Wednesday, 30 December 2009

No Rats in Ochre Arch Cottage

Over Christmas one of our nieces asked Phillip’s mother whether there were rats in the house on Ochre Arch. Given the previous condition of the house prior to the extensive renovation last year this was a perfectly reasonable question. The answer to the question is ‘no’. The question has, though, prompted the writing of this blog post to share our broader thinking on ‘creatures not generally welcome in and around farm houses’.

Our thinking and approach to pest management in predicated on the principal espoused in an old movie titled ‘Field of Dreams’. In the movie in short, a bloke builds a baseball field on his farm and this in turn leads to base-ball players ‘turning up to play’. Nature works in the same way in that (as a general rule) the habitat and environmental conditions determine the wild life that ‘turns up’.

Looking specifically at rats, the conditions they need include shelter and nesting materials similar to that found in and around houses and sheds, food that homo sapiens eat grow or throw out, access point/s to the houses or sheds and the absence of things that kill them such as predators or poisons. Specifically on Ochre Arch we do the following as a matter of course in order to discourage rats:
  • Floors, walls, windows and ceilings are impervious to them, preventing access. Screens and screen doors keep them out when windows and doors are open during warmer conditions.
  • Food that we eat is kept in sealed containers and cupboards
  • Food scraps go to the chooks and/or far enough away that it is not suitable to the rats to eat or is too far way
  • The area immediately around the house is devoid of material suitable for nesting material
  • Predators have full access to underneath the house
  • Poison is kept in the adjacent car shed that rats and mice can access, but not children

When we re-furbished the cottage we made the decision not to fence or block off access around the perimeter to underneath the house – out of the norm. We used to think that people blocked off access to underneath houses to keep all and sundry out, but we learned the main reason was to prevent dogs taking dead prey under to store for later consumption. Subsequently the stench would be annoying if not unbearable. Given we do not have and do not intend having dogs we’ve left under the house open; and as I’ve said predators as well as prey of different sorts can come and go as they please.

The common ‘prey’ species that are likely to access underneath the house include rats, mice and rabbits. The common predator species, again likely to access underneath the house, include foxes, cats, monitors, and snakes. We’ve seen all of these prey and predator species from time to time, and know that they will come and go depending on conditions. Snakes and rabbits are something we are not comfortable seeing around the house and we do have alternate strategies for their management.

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