As farms begin to harvest the riches around them, there is a movement created by all of this activity.
Rodents that might have been in the field are disturbed and begin to move to areas near the poultry houses. When you combine this with opening the housing to remove stored manure for land spreading, you have an open target for rats and mice. This seasonal activity must be anticipated and prepared.
Good Integrated Pest Management (IPM) means that we measure mice on the farm using repeated mouse traps or pressure traps to count the number of rodents in a week. Keeping a diary will show how the number of mice will change with the season and the reproduction of the mouse population on the farm. Since mice are very good at reproducing quickly, action is needed when the number of mice starts to climb.
The basic control method is the use of environmental exclusion. Removing tall weeds, stored material, and other things that mice can live in will keep mice out of the house. A house wall rock barrier beyond the drip line (3-4 feet) will prevent mice from burrowing under a structural wall. Traps near bird holes on the sides of houses will also prevent mice from entering a house. Check the case to make sure all holes are plugged or covered to keep mice out.
Mouse baits are a common method of rodent control year-round, but it must be done correctly. Consult your bait supplier for the right system for you. Organic growers must use specific baits approved for use in organic production. Be sure to note the active ingredients of the baits as some baits with different names may be the same thing. Rotate the main ingredients on the schedule given by the supplier. Keep a log of bait used and a scale in the storage area to weigh bait as it is used. Keep refilling the bait if you discover an empty station.
Safety should be the top priority when working on IPM. Always wear gloves when handling bait and wash your hands after checking rodent stations. Keep all poisons locked away from others and keep signs saying no trespassing. Keep baits in their original containers for proper identification and storage.
Leave integrated rodent control to the adults. Baits are dangerous and should only be handled by adults.
With proper monitoring, fall should be no different than any other time of year when it comes to rodent numbers in or near poultry houses. Keeping an eye on the rodent population can help the farm manage outside rodent pressure.
Gregory Martin is a Penn State Extension Poultry Educator in Lancaster County.