The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Dealing with an invasion of mice

mouse asleep with tiny teddy bear

mouse asleep with tiny teddy bear

This hugely sentimental (yet brilliantly airbrushed) photo that I discovered on the Internet indicates that I’m a bit ambivalent about mice. I love them, enjoy observing their balletic antics but do not want them rampaging in our kitchen. If they slept in their beds at night and went elsewhere for their food they would be more than welcome.

We live in racehorse country, land packed with studs and stables that are magnetic to mice. Loads of free food, warmth and a rural environment. We also keep chickens. The sum of horse country and chickens adds up to the possibility of mice and the likelihood of rats.

For this post let’s concentrate on mice.

As a child I slept beside a photo of a pair of sleeping dormice. I’d cut the picture out of a magazine and stuck it on the wall beside my bed. The mice were curled comfortably together and their tails were twisted at the tips. The ultimate restful picture. When I couldn’t sleep on a summer evening, I’d study them. Their teeny delicate paws and whiskers. I’d wonder if mice dream and if so, who or what moved through their sleeping world?

A move to the country nearly thirty years ago brought me close to mice again. House mice are not quite as cute or rounded as field mice but they do have charm. I’ve watched them swing through the blueberry bush outside the kitchen window to steal the fruit and then move onto feast from our bird feeders. A mouse lived in The Rat Room the first winter that I was here at the cottage. In the spring I discovered that he had eaten a bar of very expensive soap that I’d been given at Christmas. Actually, I didn’t mind as he’d kept me company during a long and lonely winter.

All those years ago the mice lived in the old cottage walls. I could hear them piling in for the night when I was having a bath. Living in the walls was fine and mice outside used not to worry me until they ate or our overwintering peas one year. Later I caught them eating our treasured redcurrants. We now use humane traps to catch them and ferry them out of the village to places where they can forage far away from the heavy tread of human feet.

Gradually over the years mice have started to invade slowly. First the larder, then the kitchen and latterly the rest of the cottage. At first it was just a winter problem but this summer they didn’t move out so we used these humane traps in the house. The wooden traps that we were using just weren’t efficient – too many nips on a leg or nose and clearly causing misery. Danny hates killing any living being – he even moves slugs from the kitchen with a spoon so as not to damage them. So the humane traps seemed like a good idea.

But, to be quite honest with you, the mice were clearly terrified on their trip to freedom. Yes, they had a chance but at what cost? Also were just passing this problem onto other people?

I don’t know whether the same mice hiked miles back to the cottage or that our invasion was of such Herculean proportions that we never could get rid of them. If we removed the family in the kitchen, we’d suddenly be entertaining others in the sitting room. One morning I was sitting up in bed when a baby mouse raced across the book I was reading. Enough was enough. I drove into town and invested in some decent traps.

We’ve tried rat poison on the mice before. It is effective but we are not keen as we suspect that it gives the mice a lingering and painful death. There’s also the question of the Min Pins eating poisoned mice.

Mice carry diseases and if they are scampering about your kitchen surfaces they need to go. A good trap is better option. The kill is fast and ideally happens when the mouse is enjoying a marvellous feast – peanut butter/chocolate or cheese that I’d like to eat myself.

Rentokil’s superior mouse traps were the final two on the Homebase shelves – clearly other people have been tackling mice invasions too. They were more expensive than usual but they looked as if they’d perform well. Setting them was with a simple click, rather than fiddling around with a sensitive wire and wondering if I’d have a nasty nip as I placed them in position.

Danny examined them carefully and was politely uncertain – but when he discovered that the success rate is 100% he was overjoyed. Their Olympic performance is down to the extended touch pad around the bait. They kill in an instant which is perfect.

I like mice and don’t enjoy killing them. Even though they are delicate, charming creatures they are vermin and spread disease. If you live in an old house and are experiencing an invasion of mice, investing in a decent trap is a worthwhile investment.


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39 Comments

  1. I am suffering a mouse invasion in my kitchen at the moment. This morning I found a new box of plastic bags had been reduced to shreds. I haven’t had this problem before & I think it is my cat bringing home gifts of mice to me & them escaping.
    Many thanks for your advice & I have just placed an order for the traps from Amazon. I was going to try rat bait(which I have plenty of because of keeping chickens) but I will wait for the killer traps to arrive in a few days. I had better get some peanut butter too…..!!!! You are a treasure Fiona.

  2. I agree with everyone who recommends cats. We saw no mice in our house while we had our cat (not even as offerings, and we did get given birds, voles and frogs over the years). Our neighbours meanwhile have had the occasional visitation – we are urban rather than rural so are never over run.

    Shortly after we had to have our cat put down we had our first mouse. We’ve recently got kittens (I sucumbed to the pester power of the children) and am sure we won’t see any more. Its not the answer for everyone but as we are cat lovers its the perfect solution for us.

  3. Hi Fiona,
    I too live in a rural area. We live in an old house with a small attic area above our downstairs bathroom and kitchen. Lying in the bath one night I heard scampering above me and realised that we might have unwanted wildlife living a little too close for comfort. We have two cats so never saw any evidence of the mice in the house – until one day when one of my cats was lying quietly at the top of the stairs staring intently into our bedroom – when I peered in I could see a small nose peeping through the smallest hole in the wall – obviously our resident attic mouse. We filled all holes and so far have heard/seen nothing else – althought I do believe that having a couple of cats helps deter any “in house” activity.
    Perhaps you need a cat to keep the mice and the min pins in line!
    Lx

  4. Hi Fiona, I sympathise. My mouse situation is driving me demented! I thought I had got rid of them in July but now they are back. Probably as I didn’t do anything to block up their entry holes. They are in the cupboard under the sink and nowhere else at the moment – apart from the one a few months ago who joined me on the sofa in the lounge! I have caught 4 in the last week and only one was killed in the snap trap. The others were caught by the leg and were unable to escape from the cupboard. I had to drown 2 of the trapped ones as there was no way on earth I could have wacked them over the head. The 3rd one, however, in an attempt to escape had gone underneath the earthing wires on the water pipes and in trying to pull it out by the trap its foot was released. We stared at each other then I watched as the mouse slowly made its way down the hole and disappeared from sight.

    I started off with the humane traps but I think the mice get wise. I caught a few but then was finding droppings around and on top of the trap but no mice in it. I then moved on to poison and snap traps because I had declared war. I also have one of those plug in devices bought from Aldi but the mice have reappeared since I installed it!

    I did read that wire wool is very good for blocking up entry holes as they can’t chew through it.

  5. We live in a rambling barn conversion in the middle of the countryside; mice have been a constant and expensive problem. I am an animal lover (I even used to keep pet rats) but it was an us or them situation and they had to go. I caught 4 mice in traps – two killed instantly and two sadly I had to finish off with a meat mallet. Then they miraculously disappeared – until this September, when they reappeared with a vengeance. They were a bad enough problem in themselves but they drove our dog Ollie to distraction; he spent all his time running from one place to another, whining and sniffing and snorting. He became neurotic and none of us had any sleep unless we tied him to a bed leg; not ideal. I gave up on humane solutions and tried traps, hideous mouse glue, poison ….. the only mouse we caught was one that accidentally fell into a bucket and couldn’t get out again. We thought about buying sonic deterrents, but were told by several locals that they don’t work. Eventually, after 2 weeks of hardly any sleep (and finding mouse poo on my pillow in the morning – ewwww) we contacted these people http://www.pluginpestfree.co.uk/pages/home and ordered 2 of their domestic units. They are not sonic repellants, they work by changing the magnetic field in your walls. The units are not cheap, but nor is the constant purchase of traps etc and the cost of having to throw food away soon mounts up. Pest Free’s customer service was exemplary; we were given detailed advice on how to use the units, where to place them etc. At one point we were in daily email exchanges because I was concerned we were still seeing mice after 3 weeks. Pest Free asked for a more detailed description of the layout of our barn, then said the slow response was probably down to our relatively sparse wiring and without any prompting they sent us another 2 units free of charge. We have now been completely mouse free for 2 weeks, the dog has lost his harried expression, the worktops are free of mouse poo each morning, and we are all getting a decent night’s sleep again. Bliss. In short, I cannot recommend this company or this product highly enough. The plug ins work, and Pest Free deserve an award for customer care. N.B. I do not work for Pest Free 😉

  6. I too, live in the country. Mice and other squatters are part and parcel of living in rural areas and we talk about it in a rather blase fashion. However, mice and rats do spread disease, and whilst most of us can tolorate spiders and slugs (although removing them with a spoon so as not to damage them is going the extra mile!) it is a step backwards to allow them to breed in our homes. Cute.. yes, getting ill from eating something that has got mouse or rat pee on it.. not so cute. The best humane traps are fantastic and, despite my love of animals, where mice are concerned they are best killed, not trapped and released. They breed prolifically and are not low in numbers anywhere. Its a conundrum when you think they are cute and delicate creatures, but if they were ugly, bald ,fat and slimy would you think twice??! ps where does D put the reprieved slugs… not in your veggie patch I hope!!

  7. Islandgirl

    Hi Fiona, I have been reading your inspirational blog for a long time. For your dilemma I can recommend only one thing: A CAT. Years ago I had a mouse infestation in a house, they were dancing in the kitchen cupboards, we tried live traps, conventional traps etc, but could never get the population down. So finally a little kitten moved in, and what I did not believe, but mice can smell a cat, so the sightings got less and when the cat reached maturity she got rid of the problem in one summer. I am afraid, that is the only effective solution.
    kind regards
    Gudrun

  8. Thrifty Household

    I sympathise…I started off humane & ended up, well in-humane. (Once I’d found out where the entry point was- flour sprinkled on floor showed up their footprints a treat!)

  9. We also live in the countryside surrounded by fields. At harvest time, all the evicted field mice try to move in!
    I’ve found the most effective traps to be home-made bucket traps. Get a bucket, a cardboard tube from a toilet roll, a piece of string, and peanut butter. Put tube on string, tie string to each side of bucket so its taut. Smear some peanut butter on the cardboard, position it in the middle of the string, and put a couple inches of water in the bucket. Put bucket wherever there are mice, next to something handy so they can get up the side of the bucket to the string. Lured by the peanut butter they slide off the tube and into the water. They die rapidly from hypothermia rather than drowning. You might have to cut the tube in half if you have a particularly clever mouse that reaches out to pull the tube to the side of the bucket (have watched a mouse do just that!).
    I like these because you don’t risk injured mice, don’t have to clean up splattered mouse, because I’ve caught up to seven in one night in one bucket, because you can put them anywhere (we usually have one in each out-building as they eat stored veg and lawnmowers alike) and they don’t need checking or re-baiting often, and because you can pour the water and mice away (in the nearest field!) without touching them and other things can safely eat the carcass.
    If you use a very large/deep bucket/feedbin (with a cut out plastic bottle instead of cardboard on a bamboo cane/dowel) and no water, you can catch and release the mice unharmed somewhere else (but it has to be over 3 miles away if you don’t want them to come back).
    When we first moved into our cottage we caught 60 mice in these traps, over a couple of weeks that first October.
    We now also have an electronic plug-in mouse deterrent that is always on – that does actually help keep numbers down too and gets them moving on as they don’t like it. Don’t bother spending money on fancy traps – we’ve tried them all and always come back to the buckets!

  10. A difficult conundrum and one I to an extent sympathise with. I say to an extent, because I think my patience would have run out sooner than yours! we had the odd mouse sighted in our kitchen last year, and stoppered up various gaps where we thought it might be entering – are crossing our fingers for No Mice Sightings in kitchen this autumn (the season when traditionally they seem to head indoors!)

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