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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 safe haven.

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 parasites.”

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 resistant material.

  • 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.

Limit Opportunities

  • 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 concrete.

  • 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 www.Dictionary.com  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 barn.

Rodent Eradication

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 online at
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. Go to www.kamanimalservices.com  to register for the next webinar or sign-up to be notified when a new tip comes out.