Rats in the Garden - Identification, Treatment & Prevention Methods
Rats in the garden is a common problem to almost anyone who’s been living in a house. There are hundred of things which may attract rodents to your property. Since rats have decent a population they are the most prevalent animal you can spot at the territory of your garden or even indoors.
You can choose to simply deter them but such methods usually provide only a temporary solution for the rat problem. Your garden probably gives the perfect living conditions for rats such as shelter and food and if left undisturbed, they will multiply and increase their number very fast, which will only further increase the scale of the infestation. This will make getting rid of them harder and at much higher costs.
We recommend reading the guide below so you can get informed about anything related to having rats in the garden such as: identification, dangers, treatment, prevention and more.
Signs of Rats in Garden
The signs of rat infestation in the garden are clear and easy to spot. You won’t have to spend more than 10-15 minutes to fully investigate your property. This is the complete list of signs that you have rats in your yard. Check them out and if recognize a few them, then you certainly have a rat problem to deal with.
- Rat droppings
Rat droppings are distinct and have a different shape and size compared to the mice droppings. If you want to learn more about it, check this detailed guide on the difference between mice and rat droppings.
Rats defecate quite often and are able to produce up to 40 dropping per just 1 night. They resemble a large rice grain with a size of 9-14mm and dark brown colour. If you see such anywhere in your garden or in proximity to your house, it’s definitely rats you’re dealing with.
- Bite marks
Rats teeth have very tough enamel and according to Mohs Scale they rank 5.5, a bit over the tha humans’ 5 rank, which makes them able to gnaw through almost anything. Being able to chew through things such as: plastic; wood; brick; cement; lead; asbestos; aluminum; cinder blocks and more, makes the rat an animal that is easy to distinguish.
Their bite marks are distinct and if signs such as torn food packaging and damaged wood or plastic materials guarantee the presence of rats in the garden or the shed.
- Rat nests
Like any other rodent, rats make nests while they multiply. The perfect place for the vermin to take care of their newborns are dry places, hidden from predators. Rats are also easily attracted by clutter made of fabrics such as cloth or paper and cardboard materials.
Another requirement for a decent nest is a nearby food source. This is why leaving standard bird feeders in your garden is bad thing, instead simply use squirrel proof feeders, which are unreachable by rodents and significantly reduce the amount of grains being spilled.
Rats move a lot, in fact - they are often so active that leaving footprints is inevitable. Since they inhabit dusty or contaminated areas, whenever the rodents walk on such surfaces their feet and tails leave very distinct footprints. There is even a very simple way to find out if the marks were left any time soon and if the rats are still there.
Disperse some flour or anything with similar texture and wait for 1 or 2 days. It will most certainly take only several hours until the vermin walk over it for an inspection. By doing this they will leave the very same marks you’ve seen before. This means, a pest control should be initiated immediately, otherwise, the rat population may increase way too fast, which will cause even more problems and will definitely cost you more to get rid of them later.
Among all rat species, the brown rat is known for its exceptional abilities to dig faster and more efficiently. The core reason this species does so is to make shelter and secure a proper food shelter, as well as nesting environment for the future generation.
The most common places in the garden where rat burrows may be found are places in proximity to compost bins, nearby garden sheds, inside the garage, under shelters & deckings or anywhere else where food might be stored.
- Increased pet activity
Pets like cats and dogs have a much stronger hearing than ours which makes them able to detect sounds with very low frequency - the rats make most of the time.
Once a pet detects the activity of the rodents, it becomes very active and starts looking for the vermins’ hidings. Often, the pet’s main goal is to locate and kill the rats so the sounds may stop. If you notice your pet stuffing its nose inside crevices longer and more often than usual, you’re probably dealing with a severe rat infestation. This makes things easier as the rodents will be located faster, so you can proceed straight to their extermination.
- Rat Pathways
Runways made by rats, are made in order to ensure the rodents an easier access to food. Most often, such pathways cover the distance from the nest to the food source. The reason the vermin do so is to shorten the space between the 2 points.
- Rat smell
When a large number of rats infest a place there is a strong typical smell that may be sensed from a decent distance from the spot. The smell is very similar to this of ammonia because rats’ urine contains this compound. If your sights is not enough to spot the rats, maybe you should rely on your nose.
Are Rats in the Garden Dangerous?
The most important question here is whether rats are dangerous in general. The answer is - yes, they certainly are dangerous and may cause serious health-related problems. In addition, the sneaky rodents are very harmful to buildings and construction material such as bricks, wood, concrete and some metals.
Rats are known for being able to transmit various diseases, some of which may even be deadly if not treated properly and on time. This is why in the past many people have died after an encounter with a rat. In return, evolution has made us so cautious and afraid from rats. What may be a reason for concern if you have rats in the garden is any of the following potential threats:
- Get a rat bite
- Steal food from bird feeders
- Transmit various diseases - bubonic plague; hantavirus, rabbit fever;
- Harm your pets
- Cost you a fee from the council (See who is responsible for pest control in UK.)
- Eat your veggies
- Cause severe structural damage
Where Do Rats Nest in Gardens?
The rats’ nesting areas are common and no matter where the infestation is, rats seem to like particular places such as shed, greenhouses and buildings that provide the perfect shelter. Some of the places below seem to have proven as common places where rats nest:
- Under shelters
- Dry, warm places inside the house (they make their way through holes in the walls by gnawing on bricks and concrete)
- Cluttered areas
- Under the roof
- Inside sewers (which are in proximity to the garden)
Where Do Rats Live in the Garden?
Aside from spending time in the nest, rats enjoy climbing and exploring stuff. The are very curious to inspect plants and anything else that may seem edible. Thick vegetation attracts them, so do any recyclables. This is a larger list of places in your garden which rats would be curious to explore:
- Tunnels under the ground dig up by other animals such as moles
- Stacked firewood
- Cardboard or paper waste
- Recyclables of almost any kind
- Construction refuse such as wood, concrete, plastic, foam and more
- Compost bins filled with organic waste
If your goal is to deter the rats from these places, you can take try any of these actionable techniques:
- Remove vegetation in which they hide
- Replace standard bird feeders with squirrel-proof ones or remove them at all
- Stop feed wildlife at all
- Keep the compost bin closed somewhere inside the property
- Clean the property on a regular basis from any kind of waste. During the autumn, some extra effort is required because of the falling leaves.
- Fill any tunnels in the yard with dirt.
- Try to set ultrasonic rat repellents
What Do Rats Eat in the Garden?
Like most mammals, rats are not vegetarian and need animal fat, protein, and carbohydrates. But that won’t stop them from eating the vegetables and fruits in your garden. Especially bulbs, swollen stems, seeds, ripe fruit, root vegetables, such as potatoes, carrot, beetroot, corn cobs, pumpkins and squash and various. Bear in mind that, only a compost pile, fruits and vegetables might not keep rats in your garden for long. But if there are also food scraps, meats, oils and grains, or other fats, they will be strongly attracted to it.
Decomposing waste is a perfect place for rats to settle down, so it should be well monitored, and if possible, kept in a well closed metal container. Trash bags kept in the garden can turn into a dinner table for an entire colony of rats. To avoid offering them food and making your garden an even more enjoyable environment to them, keep your trash bags in sturdier cans with lids.
Animal food can also attract rats. If you feed your cat or dog, rabbits, chickens or pigeons in your garden, you might be attracting rats by offering them food. Gardens should be cleaned up regularly, not only from trash and animal food, but from animal waste as well, as it could provide food for the rats.
Plants That Deter Rats
Rats may eat your fruits and vegetables, however, there are a few that they will not near to. You can plant more of the following vegetables, herbs and spices, and plants to deter rats from your garden.
- Flowers that you can plant as a guard against rats are lavender, daffodils, and marigolds. Their scents, while enjoyable to us, is repugnant to rats and they stay away from it.
- Garlic is has several sulphur compounds that emit a pungent smell that deters rodents. Planting garlic in a few places in your garden will keep them at bay. It will also keep fleas and ticks away as well.
- Black pepper, cayenne, sage and oregano are also known to repel rodents. Planting or sprinkling them around the edges of your garden can be an effective way to keep rats away.
*Note. It is also said that tomato leaves and peppermint keep rats away from the garden, but our research proved that to be wrong. In fact, rats love to eat tomatoes. Check how to save your tomatoes from the rats.
How to Get Rid of Rats in the Garden?
It can be quite difficult to get rid of the rats once they have infested your garden. Scientists have warned us that most repellents have short-term effects and your problem might not be solved for a very long time. Even ultrasonic devices do not guarantee permanent results.
How to Deter Rats in Garden
Rats do not like changes. They can remember they ways around your garden and will hate it if something changes. So, to deter them you need to move things around, you should also do the following:
- Trim bushes, mow grass and remove weeds regularly, neat gardens do not provide a lot of places for rats to hide and nest;
- Having a dog or a cat can keep rats away for sure;
- Try planting the above mentioned herbs and plants;
- Keep compost and trash into sturdy and metal containers with tight lids;
- Store your bird and pet food into rodent-proof cans;
- Regularly remove fallen fruits and vegetables from the ground;
- Keep your garden clean from animal food and fecal matters;
- Remove all clutter and all things that a rat can nibble on from your shed;
- If possible, remove water sources from your garden.
- Place plastic mesh tubes around tender seedlings to prevent gophers and rats from eating them.
How to Catch Rats in Garden
- Traps for live capture are small cages with food bait that are triggered and close as soon as the rat enters. They should be checked regularly and you should have a place in mind to release them at or kill them humanely.
- Snap traps with springs. They are designed to kill the rodents instantly. How they work is by putting food bait and when the rat steps on it to eat, the spring releases the mechanism and it snaps and kills it. They should be placed strategically, near their entry holes and hidden from children and pets. See this video how to set a rat snap trap:
- Electrocution traps are also meant to kill the rodent right away. They are containment boxes with metal plates that are charged with high voltage and shocks the rodent as soon as it steps on them. They are quite expensive and effective but not all of them can be used in the garden.
The ingredients are rodenticides - diphacinone, brodifacoum, bromadiolone. Rat poison can be found in a variety of forms - blocks, pellets, bars, chunks, granules.
First kind of poison - kills the rats slowly. They can eat a few times from the poison and day in a couple of days.
Second kind kills them after single feeding. This is generally an easier way, you do not have to wait for days and know where to look for the rat carcass.
Using poison is less labour intensive and doesn’t require any special skills or tools. It is a cheaper version of traps and gets the job done. However, if you can't handle the rat infestation with poison on your own, don't hesitate to call experienced professionals who will do the rat control service for you.
Best Way to Get Rid of Rats in the Garden
For now the most effective method to get rid of rodents is a mixture of a few consecutive jobs. For successful elimination of your rats problem, first, eliminate what attracts the pest. Second, trap or kill the pest. Third, take measures to repel the rodents in the future.
Evict them from the burrows with water.
Water is the best eviction mechanism. Use a garden hose to flood their burrows. They might come back later once the water gets soaked in the soil, but if you do it again and again, eventually they won’t come back again.
Rats Spray Repellents
The pros of using sprays is that they are easy to apply, can cover a lot of territory and are considerably cheap compared to other rodent repellents. They are cheaper than concentrates but have less amount of the active ingredients and that’s a drawback.
This rat repellent is affordable, easy to use and can be easily found in stores. They can be placed even in hard to reach places, but are not highly recommended to use in the garden. They are toxic and are dangerous to pets and children, so be cautious with them.
They are one of the non-toxic ways to repel rats from your garden. This alternative way consists of a few key ingredients - essential oils - mint, cedar, rosemary, lemongrass; and diatomaceous granules. Some types of granules may have slightly different ingredients. *Be careful with their use when you have pets or children.
Electronic repellents are eco-friendly and use ultrasound that only rats can hear. The devices are considered to be very effective because they make rats panic and run away from your property. They are also the alternative to killing rats with poisons or traps. Other advantages of the electronic devices are their low energy consumption, they are rather inexpensive. But like all other rodent repellents their effectiveness is not yet proven to be permanent.
How to Get Rid of Rats in the Garden Without poison
Natural Rodent Repellents: Recipes
There are two main benefits of using natural rat repellents. First of all, they are cheap and second of all they are eco-friendly. And the fact that you can make them yourself. You can have a peace of mind that your garden will not be subjected to toxics, and pets and children will not be at risk. Most of the ingredients for natural repellents are already in your kitchen or will not require a lot of money to purchase.
Castor oil and garlic
We already talked about the garlic repelling rats. You can use it in a homemade repellent recipe. Minced garlic clove, two tablespoons castor oil, liquid dishwashing soap and tabasco are mixed into quart of water and shaken well. This is only to be used outdoors. Spray the edges of your garden and the entry holes of the rats.
On a cotton ball use no more than 5 drops of 100% peppermint essential oil. Spread the oil on areas that you want rats to avoid, in your case, around the garden. Re-apply on a weekly basis, or as often as you deem necessary. You can also mix it with water and make a spray. Use it on your plants, on garden furniture. While it may not chase them off your garden, it will at least keep them away from the sprayed areas.
If you are afraid of using traps or poisons, you can use ammonia. Place open containers or bowls with the ammonia where you have noticed rats. Or you can soak some cotton balls in it and leave them at the edges of your garden. This requires even less amount of work as it will evaporate on its own and you don’t need to spray anything.
Another things that can deter rats from your property is predator’s urine. You can actually purchase it at a sporting goods store or at a garden centre. You can choose among fox, bobcat or coyote urine. Again you can use cotton balls soaked in the urine to place around your garden and the smell will drive rats away from it.
How to Get Rid of Rats in the Garden Shed
Equip yourself with protective mask and gloves because you will probably be dealing with rat feces and urine. You need to find the nest first, it is the most crucial part so you know how many rats you are dealing with. If you can find and use a blacklight torch, it will make the job much easier as it can help you see urine or traces of the rats that are not easily seen.
Find the rat's’ entry points in your shed, keeping in mind that holes as small as coins can be their entry. Look carefully inside and outside of the shed. Corners, walls, even the roof and ceiling. Holes in the ground near the shed can also be their entry points. Inside the shed, look under things that are stored there, beneath them can be the holes.
When you have found all holes, you need to seal them with rodent resistant expanding foam they will not be able to gnaw. Such materials are sheet metal or metal meshing, cement, mortar, and other similar. If you notice, or know of any cracks in the foundation or the walls of the shed, you should seal them as well, using cement.
Install traps for killing or live-catching the rats inside and outside of the shed. They are easy to set up and not too expensive. There are a variety of traps for killing and live-catching the rats, it is up to you which one you buy. They work with food bait, and the best bait for rats is said to eb butter or peanut butter. You need to set the traps up properly and check on them on a regular basis. Wear gloves every time you dispose of a rat.
Take preventive measures to stop them from coming back to your garden and shed. For more efficient and permanent results, you can use a combination of the above mentioned rat repellents in your garden. Setting up a few traps in key places and a few repellents should be enough to keep rodents away.
How to Get Rid of Rats Nest in Garden
Seal entry holes and other entrances with metal or cement. Rats looking for shelter can find their way into your garden and settle into bushes, piles of wood or grass, and eventually they might get into your shed and nest there.
Eliminate their shelter options. If you there are no places in your garden that they can hide and they will move on. Keep your shed well sealed, keep your grass short, trim your bushes, do not leave trash or compost outside and easily accessed by rats. Secure wood piles by preventing access to them as well.
How to Get Rid of Rats in the Garden Humanely
Any adhesive type of traps, flat boxes or glue traps, must be avoided. Why? Because quite often a rat that is caught in this such a contraption might bite off or break their limb to get away from the glue. The glue can also badly scar and irritate their eyes.
Non-lethal rodent traps
These traps are used when you do not want to kill the rats. Live-capture traps are not expensive, they are simple to use and can be easily found in hardware stores, and humane societies. They are usually plastic or metal boxes with a door released by a spring, that when triggered by the rat inside of the box, closes and captures it alive.
They capture individual rats but if you start the process of capturing them at the first signs of rats, this will be enough to keep your garden vermin-free. If there is an infestation of rats already, you could combine the use of these traps with repellents.
Such traps are available at online stores, or you can make them yourself. It can take up a lot of time and patience to make the traps and deal with the pest problem. The advantage of catching the rats alive, is that you can relocate them and don’t even have to touch them.
Where to place traps?
Wherever you have seen rats, or rats droppings, near their entry points, around your garden and shed.
Use an attractive bait
Salty and sweet foods will attract rats. Peanut butter, seeds and saltine crackers are used quite often to catch rats.
The myth that rats love cheese has been disproven already. You can actually have a higher chance of catching a rat with candy or chocolate than with cheese.
Even pet food can be used as bait.
Where to set the rats free?
If you decide to go with non-lethal traps, you should first check if you are permitted to relocate rats in your area. You should decide on a place to relocate them and make sure it is kilometres away from your home, because rats can find their way back to your garden.
Any professional pest controller would advise that you do not dispose of rodents manually, be they dead or alive. A bite can put you in danger of an array of diseases, and getting in direct contact with a carcass is even worse. Simply inhaling the dust around it can cause respiratory problems.
But if you are doing it anyway, make sure you use protective clothing such as rubber gloves and a dust mask. If you want to dispose of a dead animal, bury it away from your house in a deep hole in the ground, so it doesn’t get dug up by neighbourhood pets. And, always check your own national and local regulations.
Rats in the Garden During the Day?
Seeing rats during the day is considered to be a sign of an infestation with great scale. In fact, this is more of a myth than an actual fact. Rats are nocturnal animals, which means they are more active during the night, however, seeing them during daylight is something completely normal.
As long as there isn’t any activity of people and natural predators of the rats, the rodents would feel safe enough to go out on inspection in the garden in search of food. If you cross their way at this moment, you will inevitably stumble upon at least one rat.
Another reason for a rat to go out of the nest during the day is if another dominant rats force it to do so - there is indeed a hierarchy among rats.
If a rat nest has been disturbed by a person or another animal, rats would leave it immediately. Since the nest is probably adjacent to the garden, they will have to cross it in order to flee from the nest, which is another possible reason why rats might be seen in the garden during the day.
If you don’t take care of the rats’ pathways and leave them be, the vermin will use these “roads” as passages during the day, which will only further increase the chances of spotting a rat in the garden during daylight. Best way to deal with this problem is to locate and destroy their pathways in the most comprehensive manner according to the situation.
Shooting Rats in Your garden - Is it Legal in UK ?
When other pest control methods are either too expensive or simply don’t work for your rat infestation, the first thing that comes to a person’s mind is to blow some rat brains out. While it may be effective, it will cost you time, effort and certainly some cash too. And this is not all, in some countries it may turn to be unlawful or permitted only under very particular circumstances
When it comes to shooting rats in UK, it may happen only when a list of requirements is strictly met. When you want to shoot wildlife you need to make a research about the following information:
- What you can hunt legally
- When it is allowed to do it
- What equipment you have permission to use
If any of the above is ignored, a person may end up jailed for causing harm to a wildlife animal.
In case you live on a rant and want to use an air rifle, you need permission from the landowner, because the weaponry is about to be used on his territory, respectively. You also need a certificate to use shotgun, rifle or other firearm.
A certificate is not required for air rifles up to 12 ft/lb and air pistols up to 6 ft/lb.
Check out this complete guide on how to use an air rifle for rat control in case you have the permission to do so.
Forbidden weapons to use include:
- Bows and crossbows