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.

  Leave a reply


  1. What no one has mentioned is the danger of mice gnawing through electric cables. (Their teeth grow continuously, so they have to keep gnawing, poor little buggers.) That is my greatest concern, and I really can’t have mice behind the washing machine, in the meter cupboard, etc etc.

    I live in an old cottage and could never block up every hole – does everyone realise that they can squeeze through holes the diameter of a pencil? I laughed when my cousin advised me to “find out where they’re getting in” – through the door, as often as not! A very vigilant and obsessive terrier seems to keep them out most of the time, failing that it’s traps for us.

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Bitz

      Yes this happened to a blind friend of mine many years ago and the bill was over £6000. Now it would be much more!
      That’s why I’m so keen to get rid of them. Very cute but potentially lethal – damaged cables can cause fires 🙁

  2. We don’t really live in a ‘rural’ area, but we do always get a few field mice at the back of our garden. The problem is that the cats bring them in to play with them but then loose them and they end up scurrying about the house! We’ve used the humane traps and always caught them, we then take them over the road to the allotment’s (where they can have a happy, cat free life).

  3. wellywoman

    Oh what a nightmare. My parents had 1 mouse in their house once which got into the base of their brand new sofa and made a real mess. My dad spent weeks trying to outwit the little creature and then one night we were all sat watching the tv when out of the corner of my eye I saw it running underneath the fire. I had to try and alert my dad without my mum getting wind of it otherwise she would’ve shrieked and hung off the lampshade. Anyway my dad did catch it in an icecream tub.It was the most beautiful little thing but our house wasn’t the right place for it. I used to know someone who had them crawling all over her kitchen and just didn’t seem bothered at all. Never really fancied eating there.

  4. Steel,
    I can really second Fiona’s recommendation of the Rentokil killing traps as they have dealt with my problems in a few days. Be sure to follow her link though as different companies seem to stock different models. I bought mine through her Amazon link & got free delivery just under 48hrs later. I am so happy as the mice were driving me crazy. I used tiny pieces of chocolate as the bait.
    Good luck (and many thanks Fiona).

  5. I sympathise with your dilemma. We knew once we got chickens we’d have mice.

    When we were renovating parts of the house and had the cavity walls exposed we were inundated with them. It got to the point where it just wasn’t even a game for the cats any more and they didn’t bother to catch them. Humane traps didn’t work.

    One winter I found a third of a jar of jam in my store where an enterprising rodent had enjoyed a sticky meal every night for months.

    After the renovations, we made sure the house was mouse-tight, blocking up the smallest gaps and holes to stop them sliding in. The ones in the garden we live with, as the cats do keep the population down and on occasion so do the chickens if they get hold of one (ewwww).

    However, I noticed extensive amount do poo building up in the bottom shed at the weekend and realised they’ve managed to break into the suet balls I have for the wild birds so I’ll have to do something. Can’t use poisen bait as it backs onto the chicken pen and can’t risk them eating a dead baited mouse.

  6. Badcat666

    I agree with the furry cat solution. I live in an urban environment but near fields/ woods and gardens so every now and then I end up with a couple of unwanted mice visitors in the house. Luckily I have a zombie cat who dispatches them for me. I call her my zombie cat as she only eats the heads (brains anyone??!). I did go through a stage of having an emergency A&E mouse box for the ones bought in and tormented in the bathroom (get woken up at 2am… stumble into bathroom without contacts in, shoo away cats, scoop up half dead mouse, put in the A&E box (biscuit tin with airholes, dampened water and half a damp biccie), put in airing cupboard, wash hands, go back to bed, check on it in morning and release or put dead body in bin. I couldn’t bring myself to kill them as one mouse against several cats just isn’t cricket.

    Recently upstairs neighbours and those next door had a HUGE rat invasion. Big HUGE things nibbling through their floors. Funnily enough I didn’t, not a squeak of a rat in sight. 🙂

  7. Thanks Bib, I will have a look at them. We have armies of mice living in the walls, we can hear them partying!

  8. Sharon – these are not the plug ins you can buy in B&Q etc which allegedly work by emitting a sound. I have never heard anyone give a good report of that type of plug in, and I was advised against wasting my money on them by neighbours. The ones I bought from Pest Free are mail order only as far as I know, they are not cheap, and they are not sonic. They change the magnetic field in the walls of your house. And they work, they really, really work.

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