Winter is a prime time for rodent populations to flourish
in horse barns; conditions are right for them to feed and multiply
rapidly. The availability of hay, straw, bedding, blankets, and
other fibrous barn supplies provide ample opportunity for nesting
and the construction of rodent condominiums. Add to that the supply
of concentrates, grains, supplements, cat and dog food, oil, and
other edibles and the average horse barn quickly becomes a rodent
There is no question that rodent infestations are
dangerous for horses and humans. According to an Ontario Ministry of
Agriculture Food & Rural Affairs Fact Sheet, “Rodents are also
responsible for aiding in the transmission of diseases such as
salmonellosis, leptospirosis, trichinosis and rabies. They can
harbour and spread mites, ticks, lice, fleas and internal
Of course, the best method of rodent control is
prevention. If you are building a barn you should talk to your
contractor about ways to limit rodent access to your facility.
If you already have a barn, there are a few ways you
can make it less desirable for rodents. Think about your existing
barn from a rodent’s perspective. How would they get in? Where would
they live? Do you have real estate that would appeal to a mouse or
rat family? What are the neighbors like? Where is the nearest all
you can eat buffet?
So how can horse owners and caretakers effectively
prevent and/or reduce barn rodent infestations?
Keep Clean and Organized
Keep your barn and feed room neat and clean.
Sweep up spilled grain immediately and dispose
of it and other trash in a sealed trash can.
Store blankets, towels, and other fibrous
supplies in sealed containers. Avoid heaping such items which
make great rodent nests.
Feed & Bedding Storage
Store grains, concentrates, and supplements in
sealed metal containers, preferably in a closed room of the
barn. Trash cans or lined feed bins work well for grains and
concentrates. Metal cabinets may be appropriate for supplement
storage. Storing in metal containers is only effective if the
lid/door is well secured and it is constructed of rodent
If you prepare feed in advance of meal time the
feed bags, buckets, or other containers should be stored in
metal, sealed containers. NEVER leave feed containing bags or
buckets hanging on stall doors, sitting on the tack room/feed
room floor, or outside of a mouse proof container.
Limit grain and concentrate purchases to only
what your horses will consume in a short period of time (1-2
weeks). If ample bin storage space is not available try to store
unopened sacks of feed in the most mouse-proof area. Monitor the
bags regularly for holes and evidence of rodents.
If possible store hay, straw, and bedding in a
separate building, away from your stable.
Check your barn for holes. Anything larger than
¼ inch will allow rodent access. Holes can be stuffed with steel
wool for a short term fix or permanently plugged with metal or
Eliminate spaces especially between walls and
under hay. These provide great nesting locations for mice and
rats. An EQUUS article recommends that hay may be stored on
“fines” rather than pallets. According to
the agricultural definition of “fines” is the fine bits of corn
kernel knocked off during handling of the grain.
Turn over stall bedding (especially that which
gets mounded in the corners) frequently to reduce the
desirability for rodent nesting.
During summer months keep grass mowed around the
Often barn cats and some dogs can be good deterrents
to mice. However if the mice far outnumber the predators, this may
only be mildly effective. Mice, rats, and other rodents will eat cat
and dog food, therefore it is important to ensure that you keep your
cat and dog food as secure as your concentrates and only feed what
can be reasonably consumed before the next regular feeding.
Baiting or poisoning rodents can be effective;
however mice and rat poison are also toxic to other farm animals and
humans. If dogs, cats, and/or children live on your farm it is best
not to poison rodents. Extreme caution should be used when placing
rodent bait so that your other animals do not ingest the poison.
Trapping rodents can be a much safer alternative to
poison but it is time consuming and not always effective, depending
on the type of traps employed.
More information on rodent control is available
In a joint effort to help educate the horse world, this tip is
brought to you by the Kentucky Horse Council (www.kentuckyhorse.org)
and KAM Animal Services, home of KAM’s “Equine Learning Circle” FREE
monthly webinars and weekly tips. The Kentucky Horse Council is a
nonprofit organization dedicated, through education and leadership,
to the protection and development of the Kentucky equine community.
www.kamanimalservices.com to register for the next webinar
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