top cx logo
cx logo
Explorearrow down
search icon
arrow down

French farmhouse renovation: DIY tricks to get rid of rats

Nick Inman charts the ups and downs of renovating an old French farmhouse. Here he shares his tips of getting rid of unwanted house guests

'I have to admit that I haven’t got the problem definitively cracked but I’m working on it' says Nick Inman of his 'house guests' Pic: Nick Inman

One day, water suddenly started pouring through the ceiling beneath the upstairs bathroom.

I tried to fix the problem myself but in the end called the plumber in.

He hacked his way through layers of polystyrene insulation and announced: “There’s your problem.” Rats had gnawed their way through the plastic trap beneath the shower. It must have taken them a long while and a lot of hunger. The plumber replaced the trap but then it really was my problem.

Any old house is alive. Its inhabitants were here long before we came and they do not easily acknowledge a change of ownership. Some are merely annoying – spiders and other creepy-crawlies. Others, such as owls, bats and lizards, may be welcome as long as they are discreet – but rats and other serious intruders need to be taken more seriously.

I have to admit that I haven’t got the problem definitively cracked but I’m working on it.

The first thing is to listen and observe – although wild animals are furtive. A field guide to wild animals’ droppings can be very useful to work out who you are dealing with but it is not foolproof.

I am still not sure what kind of creature takes up winter residence in my loft.

People tell me it is probably a fouine (beech or stone marten, martes foina) or loir (glis glis – the unfortunately named edible dormouse, a legendary noisy eater) but it goes to great lengths to be heard and not seen.

Next, you have to block up entry points. An old house is nothing but holes, but you have to try. You have to think rodent to do this: some can squeeze through ridiculously small holes. I have made the mistake of using paper but it is, of course, edible. Plastic works for small holes but for larger ones it has to be wire netting. It is also worth giving attention to internal animal motorways, where pipes and cables provide an invisible communication network between one ceiling and another. The third step is deterrence: make conditions inhospitable.

I have tried all sorts of products – mothballs, fly spray, poison, pepper, you name it – to prevent our loft becoming a wildlife sanctuary. A cocktail of noxious-smelling household chemicals seems to work until they evaporate. My son makes cocktails in a garden sprayer and I pump it around the attic.

The fourth is entrapment.

All I can tell you about this is that rodents learn, and you have to be as cunning as you can be: wear gloves to disguise the smell of human hands.

Before setting traps, reduce the number of potential hiding places. Snapper traps work for small beasts and I have had a little success with cage traps. Sticky pads are said to be good but one rat managed to roll over and extract himself, leaving only hairs behind.

Outside the house, eternal lawn mowing seems to keep snakes away from the house and outbuildings.

A cat (or two) is also good to have around the place but it will also decimate the population of small birds.

I also keep a close look out for hornets’ nests built in unfrequented places (even behind a shutter that is kept permanently closed).

In the end, the call of the wild will triumph. As for the animals that we occasionally hear skittering across the roof tiles at night in some bizarre version of the Olympic Games, there’s not much I can do to stop them, except camp out there with a shotgun.

There are limits to DIY.

Related stories

French farmhouse renovation: Tools I should have invested in

French poacher sentenced for trapping robins for BBQ delicacies

Resident or second-home owner in France?
Benefit from our daily digest of headlines and how-to's to help you make the most of life in France
By joining the newsletter, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy
See more popular articles
The Connexion Help Guides
featured helpguide
Healthcare in France*
Featured Help Guide
- Understand the French healthcare system, how you access it and how you are reimbursed - Useful if you are new to the French healthcare system or want a more in-depth understanding - Reader question and answer section Aimed at non-French nationals living here, the guide gives an overview of what you are (and are not) covered for. There is also information for second-home owners and regular visitors.
Get news, views and information from France