food out to draw rats into my yard and feed the rats! The only time the self feeder is used anymore is if we go away for a trip. There is plenty in the city for rats to eat without my providing food for them in the guise of chicken chow… I am sure that they are out there, but once I stopped using the self feeder, they stopped showing up in our backyard, as there were no more tasty nutritious pellets…

  9. I’m a fan of the electric traps. It’s an instant kill without prolonged suffering. I hate to kill anything, but rats and mice breed so quickly it’s easy to get overwhelmed without doing some kind of population control (and we’re already interfering with Mother Nature by providing them with food from our trash cans and other refuse, which allows them to so successfully breed) . Taking them somewhere else just either 1) makes them someone else’s problem, or 2) kills them another way, since they are not able to survive in the wilderness. Most likely they will be predated or starve. And the rats ( as opposed to mice) are most likely NOT native species, so there’s that, too. Most rats in Los Angeles are descended from stowaways on ships that came into San Pedro and Long Beach from other parts of the world a long time ago. Downtown actually has Norway Rats, for heaven’s sake. They’re massive.

    • Many years ago, I taught in a 100-year-old dilapidated school building in South Texas. I saw several rats there that were the size of cats. One died in a wall near an electrical panel. The stench was terrible. I suppose that these were Norway rats.
      South Texas also has roof rats. That is what I deal with around my property.
      Rats spread diseases and can start house fires by gnawing on wires.

  10. I think this post struck a nerve! I decided to entertain my indoor cats by providing outside birds with birdseed right outside our bedroom window, not realizing that there was a hole punched through the screen under the house to put pipes through! How I missed that I don’t know. At first, I saw 2 rats, and thought…how cute… (I know… I’m crazy)(and not knowing they set up residence under the house already) NOW I hear them bouncing off the pipes under the house, scrabbling in the attic, and scratching inside the walls and under the bathtub. I’m appalled! I’ve NEVER in my 64 years had to deal with this, and I’m a vegan(I know…) but I know any minute they will be coming inside the house….so I’m freaking out. I hear it costs anywhere between $2,500 to $17,000 to “remove” them. Ethical, emotional, and financial issues are surfacing… time is of the essence…I know I have to stop the outside birdseed immediately…..geezzz…..any thoughts? ‘cept good luck?

  11. According to reports on new research, rats may be getting a bad rap for spreading the Black Death. A good article on this issue is:
    “Maybe Rats Aren’t to Blame for the Black Death” from National Geographic.

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