EFA’s Production Management Committee invited Phil Merrill, Alberta Agriculture’s Provincial Rat and Pest Specialist to their last meeting to share his top tips for managing mice in a layer barn. We would like to share Phil’s expertise, the same that has helped keep Alberta rat free, with you.

Mice are opportunists, if there are no entry points, habitat, or feed, mouse control is relatively easy.

Eliminating food sources for mice can be a challenge in a poultry barn. While it is important to clean up spilled feed, mice can live on feed dust and leakage. Your best opportunity for managing mice is to prevent them from entering the barn in the first place.

The following tips will help you prevent mice from entering your barn through good design and maintenance:

  • Ideal barn construction for pest management will have at least 18” of brick or cement up the side of the exterior wall before metal siding starts.
  • Be careful of corrugated metal siding as mice can hide in the folds – siding should always start at least 18” above the ground. Use metal flashing where the siding and concrete meet.
  • Limit wood and concrete joints on the exterior of your building, as this is a potential point of entry. All wood that is lower than 18” from the ground should be covered in tin.
  • Cracks are a potential point of entry – fill cracks with cement filler. If using caulking, keep in mind that mice can chew through it, so use steel wool behind the caulk.
  • It is recommended that there be no grass for 50 feet around the barn.
    • The ideal product for around the barn is fractured 30-50ml screened gravel as it makes it difficult for mice to cross.
    • While a concrete pad around the barn may look nice, it is easy for a mouse to travel quickly over cement.
    • If you choose to have vegetation around the barn, keep it clipped short and be aware that you are going to have mice around the barn and will need to have significant mouse control in place.

All laying barns are required to have a pest control program in place as part of your SC-SC on farm food safety program. Here are Phil’s recommendations for a good pest control program:

  • Baiting is more effective than traps, but you do need to have traps in order to monitor your pest levels.
  • When choosing a bait:
    • Select a single feed bait so that mice only have to eat it once to be effective. If it has +Bromadiolone in the ingredients list then it is single feeding.
    • Cheese and dough textured bait is very effective – mice love it.
    • Anticoagulant baits are recommended – they are effective, but there is an antidote if a cat or dog eats it
    • Be sure the product you are choosing is registered for use in Alberta – some products aren’t, or are only approved for specific use. At this time the only single feed, dough textured, anticoagulant bait registered for outdoor use in Alberta is Resolv.   Final and Faststrike/Fast Draw are registered but can’t be used outside.
    • Organic producers are limited in their choice of baits but can use Rampage (cholcalciferol) in the barn, but outside of the bird housing area.
  • When placing bait:
    • Use bait stations at unsecured entrances to the building such as doors and the manure exit.
    • Bait attics and remote areas of your barn.
    • If you are experiencing pest issues in your barn, consider using more than one type of bait, providing choice for the mice.
    • By law, when baiting outside you must contain bait so that animals and children cannot access it. Unfortunately 10-20% of mice won’t go in bait boxes as they are too restrictive. Homemade bait boxes that look natural and are less restrictive can be very effective. To meet the legal requirements bait stations need to meet the following requirements: bait can’t be shook out, kids can’t reach into it and it has to be secured (ie to the wall). Tubes with a baffle, secured to the wall can work well.
  • Replace your bait with fresh product at least once a year
  • Change your bait product every other year as some mice will learn to avoid it if you always use the same product

For those of you interested in new technology, there is a new vacuum system being used for mouse control in facilities such as food plants and hospitals that must be mouse free. This may be the future of mouse control – a video demonstrating the system can be seen at: http://beatenpath.ca/how-it-works/.

Having an effective program in place for managing mice is important for safeguarding food safety and specifically for keeping Salmonella out of our layer barns. We hope you have found these tips from Phil helpful. For more information on how to manage mice and other pests such as beetles and flies, resources are available on the Producer website under Best Production Practices / Pest Control.