Besides the risks of hay becoming mouldy or possibly spontaneously combusting, you also have to concern yourself with pests. You don’t want creepy-crawly critters such as mice ruining your hay after you’ve painstakingly grown and baled it. Do hay bales attract mice?
Hay bales do indeed attract mice as well as other rodents because the bales make a suitable nesting place. In the autumn and winter when the days are shorter and the temperatures colder, mice are likelier to choose your bale of hay as their home.
In this article, we’ll talk further about what to do if you have a mouse problem on your farm. To keep your hay saleable, this is one article you’re not going to want to miss!
Do Mice Like Hay Bales?
Mice like hay bales because it provides good shelter, warmth and they like to eat certain varieties. Hay bales are the perfect nesting place for mice.
Although everyone’s seen memes of mice and rats on subways and in other places they shouldn’t be, when outdoors, mice like to nest just like any other animal. They choose areas that are difficult to be spotted such as deep shrubs, tall grass, and underbrush.
The reason? Mice are primarily prey animals. Snakes, skunks, dogs, cats, hawks, and owls are some of the creatures that will happily feast on mice, so hiding is what a mouse is good at.
See our fact sheet on mice in hay and how to prevent them.
Hay bales are a perfect spot for a mouse to take cover too. The average bale is dense enough that a mouse can hide undetected. It’s also a warm spot in the cold weather.
Once the mouse burrows into your baled hay, it will build a den. There, mice could procreate.
A mouse only gestates for 21 days max, which is three weeks. Each time a female mouse gives birth, it can be up to 14 pups.
She can get pregnant about five or 10 times per year, so you can see how a small mouse problem can grow very quickly.
It’s not only that mice will propagate in the hay, but they eat the stuff as well. Oat hay is their favorite, but a mouse isn’t picky. Other types of hay are fine.
How Do You Keep Mice Out of Hay Bales?
A mouse problem in your hay bales is serious. No one is going to want to buy hay that mice have lived in or munched on. After all, rodents like mice are known disease spreaders.
You want to get the mice out of your hay bales and keep them out for good. How do you do it?
Here’s what we recommend.
Increase Bale Moisture
This first method is admittedly risky considering that high moisture levels can cause your hay to spontaneously combust. However, it’s something you might be interested in trying, so we should take a moment to talk about it.
Using a dripper irrigation system or a soaker hose, wet the hay. Mice won’t be attracted to wet conditions. Do check your bale often for mould and/or mildew. Also, once you’re sure your mouse problem is behind you, be sure to dry out the hay.
Introduce a Predator
As we mentioned in the last section, mice are prey animals. Dogs, cats, and snakes are three common creatures that hunt and eat mice. Thus, you could let nature play out if you add any of these animals to your farm.
We have found that a few cats are good at keeping the mice population down.
Use a Sonic Beeper
Ultrasonic pest repellers release a high-frequency sound at an elevated pitch that people cannot hear. When pests such as mice hear the frequency and pitch, they can become incapacitated. In some cases, they can even die.
If not, they’ll want to get away from the source of the sound, so they should vacate the premises immediately.
An ultrasonic beeper may work on flies, bedbugs, birds, rats, silverfish, ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, and cockroaches as well as mice. The beeper shouldn’t harm the rest of your farm animals, but be on the lookout for abnormal reactions from any of them.
If one of those reactions occurs, it might be a good idea to move the beeper further from the rest of your farm.
Some farmers swear by using rock salt or butcher’s salt around the perimeter of their hay to keep mice out. Others say it doesn’t work.
It’s not that the mouse sees the salt and hightails it like a snail would. Rather, if the mouse eats the salt, their lower intestines become dehydrated, and death could follow.
Close Gaps and Seals
Now is also a good time to check out your barn or shed and confirm that it doesn’t have openings or gaps anywhere. As we’ve established, it doesn’t take a large gap for a mouse to find its way in.
Catch and Release
How do you catch a mouse? Well, you can use the tried and trusty mousetrap, but some people argue these traps are inhumane.
If you agree, then another option at your disposal is a bait station. Mice, even if they have an abundance of one type of food, enjoy some variety in their diets. Thus, they’ll be attracted to a small portion of a different type of food if they’ve been eating a lot of hay.
Once you catch a mouse with your bait station, you can transport the mouse away from your farm if you want to continue your humane practices. However, mice are persistent. They will keep coming back to your farm unless you block them out completely.
Should You Fumigate Your Hay Bales?
What if you’ve tried just about every avenue you can think of, and the mice just won’t go away? You might not be left without any other option outside of using chemicals.
Rodenticide, especially the stuff that’s designed for crops, should not cause long-term damage to your harvest.
For severe mouse infestations, some farmers may opt to fumigate their crops. Keep in mind that doing so can affect your ability to sell your hay. The stuff would be laden with chemicals and thus, you could not feed it to livestock.
Do Mice Like Straw Bales?
Hay bales are different from straw bales, which include cereal grain crop stalks. Straw bales are compiled after grains are harvested. The material that’s left goes into a straw bale, so it’s all byproducts.
Straw bales weigh less than hay bales, and they’re generally less expensive to sell since they’re not a premium crop product.
If your feed business imports or exports straw bales as well as hay bales, it doesn’t matter to a mouse. The mouse will happily make its home in either straw or hay.
We’d go as far as to say that mice love straw even more than they do hay. That’s not to say that a mouse would pass up on a chance to nest in your hay bale, especially if the bale is easily accessible to them.
Does Hay and Straw Attract Rats?
Throughout this entire article, we’ve talked about mice nesting in hay bales or even straw bales. What about rats?
Rats and mice are not the same, after all. A rat is a larger animal than a mouse. The creatures also produce a greasy residue on anything they touch.
All rodents will nest and eat hay and straw bales, and that includes rats.
Fortunately, the same removal methods that we discussed throughout this guide will work for rats as well as for mice. Other rodents that behave like mice and rats do should be removable this way as well.
The goal, we’ll remind you, is to refrain from using chemicals if you can.
Conclusion – Do Hay Bales Attract Mice?
Hay and straw bales are very attractive to rodents like rats and mice. They use the bales as a food source and as a safe nesting place to hide from predators and procreate.
Keeping rodents out of your hay is critical if you hope to sell the stuff. However, once a rat or mouse has been spotted, it would be irresponsible to sell that hay even after the rodent is removed. Rats and mice make a lot of droppings that could cause illness in livestock!