~ December 7, 2019 ~

Mice live everywhere and there is no escaping them! Whether you live on a farm or not, these hardy creatures manage to survive where ever they can find food and lodging. They will eat just about anything and they can squeeze through the tiniest of space to get inside our homes and coops. And they have had to evolve to be prolifc breeders and scavengers because they are food to many wild and domestic animals. In fact, if you would research their purpose to our environment, it is to be food. It also doesn't help that they are very intelligent and they have to be to survive. They are largely nocturnal, so you may think they are not around, but very likely they are. I was curious to see if they could be a viable food source for my birds as they are a very natural food for them.

Mice not only love a lot of the same food like seeds and grains as poultry do, they also like the shelter and bedding where your birds live too. Mice can get through a 1/4 inch size opening, so a lot of younger mice especially get into your coop through the hardware cloth or cracks around the doors. To really keep mice out of a building, you have to have all the seams and openings fairly well sealed. Since poultry housing typically needs lot of ventilation, vents and windows leave a way in. Be prepared for chewed holes in your coop walls for yet another way to get in. Bird doors are left open during the day, so it is safe to say probably most poultry housing are visited by mice.

Strong scents as mice repellents are nearly worthless outside. They will easily maneuver around it and once they are inside a coop, it will not work to get them back outside. I have had the experience of mice using fresh mint leaves in their nests!

We can be concerned about the diseases mice may carry and spread to us and our poultry. This is true, but it is true for all animals and even insects you come in contact with in the outdoors (said as a person who has contracted Lyme from a tick!). It is prudent of us to practice health safety for ourselves by avoiding bites and scratches and avoid breathing in environmental dust as much as possible. Washing our hands and clothes after working outside is just common sense things to do when we are in contact with our animals and cleaning outdoor buildings and animal housing. For our animals, keeping their health and immune systems strong should be a top priority and is good practice. They do live outdoors and short of making your birds live in a contained, sterile environment, we can only do the best we can.

I think it is integral to the health of my poultry to have food and water available whenever they need it. I have read it advised to pick up the food and water each night to not feed the mice. But birds are messy eaters and scratch food out of their feeders, and food gets on the ground. A lot of people throw food around in the coops and run areas to encourage their birds to scratch! If you are using the deep litter method you want them to help turn the litter. So, there is always going to be food around to attract mice. And mice are going to love to live in your coop, especially if you provide lots of nice bedding for them!

I do a couple of things that seem to keep the mouse population manageable. First I have a wonderful feral cat who takes care of mousing outside of the bird pens for me. She is an extremely good hunter and that is what I see her doing most of the time besides some short naps during the day. She earns her keep on my farm! The other good mousers are my birds and I want them to eat mice for food too. They not only are fierce ninja’s when they spot the occasional mouse during the day, they also catch them by the dim light that is in my pen throughout the darkness. Something important to know about mice is although they can eat lot of small meals, the two main feeding periods are before dusk, and before dawn. There are always birds up before sunrise and into the early evening before roost. I also deliberately keep the food bowls away from the perimeter of pen walls that would make it easier for the mice to get into without being seen by the birds. I have it situated closer to the middle of the pen. This way, the mice have to make a run for it and expose themselves to getting caught by a bird. Sometimes they also get crafty and tunnel under the bowls so they can slip up the sides, so I periodically move the bowls to different spots. You may want to check this if you keep food bowls in the same place. I also have a lot of birds, so the chance of escaping a wrong move to the inside of the pen is not that easy. What works for me is to manage the mouse population by having or helping the mice predators do their thing.

Original Source: Susan Burek 2019

Moonlight Mile Herb Farm © 2020 Susan Burek