The war started in earnest last week. There were skirmishes leading up to it, of course, but those were minor compared to the full-blown conflict that erupted after the discovery of the nest.
I was looking through a plastic bucket full of random bits and bridle pieces. I pulled out a bit, and something was moving at the bottom of the bucket, under various bits of chewed-up feed bags. Not good. I took out various items carefully, and squirming at the bottom were a group of pink, hairless, blind baby mice. I fought the urge to fling the bucket across the room and called for the assistance of Vladimir the Impaler, the yard black lab. I took the bucket into the courtyard and dumped it on the cement. It was all over very quickly.
The hunt for the parents began. Vlad is an excellent mouser, and he helped me root through every blanket, saddle pad, sheepskin cover, saddle, bridle and various other bits and pieces in the place. He caught two more adults.
The next day, there was one more in the trap, and I saw a corner I had missed the day before. My saddle room is in an unused stall, with a fixed manger in the corner. The manger had become a dumping ground for used plastic buckets and the like. I saw a mouse duck in. I gave chase, called Vlad, started moving around the buckets and found…a SECOND nest. Worse, one of the adults ran up my arm as it fled, jumping onto the saddle rack and running across the clothes line toward the grain sacks. Vlad jumped into the fray, upending buckets and flinging open cupboard doors in hot pursuit. It was too late. But there were still the babies. I scooped them into a plastic bucket and called Vlad into the courtyard. This time, I wanted to set an example.
“Are you watching, you guys? Have a look at this!” I yelled to the remaining mice as I flipped the squirming babies one by one into Vlad’s waiting jaws. Like gourmet sushi, he devoured them all. We reset the traps and again upended everything. Vlad had no more luck that day.
Someone suggested duct tape. Apparently they stick to strategically placed upside-down tape. They would be trapped alive, of course, but I had Vlad and wasn’t too worried about that. I put down duct tape. The mice laughed and proceeded to chew a coffee-cup-sized hole in one of my best wool exercise sheets. I was furious.
“I’ll get you, you fuckers!” I muttered as I again upended most of the saddle room, Vlad at the ready. No luck. I moved the wool sheets to a secure location (the cleaners) and set more traps. The mice laughed. They chewed a hole in the lining of one of my best saddle pads. I set more traps. Poison, of course, was not an option with a dog, horses and cats (who have proven to be 100 percent useless) around.
Then someone told me about a web site that suggested mint oil. Apparently mice can’t stand the smell of mint, and will avoid it. (The site’s motto: “Almost 70,000 rodents killed.”) Tonight, I sprayed mint oil everywhere. At least the saddle room smells good. Its effectiveness remains to be seen.
Anybody who has a barn has an occasional rodent problem, and anybody who says they never do is lying. We’ve had the occasional mouse, and too many pigeons (they count as rodents, in my book), but never anything like this. They get delivered with the straw, which my supplier stocks in tight large packets, heaven for mice. Vlad is on standby after every delivery, ready to do the necessary. But my last delivery apparently exceeded the capabilities of even Vlad, and the mice that escaped him moved in and set up housekeeping.
I think I have eliminated most of the hiding places. And if the mint oil works, I owe the folks at www.miceexterminationforbeginners.blogspot.com a big debt of gratitude!