Peg McLaughlin of Waterboro started out dealing with a rat problem. Before she knew it, there was an even more formidable predator visiting her chicken coop and potentially threatening her birds.
Video footage captured by the camera in the chicken run at McLaughlin’s home provides the fodder for today’s tale, which is definitely worth a read.
The moral of the story is that Mother Nature has a way of working things out on her own, but we’ll get back to that a little later. First, the rats.
“I’d been battling the rats with every trick in the book since the end of October,” McLaughlin said, stressing that they did not resort to poison.
“The rats were getting into the [chicken] feeder, so we started to bring it in early and keep it stored in a metal bucket,” she said.
Snap traps and sticky traps were not successful (“sticky traps are not a good idea in a chicken coop,” McLaughlin offered) and even a concoction of baking soda, sugar and flour — designed to give the rats a serious case of indigestion — didn’t work.
Other tactics included smoke bombs and placing a plank over a bucket of water, also to no avail. The rats were indifferent, although one did fall victim to a broomstick, McLaughlin said.
Finally, in December they invested in the “Ratinator” trap shown at the lower right in the videos. It works by sitting out, baited with food but unarmed, allowing the rats to feed freely for several days. Then, the trap is set and the unwitting rodents become victims of their own eating habits.
Before the “Ratinator” could complete its mission, another four-legged visitor — a mink — showed up on video in the run. Rather than partaking of the rat morsels, it decided to have the rat for dinner.
“In less than three minutes the rat is gone, just like that!” said McLaughlin, whose excitement was short-lived. “Such a blessing and what a threat! A mink can wipe out your flock in a heartbeat.”
Shevenell Webb, furbearer biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said mink are good hunters and have a well-rounded diet, depending on what’s available to them.
“Mink are a small but mighty predator in the weasel family. They live a semi-aquatic lifestyle, hunting over land and in the many waterways of Maine,” Webb said. “Their diet is diverse and includes fish, birds, crayfish, muskrats and small mammals.”
Webb said mink are dark and long like a fisher, but are much smaller in size. During the cold weather, they frequent frozen waterways near where there is some open water.
McLaughlin had taken numerous precautions to protect her chickens, but said the rat dug under the concrete pad upon which the coop was built. Assuming that the mink may also have utilized those tunnels, she filled them with concrete the day after the sighting.
“Our chicken run is completely covered with quarter-inch hardware cloth (wire mesh) with an apron of it dug into the ground all around the perimeter,” said McLaughlin, who isn’t positive how the mink got into the run or removed its prey.
“I believe the mink came in through a small space in the wire. However, there’s no way he could have removed the rat back through that space,” she said.
The good news is, there have been no further sightings of rats or the minks since the surprise visit.
“I’ve blocked every possible breach in the run,” McLaughlin said.
Many thanks to Peg McLaughlin for the videos!
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