No room at the Inn for King Rat

I have an awful confession to make. DJ and I have made a small defenceless creature homeless at Christmas this year. Readers who followed our adventures last Christmas might remember that we took a small injured mouse by the name of Stuart Little into our home last year – after Dougal the cat attempted to torture it – and he escaped into our airing cupboard never to be seen again. Well, over the weekend DJ discovered his more rotund cousin living in our shed and I’m afraid we weren’t quite as hospitable this time around.

DJ had decided to take everything out of the shed and tidy it, partly because it was a complete pigsty and partly because he suspected a mouse may have taken up residence there, if the large holes in his wading boots were anything to go by. A few weekends ago he was rather annoyed to find the damage to them ahead of a trip with his mate Phil to go grayling fishing. He wound up having to shell out another £39 on replacement boots, which he grumbled about no end.

So having taken everything out of the shed, he armed himself bravely with a Dutch hoe, expecting to find mousey hiding out in one of the corners. But the sheer size of the squatter in the shed who leapt at him took DJ by surprise. This furry chap was enormous. It wasn’t in fact a mouse but a very prosperous looking rat. And no wonder, as he had been munching his way through not only DJ’s fishing boots but countless egg boxes, cardboard boxes, not to mention some of the corn and other feeds stored in the shed for the chickens, which was no doubt what had attracted him to the small pied á terre in the first place. We have yet to check, but we are praying he hasn’t munched his way through the lawn mower and rotavator cables, which would be a frugal disaster.

DJ came running into the house for backup. I was less scared of our squatter – I recently took care of my neighbour’s pet rats who are actually quite cute – and rather curious to see him. And this chap, whom we nicknamed King Rat after the James Clavell film we’d seen recently, was actually quite healthy looking. But I did let out a shriek when he almost ran up my pyjama leg. We managed to coax him out of the shed – I was terrified he’d run into the house through the kitchen door – and out into the back garden where for a while he hid behind some plant pots on the patio. Then eventually we watched him make a run for it to the bottom of the garden. He was so big you couldn’t miss him…

Having heard from Rik on the blog and from poultry forums that rats can be a real problem when you keep chickens, as well as carrying diseases, we were anxious that he wouldn’t get in the run with our hens. But DJ has a habit of leaving the shed door open sometimes at night, so I just hope King Rat doesn’t come back and reclaim his squatters’ rights!

Have a good weekend, Piper xxx

PS – Don’t forget to leave your best frugal cooking or kitchen-related tip on my previous entry about Fiona Beckett’s new book the Frugal Cook if you’d like to win a copy!

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8 Responses to No room at the Inn for King Rat

  1. Christine says:

    The only cure for King Rat is to secure the shed to get rid of his food supply, secure the chicken run to get rid of another source of food supply and to lay bait. There are forms of bait which attract the rats – the pigeon fanciers on the allotments use them and there has been a major purge on the rat population this year. It has helped that we have taken to securing the hiding places which provided shelter – under my cold frame was one place. So long as you have feed you will find that rat will return. I do hope that there are no urine problems with rat having spent time piddling on the feed for the hens – you could well end up loosing the flock else. Been there, seen that.

  2. piper says:

    Yikes. Didn\’t know that re the feed & rat pee – DJ has thrown it all out though and bought a new bag and is keeping it in the house for now. We\’re going to get a proper bin to keep it in too.

  3. Carole says:

    Oh god, Piper, that\’s a grim story. As someone who borders on having a rodent phobia, I\’m now terrified what might be lurking in my shed. Fortunately I don\’t keep chickens (outlawed in my very quaint leasehold agreement on my property), so fingers crossed I\’ll be okay.

  4. Christine says:

    Sorry to be the bearer of bad news Piper – learned that one the hard way from a vet many years ago in relation to the family dog and cat – the urine of the rat can certainly kill. Now please go and bait to get rid of Mr Rat and any other of his friends who come to visit.

  5. Nina says:

    Ohhhhh i will look out for the \’King\’! Our chook food is in a metal bin in the shed.

  6. Kerri says:

    From past experience (sharing a very large old house that backed onto an industrial estate, with a landlord who was next to useless), there is no such thing as a lone rat…. Although I don\’t like animals killed needlessly, sometimes \’control\’ is necessary. That said, if you are going to bait them, please make sure that Dougal isn\’t able to get to it (or in fact, anything in your shed he shouldn\’t eat, esp Antifreeze which can cause death very quicly in felines and apparently is particually tasty to them)

  7. piper says:

    Good point about the antifreeze, Kerri. I know it\’s fatal for dogs too. I nearly sent Dougal out in search of the rat before I remembered that years ago when I was a kid our cat Ben was bitten by one….

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