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Are rats part of the normal fauna at the barn?

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  • Are rats part of the normal fauna at the barn?

    Some of my friends and I were having this discussion after one of them was lamenting a rat population that's chewing through tupperware and not content to lurk in the shadows.

    I have never, ever seen a rat in my barn. Occasional mouse, but that's it. Pony Club and tough trainers/barn managers drilled into me the importance of keeping the barn tidy. Am I naive in thinking my barn is rat-free?? Now, I'm feeling creepy about night checks...

  • #2
    Two winters ago I had a horrible rat and mouse problem. I was killing tons of them daily in traps and they were falling in the pool and drowning. Then a huge scary rat snake and a barn cat both moved in. Haven't seen a rat or mouse since.
    Visit us at Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society - www.bluebonnetequine.org

    Want to get involved in rescue or start your own? Check out How to Start a Horse Rescue - www.howtostartarescue.com


    • #3
      you (we) are probably delusional, thinking we are rat free.

      And knowing what I do know about rats (I worked at a green house next to a lake...rats were a problem and I was advised NOT to corner them!!!) I would certainly be hesitant sticking my hands in dark corners at night. But then, being in the US, there could be Black Widows and Brown Recluse as well as snakes...

      but now, that you have found out that plastic will not keep a determined rodent out, you and your barn mates will rethink the treat-in-the-barn policy I ma sure.

      Somebody else said that when you have a chicken coop, you will have rats...when you have grain you will have at least mice.

      As long as they stay out of sight, the numbers are probably small....but they say you see one, there are 50 you don't see....

      Gosh, I ma cheerful aren't I!


      • #4
        I have never been at a barn with a RAT problem. Mice? Sure. Never RATS.

        Could be regional, I suppose.


        • #5
          I think having some rodents in the barn is normal, but there are definitely varying degrees.

          My home barn, I think I've seen a rat once or twice in the last 20 years. Mice are more common, and if I have grain, I'll find them stuck in the bin from time to time. Though the rodents don't seem at all interested in the alfalfa pellets. Since my girls are easy keepers, they just get a tiny handful of alfalfa pellets to get them to eat their vitamins, and I haven't seen a mouse in the bin (or the barn, actuall) since I made that switch. Though I still frequently find mouse nests under the water trough when I flip it over to clean it, and I can only assume that there are still some around the barn somewhere. And it appears as though a rabbit moved in under my hay a few days ago. So really, it's not much of a problem for me.

          One barn I boarded at had tons of mice and rats, though. They fed grain, didn't store it in bins at all, left the grain cart out and uncovered all the time, and the place was full of clutter. Rodent heaven.

          And I've been at other barns with varying degrees in between.

          I don't think you'll ever be able to eliminate rodents from the barn complately, but I think keeping the population down to a tolerable level is an attainable goal. I don't mind seeing one once in a while, but I don't want my stuff to be chewed up and covered in poop all the time
          "In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming part dog."
          -Edward Hoagland


          • #6
            I've anecdotally heard that rats and mice do not like to inhabit the same immediate area. I can't recall a barn I've ever worked in that had both. Often it seems it's the larger scale or more urban operations that have rat problems, but the more average-sized horse farms in the country seem to just have mice.

            Absolutely no scientific foundation for any of those statements above at all.
            Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO


            • #7
              Never seen a rat at the barn, and only seen a mouse ONCE and it was dead in the mouth of a barn cat.


              • #8
                What Alagirl said.

                Along with rats add bunnies, possums, raccoons, weasels, moles, voles & etc.
                Any of the smaller vermin will happily make themselves to home in a barn and depending on your horsekeeping practices, they will be evident or largely unseen.

                Plastic storage is in invitation.
                Metal for anything edible is a Must.
                And do not think Rubbermaid or Tupperware will protect horse clothing from becoming a rodent nursery - perfect nesting material.

                The best you can do is keep things in vermin-proof storage, sweep up spilled grain and do not leave out dog or cat food.
                Hay is also prime real estate for mice & rats.
                Barn cats are an asset, but not a total solution.

                You keep them in check, not eradicated.
                *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


                • #9
                  We have all kinds, so yes, they do co-exist, rats, field mice and opposums and gophers and any and all rodents and the snakes that come to the rodent buffet, including rattlers.

                  Rabbits also, although they are not rodents, but lagniappe, best I remember.
                  We sure don't want them on the hay, as they carry leptospirosis, here the main carrier, although rats and mice can also carry it.
                  Lepto is rare in horses, they are not very susceptible, that is why we don't vaccinate them, but we lost one to lepto several decades ago.

                  Do try to keep rabbits away from horses and horse hay.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by aahunterjumper View Post
                    I have never, ever seen a rat in my barn.
                    Just because you've never seen one doesn't mean they're not there...

                    Originally posted by Simkie View Post
                    I have never been at a barn with a RAT problem. Mice? Sure. Never RATS.

                    Could be regional, I suppose.
                    Yes, I think it is. In my experience in the northern states (including my time in FoCo), it was far more of a mouse problem (and snakes!). Now that I'm in the south, it is dominated by rats. They're not huge street-rats that I've seen on the streets of Chicago, but they're bigger than a mouse. And the only time I've seen them is when the barn cats catch them. While I have seen evidence of them in my own barn, nesting in the hay, I have never actually seen a live one on my property.
                    That being said, I caught a rat in my old bunny's feed bag when I was up in MN. So they are around up there.


                    • #11
                      Interesting. At two of the three barns I boarded at growing up we had rats. Big ones, and not fearful of humans. And we did have barn cats at one of the barns. I killed a rat with a shovel when it went after one of the barn kittens.

                      Barn I'm at now we have currently 4 barn cats and I have never seen a rodent. All of these places were in Western Massachusetts.
                      What's wrong with you?? Your cheese done slid off its cracker?!?!


                      • #12
                        We don't have rats due to a good population of Barred Owls, Coopers Hawks & Red-Tailed Hawks, plus coyote who eat 'em all.

                        We do have mice and field voles, but if they venture to the barn, Nilla Wafer Kitty will find them and dispatch them promptly.

                        Key to keeping rodent population down is storing everything edible in metal (I prefer Dead Chest Freezers), keeping said containers TIGHTLY closed when not in active use, cleaning up immediately and installing a good mousing kitty or two/three.
                        <>< Sorrow Looks Back. Worry Looks Around. Faith Looks Up! -- Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.


                        • #13
                          I grew up on a horse and grain farm. Mice, sure, but we never ever had rats. (I'm a rodent-phobe; if they're there, I'll know!)

                          Then I spent 6 years managing a big show barn in the NEXT COUNTY OVER. They have the WORST RAT PROBLEM I have ever seen. Those ba$tards TERRORIZED me! The rats were never in the main barn, but in run-in sheds, feed rooms, equipment sheds, hay barns, etc., they were pervasive. The barn cats couldn't touch them; there were just way, way too many. Some of it was definitely caused by some of their management practices but that really can't have been the cause of ALL of it.

                          They would burrow under the floors in the barns, live behind stalls, etc. Now my retired horse lives back at my parents' farm, where there are NO rats. Maybe the 4 farm dogs they have makes the difference: maybe the rats just don't bother colonizing there?


                          • #14
                            We had rats when I first moved in. Barn cat moved in, rats moved out. I found a rat skeleton between the walls in the barn when we did some renovation that year too, so they'd been around for a while.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Bluey View Post
                              We have all kinds, so yes, they do co-exist, rats, field mice and opposums and gophers and any and all rodents and the snakes that come to the rodent buffet, including rattlers.
                              During our Winter of the Rodents, we had both rats and mice. Far more mice than rats, but I did kill several rats in the traps.

                              I'm sure we still have some rodents, but between Lord Meow and Phil the rat snake, their population is kept in check.
                              Visit us at Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society - www.bluebonnetequine.org

                              Want to get involved in rescue or start your own? Check out How to Start a Horse Rescue - www.howtostartarescue.com


                              • #16
                                No rats are not acceptable if you see 1 you have way more they aren't solitary....I am very confident in saying zero rats and same on mice...7 barn cats who have a garden window and shelf in feed room so they live there Any mouse foolish enough to enter is murdered PDQ....I stored 1k worth feed in there and found 1 small hole in one bag and no mouse droppings when we moved pallets to sweep under...


                                • #17
                                  I can smell rats when any move in. They pee on stuff to mark territory. We have had them a couple times over the years, but with cats, dog, they don't last long.

                                  I would seriously recommend a Siamese cross female cat, they are just incredible on rats!! I do think the Siamese give faster reflexes than most other cats have, which made her a ballet dancer in rat killing. Great moves the rat NEVER saw coming, done with rat in a heartbeat. Loved that cat!!

                                  But walking into a barn, you really CAN smell if there are rats in the place, unless they have SO MANY mice also peeing on stuff it covers up the rat smell. Visit a pet store to "learn what rats smell like" to ID the unique odor. I learned the smell doing rat experiments in school. I violently HATE rats, so that smell locked itself into my brain! I dislike mice, don't like having them around, but not with the intensity I give rats.

                                  Metal storage containers are your best bet to prevent feeding grain to the rodents. However I read a rat article in National Geographic, which said a rat trapped inside a METAL BARREL is ABLE to chew their way out thru the metal!! So if the rat is "motivated" by starvation to escape, they will chew metal. Their teeth grow all the time, so no loss to the rat. Article also named a whole list of items rat can chew thru, how long it took them to do it. Lot of surprising things on that list, like 6" wood posts. Otherwise metal storage will keep things pretty save.

                                  As mentioned, if you see one rat, there are probably at least 7 rats around you don't see. So doing something fast is going to be best, before they get to reproducing. Maybe you have a friend with some Jack Russells, a Dachsund or other Terrier dogs that could come over to do some rat removal for you if the cat can't do it, traps are not working. Do anchor your rat traps down before setting them, so rat doesn't leave with it. They really do run off when trapped!


                                  • #18
                                    My farm had a terrible rat problem when we bought the place even though I had not moved the horses and goats yet...they would come after you when you walked into the barn. The place was a total mess when we bought it. We cleaned everything out and poisoned the hell out of them. The following spring a black snake moved in and that was that. I leave posion out in the winter usually, but now that I have a barn cat I am no longer doing that. Rats suck.


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Bluey View Post
                                      We have all kinds, so yes, they do co-exist, rats, field mice and opposums and gophers and any and all rodents and the snakes that come to the rodent buffet, including rattlers.

                                      Rabbits also, although they are not rodents, but lagniappe, best I remember.
                                      We sure don't want them on the hay, as they carry leptospirosis, here the main carrier, although rats and mice can also carry it.
                                      Lepto is rare in horses, they are not very susceptible, that is why we don't vaccinate them, but we lost one to lepto several decades ago.

                                      Do try to keep rabbits away from horses and horse hay.
                                      Um, Bluey, I think you mean rabbits are lapine, which is part of the scientific name for rabbits. A lagniappe is French for a small, unexpected gift, often given by shop keepers in appreciation for your business.

                                      I believe rats come in cycles. Several years ago, we had a horrible rat infestation. My daughter and I came home late on night after her dance class and found two HUGE rats running across the tops of the cabinets. They scared the bejeezus out of both of us. My house is a pier and beam with pvc plumbing and the rats destroyed the plumbing. I'd no sooner get one leak fixed and they'd chew through another pipe. My parents got them in their carport and they chewed the wiring in my mother's car. I used poison and traps to get rid of them. I now have a family of barn owls living in an abandoned house near my house and I haven't had a rat problem since. I'm also careful to keep the grass mowed too. My lawn mower had broken in the Year of the Rats and the grass in the back yard had gotten fairly long.
                                      Last edited by wireweiners; Jan. 2, 2013, 07:06 PM. Reason: more info
                                      I'm a second hand Vegan. Cows eat grass. I eat cows.


                                      • #20
                                        Not all cats will kill rats. Maybe a hefty rat turned on them and caused the cat to be afraid of large rats? Anyway, It seems like maybe once every 7-8 years I will either see a rat or find evidence of a nest. I then kennel my kittys and keep the dogs in their run while I posion the rats. I like to keep the kittys and dogs shut up for at least 1 week after the last of the rat bait is gone from the rat feeding stations. I seldom find the rat bodies---they must find good hidy-holes to die in---but, I look carefully everyday just in case one is out in the open where something will find it and eat it.