Sometimes when friends stay overnight, when they see our vehicles they ask if they should put their hood up. We just tell them that this depends on their willingness to take risks or not. What would they be risking by leaving their hood down in th country? Rodent damage.
The woods are full of little creatures with sharp teeth and an appreciation for plastic insulation around electrical wires. We learned the hard way that providing squirrels, mice, and rats shelter (aka garage, barns, sheds), food (aka livestock feed), and a warm bed (aka a vehicle engine before it cools down) is better than a “Vacancy” sign at a motel.
One of the first incidents was during the winter when we had the heater running on the truck. White smoke began to come out from the air vents. We turn the heater off and ran below freezing outside air through the system until we could take it to our local mechanic. He pulled out a pile of leaves that mice had bedded down in, tucked in nicely around the heater unit.
In sequence, both of our othe vehicles started having trouble running. The Subaru’s incident was driving to work, when it would not go into idle but continually ran fast. I had to take it out of gear if I wanted to go slower than 30 mph, coating up to stop lights, until I could coast into the repair shop parking lot. Rodents had crewed through the wiring of the electrical systme, shorting out the mechanism that regulates the engine speed.
Putting the hoods up at night cooled the cars down. But, we also needed some night patrol. Maggie, Queen of the Driveway, became our first mouser. She was an adorable kitten with fuzz-ball black hair and a bad attitude. Our neighbor who works at a vet’s office brought her home after someone brought her in to be cleaned up and left her. She was covered in maggots, hence her name (sorry, all you Margarets out there). She is now a big black fuzz-ball with an attitude, alternating nights between the garage, the garden shed, woodshed, and under the fire-pit furniture. If you sit quietly, at night, you will see her green eyes suddenly looking at you through a window.
A year later, our friend’s barn cat had a litter of three gray kittens. We befriended them, with permission, and brought them down to live in our calf barn. Smokey, Ashes, and Charcoal now bed down with our goats and ducks. Smokey is long haired and the other two short-haired and too similiar to tell apart. We just call them the Gray Boys.
Having barn cat parents, the ferral cat genes are pretty strong. You can tell this by their rodent hunting instinct. When they were kittens we saw them taken on rats twice their size. One moring I went to feed the critters in the barn. A trap that I had on a high shelf had caught a rat by the tail. It had crawled off, falling to the ground. While it lay their in its missery, each Gray Boy in turn walked up and took turns wacking it with their little paws. The other day, I saw the three of them playing “Pickle” with a mouse.
Bella is a great rodent patroller too. She keeps the voles, mice, and chipmunks in check (sorry, those cute little striped guys lose their charm when they start taking one bit out of every tomato in a row). Consider that the alternative is more black snakes in your yard. Bella is also chief big-game rodent warden, taking on squirrles and opposums that seek shelter and a mid-night nosh in our garage.
A final reason to leave the hood up at night is that such rodents might just take a nap on your engine block and still be there when you turn it over. All those belts whirling catch tails and other small body parts, making for a lot of noise and mess. Leaving the hood up, lets the rodent patrol clear the area before you have too.
So, if you stay for an over night visit, we will leave it up to you to decide whether you wish to leave the hood down or up.