The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Rat invasion



It is said that when you are in London you are never more than six feet away from a rat. I lived in London for years and never spotted one. Presumably they are holed up in attics and sewers.

I did see mice out in the open though. Late night scampering amongst the metal lines of the tube. If I walked to the end of the platform and stood very still they would appear, nervously at first and then rush about looking for edible scraps blown down from the platform. They were quite black from a life living in the oily dirt of the rail lines.
“What a life,” I used to think. “Away from the sun and fresh air.”

We have largely got on top of our mouse invasion in the cottage. Inca alerts us to any new intruders and the traps are set. Peanut butter seems to work best as a lure.  We are down to catching a couple every week or so now.

On the rat front, they were removed from the chicken run months ago. I’m not giving the chickens a never ending feeder anymore – which translates swiftly into a night time food stand for rats. The chickens are fed in the morning and that’s it.

This afternoon, I took a break from cleaning, looked out of the window and down the front drive. I noticed a movement beside a pile of logs. At first I thought that it was the squirrel that I’d seen swooping through Anne Mary’s trees the other day. Then I saw its tail – that unmistakeable rubbery tail – thick and relatively short compared to a mouse. A rat.

I don’t tend to hover by the window but today I thought that I’d wait a bit longer and see what happened on the rat front. Within seconds Rat One was joined by Two, Three and Four. Number Five appeared from under Jalopy and nipped across the drive.

These were all adult rats. Five rats ‘out and about’ – indicates a lot more under Jalopy. How long had the colony been there? Jalopy has been sleeping in the drive for over two and a half years. As a test I strutted to the front door and threw it open. They had vanished without a sound.

That’s why we hadn’t spotted them. Rat holes are unmistakable but if the hole is under a big car that does not move you have little chance of finding it.

Delighted with the excuse to ditch the cleaning, I pulled on my poisoning gloves filled our rat bait station with poison and slid it under Jalopy. I use Neosorexa Gold. This poison is expensive but very quick and effective. I tend to buy it in 10 kilo packs as rats will always be a problem in a village surrounded by studs and farmland.

The trick is to keep on topping up the poison until it is no longer taken. Judging by what I saw this afternoon, this might take some time.

Year ago our local County Council used to pay for vermin to be killed. Their Rat Man told me that even though this was a free service loads of people didn’t want to admit to a rat infestation as they thought that they would be rubber stamped as ‘dirty’. This meant that the rat colonies moved up through the village, just being treated by the few houses that used the service. Once rats start dying in a colony the others are generally intelligent enough to move on.

Now our council charges £60 for the service. It’s cheaper to buy 10 kilos of Neosorexa and deal with the problem yourself. Our 10 kilo packs generally last about three years. With the withdrawal of free pest control rats have become a bigger problem as the years roll by. I though we had the rat problem under control, I had no idea that we had a colony in our front drive until today.


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  1. Laila @ SowandSo

    We have 3 cat’s and I have yet to see a rat but after reading your post I am afraid it is just a matter of time…

    • Fiona Nevile

      We have no mice at the moment but heard rats in the attic last night 🙁

  2. Barbara Wilde

    Have you tried any of the sonic repellers on the market? I’m not sure whether the would my dog Reuben would be able to hear it??…

  3. Bridget – Cats will catch rats, but it does depend on the cat! I used to work at a grain silos, where there lived a cat chosen from proven no-nonsense farm cats as a kitten. We all loved the cat, and the only rats I ever saw were very, very dead, and usually headless. Once the cat had retired to be someone’s pet, the rats moved into the area, very live & very bold!
    Luckily I’ve never had this problem at home – I confess the fear of encouraging rats makes me a very bad feeder of birds!

  4. The harsher version says “never more than 6 feet from a rat or an Australian”! (Sorry!)

  5. A couple of weeks ago when I went out to let the ducks out I noticed fresh dirt emerging from under the hutch. I nervously lifted the hutch up to see what lay beneath and my eyes met a minature ‘great escape charlie tunnel’
    There were a few droppings in the grass as well as a decent amount of layers pellets which obviously had been hoarded under there.
    I had thought the ducks had seemed a bit nervous and now knew why they had probably been locked in there hearing all the scratching and digging right under them all night.
    I rung the neighbour ( who has chickens) and asked her if she thought it was rats, and was told that the sugar beet all piled up in the surrounding fields was probably feeding the main of them and this could be a scout looking for new comfy dwellings when the beet got carted off.
    I am ashamed to say I went straight out there and filled the hole with a bucket of gravel and then held the hose on it for 20 mins till the hole and tunnel filled up. 🙁 I put the house up on some paving slabs so it no longer provided a secret gap under the hutch. So far so good no more tunnels and I make sure I bring in all their food even on dry nights ( I only used to pick up their trough when it was going to get wet) I am realistic about living in the fens and in the middle of farmland but secretly hopeful the 2 ferel cats who I am spending a fortune feeding will deter too many as I am really dreading having to use poison 🙁

  6. Kooky Girl

    We had one tiny little mouse in Labour of Love last summer, we were about to go and get poison when it fell into a sink of water that we just happened to fill up. BB found the poor little thing swimming for it’s life round and round the bowl. So, I was able to rescue it and I took it to a field far from the house.. No more since then, but it’s to be expected in the countryside I guess.. This was one tiny mouse though, I think I’d have a big problem with a rat family…

  7. Controversial I know, but do you think it may be time to say bye bye to the Jalopy? 🙁

  8. Our terrier Ollie killed a pine marten in front of me last year, which was just awful, but he refuses to kill mice – he picks them up and sucks them, then spits them back out when all the flavour is gone. They are left sodden and confused, but unharmed.

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