Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Conspiracy Theory

It was early Sunday morning and I was in the barn doing chores. I was about to clean Hank's stall when I noticed something very odd.

There was a tunnel, and it appeared to be linking Hank's stall with Wynonna's. 



Me: Wynonna, have you noticed anything odd recently? Perhaps the earth moving beneath you?
Wynonna: Go away. I'm resting.




I walked further into Wynonna's stall and spied some chicken feathers and miscellaneous detritus 
atop her pig palace. How very odd. The creatures who dug the tunnel apparently left a trail of trash.

I followed the clues and looked in the 6-inch-wide gap between the back of the pig palace and the barn wall.



To my horror, I found the makings of a packrat midden. Eighty bazillion acres of rangeland in New Mexico
and a cussed packrat has to build his/her nest in my barn, behind Wynonna's house and
safely tucked away from my carnivorous chickens. The stinkin' nerve.




As if the presence of the packrat nest weren't enough to push me over the edge, it was filled with piles of chicken feed – 
the high-protein crumbles that cost me upwards of $15 per sack. All winter long I've been thinking the girls 
have been eating a lot. Little did I know they were sharing their meals with a bunch of freeloading vermin.

Of course, the discovery of all the chicken feed behind the pig palace got me to wondering. How did they transport it? 
Surely not one crumble at a time. That's way too much work, even for an unemployed, freeloading packrat.

Here's my theory...

Deep in the middle of the night when the chickens and Wynonna are asleep, the packrats bring in their heavy equipment. 
One of them climbs a ladder to the feeder, then tosses the chicken feed to his buddy below, who is waiting with his wheelbarrow. 
He pushes the wheelbarrow through the tunnel and dumps the feed into the nest. This goes on all night long. 
How Wynonna and the girls sleep through all this activity amazes me. 

I realize this theory doesn't make much sense, but how else would a couple of packrats 
be able to move pounds of chicken feed?

I'm not sure what I'm going to do to resolve this dilemma. 
For now, I've relocated the feeder to inside the coop, which I close every night when I tuck the girls into bed.
The long-term solution would be a barn cat (or two), and I'm just not sure if I could go that route again.
Something to ponder, for sure.


45 comments:

  1. I never realized those critters caused such trouble and were so determined. You need to set up a outdoor camera that would catch them doing their stuff in the night. We have a couple set up in our woods to see what wildlife travels through ... they're fun to have and some aren't that expensive. One even came from Walmart, imagine that!

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  2. Any shelter cat(s) who got out of jail to come live in your barn would be grateful and fulfilled, whether they lived ten years or one.

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  3. Where do you think 'it / they' are hiding out during the day -- in the Galley-apartment?

    I understand why you are reluctant to have a permanent barn cat. Does anyone have a loaner or perhaps some cat hair since it is shedding season?

    Then there are sticky traps ... but if they are sizeable rats(well fed?!) they stickies might just be a nuisance for them. Not too fond of the large spring-triggered traps myself.

    M in NC

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  4. definitely a conspiracy theory here and you chose a great one. hope you get photos of those packrats.. wish i had an answer for you

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  5. AND the little jackwagon tried to get to your sunroom. He probably wants a margarita after all that dry chicken feed. The nerve, Where are the snakes when you need them??

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  6. Cats or snakes, and I can easily send you a black snake or two!! As for the cats....I might be able to find a few spares around here, also. We have a neighbor with a whole "herd" of feral cats.

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  7. I'm with June. A few barn cats with plenty to occupy them around the yard might not go out into Coyote territory and they would be a happy pair at your ranch.

    I have to admire the Packrat's intelligence and persistence. I hate sticky traps and D-Con.

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  8. You will need to be proactive --now. Taking time to ponder will only allow time for a couple of litters to be born. (I'm speaking from experience.)

    Highly recommend two "barn" cats. They can help lookout for one another. A "nearby" farm or ranch should have extra kitties. Better yet, a mom and a kitten.

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  9. By the third frame I was thinking "Templeton!!!"

    You have Wynonna (instead of Wilbur).

    All the 7MSN barnyard drama.

    Now all you need is Charlotte and we can read the messages in the web to see what happens next. :)

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  10. I am still chuckling about the heavy equipment
    :-)
    Yes, you need a barn cat, why not? You do have some vacancies to fill... Just do it

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  11. Just one of the reasons I love a non-poisonous snake in my barn. In our area, a nice black or corn snake would make quick work of the packrat family.

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  12. I had chickens at one time, too. One day, while leaving the coop, I bumped against the wall. Out tumbled chicken feed. Your options...cat(s), poison, live with them. I do not now have chickens, but I know the pack rats are probably still around.
    Mick

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  13. I understand your reticence regarding barn cats. If you aren't ready to go that route, I found snap traps to be a wonderful stand-in for cats. I had rats doing the very same thing in my chicken coop. I put out 3 traps each night and was rid of my rodent problem in a week or so.

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  14. Yup, I think "someone" is telling you it is time to go and rescue a couple of kitty cats with sharp teeth and claws from your local shelter!!!! they will repay you for springing them with purrs and a freeloader free barn.

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  15. Sometimes your posts have me literally laughing out loud. I love your little drawings of the packrats moving the chicken feed. We lose about half our chicken feed to sparrows and I'm not sure how to resolve that one.

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  16. Anonymous - much as I hate 'em, I'd MUCH rather share my barn with a rat than a snake!!

    If a new barn cat is definitely not an option, and you don't want to go down the poison route (could be tricky with chookies so close by) maybe try a humane trap and relocation to somewhere far, far away?

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  17. Throw in a couple of non poisonous snakes?

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  18. As soon as I saw "poop and cholla" I knew exactly what was going on. Are you missing any jewelry or other shiny trinkets? If so they are probably in that next some where.

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  19. You need to do a Google search for "Stuffed Cheeks." You will see the "heavy equipment" your pack rats use. And just think how snuggly warm and well fed they are under all that insulation and with all that chicken feed. But I'm betting you don't want to hurt them in the process of stopping them. They're so cute!

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  20. I know that it is hard to think of getting another barn cat. Being the animal lover you are, you care all the way to your toenails but I agree with the others...you need a couple of watch kittys to keep your barn safe and the band of thieving rats at bay.
    We were going to have no more cats after Sunny Bunny leaves this earth, but in the meantime two needful beauties, Cybella and Toad have come into our lives. So much for trying to safeguard my heart.
    Just leap. Oma Linda

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  21. snap traps, BIG ones. They work for us around our homestead for the odd mouse that gets in our space. Mice/rats can do so much damage is such a short time. And you definitely don't want bunches of them moving out of mom and dads into more of your lovely spaces.
    Good luck,
    CheyAnne

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  22. jone in AZ4/2/13, 8:18 AM

    The female packrat builds the huge nest. (If/when you clear it out, wear gloves and dust mask.) Forget the poison. You have too many animals around who could get it, and you don't want to poison the raptors. Humane or snap traps are the ticket. Good luck!

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  23. Stop them now~ don't let em reproduce! We had them outside, they were kinda cute... and then they wound up in the house with us! (gnawed there way in when winter came round, nicer in the house...)(we have 10 cats, they wanted nothing to do with them ~ too big!) They chewed wires, the walls it was horrible! I love animals and hate poison, but we had to hire out for "bait traps". We now live in peace once again.

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  24. Better trade the watch pig in for a watch dog, or cat!

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  25. Try using peppermint oil. I use it in my tack room and
    I know that it really works. You have to use the real kind, not peppermint extract. Just dribble it around or
    put it on cotton balls and tuck them here and there. Rats hate the stuff. You do need to reapply as soon as you can't smell it anymore. I got this info from an organic gardner who uses it to keep pest out of his garden.
    A very safe way to deal with rats.

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  26. Holy moly, that's some tunnel.

    I'd go for the nest before trying anything else.

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  27. Smart pack rats. They know quality when they see it and those are some five star accommodations there. At least it wasn't something more threatening, that likes the taste of pork or chicken, instead of just the feed.

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  28. I know it sounds weird but I lived in packrat heaven in Troy MT. for 14 years & twice a years I would but several bags of mothballs. Would toss them in all the places packrats hung out. Made sure the dogs, cats, chickens & others couldn't get to them. Even put them under the hood of the car. Always worked for us. Guess they stink to a packrat! Go figure...

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  29. I don't live in a good area for feral cats (nearby busy highway, coyotes, owls, hawks). Last year the gophers and voles were so bad I watched a hawk catch one on my front lawn in the middle of the day. Then someone dumped a pregnant feral cat here. This year I have 8 cats in the wood shed. I trapped them one-by-one when they were old enough and had them neutered and inoculated at the SPCA. I keep them well fed, but they've still totally eradicated the local rodent population. Because the cats are all related, they don't fight with each other. I'm hoping that will keep them from wandering into trouble. The only bad part is I really want to get my hands on them and PET them, but they're really wild.

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  30. Please consider rescuing a couple of kitties that would cure your problem and save their lives.

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  31. Want to hear one more "gettacat" comment? This is it, and maybe two or more would be better. You won't be sorry one bit.

    Cheers,
    Jo

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  32. I have a friend who lives in the country and rats chewed the wires in the engine of her brand new SUV. Your packrats seem more like over zealous shoppers. The alley behind the palace must be a good place to live.

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  33. Wow - what a read! I love your picture and drawing; you have a fantastic imagination. My daughter had hamsters when she was little; one went missing one year. A few weeks later I was standing on a chair to reach Christmas decorations on a closet shelf and noticed a pile of dry cat food in the corner. We finally found the little rascal; he'd been living free for weeks, getting food and water from the cat's bowls. My macho cat either ignored him or helped him! BTW, one of your commenters mentioned cat hair. I can send you plenty of that - my Emma sheds handsful when I brush her!!!

    Nancy in Iowa

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  34. Can you borrow a jack russel to leave out there for a few nights?? Maybe tie Smoochie out there??

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  35. Glue traps work too, if you dont want snap traps. But you have to glue or nail them to a 2x4 or 6, so they dont drag it off. Good luck!!

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  36. let's recognize it: packrats are cute and clever! they know about comfort, top grade food and good company, human and animal. I think I would like to be a packrat in your ranch!

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  37. After losing Deets, I can understand why you are reluctant to get another cat. But rescuing one or two from a shelter could be a good thing. Those blankety-blank pack rats are a royal pain. We have had them here. Get rid of the sucker before there are babies! Love the drawings of the heavy equipment!

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  38. Up by Manzano, we have a PRLP (that's Pack Rat Relocation Program). Over the past year, with Have a Heart traps we've transported 20 or 30 of the vermin from our place to new homes hundreds of yards away. It's an ongoing program with no end in sight; that seems to be a bit of reality in NM.

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  39. Maybe I shouldn't mention this, but chickens really love baby packrats. I don't mean, "oh, aren't they so cute!" kinda love, I mean, "yum, buttered popcorn!" Knowing your hens...Don't ask me how I know.

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  40. Tried to leave a post earlier, didn't work. I said: "oh no don't get barn cats! Just too risky/unfair to them in that environment"
    A Deets mourner (not that you don't mourn Deets even more than I do!)

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  41. I like your theory.

    You think they're unionized?

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  42. One good thing, they gave you a great post---Love the graphics--

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  43. You might try a 5 gallon bucket with water in it(enough for them to drown but not get out). Put a ramp up to the top and float some sunflower seeds or chicken feed on top of the water. They go after the seeds and fall in and can't get out. You could also use radiator fluid.

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  44. maybe heavy packrat equipment...OR, the 4 thousand of them come marching in at night and each grab a face full. i'm thinking more than 2 for sure...but if they've got the equipment, make a trade for some work done. fair's fair.

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  45. Bushnell Trail Cam! ONLY Way to take pictures when you are not there!

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