Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Tough Winter Looms for Farm Mice

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Fall

Everything is seasonal on a farm.  The spring bears witness to regeneration as the new plants push through the warming soil, and the livestock begins the frolicsome and necessary task of procreation.  The trees green in spring, and the peacocks lay their eggs.  If the hens are going to get "broody" and sit on some eggs, that usually happens as the weather is warming and the days are lengthening.  Spring is also the time when the little mice begin abandoning their winter homes in the farm's outbuildings and head into the nearby tall grasses and weeds for a summer of camping out.  Summer on the farm is a period of of sustained growth, fall is the when the fruits of summer are gathered and stored in preparation for the coming cold, and winter is for hunkering down and trying to survive the rigors of short days and frost-laden nights.

We are in the fall season now, and one sure sign of autumn is that the mice have begun packing up their camping gear and moving back into the out buildings - the barn, chicken coop, and garage.  Last winter they found warm hidey-holes in those old buildings and spent their days scurrying about living large on the grain that had been scattered for the poultry.  The chickens seemed to leave the little guys alone, and there was no cat.

This fall things are shaping up differently.  Fiona the cat has moved to Rock's Roost, and she considers the barn and the chicken coop to be her own special hunting grounds.  Some days she spends her waking hours exploring the barn, and many nights she chooses to sleep in the chicken coop.   When the little mice rush from one spot of safety to another, Fiona is often lurking enroute to meet them.

I mentioned last week that I had watched Ol' Speck, one of three farm guineas, swallow a mouse - a feat that took about ten minutes from whiskers to tail.  I've got a duck also which I expect to turn into a mouser.  If guineas and ducks can swallow mice, there should be no anatomical reason why a chicken could not do the same thing, but last winter I never observed that happening.  Yesterday, however, I did see the two young Red Jungle Fowl roosters sharing in a mouse kill, so perhaps they will educate the hens and get them inspired to eat the warm little rodents.

All things considered, it is shaping up to be a tough winter for the mice at Rock's Roost!

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