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. Accidental Mick

    Hi Fiona,
    I used to live in a Sussex half wood house – The sort with brick ground floor and weather board upper. We were over-run with field mice in spite of having 2 cats and a Norfolk terrier.

    I bought one of the devices reccomended by Bib above and it was a 100% success. I only used 1 of the units which when plugged in anywhere (so I am told) worked on all the wiring in the house. An added bonus was that, because I had run electricity to the shed, that too was protected by the field generated.

    I don’t know how they work but we never saw another mouse and it didn’t bother the cats or the dog. My daughter has bought one and also reports success.

  2. Dear James – the dishwasher was well past its sell by date, very rusty and looked totally out of place in a brand new kitchen so it was no hardship to replace it.

  3. No mice dare cross the threshold of our 3 cat household. I’m surprised the min pins don’t got for them

  4. We got a new cat five weeks ago from the local pet rescue. He is an absolute delight, apart from his extensive hunting skills. Last night alone he brought in 3 mice – 2 dead, one alive (in the space of 2 hours no less). The previous night he brought in a very much alive mouse which I chased around the lounge for 15 minutes trying to catch. You are more than welcome to borrow him, I am sure he will deal with your situation relatively quickly!! Joking aside, I can understand how frustrating it must be to have so many unwelcome guests and you have my sympathies. I hope you manage to resolve the problem very soon.

  5. “I got rid of the dishwasher..”

    That seems a bit extreme, just because it’s had a mouse in it! 🙂

    It reminds me, somewhat tangentially, of the soap dispensers you can now get that sense your presence, so you don’t have to touch the awful germs that might be lurking on the plunger, and ignoring the fact that the next operation will be washing your hands…

    WRT cats, I’m sure a young one would chase your mice down mercilessly. Time for a new kitten, perhaps?

  6. Tanya @ Lovely Greens

    Is there any way to find all the ways they enter the house and close them off one by one? Prevention is better than the cure!

  7. In my experience having cats makes the mouse problem worse! All of my cats (and at one time we had three) have brought live mice into the house,lost interest and the mice have taken up residence until we had to catch them in a humane trap and set them free into the field at the bottom of the garden. I once opened my dishwasher to discover a mouse swinging from the bottom rack. It had obviously been living underneath the washer and crept up into the inside to feast on the scraps left on the crockery. Not a nice thought. I got rid of the dishwasher (it was old anyway) and bought a new one! On another occasion a mouse popped out of the cat biscuit box as I took it out of the cupboard to feed the cat and we once found a stash of cat biscuits underneath the fridge freezer deposited there by a mouse. Another one shocked my mother by suddenly appearing in the utilitly room (where she was banished to smoke) to take a drink of water from the cat’s bowl! Since June, when our old cat died, we haven’t seen a single one.

  8. “the seat belt incident”

    You mean you belted them in? I have a wonderful mental picture.. 🙂

    We have two cats who deal very efficiently with the mice round here, but one of them is a bit of a wuss, and lets them go in the house. We used to put them over the road, but having read that this usually just results in a slower death, I’ve steeled myself to bumping them off with an overdose of chloroform, or giving them to the other cat, who also catches the odd rat, bless her.

    The live mice we catch are rather sweet, though.

  9. We used humane traps and transported them for miles until the seat belt incident! These days we use an electronic trap which kills them instantly. We don’t even bother with bait. It looks like a nice snug cave so they just run in and get zapped.

  10. Cat,but no cat flap.Any mice in the house get caught and the mice from outside don’t get brought in.
    It is mouse moving in time of year…

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