Total bust at the wildlife refuge

Bald Eagle Perch © R. Niebrugge


I felt like going out to our local federal wildlife refuge Sunday.

I prodded Chris to go with me, it was a beautiful day and PERFECT for going out with the camera and hiking! We headed out there around 6 pm. There we’re a few cars, we started onto the hiking path, camera in hand, when we hear screaming up ahead.

Okay, it turns out the screaming was the joyful squeals of a 3 year old. We see up ahead a young woman carrying her child back to the car, followed by the young father with an excited dog on leash and one more kid. Well, thats good, we don’t need screaming kids and an excited dog scaring everything off the path. (Not to mention, pets aren’t allowed on the path :/)

So, Chris and I head out, almost immediately the family is back out on the path, on our heels and just trucking. Regrettebly, we wanted to take our time to not miss anything herp-wise, so we sped up. A hundred yards in, there was a fork on the road and we saw this as our chance to take a different path as them. We had the choice of "woodland path" or "marsh path". We chose at first, the marsh path.

People don’t know this about me, but I HATE mosquitoes. I get the worst swelling from their bites, and I wonder if I might be allergic to them, since I have a brother who is. We we’re very unprepared for the trip, we didn’t have any bug spray, and we’re immediately swarmed once we started on the path. I was immediately freaked and upset. I’m a panzy, I can’t handle mosquitoes.

I couldn’t take any more and said we needed to turn around and go with the "Woodland" walk, following the family of screeching children. Anything had to be better than the biting bugs.

They we’re well ahead of us by the time we started on the path, but the damage was done. Not one thing to look at, except for the cloud of mosquito’s hounding us the entire time. I don’t know why we kept on walking, maybe I was hoping we would see something, anything, I didn’t care what it was…

There we’re times on the walk where the damn bugs we’re so bad, I could feel us speed walking just to get back to the open sunny areas near the river. The path quickly took us away from the river back onto what I suspect was the damn "Marsh" walk.

When I’m around mosquito’s, I begin to physically feel little phantom pricks all over my body like I am being bitten by them, but this happens when I see one mosquito or hundreds, I know it’s just me freaking out, but it makes it very hard to enjoy anything. I was pretty miserable.

Somewhere, we catch up with the young family, they had stopped and we walked past them, thinking maybe this time we could see something uninterrupted. NOPE!!  Then, the young father and some other woman start almost immediately after us and very quickly. Blathering on loudly about dogs, and pretty much tailing us all the way back to the parking lot.

It sucked. My fault for not bringing bug spray, and going to a popular spot… but seriously? I couldn’t believe how LOUD this small family was, and how terrible the bugs were.

Very disappointed. That’s what I get for trying to get out of the house and enjoy the day.

Edit: By the way, I got three bites on my right arm and hand. This caused my hand to swell up, not like a balloon, but significant enough to make my fingers look like stuffed sausages. And I still have a huge swollen spot on the back of my hand by my pinky knuckle about the size of a half dollar. Eeee




I’ve been looking, reading and doing research into different hog feeds for feeding ASF’s, and perhaps the domestic rats, and let me tell you, this is no easy task. I’ve contacted Nutrena, and I am looking at some of their diets.

The problem is, finding a feed that doesn’t have the "roughage" products, which I am suspect isn’t easily digested by rats, and a feed that is NON medicated. Beyond that, many hog feeds have a lot of animal products and high copper levels.

While I am used to seeing animal porcine fat products, I’m not sure all of the meals being used. And the most troubling thing, some hog feeds have a really low amount of fat. Sometimes as low as 2%. I really like at least 6% fat, but I prefer 9% if I can.

I’ve also been looking at what a few local mills mix for their own hog feed, and I actually really think a local mill has something I can be happy with, but again, such a LOW amount of fat, it will probably cost more to have them add it in, and the main ingredient is corn. We’ll see how this goes, I’ll keep people updated with what I find.


Well, some good news and some bad news. Bad news first.

Bad news, Nutrena doesn’t have exactly what I want. The feed that sounds appropriate is the 18% grower, but is medicated, and a special order of non-medicated is more than I need a the moment. Especially when I am not 100% sold on it. Also, no mention of copper, as I know this is a concern for many breeders, of both snakes and rodents, since many hog feeds are very high in copper content. Zinc is high, but has been shown to be easily tolerated and rid by rats. (sources on request)

Nutrena 18% Grower:
18% crude Protein
3%  fat minimum
0.85% Lysine
5.5% max fiber
0.8-1.3% Calcium
0.65% Phosphorus
0.15-.65% Salt
0.3 ppm Selenium
123 ppm Zinc

The 14% finisher is non medicated, and that’s better, but such a low protein level, I can only use it for geriatric rats and adult males. This is  something I would consider only for companion pets and males. (No mention on copper amount either)

Nutrena 14% Finisher:
14% crude Protein
0.68 lysine,
3% min. fat,
5% max fiber,
0.6-.65 calcium,
0.55% phos,
0.25- 0.75 salt,
0.2 ppm selenium,
97 ppm zinc.

Now on to the good news.

Purina Show Chow- Show Pig 16 is in acceptable ranges AND, non medicated! This may be an alternative source of feed for the ASF’s and domestic rats. I am accepting that the copper levels are not extremely high, as other diets through Show Chow specifically say if the feed is high in copper content, whereas this feed does not mention it.

Crude Protein, % (min) 16.0
Lysine, % (min) 0.80
Crude Fat, % (min) 6.50
Crude Fiber, % (max) 3.00
Calcium, % (Ca) (min) 0.40
Calcium, % (Ca) (max) 0.90
Phosphorus, % (P) (min) 0.55
Salt, % (Na Cl) (min) 0.40
Salt, % (Na Cl) (max) 0.90
Selenium, ppm (Se) (min) 0.30
Zinc, ppm (Zn) (min) 240.00


ASF racks

Also, something I realize has been bouncing around over here. Our ASF production has just bloomed lately. We have 4 producing colonies, and I am blessed with a full, steady supply of LARGE males to feed off weekly! (^_^)

Things are going so well, I’ve revisited different tubs for building an ASF rack with.

I’ve always been hesitant because the tiny little pups, even before their eyes are open, will run out of the nest and drink from the water bottle. In a rack, the water bottle nozzle wouldn’t be low enough with the normal soft tubing and water nozzle set up.

So, if we do go with this, we’ll either continue to use water bottles, or have to figure out if it’s worth it putting in a water line for them.

Water bottle woes

I bought a brand spanking new water bottle for my ASF’s last weekend. Filled her up and thought all was well in the world. These guys go through a lot of water during the day, so I bought a larger size.

Except, I return in the morning to see this. Not one drop gone! What in the world? I know this group goes through a lot of water overnight…

So I start messing with the sipper valve ball, and water is coming out, the rats hear the ball and run over and start drinking like none other, having little wrestling matches over the water.

Feeling sorry for the guys, I gave them a couple of bowls of water to help quench their thirst. I thought it was a cute pic.

Turns out, if this particular bottle isn’t straight up and down, the air bubble doesn’t float to the top and let more water out.

Oh well, swapped it out with another of the same brand and size, and it works fine!

Interacting With Feeder Rats

Rats! Frequent handling of rats will make them gentle and easier to control. This is easy to accomplish if you start while they are young.

If you are allergic to rats, take an anti-histamine an hour before you go to work with the rats and wear a mask.

If you worry about being scratched, garden or welding gloves will keep you from getting scratched, although this can make it more difficult to handle the individual rats.

While you are holding them, it is a good idea to check them for physical defects (scratches, bites, shorn areas) and the presence of parasites. It’s easiest to do with very young rats. Begin handling them while they are still with the mother, and you will find it easier to work with them when they are adults.

"Rats are highly intelligent and sensitive. They need attention and will usually come to the front of their cages when a human being approaches. Rats will stay cooperative and easily manageable if they are treated kindly and if their cage area is kept clean and quiet." (