It was the poet, Robert Burns, who so colourfully said “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, Gang aft a-gley” or “The best laid plans of mice and men, So often go awry”. I was prompted to dwell on these lines today, especially so since my plans to have a full day of writing went awry, replaced instead with not so much mice, but rats.
Late this morning, my husband came in from feeding our birds. “We have a problem,” he said, “I’ve just seen two rats in the aviary and three of the quails are missing.” Immediately, I threw on my coat and hat and headed out into the garden with him.
Our aviary is housed within our garage (the garage is not attached to the house, but rather is a separate structure, itself the size of a small house, in the garden), so the question was twofold one. Not only did we need to discover how and where the rats had got into the aviary, but how and where had they got into the garage? Within a few minutes, we had moved everything – lawnmower, tools, bikes, freestanding shelves, and everything in between – away from the walls, looking for any sign of where the rats may have been getting in. Upon moving two sacks of firewood, we found what we were looking for. Two holes, essentially two missing bricks, right at the bottom of one of the walls. The firewood had been standing there against that wall since the day we moved in. The house has both a wood burner and central heating, but we’ve never used the wood burner. Still, we chose to keep the sacks of firewood that we found in the garage on the day we moved in, just in case we ever had to use the wood burner. And so there they had remained, hiding two holes in the wall, two holes that were just waiting for an opportunist rat or two, to come along and find.
We duly blocked off the holes, using some old block paviours that we had left over from when we replaced the patio, and replaced everything back against the walls. We then turned our attention to the aviary itself. How the hell had the sneaky rats managed to get into there?
It didn’t take long to find a hole, gnawed through the wire and wood, at the far corner of the aviary. Once they were in, our poor ground dwelling quails didn’t stand a chance. The two – out of five – that we now have left, are the lucky ones. Our Zebra Finches were lucky too, safely out of reach up on their high perches. Two hours later, with wood and wire duly replaced, we felt relatively confident that our birds were now safe. Not that we’re taking any chances though. A couple of humane traps have been placed in the garage, just in case there are any weakened areas that escaped our notice. I refuse to place poison or any kind of trap that will harm the rats. They are, after all, only doing what comes naturally to them; plus, if I put poison down, one of my cats or one of the neighbourhood strays, could easily catch a poisoned rat, thus making a bad situation a whole lot worse.
I am now sitting at my desk, with a hot cup of Earl Grey tea to warm my hands and soothe my emotions in having lost three of my beloved quails. The best laid plans of mice and men do indeed often go awry, especially when a couple of rats stumble upon a veritable all-you-can-eat buffet…