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Archive for the ‘pests’ Category

Chicken Hazard — Rats

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One thing we learned, that when you have chickens (or other poultry) you have extra food around. As efficient as they are, they don’t always clean up after themselves.

We have been battling rats for the past year. If they were only in the chicken yard, I would be upset, but the fact that they are getting in my vegetable garden, I am livid. We built a giant cage a few years ago that is deer, rabbit and bird proof. It turns out, that it is not rat proof.

A full size rat can squeeze down to 1/2″. That is not a very big opening, and pretty hard to prevent them from getting everywhere.

It turns out that the rat problem in the Austin area has been worse due to the drought. The drought kills animals, both rats and their predators. Rats, however, recover much faster. The speed in which they reproduce can quickly cause an infestation, with no natural predators around.

A few months ago we rescued 2 cats. One is a great ratter, and one not so much. Carl (above) is quite a hunter. His only flaw is that he has a tendency to bring live rats in the house. The first few times I jumped up on a chair, but it’s amazing what you can get used to given enough exposure.

Carl has been helping, but it’s way too big a task for him singlehandedly.

We have been setting traps nightly. We go through phases where we catch a bunch and then things will be quiet for a while. The trick is to find out the rats natural path and set the traps.

We have found these traps to be the most effective.

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I set traps in the vegetable garden as well as in the chicken yard. Since we don’t want to accidentally catch a chicken, we have used one of our extra coops (the mom and baby coop which is currently empty). Each night I sprinkle a little food in there and set a few traps. If you care to look closely you can see where we caught 2 rats last night.

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It’s a slow process, I’ve heard it can take years, but we just have to keep at it.

The one thing you don’t want to do is poison the rats. When the predator eats the poisoned rat, there is often enough poison to kill the natural predator as well.

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It must be due to the rather wet winter, but the caterpillars are absolutely terrible this year. I didn’t have anywhere near this many last year. This is only my second spring at my current house, so I’m not sure if this is the norm or not. I haven’t busted out the Bt yet, I’ve just been going out several evenings a week and picking off the caterpillars after dark. We’ll see if I can keep this up 🙂

 

Tonight's Haul

 

 

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>Not All Gardening is Fun

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Last night my friend and I were admiring the giant yucca stalk that will soon be covered in flowers, when we discovered my nemesis.

Mixed in with the 100 or so yuccas was poison ivy. Argh!

Do you know how much it sucks to pull out poison ivy while being stabbed by needles? Not only did it hurt like heck, but each little stab put a hole in my gloves, risking further poison ivy exposure.

I wasn’t able to dig out all of the ivy, since some of it was in the middle of the yucca bed, so I’ll just have to keep an eye on it and regularly trim it back. I think I’ll also look into trimming back that yucca. I’m not sure which will be harder to get rid of.

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>Pillbugs

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The pillbugs in my garden are completely out of control. There have to be millions of them. I tried the beer trick, but there are just way too many of them. I accidentally tried duct tape, which captured a few hundred, but didn’t put a dent in the population. I questioned whether it was the straw mulch, but determined that wasn’t the issue. I tried leaving the soil exposed for a few weeks to see if they would leave on their own, nope.

The issue with the pillbugs is that they chowdown on young seedlings as well as eating bean seedlings before they can even come up from the ground. I finally went to the Natural Gardener, since my home remedies have failed miserably. They recommended Sluggo. I’m giving it a try and will post on my results.

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>Saving the Fall Harvest

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I had seen a few holes in the leaves over the weekend, but didn’t think much of it. I should have known better and next season I will. By Wednesday morning things were getting out of hand. It’s amazing the damage a few little caterpillars can do. I believe that I would have lost all of the cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, and kholrabi if I had waited a few more days. I picked off all of the caterpillars I could find and then sprayed Bt all over everything. I think even the most damaged plants will pull through ok.

Cabbage

Another cabbage view

One of the culprits

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>Asp / Puss Caterpillar

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I found this crazy guy on the knockout roses yesterday. I knew I had seen it in the “Texas Bug Book” and luckily didn’t touch him before finding out what he was. He has sharp spines hiding under the soft fluffy fur that are apparently pretty painful and full of poison.

I found another one stuck to the front door this morning.

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>Soldier Bug Update

>Today I looked closer at what I thought were “Spined Solder Bugs”, which are beneficial insects. I found three of them sucking from a tomato. Well, I was thinking that it didn’t seem like a very beneficial thing to do so I took another look at the Texas Bug Book and found that they are stink bugs. So I now have the trifecta on my cherry tomato plants, Tomato Horn Worms, Leaf-Footed Bugs and Stink Bugs. I will try and get a picture tomorrow while I am removing them.

I like the Texas Bug Book but wish it was organized a little differently. It would be nice if there was an index that was organized by the type of plant the bug was found on. I find that I usually have to look through the entire book a few times before narrowing down the culprit.

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