We have a predator problem in our farm. The first big predation problem we got was the coyotes that took our chickens last year. We lost about 8 chickens, a duck and a goose until I was able to secure the electric fence. No other kill has happened in more than 6 months. I think working on the fence is the best way to control the coyotes.
Since I started a small chicken hatchery, I have also lost more than 10 chicks to rats. Today, the cat got attacked and bitten.
When I was mowing this summer, I saw field mice running in front of the mower. The cats would catch a few, but that was only making a small dent in the population of mice. Once we will grow more crops, they will become a serious problem, so they need to be controlled now.
According to an Ontario survey, 90% of chicken farms have rodent problems.
A single breeding pair of rats or mice, along with their offspring, can potentially produce 20 million new rodents within three years.
Read more: Agricultural Control for Mice & Rats | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/about_6163655_agricultural-control-mice-rats.html#ixzz19wfzfwkF
The previous owner of the property used poisons, which I really want to avoid. if everything else fails, then I will, but I want to try other more natural methods first.
The field mice can be controlled by American Kestrels, which are the smallest known Raptors living in our area, and second smallest in the World. They feed on mice, but also on insects such as grasshoppers, or amphibians. They can be attracted to our area by setting nest boxes at appropriate locations. There are good informations on the net on how to build and where to set a Kestrel nest box. The top South East corner of our horse sheds look like good spots.
Our land often has a Westward morning breeze, and an Eastward evening breeze. These regular winds are excellent for the Kestrel, which needs a headwind to do his spectacular hoovering flight when hunting for mice.
Rats are not easily controlled by common predators such as cats. They are simply too big and vicious for them. I knew of only one cat that could take on a rat and kill it, it was a feral cat that would also take on dogs such as German Shepherds (the whole neighbourhood knew her, humans ... and dogs!). For that wild cat to kill a rat, it would take 3-4 hours of a very vicious fight, with a lot of hissing and screaming. Usually, my parents' shed was where the fight would occur, and they could hear the rat screaming from inside their house. Knowing what that cat was capable of, I know that our current cat is not going to face those rats, as her injuries show. To control the rat population, I am again going to use their most efficient natural predator, and that is the Owl. An Owl is nocturnal, like rats. She has sharp ears and eyes, and can fly completely silently. An Owl is built to hunt rats, and is extremely efficient at it. If I can attract an Owl around here, the many lakes and ponds will provide plenty of rats to feed her. There are also good informations on the net on Owl nest boxes, so I will try that too.
Kestrels and Owls are cool birds that differ from the common birds we are used to see. Watching the Kestrel hoovering gives welcome diversity from crows eating my chicken feed. As far as the Owl, I hope I will be able to attract them, ear their song and maybe even see one silently flying in the night. Knowing an Owl family is hunting will certainly help the goats and chickens (and myself!) sleep better, and significantly increase the yield of our hatchery.
As efficient as they can be, these predators are not going to exterminate their prey. To them, that would mean suicide. The goal is to achieve a balance between predator and prey. Without predators, our barn would get overrun by rats, and our crops devoured by mice.
Time to study nest boxes, and locate the right spots to set the boxes...