Brisbane Local Food

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Of possums, water cress and rats. The update.

September update:

Dear diary:  Just over 2 months have passed since I first posted this blog.  Time for an update!

Pleased to announce that the Percy problem has been solved with no harm to her or myself. I've now removed all the damn skewers and wire from my garden beds with no further worries in that regard.

The great War of the Grey Rat Clan is continuing.  Greens are still vanishing from the aquaponics bed.  The bloody things have almost killed my Kang Kong!  They fear no spotlights.  I got 3 yesterday and 2 today. The grand total of casualties over the last 2 months stands at 43!!  Can ya believe that?!

Original July post

I've continued to wage the War of the Possum for almost two months now.  As the greens in my aquaponics beds got slaughtered, I hooked up a new solar light system, complete with movement sensor, to scare him off.  All to no avail.  I keep planting my aquaponics bed, he keeps eating. But, this week...  

It began when my mate from Kilkoy brought me some water cress.  Of course, it was planted in the aquaponics bed.  Next morning, I found a rat floating in my duckweed box.  Nothing to do with the water cress, I just must have left an old bait in the shed.  The water cress doing fine.  The day after, two rats floating.  Jeez, I got rats in the shed.  Great.   Possum in the tree, rats in the shed and Percy the Bush Turkey continuing to engage in random attacks.  However, the water cress is still doing well.  At least the possum seems to have moved. 

Tonight, I forgot to put the chooks to bed.  So around 9, I went out to shove them up onto the perch (complete with, "You idiots are meant to do this yourselves!" abuse).  As I approached, there was a ruckus on the chook pen roof.  I pointed the torch and saw four rats scurry off into the shadows.

Put the girls to bed, with their normal abuse, when I thought, "Hang on a minute."  On checking the aquaponics bed, I found my water cress was gone.  Nearby was some rat poop!  

I don't have a possum.  I have goddam rats!  Many goddam rats! Tomorrow, I intend to buy some big rat traps.  I don't like the idea of baits (I have a few old ones left around because I'm lazy) but I much prefer a quick and painless kill (I know they're only rats but let's be a bit kind).  

Now, even though the possum turned out to be several dozen rats, that does not make Percy a Plymouth Rock hen.  Just saying... although, I might cut him some slack as well.  I'm pretty sure he leaves my apuaponics bed alone. 

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Comment by Rob Walter on July 21, 2015 at 11:07

I'm not so convinced about traps being more humane than poison anyway, Andrew. I have had so many experiences of bloody, horrendously injured rats and mice staggering around with or without the trap still attached. Sometimes you have to follow a blood trail in order to find some little shivering, suffering creature.

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on July 19, 2015 at 18:29

In deference to the mostly blameless Percy and Possum, I did NOT buy the big rat traps that I wanted.  I had visions of having to take a bloody great possum to the vet with a trap stuck on its nose, or Percy with one on his foot.  Both those critters have considerable claws. 

So, I went with the hi-tech baiting station - which cost me $25!!! and means I need to have poison near my aquaponics.  I expect that I'll be pulling rat bodies from the duckweed tanks for a while.  That's a job that's never much fun because you have to wait for them to bloat before they float.  Aww man.  I hate rats.  

Comment by Susan on July 19, 2015 at 18:11

Reading your story, I thought "GREAT! Andy's come across a natural rat killer - it must be the new watercress and I wonder what's in it that's killing them".  Then I read on :)  I hate rats - poison the lot I say.  I do have an automatic feeder but it is too high for the rats to reach and it is no spill so I don't have a problem with rats in the chicken coup.  Occasionally, I'll get a family move in to the garden (particularly when I have ripe corn) from the school next door (BTW if you EVER want to be horrified - walk around a school at night with a flashlight) but my poison comes out as soon as I see signs and my dog and cat keep them in check usually.

Comment by Dave Riley on July 19, 2015 at 15:57

One word: dog.

..and (so I have learnt) a chook pen accessible all around so that the dog can chase the rats without having to bust into the pen. All terriers supposedly make good ratters...but Jack Russells and Foxies are perhaps the best.

I have both.

Mine  are absolutely rat obsessed.

But dogs and possums...? Drawback. The possum will often simply sit there on the fence or shed or tree and Cheshire Cat the dog while eating your produce....as the dog  barks madly at 2.10 in  the morning.

They will nonetheless, prevent the possum from coming closer to the ground or landing...If you get up to check and shine a torch on the possum (at 2.15 AM)  it will exit the property and you'll reward the dog. In the interaction there is less chance that the possum will return.

That aside, I find over-feeding chooks encourages the rodents so I am very careful with the grain portions and always feed scraps at a time when there is still plenty of daylight left for the chooks to eat their way through them all so that there is nothing left for the rats.I never use feeders I just throw the grain at the chooks so they have to work on the ground for  their tucker.

My rule of thumb:You'll know when you have stopped over-feeding the hens when no other birds visit the coop.

Of course no meat bits. Rats love that.

A dog may also take a disliking to the Bush Turkey.

Comment by Lissa on July 19, 2015 at 7:17

It seems once you have chooks and chook food you have rodents.

At one point I had chooks living either side of me and my own aviary full of cockatiel grain. I still have a problem with mice and the occasional rat. If you have time have a look at this DISCUSSION we had some time back - there were some good ideas floated.

The best defence I had was my dogs, especially Gretel. They just loved hunting the rodents. Gret is now dead and gone and of the two dogs that remain one is deaf and can't hear them and the other blind and can't see them. Still keen you understand, but useless.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on July 19, 2015 at 1:11

Just about everyone has or has had rats and/or mice. If there's something they fancy you'll find out as you have. Even the Duchesses of DBay have rats ;-)

On a lighter note, there are rats in Africa who save lives, a lovely story. Amazing that someone saw the value in these animals and trained them. In the Wiki post there's a lot more about the value of rats.

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Vetiver grass helps to stabilise soil and protects it against erosion.  It can protect against pests and weeds. Vetiver is also used as animal feed. (Wiki.)

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