Rodent Control on Commercial Poultry Farms

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Rodents can be a major issue on commercial poultry farms. They can spread disease, cause feed losses and contamination, and cause structural damage to barns and equipment. From a waste management standpoint, they can tunnel under the foundations of houses and cause structural damage. In the buildings, they destroy curtains, gnaw on electrical wiring and insulation, and destroy ventilation systems.

Rodents are prolific breeders and can reproduce at amazing rates. The three rodents of concern in our area are the House mouse, Norway rat and the Roof rat. They all have some differences in behavior which can be used in determining control methods.

Rodents

Sanitation practices: minimize and clean up feed spills, mow around buildings/houses to decrease cover, throw away garbage frequently, and do not stack lumber and other construction debris near buildings. Exclusion is a lot harder in poultry houses themselves, but focus exclusion practices in offices, storage buildings and other buildings. Exclusion includes sealing cracks or openings in the building. Leave no holes larger than ¼ inch. Doors, windows and screens should fit tightly. Leave a three-foot-wide vegetation-free buffer area covered with gravel around poultry houses.

Population control: trapping can be an effective way to control rodents. Trapping rats may require more skill and labor. The advantages to trapping are that it doesn’t rely on potentially hazardous rodenticides, success is visible, it allows disposal of carcasses, and can eliminate odors. There are several available traps which can be single trap or multiple-capture live traps.

Rodenticides (toxic baits): baits are formulated with an attractant and a rodenticide in them. Some baits may be restricted use pesticides (RUP) and require a pesticide license. There are anticoagulant and non-anticoagulant rodenticides. Each of the rodenticides work in different ways to kill the rodents. There are situations where each type may be a better choice. Bait stations with rodenticides and placement is critical. Using a bait station targets the rodents and allows them to feel secure while eating the bait. Proper placement and maintenance are also important. Always wear gloves when putting out bait for your protection as well, as rodents will avoid the bait stations if they smell human scent on them.

To be effective in implementing a rodent control program, you must be monitoring and evaluating the program constantly. There are several reasons rodent programs may not be successful: not enough bait stations, the control area is too small, not enough exposure time to the bait, easy access to other food supplies, not stocking bait stations on a regular basis, choosing the wrong bait, moldy or old baits, and not rotating baits. It’s very important to properly handle rodenticides. Keep in mind the home range of the mice and the rats so you’ll ensure you have plenty of bait stations. Bait stations can be purchased or made on your own. If you have any questions about rodent control on your farm, contact your local Cooperative Extension office.

Becky Spearman, N.C. Cooperative Extension, Bladen County Center Director and Livestock Agent

Margaret Ross, NC State Extension Eastern Area Specialized Poultry Agent