Small­hold­ers should en­list fe­line help with ro­dents

Country Smallholding - - Ask the Experts -

QWe have been strug­gling to keep on top of rats on our small­hold­ing and some­one sug­gested get­ting a cou­ple of feral cats. Is this a good idea and how will they get on (or not) with my free range chick­ens?

AJack Smellie says: Feral or barn cats are read­ily avail­able from a va­ri­ety of cat res­cue cen­tres and they can do a great job of keep­ing your ro­dent pop­u­la­tion at bay. They are cer­tainly a far safer al­ter­na­tive to poi­sons and traps.

Firstly, you need to choose your res­cue cen­tre wisely and ex­plain what you want the cats for. These will not be cats that will live in your house, but they will still need feed­ing. They should be con­tained in a dog crate or sim­i­lar for a cou­ple of weeks, at least when you first get them so that they re­alise where home is. Keep the dog crate in the barn where you want them to live and hunt.

Af­ter two to three weeks open the cage, but con­tinue to feed them in the same place. Talk to them and be­have calmly around them. While you don’t want to en­cour­age them to get too friendly, they need to get used to you and your voice so they don’t get scared ev­ery time you go near them.

As for your poul­try, they should be fine. Most ducks and chick­ens will chase cats away. If you have young chicks, that might be a prob­lem, but if they are ac­com­pa­nied by a broody mum they should be fine too.

You will still need to feed a feral cat

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