There is a serious rat infestation in our neighborhood. It started years ago thanks to all the diligent backyard gardeners, open compost piles and chickens. I’ve had them in our house a couple of times, and in three of my rentals. I’m now as good as any pest control company in eliminating them from houses. But they’ve still been in and under our garden shed complex. This year I decided to get serious.
Step one was installing strong 1/4″ wire mesh over any openings, at the rafters, eves, windows, etc. Then I covered any holes in the wood and at any gaps with sheet metal. That should keep them out, which is really the key to dealing with rats in houses or any structures. But they’ve also created a warren of tunnels to nest in the gravel under the concrete slab the shed sits on. Yes, I’ve baited and trapped (I found two desiccated carcasses today). But there’s always more under there. So I decided to gas them.
I covered up all the various openings to this warren with 3/8″ minus gravel, except this one. I had an old 3″ dryer vent laying around; one end went into the last hole, the other I cut and firmly attached wired on to the muffler of the recently found (at the curb) fresh B&S engine which I mounted on my beloved lightweight aluminum ’60s Montgomery Ward mower, and let it run for almost half an hour.
Tomorrow morning I will check all the gravel-covered openings to see if anyone survived and dug themselves out. I’m betting not.
This is one job an electric mower would not have been capable of.
I’ve had a similar problem with possums under the slab of my house. Exterminator used marsh mellows as bait in the traps. The critters started under the cracked slab of a nearby apartment building and were spreading thru the neighborhood eating dog and cat food left outside by neighbors.
The fun of owning a home!!
Using marshmallows for bait was an open invitation for the more industrious possums to obtain Hershey bars, start a campfire and you know the rest.
Darn good idea, Paul.
Ugh. We had rat problems in the house i grew up in and they are just awful. You have to be so diligent about doing exactly what you said and putting up the wire mesh and metal over all the tiny openings to keep them out. They can and will squeeze through incredibly tiny openings. I would bait cages and then trap the unfortunate things and then fill a pail with water and immerse the trap in the water. I was very excited that the house I live in now has aluminium siding and aluminium soffits and all for that reason.
Best of luck with this task. That’s an excellent and creative idea and I hope it works out for you. It’s not a pleasant task, but necessary.
They use a slightly different method for rounding up rattlesnakes in Texas. They blow gasoline fumes into their dens which causes the snakes to leave whereupon they are to dizzy to fight. Blowing CO into a hole might cause a bunch of dead rats to decompose where they lie. Not a good smell as I recall.
But rattle snakes are actually mostly harmless if they’re not annoyed. Why kill them? Sounds like it’s more of a sport than a necessity.
Especially since a main component of the rattlesnake diet is rodents.
I recall reading somewhere that the most common cause of snakebites is due the person attempting to kill the snake. If they’d just left the snake alone they’d have been fine.
My old bungalow had recurring rat problems over the years, as does the whole neighborhood. There were three kinds of foundation vents to the crawlspace, most of which were basically open. When I had all my brickwork repointed, I replaced all the foundation vents and closed up all the other various openings in the foundation walls. I haven’t caught any rats in traps all winter. Either the little rodents have gotten smarter, or I’ve won the battle. We’ll see if it lasts.
Exclusion is the key, though getting rid of them before sealing up the structure is challenging. My first experience with this was as a high schooler, when I was put in charge of solving the problem with raccoons, who were living under our house, and getting up inside the walls and above the porch ceiling. I cut holes in the siding and sprayed ammonia in, which seemed to discourage them from returning from their nocturnal excursions, and then sealed it up. No more raccoons for 50 years (our family still owns the house).
I can see a couple of issues with this solution, and both have to do with odor. First, the gas fumes, although they’d probably dissipate.
But, more critical, is the stench from the dead rodents. Although I guess that, too, would eventually go away, there would be the issue of the dead carcasses attracting maggots, which would create a whole new set of problems.
I think we should skip directly to the gorilla solution. Though my understanding is that the PNW doesn’t really get cold enough for the gorillas to freeze to death in the winter.
gas fumes? What gas fumes? No different than mowing the lawn.
Paul, as pointed out above, are you not concerned about the smell?
Growing up there was a rat who died inside the wall in a closet of my sister’s room, following the setting out of rat bait in the attic. The room smelled for months. My father had to cut a hole (6″x 6″) in the sheet rock to clean out decaying body, not being a plasterer, he simply covered the hole with an aluminum vent used for venting pier and beam foundations. If it was anywhere else, it would have required drywall mesh and spackle, not something which can be done well without a lot of practice and skill. Perhaps the smell will not penetrate the slab?
Overall, impressive ingenuity.
It’s far enough away from the house that I’m not concerned.
I just removed a couple of old carcasses that I found in the corner of the shed; never smelled them. The air here is pretty dry in the non-winter months.
Where there are dogs, there are rats.
Where there are cats, there are far fewer rats. Cats are crucial to old-car-dom.
Nothing more destructive to old machines than rodents.
Nothing more destructive to rodents than Kitty Empire.
Very few cats will take on a full-sized rat. The Norways can get huge. Our pit bull did corner on that was living in the compost bin (before we stopped feeding it food scraps) and he nailed it. That thing was a monster. No cat could possible have taken it on.
Your solution to the rat problem is clever.
Your initial paragraph reminded me that the more dreamy politicians here in deep blue CT are intent on a”zero-waste” society; achieved in part by a “compost pile for food waste” in every back yard, to which my response is always “You think the cities have a rat problem now?”
It is an unfortunate consequence of the very popular pastimes of gardening, composting and backyard chickens. The city has started a food waste recycling program in response to that issue.
The coyotes that occasionally visit the compost pile here keep the rats away lol.
My 26lb Male tabby had no problem with rats or squirrels
A few days ago the Rat Patrol left an alarmingly good-sized shovel-ready rodent at the back door for approval. I do agree re: monster rats; some years back visited NYC w/ my old Doberman Vito, and from beneath the park bench came a VERY large rat and it was the first time I saw fear from that big ol’ Dobe. Looked at rat, looked at me, “Uh, dad, let’s ….go.”
Around here cats, bobcats, rattlers and bullsnakes do seem to cut the rodent numbers.
I tend to be live-and-let-live but rats are nogoodniks.
We’re having this problem where I am (about 3 miles outside of Baltimore City) due to the ever-expanding development beyond the city. Plus, composting, dogs, etc.
Paul, your solution is ingenious; have you tried The Giant Destroyer (google for an Amazon link). You light them and use a reversed shop-vac hose to blow the fumes throughout the warrens—it’s also handy for spotting entrance/exit locations. I had moles and chipmunks living in warrens under my lawn among the tree roots, and two uses of these things killed them all off. They haven’t been back in 4 years.
Whoops, sorry, google The Giant Destroyer.
Using a shop vac as a pressure source is brilliant, I wish I had thought of that.. i used smoke bombs but pretty sure the smoke did not distribute well, will try the the reverse shop vac today
Shawn Woods runs a Youtube channel called Mousetrap Monday. Shawn has been testing rodent traps for several years and has spent over $10,000 on various traps and devices. He films each trap as he tests them. His family has a farm with animals, and has a great “testing facility” in his barns.
He touts what he says is the best rodent trap, and after watching the video, I have to agree. Take a look at the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHwvVPT202Y
Note that within days of his video’s first showing, that USA made and patented trap was copied and sold online by a Chinese company. Shawn asks that buyers refrain from buying the cheap copies as the quality is poor and the cost is about the same.
He also points out in another video that while this trap works very well at drowning mice using the standard 5 gallon bucket, for large Norway type rats, you should use larger [deeper] 7 or 8 gallon buckets, so the bucket can be filled with enough water to drown the rats and not have them jump out of the taller bucket. If you want to trap & release mice, then don’t put water in the bucket.
My brother thought he had a mouse problem. Stuff chewed on under the sink, etc. He put out traps and one night he hears a bit of a bang rattle under the sink. Figured he would check it the morning. Next morning he opens the cabinet under the sink and the trap is stuck on a rats head. The rats body was still in the hole in the floor, must have been trying to back out the way he cam in. Now my brother gets a stick to poke it to make sure its dead. OK, its dead, he reaches in and pulls trap out, it only contains the rats head and some spine, his buddies had ate the rest of him during the night.
We lived in town and we were on the last street before the farm fields. About three blocks away was the town dump. We would go down to the dump to shot rats and bottles with the good old Daisy BB guns. Eventually the dump is closed and buried.
Not long after this our Chesapeake Retriever has scabs on the edges of his ears. He is also up in the middle of the night digging furiously around his dog house and a scratching at the floor of his dog house. So we surround the dog house and we are armed with baseball bats. Dad tips the house on the side and out scurries 3 rats the size of house cats. We were startled but we quickly dispatched them.
The last rat adventure was by accident. The warm next to ours had been abandoned for years. It was sold to a developer. The day they came to knock done the barn was quite the deal. The barn had been used to raise sheep and it was never cleaned out. They used a dozer to dig a whole to bury the barn, when they started to push the barn down there was a flood of rats shooting out of the wreckage. Time to leave, guess we will head done the road to the relatives living at the pig farm.
After reading this post and comments, I will certainly have nightmares tonight!
I don’t know how much a problem Norway rats and their kin are here; people do get mice. The rat that I know is a problem here is the pack rat. We replace our ancient 1971 air conditioner years back, and got pack rat problems. Yep, pack rats got inside the compressor/condenser unit and chewed through wiring. They thoughtfully left their carcasses inside the unit. We finally had to persuade the HOA to remove a tree that was shading the A/C. That stopped the rats.
We’ve also had pack rats in the garage. It took replacing the 50-year-old sweep on the garage door (we had to cobble that up) and adjusting the door to close closer to the slab. We’re still always on the lookout, though. When we’ve trapped a rat, we’ve taken it far away and released it in the wild. We still remember the expensive havoc a pack rat caused under the hood of our ’93 Sable. What is it about pack rats and car wiring?
We also have round-tailed ground squirrels in the neighborhood. There’s a colony in the open space next to our house, in fact; they’ve dug holes everywhere. But there are also hawks in the neighborhood.
“What is it about pack rats and car wiring?”
Here’s one answer, soy based electrical insulation:
Although I kinda doubt Ford used it in 1993…
Could be, Mercedes was using the biodegrading engine wiring harnesses right in that time period. That was right around the big push to make cars more “environmentally friendly” in regards to components, so you also saw the first year of E34 BMWs with unpainted gray bumpers etc.
Rats – the problem almost every homeowner has had, but one you generally you don’t bring up casually at social gatherings.
I’ve had them in the house twice in the past 30 years, and there are few worse feelings in the experience of home ownership. Pest control people though seem to be one of the most reliable home services going. It’s never taken more than one visit to deal with the problem, and they seem to be trained to be as reassuring as any cardiac surgeon.
This is a humane way of killing rats. They just fall asleep and never wake up. I get mice occasionally in a rental. Mass employment of standard, quick snap mouse traps works, and is also humane in that they die immediately. Getting rid of their food source is easy in a house but not so easy in an entire neighborhood.
I heartily recommend the use of a good old Scottish Cairn Terrier.
We used to have a cairn terrier we’d rescued from the pound. Can a dog have a heart bigger than his body? If that’s at all possible, old Muffin did.
Muffin repaid us time and time again. Great with the kids. For a rather small breed, he was fearless. Any potential danger to us or the kids, and he was onto it. First time we had friend come to visit after we got him, he bailed up Rose in her car, barking and growling, circling the car so she couldn’t get out. Being a farmer’s wife, she knew dogs; just sat there and screamed out “Call off your dog!”.
We were rewarded with rabbit carcasses and rat carcasses at the back door on a regular basis, more than we ever imagined were nearby. Back in those days you could leave your dogs free to roam, and I’m sure he used to go down to the riverbank out the back of the pub and hunt vermin there. Once the kids found half a rabbit buried in their sandpit, but he never did that again.
One time we’d set a possum trap in the old stable (you have to relocate them, but where you relocate them and what condition they’re in is up to you). Next morning there’s this big grandpa rat in the trap. We took it out onto the road (outskirts of town, gravel road, no neighbours nearby) with Muffin barking furiously and dancing all around the trap. Put the trap down on the gravel, open the door to the cage, rat darts out of the trap and – SNAP! Broken neck.
Next night, bait the trap again, repeat, and caught another one. This time Muffin didn’t wait for the rat to come out of the trap, but went into the cage after it and – SNAP! Killed it in the cage. Afterward I pondered; eyeballed the size of the cage, size of the dog, size of the rat – I don’t know how he had the room to swing it, or how much force he exerted, but the result was unmistakable.
Vale Muffin, best ratter we ever had.
Saw a video where two young “rat terriers” were brought out to a farm. the dogs had never seen a rat in their lives. A tractor with loader forks picked up a pallet with about fifty rats living under it, the dogs just exploded. it was obvious that rat killing had been bred into them, they were fast, killing the rat and instantly dropping it for the next grab. Dogs with a mission.
All of you have interesting remarks and good tips. Thanks. Growing up in New York City, rats were and still are a problem there. The re-introduction of falcons into Manhattan has helped somewhat. They divebomb from up high when they see a rat and snap it up.
I don’t think the object was to kill rattlesnakes just because. They loaded them up in trailers and sold them for the meat. Around Sweetwater Texas it was. Probably not a fat rat for a hundred miles…
My Brother bought an abandoned 1 and 1/2 acre suburban property in the East Bay. The original property had once been larger with orchards surrounding it. As the area around it was developed the ground squirrels had all moved onto this property, under the foundation and house of course. Besides traps and blocking off and filling some of the burrows, he took his old truck around the property with a long pipe hooked up to the exhaust pipe. He started close to the house and then to those further away. After this process he was successful in gaining the upper hand.
I used the same basic carbon monoxide system when a hive of bees invaded my 1950 Amish farm house, a wood framed structure on a stone foundation. I located the 2 entry/exit holes between the frame part and the stone foundation, and hooked some of those heavy black rubber exhaust hoses from my car repair shop to my IH tractor’s exhaust, placing the hose exits next to the bee hive holes. Problem was, we ended up with fumes inside the house. [CO detector alarm went off.]
So I bought 2 used shop vacs, ran a power cord out to the location, plugged them in and placed both suction wands leaning against the wall right at the 2 locations. Each time a bee tried to enter or exit the hive, “slurp”, it was sucked into the shop vac!
The downside to this was the need to keep the shop vacs running from sunup to sundown day after day for over a week, because as with all hives, they were hatching new bees daily. But eventually it worked, and they were all gone. Saved me an estimated $1,500 to take the house siding off to remove the hive and queen.
As for keeping rodents out of vehicles, nothing works better than snake skins. Mice and rats can smell snake skins placed inside a car, and they will avoid the car at all costs. I typically place a small section of snake skin on top of the air cleaner, on the front & rear seats, and in the trunk. When I had my farm with multiple barns and garages, I used snake skins in over 20 vehicles with great success. Snake skins are not difficult to source, most pet stores will save them for you.
About eliminating mice from cars & buildings; Mice leave a trail of urine where ever they go. They can tell their own urine from others, and they WILL return to the places they have already entered. Field mice can enter holes small enough for a typical ball-point pen to be stuck into. On buildings, use a combination of coarse steel wool and latex caulk to keep them out, but first use a mix of water with 2% bleach solution in a spray bottle, soaking the area completely, to rid the urine smell. Then when dry, use the steel wool and caulk process to close the holes.
On cars, spray the water/bleach mix around the tires and around any entry points, especially on the firewall and missing weather strip sections. Spray the inside of the trunk as well. The 2% bleach is not strong enough to damage paint or fabrics. On cars in long-term storage, insert coarse steel wool into the tailpipe. Rodents CANNOT chew thru steel wool, and they do serious damage to their mouths when they chew on it.