A Mouse Called Houdini


That’s him. Little Bugg*r. Houdini. He lives in a hole underneath the bird table. And he doesn’t live alone.

You may recall we purchased a couple of mousetraps over the summer. They worked OK rather too well and Mike ended up making many a 4 mile round trip to introduce our little friends to habitats new. It was probably the luminescent Marigold rubber gloves that got to him in truth but, whatever the reason, mouse trapping was declared suspended before it had really begun.

A month or so later, in the face of a small furry rodent population explosion, it was time to try again. To make the whole exercise a little less onerous a change in approach was called for. Rather than drive for miles out into the countryside we’d just pop them over the other side of the river. And hope they can’t swim. It’s still not entirely straightforward. With all the rain of recent weeks the river has been running very high. Over the top of Mike’s wellies in fact. It needed a finely judged route across stepping stones and he didn’t always come back dry.

And then how to tell if the mice were themselves coming back? I wanted to use spray dye. A can of the stuff that shepherds use on sheep. But sadly the mice scamper away rather too quickly for that, denying themselves the opportunity of a sporting, and rather fetching, Stabilo blue bum.

All went well for a couple of days. Then, walking down the steps to the greenhouse, I spotted a mouse in the trap and mentioned it to Mike. It could only have been a matter of minutes before he came to collect it but, when he did, the trap was empty. It was made clear that I was mistaken and I did wonder, not for the first time, about the possible consequences of my advancing middle age.

The traps were re-laid.

Next morning they sat silent and deserted. No mice. But, more to the point, no bait either. Just a few tell tale crumbs. Something had got in. And something had got out again too. The traps were clearly malfunctioning.

Nothing for it then but to order three brand new traps. Mike carefully prepared three peanut butter sandwiches and placed one in each. The next morning? Yep, you guessed. The mice have it all figured out. We are no longer mouse trapping. We are providing feeding stations. And no doubt a very comfortable shelter for the night.


A Mouse Called Houdini

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2017-11-21T10:57:10+00:00November 3rd, 2012|Tags: |


  1. simone November 3, 2012 at 4:06 pm - Reply

    The upside is they may die of obesity if they carry on eating peanut butter sandwiches!

    • Jessica November 3, 2012 at 4:10 pm - Reply

      That’s a very good point. They may also, like Pooh Bear, get stuck in the trap and be unable to get back out 🙂

  2. BadPenny November 3, 2012 at 5:14 pm - Reply

    or they may develop a peanut allergy ! My they are clever like squirrels eating from squirrel- proof bird feeders.
    I could always lend you a cat … I do have a few !

    • Jessica November 3, 2012 at 6:07 pm - Reply

      They may.. It’s a shame Finn is a bit too small for mousing, although you might not have got him back!

  3. Vera November 3, 2012 at 5:48 pm - Reply

    Oh mice! When mice invaded our home back in the UK I fought Lester hard and long to allow me to use humane mouse traps. Didn’t catch a single mouse. Lester warned me that where there was one mouse there would eventually be many. I didn’t take any notice, kept those humane traps baited, and waited, and waited, for several weeks actually. Then Lester bought some proper traps. Several of them. Put them round the house. For several nights we heard ‘snap, snap, snap’ as trap after trap went off, often one after the other. We must have ‘caught’ nearly twenty. So when we moved here I didn’t argue with him when he took up the fight with mice and rats, yes, rats. The first winter in the house rats were running along the tops of the walls. They don’t now. But they haven’t gone completely. They are now resident beneath the pig huts, and probably the sheep barn. But at least they are not in the house! At the moment!

    • Jessica November 3, 2012 at 6:23 pm - Reply

      Vera, I did so laugh at ‘snap, snap, snap’, but I would have hated it!
      Touching every piece of wood to hand, they are not in the house at the moment. Well, maybe in the roof. They are wood mice. We’ll never get rid of them completely whatever we try. We are surrounded by woodland! More will just come in. The best hope is to keep their numbers down, so that maybe we get to eat some of the veggies too!
      I haven’t seen any rats yet and hope it stays that way.

  4. Lyn November 3, 2012 at 10:19 pm - Reply

    Oh they are very clever aren’t they? Lucy use to catch them but doesn’t bother any more, quite glad as I hated them being brought in dead or alive !

    • Jessica November 3, 2012 at 10:44 pm - Reply

      They are. I’ve probably said it before – either mice or squirrels will take over the world. That’s the only thing that puts me off having a cat. Otherwise it would be the answer…

  5. Josephine November 4, 2012 at 5:23 am - Reply

    I have left several messages lately, but seem to be having trouble with your comment form not working correctly.
    We’ll see if this one goes through.

    • Jessica November 4, 2012 at 10:11 am - Reply

      I’m really sorry about this Jo. It’s so nice to get your comments, and I’d missed you! There was a WordPress update to the comment form about two weeks ago, and I’m beginning to wonder if this was the cause. Elaine mentioned problems too. What were the symptoms and how did you get around it? If you could give me the details I’ll report the fault. Jx

  6. Josephine November 4, 2012 at 5:27 am - Reply

    Well, it did !!
    When we first moved into our home, we had field mice in the garage and the attic. They would eat the dog food nightly, raise more babies, and became pets…..until my husband decided enough was enough, and we set those humane traps, and transported them all together with the dog food, across the creek.
    Sounds like you have your work cut out 🙂

    • Jessica November 4, 2012 at 10:22 am - Reply

      And did it work? Can they swim??! Although I’ll now need to find a way to keep them in the trap long enough…

  7. BadPenny November 4, 2012 at 8:24 am - Reply

    We had a big rat problem once so I had to call in the rat man who very funnily loooked like a rat ! He had to bait them for weeks putting bright blue pellets down the rat holes. I was worried thaty the cats would eat some.

    As we back on to a field, the problem will never go away but is under control. Field mice I adore & feel sad when the cats bring them in. We’ve saved a few & released them into the field.

    • Jessica November 4, 2012 at 10:30 am - Reply

      That’s what worries me about using poisoned bait. No cats (yet!) but there’s all the other wildlife around the place that would get affected. Ptolemy for one.

  8. Susan T November 4, 2012 at 10:12 am - Reply

    We occasionally get the same problem as we are surrounded by farmland. Thy look so sweet but they can do damage, eating leather weekend cases, gnawing through electicity wires! When my daughter was lttle we didn’t know she had adopted one ‘Pepe the pasta mouse’ she used to feed it bits of pasta and delight in it running to and from our french windows, that is until we got wind of it!

    • Jessica November 4, 2012 at 10:37 am - Reply

      Lovely story about your daughter..! Mice are a pain. But clever and determined – you can see the look in that mouse’s eyes!!

  9. john November 4, 2012 at 3:47 pm - Reply

    I always feel sorry for mice.. rats NEVER, but mice…. yes I do

    • Jessica November 4, 2012 at 4:10 pm - Reply

      They look like butter wouldn’t melt.. I don’t want to harm them. But between them and the slugs they’ve had virtually my entire veggie crop. And if there is a single flower bulb left anywhere, it’s only because they’re saving it for an even rainier day.

  10. Rosie November 4, 2012 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    They’ve been taking lessons from those crafty squirrels! It didn’t take them long to work out how to master those traps and get at their peanut sandwich reward:)

    • Jessica November 4, 2012 at 4:41 pm - Reply

      Mike has the trap in his workshop, Rosie. We need to have it apart and see if there is a way of strengthening it in some way.. Something with a brain that small is not going to defeat us.

  11. elaine November 4, 2012 at 4:56 pm - Reply

    What to do, what to do – if you weren’t so kindhearted about killing them your problem would probably be solved by now – do you have a cat if not you definitely nned a good mouser.

    • Jessica November 4, 2012 at 5:18 pm - Reply

      I’m getting closer, Elaine. I have to confess. I just need to work through the non-fatal options first!

  12. CherryPie November 4, 2012 at 11:29 pm - Reply

    We have had mice in our garden, I wasn’t too worried about them I think they were living in my garden shed. Next doors cats saw them all off, I am still not sure about how I feel about that :-/ But I suppose it is nature taking it’s course…

    • Jessica November 5, 2012 at 9:20 am - Reply

      Yes, we have them in the outbuildings too. Scuttling in the potting shed!

  13. Rose H November 7, 2012 at 11:16 pm - Reply

    Hello Jessica, I popped over from a comment you left for Dan at Frogs, Dogs and Ferns. This post made me laugh, we have wood mice living in our drystone wall no doubt encouraged by the bird feeders. I actually put sunflower hearts and dried fruit down for them as I love to watch their antics – and they are NOT in the house!
    Years ago we had a family of them move into the house during a very bad winter. I bought a live trap and caught quite a few until they were all gone, but I cannot tell you how much fuel I used driving three miles down the lanes, in deep snow drifts to release them in the woods….
    Rose H

    • Jessica November 7, 2012 at 11:53 pm - Reply

      Hello Rose, and welcome to rusty duck.
      They are funny aren’t they, and so sweet to look at. But we are inundated. I have no bulbs left in the garden, they’ve had all the brassicas this year, and they live in all the outhouses and my greenhouse. I really don’t want to harm them, hence trying the live traps! We will persist.

  14. B June 19, 2013 at 11:49 pm - Reply

    It’s about time I said ‘hello’. I wandered if from …. wherever I was, sorry can’t remember, and am thoroughly enjoying reading about your trials and tribulations. Much of it feels very familiar only we don’t have a cob house and your lovely woodland, but a 60’s bungalow and 2/3 acre has kept me more than a little busy for the past few years.

    re: the mousetraps. Sadly I can confirm that the pesky little b*ggers CAN and do escape from them with irritating regularity :{

    • Jessica June 20, 2013 at 9:02 am - Reply

      Hello! And welcome to rusty duck!
      2/3 acre is plenty. We bit off more than we can chew if I am honest. Luckily it is mostly woodland, so I can claim that I am keeping it untouched as a wildlife sanctuary..

  15. New Moons For Old November 23, 2015 at 8:12 am - Reply

    Sorry to add this comment so late, but I think the Houdini pictured may actually be a vole. They are adorable, but quite destructive burrowers and nibblers in the garden – they have eaten their way into our plastic ‘Dalek’ compost bin. On the upside, your tawny owls will love them.

    • Jessica November 23, 2015 at 8:36 pm - Reply

      I think you’re right. Recently we saw a vole and a mouse alongside each other and it’s clear where the differences are. We do seem to have more than our fair share of both. They eat anything other than metal.

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