Friday, March 29, 2019

Life near a Chicken Coop and Why you Never EVER Want to Poison Rats

Happy spring friends! The wood frogs, spring peepers and chorus frogs are all singing here and we've even attracted a few wood frogs into our constructed vernal pool and frog pond, which is just beyond thrilling to us.

Yesterday, Steve harvested oodles of horseradish we are going to process for eating; we can really never get enough of this root - we just put it on everything because it is oh so good!

We have some massive totes of organic potting media here ready for all our native plant seeds and baby plants and we are just itching to get our hands into the soil. The goodness these plants will work as they go out into the world and get planted in your yards, will surprise all of us many times over again. That's what we find...our expectations are always exceeded. We know so little about this planet and the more we learn, the less we truly know. What a gift to live and experience the marvel of diverse life.

Now it's time for a brief and fascinating post on rats...truly!

You know from our last post we lost all five of our chicken girls in two separate events this winter/spring to a hungry mink attracted to the rats living here, but we wanted to show you everyone else visting and how terribly harmful rat poison can be to other life.

Here is our chicken coop with a wild bird feeding station to the left side of the photo. The bird seed coupled with the chicken feed attracted the rats here initially. We live rurally, but our road is populated with other folks keeping livestock or feeding the birds so it's good living here for the Norway Rat. They aren't native and their birth rate is shocking, but we've decided to let nature take her course and handle this abundance of small mammals (more on this later).

These holes first alerted us to the rats (and one killed by the chickens confirmed it; oh yes, chickens can kill a lot of animals):

The game cam is set up on the right (north) side of the coop because there is a well-trod animal path leading to a heavily and frequently marked NW corner of the building (pictured). Think of this corner as one of the many communication centers of the neighborhood.

Heavily and frequently trod path:

We both were fond of this cute patchwork rat we frequently saw and the game cam photographed. The rats moved in under the coop and excavated an impressive amount of soil out of the ground. Their home here is a major reason for all the animal sightings on this cam.

In this next photo you can readily see the scent (spray) left by a wandering neighborhood cat:

Almost every day raccoons come and smell this corner, perhaps leave their own scent and check under the coop for rat snacks after dining on black oil bird seed.

Opossums visit almost everyday as well and also go under the coop. They are omnivores so will eat the bird seed on the ground, plus some rats if they get lucky.

 As mentioned last post, a red fox found the communication center too. It seems like one or all of these animals are marking saying, "I am here and there's lots of food here."

Neighborhood kitties are here daily (at least 5 different ones and we've already adopted 4 from here, help!). This girl is super pretty, quite shy and a certain rat hunter...

She is also checking the communication station:

Here's a few others:

The rats are hunted by so many different animals and so sometimes the game cam catches rats running as fast as possible back under the coop to their "safe" tunnels.

But sometimes, some rats don't make it back to safety:

See the rat tail? This Cooper's hawk captured a mighty fine, filling meal for the day.

The tunnels aren't always safe, when you have a tunnel explorer such as an American mink living in the neighborhood.

He or she is frequently on camera here and we see him or her running around our created wetlands. Our part of Morrow County, OH is a wet woods area with streams, brush piles, and abundant rodents....perfect mink habitat. This mink occasionally visits during the day as well.

I think by now you can see why no one should ever poison rats if you understand that the poison stays in the rat (or mouse) during and after death. All of these animals pictured (cats, mink, fox, raccoons, opossum) plus owls, coyotes, dogs, etc. will eat dead rats and the poison will move up the food chain and slowly and painfully (think internal hemorraghing) kill the other animals as well. No one wants to do that! I think most people have no idea how awful this poison is and how persistent.

Spread the word: STOP THE POISON. What to do instead? Stop the food source for the rats and they will leave or use snap traps or shoot them (but not with lead! same issue). You get the idea. What are we doing at The Common Milkweed? We are taking down the bird feeders during the warm season so all the life will disperse and letting the natural food chains work. Already, the rat population is great diminished just from the predators that found the rats. We are really in awe how quickly they ate the life out of this rat colony. Our little patchwork rat is long gone.

Just for fun a few more pics from the game cam of non-rat eating life:

Dark-eyed juncos:


fox squirrel...

song sparrow...

and a cottontail rabbit. There is just so much life about. We get super excited to check this game cam card every other day or so. It's like we get a look into the world in which we really live, but are hidden from inside this house. I know this is part of why we love camping so much...we are not separated from real life. As Rainer Maria Rilke writes: "Ah, not to be cut off, not through the slightest partition shut out from the law of the stars..."

We post way more frequently on You Tube so follow our channel if you want more timely posts. In case you didn't catch our latest You Tube videos - find them here:

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis) Intoxication
Happy Spring Equinox: it's time for Frog Magic
We Love the American Sycamore...
The Wonderful Wild Leek aka Ramps
Fast Growing River Birch
The Red-budded Basswood

Hugs! We wish you all a joyful, joyful spring.