By Laura Haggarty, Kentucky
Why would you want to get rid of mice naturally? Well, sooner or later, if you have chickens, you’re going to have to deal with mice and/or rats. And for most of us, the easiest way to do that is to use rat poison, which is commonly available at most feed stores. However, what many of us may not know is that there are several types of rat poison, and one type, the newer second-generation rodenticide, has no antidote, and can have devastating results if it is accidentally ingested by your pets, domestic animals or wildlife.
We found this out, almost the hard way, this past fall. Every couple of years we find small mice coming into the house when it starts to get cold. And in the past, I had typically gone to the feed store and gotten some poison bait and put it in bait traps around the house. For some reason this year I couldn’t find the old bait traps, so I went to buy a couple of new ones and some new poison. Oddly, instead of being able to buy individual bait traps and just one bag of poison, as I had done in the past, I had to buy one bag of poison for every trap I wanted to use. Since I wanted about five traps, and each bag had a lot of poison, I figured I’d wind up with enough poison to last me until the end of time if I did that. So instead I only got three bags, and decided I’d just put the bait blocks by themselves down in the basement.
The basement in our house is unfinished. That day I tossed about three chunks of bait in the corners behind some boxes, figuring that would do the trick. We no longer have any house cats. And the dogs never go in the basement. Never, never, never. Yeah right. Never say never. I had told my husband I’d put the bait down there, and to be sure to close the door tightly behind him. And in his defense, sometimes when the wind is blowing hard and he goes outside through the basement, that darned door blows open again.
So one morning not long after I put the bait down, my husband came upstairs and said “Hey, I caught McGee in the basement, I hope he didn’t get into the rat bait!” I went into high gear, and called my friend who is a vet tech at our veterinarian office. She told me what to do. “Do you have any hydrogen peroxide in the house?” Yes, thank God. “Drench him with it until he vomits, then bring him here right away.” Thankfully McGee had just eaten breakfast, and had a full stomach, and hadn’t been in the basement very long. We used a large bore syringe and drenched him until he vomited, then I sat on the floor of the kitchen picking through his puke looking for green bits that would show he’d eaten poison. Sure enough, not many, but enough to tell us he had. Off to the vet we went, where they pumped him full of activated charcoal and kept him for the full day.
That was when I learned that there are two types of rat poison. One, the type made with Warfarin, has an antidote, vitamin K, which, when given to an animal, will act as an antidote to the effects of the poison. The other, a newer, second-generation rodenticide, Bromethalin, has no antidote. None. It’s sold under the brand names Tomcat, d-Con, Hot Shot, Generation, Talon, and Havoc. Learning about natural ways to get rid of mice started to sound pretty good at that point.
And here’s the kicker. If a mouse eats this stuff, it doesn’t die right away. It can go staggering around for some time. And during this period, your barn cat could eat it. Your dog could eat it. Even your chickens could eat it! One of the chicken breeds we raise, Buckeyes, are very good mousers, and these mice have enough poison in them to kill even a large breed dog like a Golden Retriever. So a chicken would definitely die. And again, there is no antidote. So unless you knew the signs, and got your dog to the vet almost immediately, as we did, there would be no hope. Happily for us, McGee recovered fully and is gnawing on a Nylabone as I type. But it was a close call.
And it compelled me to write this article to let everyone know that this stuff is evil. It even affects wildlife! I know most poultry breeders aren’t big fans of chicken predators like owls and hawks, but it was interesting to read in Audubon Magazine that rodenticides are being found in up to 80 to 90% of the dead raptors that are being autopsied by clinical assistant professor Maureen Murray of the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in central Massachusetts. All the more reason to learn how to get rid of mice naturally.
So this begs the question, what to use if not rat poison? How do we get rid of mice naturally? To quote the Audubon article: “Safe alternatives include single- and multiple-entrance snap traps, electrocuting traps, glue traps (provided you use them only indoors and frequently dispatch stuck rodents), and even first-generation baits with these active ingredients: chlorophacinone, diphacinone sodium salt, warfarin, and warfarin sodium salt.”
You can also make an easy and cheap mousetrap to get rid of mice naturally using nothing more than a five-gallon bucket, a dowel, and a tin can.
If you own a dog, I encourage you to add a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and a large bore syringe to your first aid kit, because you never know when you’re going to need to make your dog puke. I know it saved my dog’s life. Check with your vet, of course. (I am not a vet.) But our dog is alive today because of it.
Get Rid of Mice Naturally: How to Build A Better Mouse Trap With a Five-Gallon Bucket
The best mouse trap plan I’ve ever come across to get rid of mice naturally uses a five-gallon bucket, a dowel, and a tin can. It’s so simple and effective that you should never need to purchase commercial mouse traps or poison.
Step 1: Drill holes at the top of the bucket, on two opposite sides.
Step 2: Drill holes in the middle of each flat side of a soda can.
Step 3: Insert a dowel through the bucket holes and the soda can holes, to end up with a unit that looks like the image.
Step 4: Bait with peanut butter and add a ramp for the mice to get up.
Step 5: Fill the bottom few inches with water if you plan to kill the mice, or leave it if you want to release them somewhere or feed them live to your snake!
How do you get rid of mice naturally at your homestead? Leave a comment on this blog and share your ideas with us, please!
Originally published in the April/May 2013 issue of Backyard Poultry magazine.