Forum home Wildlife gardening

Can you garden in a wildlife friendly way and not have rats?

Everything I have done/planted in my garden is in a wildlife friendly way.  I have built a pond, never use any form of pesticide, planted plants and flowers that are great for pollinators, built a compost heap, feed the birds and have a hedgehog feeding station which attracts on average 4 hedgehogs per night.  

But I have now got rats as well.  I noticed a pile of dug earth and a hole going under my compost heap so I set my wildlife camera up and filmed a pair of rats going in and out.  I love all wildlife and animals but admit that I’m very squeamish when it comes to rats, just the thought of them makes me squirm.  As a deterrent I (my husband) put cotton wool balls covered with garlic and olbas oil down their hole and blocked it up and that has temporarily stopped them going in that way but I have filmed the rat climbing up the outside of the compost heap.  My bird feeder has trays fitted underneath to catch any food that would drop on the ground and that has worked well for a few years.  

What do other people think of having rats in the garden? Should I just put up with it?  I’m not happy to use poison as I don’t like the thought of any animal dying a slow death and then poison getting into the food chain.  I think I would only be creating a vacancy for other rats to move in as we live in a very rural area with neighbours that keep chickens.  

I would like to deter them from setting up home in my garden but I don’t want to kill them using poison.  Am I fighting a losing battle?
South Devon 
«13456

Posts

  • FireFire Posts: 18,966
    I guess one question is - how far is the compost heap from the house? And How big is your garden?  An open heap is ideal habitat for all sorts of animals, including rats, for warmth, food, cover and breeding. People I know with c heaps on farms, tend to accept rats as part of the mix. They site their heaps well away from the residential areas, and they don’t worry about it. 

    If the rats are too near the house,  and the neighbours, one option might be to have a closed compost bin system, like using large, sealed bins with a lid and clips. If a rat gnaws the plastic, at least you can see the bite marks and have clear evidence. I like sealed bin systems. They are, of course, no good as habitat for hedgehogs, slow worms etc, but might help to address your rat problem. 

    Maybe hold off feeding the birds too for the foreseeable. Bits will be dropping down to the floor. Not much, perhaps, but enough, as a constant food source, to be an attractant. Rats love to climb. 
  • thevictorianthevictorian Posts: 1,255
    Food and shelter is the problem unfortunately. If you feed in the area, even if it isn't intended for them, and have a nice comfy home for them, then they will stay. We had the same issue a few years back so we stopped feeding the birds for a while and disturbed the compost bin (rats hate disturbance and will move on). 
    This year our hedgehog feeding has not only attracted hedgehogs but the odd rat and annoyingly neighbours, well fed cats. I don't mind the odd rat but don't really want a colony on our doorstep so cut back on the feeding which has helped (plus the hedgehogs come early so I can remove the mostly empty bowls before I go to bed).      
  • CatDouchCatDouch Posts: 482
    Yes @Fire I filmed the rat one night climbing up the smooth metal pole of the bird feeding station so I have ordered a squirrel baffle which should stop the rat/s climbing the pole.  The tiny amount of food that lands on the floor is hoovered up by the robins, dunnocks, pigeons and chaffinches. I regularly check and can’t see any food on the floor.  I think the lovely warm compost heap is the attraction to them.  It’s such a shame as my husband built me a very nice compost bin with wooden sides, a hinged opening at the bottom so I could get the good stuff out and last autumn I had loads of lovely compost which I spread on my vegetable garden.  Like you said, perhaps I need to replace it with a closed plastic bin.  
    South Devon 
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 87,881
    edited October 2022
    All of the above, and …

    Keep the compost damp … rats like a dry home. 

    Keep turning the compost regularly … rats don’t like constantly rebuilding their homes particularly if they’re breeding. 

    Bang hard and loudly on the side of the compost bin with a spade several times a day. Rats like a quiet home. 

    AND 

    don’t put cooked food or potatoes of any sort in your compost … not even peelings if you have rats around. My brother is a potato farmer … he says rats will gnaw through concrete to get at potatoes … they love them that much!!! 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.





  • CatDouchCatDouch Posts: 482
    Hi @thevictorian I’ve temporarily stopped feeding the hedgehogs even though I had never seen the rats on my camera going into the hedgehog feeding station.  I’m really hoping when I install the squirrel baffle on the pole of the bird feeding pole that will stop them climbing up.  I’ve got trays underneath the bird feeders that stop food dropping on the floor.  Like you, I don’t mind the odd rat but don’t want them setting up home and having babies 🙈
    South Devon 
  • CatDouchCatDouch Posts: 482
    Hi @Dovefromabove I’ve always been extremely careful about what I put in the compost bin and don’t put any food not even manky tomatoes or rotten apples.  I also read that rats don’t like damp compost bins so we ran a hosepipe down through it the other day but that hasn’t made any difference.  I must admit I haven’t turned it regularly and now I’m too scared to do it in case they jump out.  Aarggh I’d totally freak out 😂
    South Devon 
  • FireFire Posts: 18,966
    As Dove says, kicking or banging the bin every time you go past might help. 
  • thevictorianthevictorian Posts: 1,255
    edited October 2022
    We have plastic compost bins and I'm not sure they are a deterrent because it didn't take long for them to be either dig under (our sit on soil rather than concrete) or gnawed through them. I think the lid makes them more cosy.
    Saying that I am quite lazy so don't turn the soil and didn't notice until the spring when I found a mass of plastic bags and a nice big chamber in the bins. 

    Disturbance is the key I think.
  • CatDouchCatDouch Posts: 482
    Yes I think I’ll have to be brave and start banging it and just hope they don’t scuttle out.  I’ve got two dogs who always bark near the compost bin but that obviously doesn’t worry the rats.  I would hate for a rat to jump out and then the dogs get in a fight with it as they carry so many diseases.  It would be fine if they killed it outright but my terrier is very old and slow so I doubt if he’d manage it and my cockapoo would probably want to play with it.
    South Devon 
  • CatDouchCatDouch Posts: 482
    They are persistent little blighters I think @thevictorian 🙈
    South Devon 
Sign In or Register to comment.