February 1, 2011

I know there are people with pet rats.  I’m sure they are wonderful pets, but I just can’t see it.  Especially not after the mess we cleaned up this weekend.

First off, I made two serious mistakes that contributed to this problem.

  1. I stored a season’s worth of peacock feathers in the feed room.
  2. I also stored some baling twine in the feedroom.

Why was this a problem?  Well, the rats seemed to think chewed-up feathers and twine fluff make quite excellent nests.

They had a regular habitat built, a warren of rats, hiding behind barrels and the metal trash cans we use to store feed.  It was sheltered from the wind, they had nice little insulated nests, what with the feathers and twine, so what more could they want?

Oh, yeah.  They needed food.
And they found a plentiful supply.

We’d been noticing the peafowl’s food bowl was emptying out mighty fast.  Every morning… empty!  And we figured it highly unlikely the peafowl all of a sudden wanted so much more food.  It didn’t take a great leap of imagination to figure the rats were helping themselves at night after the peafowl went to roost.  So although they couldn’t get to the feed in the metal cans in the feed room, they still had nice high-protein chow at the local Peafowl Restaurant.

And then there was the smell.  A colony of rats, little rat calling cards everywhere, and worse, rat urine.  Really, REALLY bad.

So Saturday we had a nice, warm day, and The Farmer figured it was a good day to clean out the feed room.  While I was at the grocery store, he started in, so I didn’t get to see the first wave of rats leaving the sinking ship.  They had a huge nest built in the corner behind a couple of metal trash cans. . .

picture of torn up rats nest

All this in one nesting area!

By all accounts, when he started pulling this out, the rats went everywhere!  Up the walls, out the door, out a hole in the window screen (and here we’d been blaming squirrels for that hole…).

The twine was wrapped around stuff in the feed room, and was very difficult to work loose.  We had to do a lot of cutting to get it out.  Then The Farmer carried big shovels full of the stuff to a pile outside and burnt it.

picture of man burning rats nesting materials

Burn the filthy stuff!

Toby was going nuts and constantly getting in the way.

picture of dog sniffing rats nest

"I know something is there!"

He could smell the rats had been there, and he could hear the little babies squeaking.  Not to mention a few mummified remains of deceased rodents.

picture of baby rats

A generation past, and the next generation to come...

We did not allow the next generation to mature.

It was a long, dirty, tiring job.  We scraped up caked poop, nesting materials and urine.  We swept and swept.  We could not get every last bit off the floor or from between the outer wall and joists.  But we got most of it.  The feedroom looks a lot better, and it sure smells a lot better!

As for the Peacock Restaurant, it has been closed down.  Every night we bring the bowl of feed in and stick it in a metal can where the rats can’t get to it.  So we have evicted them from their home, and taken away their easy food supply.  I was feeling pretty good about all that until the Cave Geek wondered if they might decide to try living in OUR house next.

I could have done without that thought. . .

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