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. Our house looks on to open fields and all our neighbours have problems with rats. At present we are rat free because of our large black and white tom who is a killing machine. Otherwise it would be a call to the rat man. Compost heaps are also a problem as are bird feeders which rats check up on at night! But as long as Trigger does not bring live mice into the house I don’t mind – last year the worst was a stoat!

  2. Thanks for this information. We have a large hole near the house that has to be a rat nest and it’s been bothering me rather a lot recently. Especially as they seem to be expanding it… Our dogs have shown no interest (and don’t seem to be a deterrent as hoped!) but this looks like a trap that I could position out of the way and deal with the rats without harming the dogs! *shudder*

  3. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it on here before – if you have a problem with mice or rats indoors, try these people: We had endless problems with mice; the situation was seriously affecting our quality of life. The Pest Free plug-ins are NOT sonic; they magically do something with the electric current in your walls. No effect on humans (or dogs) and there is no cruelty involved, they simply make it unpleasant for vermin to stay. We have been 100% mouse free since they started working – it takes about 3 weeks to drive all the mice out. The plug ins are not cheap, but they are much cheaper than the wasted food and endless supplies of traps and poison. I can’t recommend them highly enough – and we received outstanding customer service from them.

  4. Ugh…I hate rats!!! I know we had a fdew mice in the garage last year…but rats!They make me shudder at the very thought.

    Do cats catch rats?

  5. Yes, I put out more rat bait yesterday because I saw evidence of new tunneling near my oldest chicken house, which is set above ground. They always seem to appear again after periods of heavy rain. We have paddocks & stables full of ponies at the end of the garden.

  6. Ugh! I hate rats. Funny that you have blogged about this recently as I was about to do a similar blog as we have found mice inside recently and they need to be evicted. I’m in Australia and it’s Summer here and fleas are a problem at the moment too.

  7. bobquail

    I can’t remember where I heard this, but I think the ‘6 feet from a rat’ thing is a bit over-exaggerated. Mice, on the other hand, are much more common. I’ve also seen the ‘tube mice’ scampering along between the rails. A few years ago we even saw a mouse in one of the theatres, running between a row of seats. I think it was the highlight of the evening, more memorable than seeing Gareth Gates as Joseph in his amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat!

  8. Caro (Urban Veg Patch)

    I absolutely believe the story about living near rats in London – or anywhere else for that matter! I’ve only seen them scuttling around on Hampstead Heath when we’ve had a lot of rain and their runs are swamped – they come up for air then, during the day. I had a mouse (I’m sure it was only one!) in my flat last year; it took the Mouse Man over 4 months to get rid of it because (apparently) they’re not allowed to use poison, so he put an anti-coagulant in the traps and waited for the mouse to harm itself. It was not the efficient way of dealing with the problem – your mouse traps sound much better!

  9. elrohana

    Thanks to our 2 boy cats, every small colony of rats that has set up in our garden has either died or moved on swiftly. One of our boys in particular is very good at ratting, the other one prefers rabbits and squirrels.

  10. Tanya @ Lovely Greens

    That’s good to know about chicken feed… We live in farmland to and are about to get some hens this spring. Rats, aka Longtails, are a problem on the island anyhow so I’ll make sure to buy a contraption that closes after the hens finish their meal.

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