Goats and rats are neutral in terms of the enemy stakes. Neither sees the other as a threat or prey. They will happily coexist without tension. In simple terms, if you have goats this can attract rats because rats are attracted to food and water and places that provide safe havens for building nests and raising their young…. But goats can also keep rats away.
The bottom line is that if there’s easily accessible goat feed and undisturbed bedding material, then this will appeal to a rat colony on the lookout for new premises. They might be attracted to that environment.
However, goats have also been used successfully to create environments that are less desirable for rats to inhabit. They are efficient ground clearing agents and will leave few places for rats to hide, in the area surrounding a barnyard.
If you find your goats are attracted rats, you need to act.
Do goats kill rats?
Goats are not known for their rat catching prowess so will not kill rats. However, they have been used successfully to clear the growth of vegetation near dwellings and farmyards which provide hiding places for rodents.
There are instances of goats being rented out by farmers and business owners for land clearance projects. And in some areas, they and their projects have become tourist attractions.
Goats are spectacularly successful at bush clearing. If not checked, they can overgraze an area in an alarmingly short space of time. They are browsers, as opposed to grazers, like sheep. They will target succulent leaves and flowers on shrubs and low hanging trees, so you would want to keep them out of your prize rose garden.
However, they are not discerning to the point of being picky eaters, and will also convert stems, thorns and weeds into goat muscle and milk. They appear to be impervious to a variety of toxic plants, such as poison ivy, that could kill a lesser scavenger.
Rats are furtive creatures and prefer to operate under cover of darkness. They will not risk running the gauntlet across vast tracts of open space in order to look for food or water, unless they are desperate. A perimeter of cleared bush surrounding the barnyard will dramatically decrease the likelihood of a colony becoming established.
More efficient natural means of controlling rodents
So, besides their bush clearing skills, goats do not offer much in the way of rodent control. By far the most renowned rat catchers are barn cats. They need to live outside with the other farm animals and be wholly reliant on rodent kill as a food source. Any hint of pampering will destroy their hunting instincts.
Dogs, especially those bred for the task, such as Jack Russell Terriers, are relentless rat catchers. Their short legs and narrow chest cavities enable them to pursue rodents into their burrows to dispatch of them there.
Unlike cats who hunt to eat, dogs hunt to kill, so can quickly and easily decimate a colony, once their blood is up. If you add the element of competition in a pack of dogs, they will not stop until all the rodents have been cleared.
Chickens, particularly roosters, view rodents as legitimate prey. They kill them defensively, rather than as food. Rats can raid eggs from a chicken coop with great stealth, right from under brooding hens, and will attack ferociously, when threatened.
If you have ever seen a cock fight, you will know that roosters take the defense of their harems and territory seriously. When fighting with a rat, they tend to raise themselves up to their full height, removing themselves from the fray at their feet. They have spurs on their legs that can deliver fatal blows to the soft underbelly of a rat, regardless of its size.
If you can attract owls to live in your barn, they will help round up any stray rats during the night shift. Owls are carnivores and feed primarily on small animals. Like rats, they are nocturnal creatures so are more likely to see the true numbers of the rodents in the environment.
Rats are pests
Rats are unwelcome pests. Firstly, they are constantly chewing. Their rodent fore teeth are unlike human teeth. They keep growing and need to be ground down continuously. Consequently, rats will gnaw through most substances with ease and abandon.
Most of their chewing is targeted at gaining access to food but rats have been known to cause seemingly random damage to buildings and electrical wiring, compromising the infrastructure and sometimes causing fires.
Rats are prolific breeders. Once a rat family has established itself, their numbers will increase rapidly. Each female is fertile from the age of four months and is capable of producing up to four litters per annum.
Once they have found a suitable habitat – which could be the place where your goats live, rats tend not to wonder further than 100 yards from their home base. For every rat that you see, there are probably 20 to 30 that are hiding. They are most active around midnight so if you see rats during the day, you probably have an established colony.
Most alarming is that rats spread viral and bacterial disease. They act as hosts for fleas that carry disease from one animal species to another and ultimately, to humans. Most famously, rats are thought to be responsible for spreading the Bubonic plague which killed 25 million people globally, in the 17th century.
They excrete waste indiscriminately and can easily contaminate food bins with their droppings and urine. They are unhygienic and unwelcome guests.
What attracts rats?
Like most mammals, rats need access to water. They do not need much to sustain life so a leaking pipe or a dripping faucet will suffice. A pond set up to attract wildlife will meet the needs of a small colony.
Secondly, they need food. First prize is food lying around but they do not mind chewing through containers or building material to get to a steady supply. Keep your goat and other animal feeds in airtight containers, that are preferably made of metal.
As far as possible, try to feed your barn animals indoors which can be cleaned up easily. Any detritus left behind after feeding will attract rats and other pests.
Rats are not particular about their diet and will eat food scraps out of a refuse bin or off the compost heap, so keep these to a minimum.
In their foraging, they are aided and abetted by other wild animals, such as raccoons and squirrels, who scatter food while they scavenge. Refuse bins, and even bird feeders, need to be made secure against all comers.
Rats will thrive off fruit that has fallen onto the ground and started to decompose. If you have a rat problem, make a regular sweep of this temptation. It will also remove any fruit fly infestations you may have.
Goat bedding provides a warm place for rats to rest and nest, and hide their food. Goats are similar to rats, in that they excrete waste as the mood takes them. They do not have favoured middens like many other animal species. They will happily contaminate their own bedding and lie in it.
Therefore, their bedding should be changed regularly. This will prevent rats setting up home alongside your goat herd. These two species do not make uncomfortable bedfellows.
Like most warm-blooded animals, rats appreciate their creature comforts. They would prefer to come in out of the cold and wet weather of winter. If there is no way to gain access to your warm goat barn, they will make a way.
Rats can worm their way in through the smallest of gaps, enlarging them with their efficient gnashers, if necessary. Barns are invariably porous structures, as viewed from a rat’s perspective but judicially positioned metal flashing can go a long way towards thwarting the intruders.
Rats will make the most of vines that are growing up the walls of buildings or tree limbs that provide easy access to the roof or eaves.
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Image in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/cute-rodent-mouse-small-animal-3284412/