Tags: Hatchery management | Whitepaper
29 January 2008,
Rodents (rats and mice) are documented carriers of Salmonella spp. and therefore present a serious concern for public health. A review of Meerburg et al. (2007) showed infection rates in rodent populations ranging from 0 - 77 per cent.
An entire breeder flock or hatchery can be contaminated by the presence of a single infected rodent, thus posing a risk to the rest of the food chain. Besides the danger of infection, rodents cause damage to buildings, electrical lines and water pipes, thereby affecting production and profitability. For these reasons, an effective rodent control program is essential.
Rodent control begins with getting to know your enemy. Rats are intelligent, social animals that live in colonies of several hundred individuals. These rodents have a strong tendency to burrow, especially into soil or under secure coverings such as piles of stones or rubbish - and they prefer to move under cover of darkness. They have a range of 100 meters plus - and they breed quickly. A healthy female can easily produce 5 litters per year, each of 8 - 10 pups, with offspring attaining sexual maturity in 8 - 12 weeks. As many as one third of the females in a population may be pregnant at any one time. And because of their agility and their ability to squeeze through small openings, it is very difficult to keep them out of poultry houses, feed stores and hatcheries. The range of mice is much smaller (5 meters) than for rats. However as mice reach sexual maturity 42 days after birth, populations grow much faster than those of rats. Being so small they are very easily carried, unnoticed, in for example egg boxes. They can enter a building through gaps as small as 6 mm (the diameter of a pencil!).
Rodent infestation can quickly take hold without even seeing a single animal, because their nocturnal habits tend to keep them away from human eyes. If a single rat is seen during daytime, there is already a sizeable infestation. To control rodents requires constant attention - and it is common for breeder farms and hatcheries, especially in the case of larger operations, to place responsibility for rodent control in the hands of a specialized pest control company.
An effective rodent control program involves three areas of activity: