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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Barn Cats: Non Toxic Pest Control

Thank you The Graphics Fairy for the vintage cat images.

Way down deep, we're all motivated by the same urges.  Cats have the courage to live by them. 
-Jim Davis 

Over on Estle Schipp Farm, we have several barn cats - eight at last count and all males.  You would think that there would be a constant struggle to be King of the Barn and yet there is not.  They are a tight knit group that are frequently seen snuggling together in the corner of the porch.  

In our first year of rural living, we had so much to learn.  For example, we did not know that mice love to chew the coating on wires.  During our first full winter here, we discovered that mice had chewed all the wires out of the lawn mower.  This is the same mower that cost several thousand more dollars than my first car (it is true that my first car was a used Chevy Vega...but still).  This was going to be an expensive fix. We needed a prevention plan.  

We gathered information from our neighbors and received various pieces of advice ranging from Irish Spring soap inside the mower, to mothballs to poison.  We never tried the mothballs after another neighbor said it wouldn't work.  We did try the soap; the mice ate it too along with the wires.  

So, we tried poison.  Unfortunately, we had a curious border collie who got in the poison and after a stint in doggie intensive care and a year long regimen of Vitamin K, we had spent even more money than the original fixing of the mower.  So future use of poison was definitely OUT! 

That lead us to get our first pair of barn cats and I'm so glad we did.  Not only have we had no more mice troubles in the barn and only rarely in the house but we also have the joy of watching their feline antics during the day.    

    Each one has his own personality: 
  • LK is the in, if you do not get out and feed them by 8:00am, he will move from window to window watching you until you get out there.  LK is the one that will jump up in your lap when you take a quiet break in the porch rocker. 
  • One-eyed Black-Jack - He was gone for awhile and when he came back, he was missing an eye.   Trust me, it does not affect him.  He is the best hunter ever! 
  • Grumpy - He is all white with grey ears and grey tail and if any other cat gets to the feed bin before him, he loudly complains for a very long time. 
  • Tiger - You will find him most days, partially crouched in the grass as if he were hunting something nearly every moment.  Either that or he is posing for a potential photo op. 
  • There are four black and white cats that are nearly identical.  Three of them get called Little Mister since I cannot tell them apart.  They have no tails and a little extra toe on their paws.  One does have a pencil thin mustache over his upper lip so I call him Rico Suave.  He walks about a half step right in front of you but when you reach down to pet him, he scampers away.  
Our cats spend their days hunting and playing and lounging in the sun on pretty days or curled up in the corner of the barn on colder days.  We are completely happy with the rodent control method we can chosen - it is effective and not adding poison to our homestead.  

Caring for our cats has been pretty easy.  In general, we provide these hard working members of our hobby farm with: 
  • High protein cat food daily- they will still hunt even if you provide food regularly
  • Access to clean water 
  • Shelter from rain, excessive heat and excessive cold
  • Appreciation when they present you with a "gift" from their hunt
  • Neutering and Vaccinations 
Caring for these valued members of our farm family takes only a few minutes a day but the reward they give us back has been huge - both as companions and as pest controllers.  Feeding and caring for them costs much less than repairing the mower every year.  Do you have barn cats as part of your hobby farm plan?  Let me know in the comments...

Tomorrow is gardening day and I will review the difference between heirloom seeds and hybrids and let you know which will make up my 2015 garden.  I hope to see you then. 

Peace be with you, 

Star Schipp 
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