Most people know that there are rats around, somewhere. We like to think that they’re somewhere else and not here. The truth is they’ll always be in your area and constantly trying to get at what you’ve got. I’ve been looking around to see if there are things we can do to keep them out of the garden.
Can a garden be rat proof?
The general conclusion is that you can’t keep rats out of a garden. For a garden to be rat proof, it would need a high concrete wall all the way around it and then they will probably climb it. A wall may be possible for some but for most it wouldn’t be practical. Rats are clever. Whatever attempt at making a garden rat proof would need to be beyond, almost, air proof. They can get through the most unbelievable gaps and that’s before we consider their ability to gnaw through cage-wire and brick. We have to accept that if a rat wants to get in somewhere it will keep going until it gets there. They have plenty of time to chew at anything that gets in their way. It’s almost impossible to make a garden rat proof.
If there was nothing in your garden that they want, they wouldn’t bother. They will just move off to somewhere else. Rats have a very keen sense of smell and if they get a whiff of something tasty, they will do whatever they can to get at it. This includes any food material that’s in the early stages of rotting in your compost bin.
If you know that you have rats in your garden you have to assess the level of infestation. If it looks like you’ve got a big problem then this calls for a big solution which usually means calling in professional experts who will, for a fee, deal with the problem for you.
If you find some evidence of rats present in the garden you can do things yourself. The evidence we’re looking for here are rat droppings, signs of chewing and rat holes. The holes will be the entrance to the burrow where they live and will be about 3 inches in diameter.
Using poison is an option and as an individual you can use it but you may only be allowed to buy small quantities. If you have a big problem with rats that may need a lot of poison you may find that you will need to be a registered rat poison user. This will depend on which country you live in.
Then there is the rat trap. Setting a rat trap is one of the easiest things to do. The modern rat traps are very easy to set and are quite hygienic to use. Catching a rat in a trap is often regarded as a moment of celebration for most, it’s one less.
How long does it take for rat poison to kill a rat?
There are blocks of poisonous rat bait available which will kill a rat in two to three days. This doesn’t mean that the rat is rolling around in agony for two to three days. A rat needs to ingest the poison over a short period of time. The effect of the poison will begin at two to three days at which point the rat will expire quickly. If you use this material you need to place it somewhere away from other animals. You need to make it difficult for cats and dogs to get at. It’s unlikely that domestic pets will find this type of material interesting but it is wise to take precautions.
You need to be able to conceal the poison somewhere in your garden but where the rat can get at it. There are poisons that are available in pellet form. These may be more appropriate as they can be fed through a rat baiting station. This method is much safer as it is difficult for other mammals to get at the poison.
The advantage of putting down poison outside of the house and in the garden is that you are less likely to experience rats dying in your house. This is something that you really need to try to avoid because of the smell. If it does happen that a rat dies in your house you will have an unpleasant smell for two or three days after which time it should disperse. This is assuming that you can’t get access to the rat corpse.
If you have rats burrowing in your garden it is most likely that, having taken the poison, they will go back to the burrow and that is where they will die and you probably won’t see or smell anything afterwards. This is by far the most agreeable outcome. If you can find where the rat holes are and you feel sure that the poison has worked enough to clear the rats completely, it makes sense to fill in the rat holes. Doing this you will take away the opportunity for new visiting rats to take up residence.
What do rats not like?
Rats don’t like smells that either warn them of predators or some form of toxin that evolution has protected them from. This could be the reason why rats don’t like the chemical smells of mothballs (naphthalene). They are also known to have a dislike of scents generated by eucalyptus oils, peppermint and citronella.
There are plenty of claims of what rats don’t like but you have to be aware that the rat is one of the cleverest and most determined animals on the planet. If they find something that they want they will put up with anything to be able to get at it. There are those who say that if you plant daffodils all the way around the border of your garden that this will keep rats away. I can’t think that this would be the case but if you want an excuse to plant daffodils then there it is.
Keeping rats out of your garden
What are rats afraid of?
Rats are afraid of being caught by dogs that are minded to chase them, and humans. Most creatures that are afraid of anything are usually afraid of other creatures that have the propensity to kill. The smell of peppermint oil and other pungent-smelling substances may put rats off but won’t frighten them.
Rats are afraid of us but only just. If they see anything bigger than themselves they will make a run for it because they are aware that they do have predators. Among these you can list dogs, cats and in countries where they are prevalent, snakes. On the subject of snakes, they can, sometimes, be found in compost heaps. We have a post that goes into the subject. Take a look at ‘Snakes in compost bin’ to find out what types of snake you may expect to see in your compost and whether you should be worried.
Never corner a rat because they will turn and jump at you in attack mode. You need to be aware of this because a cornered rat can be dangerous. It isn’t so much ‘what are rats afraid of’ but rats are what we should be afraid of.
What are rats attracted to?
Rats are attracted to all the foods that we eat. There is scarcely anything that they will turn their noses up at. We have a lot in common when it comes to cuisine. Their usual target is foods that we have left over and whatever we dump in the trash-can to be collected. Rats are also attracted to water. They will take it from pet bowls and bird baths.
You’re always likely to see rats within scuttling distance of a pond, lake or river.
Leaving food waste in plastic bags outside of a sealable bin to be collected is probably the easiest target for rats. Their teeth make light work of any plastic bags. They can be through it in a second and have access to whatever they can smell inside.
If you have a bird-seed table it’s almost certain that the local rats will know about it. When birds eat the seeds that you put out they tend to flick them around. A percentage of what you intended for the birds ends up on the ground around the feeder. The rats will get into a habit of ‘cleaning ‘this up. If you don’t see any bird seed on the ground this is most likely because the rats have beaten you to it and eaten it all.
Another highly effective rat attractant is keeping chickens in your garden. This is a paradise among paradises for rats. Think about it, here they have everything they could ever want. Chicken feed at ground level and provided regularly every day. The chickens are no competition at defending this food supply. There will also be water topped up daily for the chickens.
Added to this the house where the chickens live provides accommodation, not in the house but underneath it. Rats are the best when it comes to burrowing and they will dig an efficient network under any construction that you have in place for chickens.
It gets worse. Rats like chickens eggs. They can help themselves if they can get at them. They can do all of this and it’s quite possible that you won’t even know that it’s happening. Even if if you do see evidence of rats and then go to the trouble of adding extra wire-netting to keep them out, you need to know that this will be a temporary hindrance to them. Rats have teeth that will chew through metal wire. They’ll soon be in.
It isn’t just the edible waste that we leave lying around. Rats like heaps of any material to hide in. Piles of wood, piles of stones or any junk piles where there are voids in amongst it. This is where rats can hide and live. If this sounds familiar then expect rats to be in there somewhere.
You would think that the ideal solution would be for everyone to adopt a policy of keeping food waste tightly secured away so that there is nothing anywhere for rats to get at. This would work but the problem is this. If rats can’t find what they want on the surface then they will find it beneath our feet.
What I mean is the sewer. When you think of what they encounter in our underground sewerage systems you shouldn’t be surprised that we have difficulties in finding something that will deter them from coming into the garden. A nice border of daffodils must surely be quite refreshing to them compared to a night in the sewer.
What are rats a sign of?
Rats are usually a sign of an area being neglected. If there is food waste left lying around, this will attract rats and they will stay in the area. Rats are also a sign of plenty of suitable habitat where they can burrow in without being challenged.
If you see or know that there are rats around where you live it will mean one of two things. It may be that there is a plentiful food supply around for them on your premises or from one of your neighbours.
It could also mean that you are witnessing a plague of rats which has just turned up in your area. This occasionally happens and is quite common. These are rats which have originated from an area where they’ve been able to multiply but the circumstances have changed such that they all have to leave.
If a Plague of rats turns up in your area it may be that they will only stay a short while before moving off to somewhere else. This will depend on what food they find in your area. If there is nothing for them they will be gone and it’s quite possible that you won’t need to use any poison or put down the Trap.
I have experience for myself of a plague of rats appearing from nowhere. When this happens it’s easy to panic especially when you think of the damage that such a large number of rats can cause in a short space of time. Fortunately, in my experience, the problem only lasted a day. They disappeared as quickly as they came and it hasn’t happened since. I put this down to the fact that there was not an adequate food supply for them.
What are rats associated with?
Rats have been long associated with a number of bad diseases one of them being the bubonic plague. Otherwise known as ‘The Black Death’ this was prevalent in the 1300s across Europe. It’s believed that the disease was spread from the fleas that rats carried. Although the rat was held responsible for this disaster recent discoveries suggest that this wasn’t entirely the case.
There are however, a number of diseases that rats carry which are known about. Among these is lassa fever, this is more prevalent on the west coast of the African continent. Another being leptospirosis which can be contracted from having unhygienic access to the droppings or urine of infected rats.
Leptospirosis, otherwise known as Weil’s disease, can go unnoticed because the range of symptoms can go from having none to a flu like fever with serious complications. If there is one reason for getting rid of rats this has to be it.
If you have handled items which you think rats may have contaminated with their urine and you have unexplained pain in your muscles or flu like symptoms it would be wise to seek medical advice. If the problem is caught early enough medical intervention will help.
What are rats allergic to?
There are a number of foods that rats apparently have problems with. Among these are liquorice, poppy seeds and blue cheese. Green potatoes are also considered to be toxic to most animals including ourselves. The thing is rats have access to a wide range of everything that’s going and can therefore be choosy about what they eat. While they may have access to some of these potentially toxic foods it’s unlikely that they will consume enough to make any difference.
What are brown rats?
The brown rat Is often referred to as the street rat, the wharf rat, the Norway rat and the sewer rat. It is the most common rat found in Europe and North America having originated in northern China. It can be found in every continent except Antarctica.
Because of all the advantages it has the brown rat has arguably become the most successful mammal on earth.
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