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Integrating Wildlife into Homes

Adjustments in Architecture Provide Habitats for Creatures That Might Otherwise Destructively Invade
  (+18, -2)(+18, -2)
(+18, -2)
  [vote for,

All our little furry and scaly friends increasingly know a good thing when they see it. They see secure supplies of food; a warm, dry place to sleep and hide--and they will work tirelessly to dig or chew or peck until they get it. And they usually succeed, to the detriment of the house and its rightful owners.

One of my favorites at the local natural history museum when I was a kid, was an active beehive that was encased in glass inside the museum, with the entry/exit hole through the outside wall of the buliding. The bees were fascinating to watch, and they didn't care if a big, frog-like thing wanted to stare at them.

Take this idea a little further and provide accessible, cleanable habitats for: rats, mice, bats, geckos, raccoons (some limitations with this species), and a variety of birds that nest in boxes or tree hollows. (I had to rescue a bluebird from my Alabama woodstove once, when it thought that the metal chimney would make a great nest. A spark arrestor stopped that activity). Make the nest areas accessible for viewing in the same way that museums do--with one-way mirrors and lighting that allows the humans to follow the daily drama of the little creature's lives without interering or disturbing them (much). I'm sure this will get some "baked"'s, because such allowances have been made for certain species for some time. But I'm talking about a more extensive, integrated approach. It would be nice to put the rats to work, for example, if they are going to be there anyway. Figure out a way to get them to clean out the roof gutters. Let them shred documents. Look for things that these creatures do that can be useful in keeping the house running cleanly and efficiently, but at least it might be fun to be able to see what they are doing and better control their tendencies to chew through wiring etc.

entremanure, Apr 03 2002

Window-Mount Bird Feeder http://www.abirdswo...21&Category_Code=97
There are bird nesting boxes similar to this, but I tired of trying to find one online. [quarterbaker]

Bats in the belfry http://www.batcon.o...archer/bv4n2-4.html
Providing roosting space for bats in your attic [quarterbaker, Apr 03 2002, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Bats in the belfry http://www.batcon.o...archer/bv4n2-4.html
Providing roosting space for bats in your attic [davem, Apr 03 2002, last modified Oct 05 2004]

A safe haven for wild bats http://www.batworld...wild_sanctuary.html
[davem, Apr 03 2002, last modified Oct 21 2004]

I want to live outside, inside! My Dream Home http://www.brightid...7-AA54-21854A2732C3
Idea by djgeiger [LoriZ]

A flat with duck pond, cave and goldfish in the toilet http://www.globalid...org/wbi/WBI-37.HTML
Wildlife in the home, as baked by a friend of a friend. [LoriZ, Apr 06 2002, last modified Oct 21 2004]

A flat with duck pond, cave and goldfish in the toilet http://www.globalid...org/wbi/WBI-37.HTML
Wildlife in the home, as baked by a friend of a friend. [friendlyfire, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]


       And the birds will eat the ants and the rats will eat the bird eggs... Natural selection in action. And several of your windows and mirrors will start showing decomposing carcasses of cute animals after a short while.   

       Croissant anyway.
herilane, Apr 03 2002

       I know mice are just little critters. But my 86 year old mother has a few that have decided to permanently inhabit her house.   

       Somebody has figured out a job that worms can do, ie vermiculture composting, eating up all kinds of household garbage. What do you think? Is there any little task that mice might be assigned???
egs, Apr 03 2002

       I like this idea, though I'm not sure how practical it would be. I'll + it anyway.   

       I had just such a viewable bee colony in my high school biology lab. It was great to watch 'the dance'. What a strange way to communicate.   

       At one time in my youth, I had set up a temporary bird shelter in our family home's back porch. On particularly cold days, the local blackbirds had taken to hanging out on top of a neighbo(u)r's chimney. Apparently they'd get doped up on the fumes, I presumed anyway, because I would frequently find them lying in the snow all around our property, unable to fly because their wings would be snow-covered and frozen up. I'd take them in and get them warmed up, try to feed them a bit (generally not successful), and release them when they were back in shape.   

       Job for the mice: clock maintenance.
waugsqueke, Apr 03 2002

       There are these nifty reverse-bay window things available for bird lovers. Sort of like the easy-to-install "greenhouse" window boxes that can go into an existing window, but backwards. It's a glass box that projects into your house, with one-way mirror so you can see into the box, but the birds can't see into the house. Birds set up shop in the box, you and your cats enjoy the birds.

So that makes this somewhat baked. I'd provide a link, but I'm too lazy right now -- or too busy at work -- take your pick. Ah, hell, I'll find a link.

You could extend the model for other critters. Personally, I think it would be spiffy to have a bat alcove, though some kind of guano-removal system would have to be implemented. Consumer advice: encourage purple martins (for daytime feeding) and bats (for nighttime feeding) to live in your yard, and you'll be nearly mosquito-free (and free of lots of other flying bugs).
quarterbaker, Apr 03 2002

       waugs, actually there's a rather heated debate just now among bee experts about whether their "dance" really is used to communicate a nectar or pollen source, after all.
beauxeault, Apr 03 2002

       Hmmm, you would think you could go somewhere and see this stuff already. If not I will be the first to open one. I will call it... A ZOO.   

       If you must have wildlife that close, you can design your wooded backyard to attract anything. I'd rather keep them out of the living areas though. If you do not have a wooded backyard, move to a place where you have one, it is quite the stress reducer.
dag, Apr 03 2002

       dag, did you read the idea or just the title?
po, Apr 03 2002

       I like this idea. On the "Shower scum eating organism" thread hello_c posted a link to a New Scientist online article about a naturalist in Syndey, Oz, who encourages a couple of kinds of slug to live in his shower and eat the mildew. I believe he also cohabitates with spiders and geckos who earn their keep controlling insect pests. Unfortunately the article seems to have dropped off the New Scientist's current news queue...perhaps it's archived somewhere but I am too stupid to find it.   

       I intended to have a small waterhole on one edge of my yard, planted with reeds and mayhap a cattail or two, with a bit of hollow tree-stump on the edge, and perhaps attract frogs and birds and suchlike. Unfortunately my dog likes to play in it and quickly uproots anything I plant in the water, frightening off any small creature that has legs or wings with which to flee. But I like the idea of private urban wildlife niches.
Dog Ed, Apr 03 2002

       [po] of course I read the entire thing. Trying to provide usefulness out of common (wild) animals is quite difficult without training them. You will undoubtedly attract unwanted pests and predators along with the planned animals which could be quite a problem with direct connectivity to living areas. There are lots of birdhouses, wasp nests, burrow holes and animal dens near and around the house already, but usually at safer distances. It would be more practical to domesticate and train an animal to perform the rat tasks.   

       Zoos and science museums already have departments like mentioned in the idea, and have viewings of the animals doing specific tasks, most of which are much more natural than cleaning gutters and shredding documents. I can see just the viewing, but involve the animals in daily chores and the animal rights types will be at your door.
dag, Apr 03 2002

       rats are animals.
po, Apr 03 2002

       Technically, yes. I cannot argue that. By rat task, I meant the reference tasks in the idea designated to rats. I didn't mean to suggest that a putrid, gnawing, ugly, potentially disease bearing rodent was not an animal.   

       Sorry, the ugly part was just my opinion.
dag, Apr 03 2002

       re dag's zoo: It might be pretty interesting to have lions and tigers and koalas living in the walls of your house.
beauxeault, Apr 03 2002

       Thanks for the annotations.   

       Regarding the rat: I moved into my most recent 'fixer-upper' 7 years ago. I had at least one rat in the walls and attic, entering through burrows dug under the foundation. This rat seemed to be a genius for his (yes) species. I could not trap, see or otherwise catch him, nor could I find out where he was accessing the walls and attic, at least, not during the first few years. And I was convinced it was just the one rat based on the regular cycle of rat noises he made, usually when I was trying to get some sleep. One time Ithink he had a friend in the attic--it sounded like they were playing basketball or something--lots of running and jumping and wrestling.   

       I knew that he'd only live about 4 years so I put up with him. Periodically I'd try to find the hole or holes where he'd get in, and I'd plug them when found, but like a good rat he had several entrances and exits.   

       Then he got bold, eating birdseed from below the bird feeder in broad daylight, always zipping away if he detected me coming outside the house. He was a big black Norway rat, well-fed like a pet.   

       Then one day I dumped some old hot chocolate mix that I no longer wanted because I quit eating sugary foods. I dumped it onto the compost pile, which was not rat-proof. The next morning I noticed a little body laying in the driveway. I went out and there he was, recently dead because his eyes were still moist and open, laying on his fat belly. Apparently he had pigged out on the hot chocolate mix and had a stroke or heart attack while ambling back to the house. I turned him over and there was a big white star on his chest. I have subsequently found the last rat entry into the walls so there is no more rat romping in the walls and attic. The rat indirectly helped me to find all the holes that needed plugging.   

       My comments about shredding paper and cleaning out gutters were not to be taken seriously, of course, but still by knowing the behaviors of these animals it would be a small triumph to at least incrementally weave some of what they do into some useful function of the household. If they are going to be there anyway, why not at least ensure that they are not disease vectors. I have read that scientists are now learning about connections between the weather, rat fleas and the plague, for example. It might be some small change in house architecture or homestead management that keeps them healthy but at a distance and not reproducing excessively. Incidentally, maintaining piles of cane sugar for them ensure that the rats are fat, die early of diabites and have a low reproductive rate. Sugar used this way on farms, as a poison, can control them.
entremanure, Apr 04 2002

       Interesting rat story, but I'm missing the significance of the big white star on the rat's chest. Was he the local rat sherriff?
waugsqueke, Apr 04 2002

       I reckon so.
entremanure, Apr 05 2002

       Surely! Might have to wear earmuffs at night from all the sniffing noises the skunks make. They do that, you know.
entremanure, Apr 05 2002

       Sniffing noises--yes, that makes sense, I've always understood that skunks smell strongly.
Dog Ed, Apr 05 2002

       Flanked by some air power - Eagles would work nicely, supplemented by wasps. Now were getting somewhere, I take back all bad things that I have said about this idea.   

       Establishing protective animal perimeter now.
dag, Apr 05 2002

       Already baked, see Noah. Ok so that was a house boat. Already baked, see my wife.
cjacks, Oct 03 2005


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