Rats in the Garden: Advice, Control and EliminationJune 9, 2017
Last modified: July 2, 2020The guide to identifying, controlling and eliminating rats in your garden. Rats invade thousands of homes across the UK daily. Our guide can help!
Rats in the garden are a serious problem. These disease-carrying vermin can spread serious disease, such as leptospirosis, which can lead to Weil’s disease—a severe form of leptospirosis.
Greenhouses, sheds, including decking, offer the perfect hideout for rodents. Not only that, but they also could destroy fence panels, invading your garden space. Spending time in your garden should offer a relaxing experience, one which is beneficial to your health, so you certainly don’t want it ruined by a rodent infestation.
If you want to know how you can get rid of them, read to find out what signs to look for, including the preventive measures and the best ways to exterminate them. Let’s get started!
Rats can be easily spotted in the garden, especially during the day as we’re already familiar with how they look like. Despite that, it would be more helpful if you’re also aware of the two common rats in the UK, which have completely different appearances.
1. Brown Rat
Weighing over half a kilo and measuring around 23cm, not including its tail, the brown rat is the largest of the rats in the UK. They are also considered as omnivorous, eating pretty much anything from fruit and seeds to human food waste.
Brown rats are particularly common around towns and cities. Look out for its blunt muzzle, a tail which is shorter than its body and small furry ears.
2. Black Rat
Another rat that is common in Britain is the black rat. Weight half as much and is shorter than the brown ones, they have a muzzle, large, hairless ears and a tail that is longer than its body.
Despite their name, their coats vary in colours from black to grey-brown. Black rats are skilled and agile climbers; they can run along with telephone wires and make their nests high up in the roof spaces—giving them their other name of roof rats.
Note: Rats eat most root vegetables, including carrots, parsnips, beetroot, and potatoes. They also consume seeds and fruits. Having said that, the damage is likely to occur to crops. Their droppings may also be visible to where the damage has occurred, so make sure to keep an eye on them.
Rats have well-developed senses of smell taste and touch; they also have an acute sense of hearing—frequently using ultrasound to communicate, and are particularly sensitive to any sudden noise.
Moreover, both species breed rapidly and become sexually mature in about three months. Each female may produce from three to twelve litres of between six and eight young in a year.
They also need to gnaw to keep their constantly growing incisor teeth worn down as they often prey on woodwork, plastic, bricks and lead pipes, including stripping insulation from electrical cables.
Brown rats live in any location that provides food, water, and shelter. In homes, they dwell in roof spaces, wall cavities or under floorboards. In gardens, they burrow into grassy banks or under sheds. They are also often found living in sewer systems. Whereas black rats live only within buildings, such as dockside warehouses while they occupy rocks and cliffs on islands.
You may look for nesting areas under rubbish, timber and in drain pipes to spot them. Make sure to also check under decking and inside your garden shed, greenhouses, log cabins, and even your kid’s playhouse.
In addition, they normally come out at night to look for food resources, so you won’t necessarily notice them in the daytime.
Once rats started invading your home and garden, they can be very destructive. Apart from the diseases they carry and the health risks they pose, they can also cause damage to the area in which they are habiting, e.g. decking or inside your workshop.
As they are gnawing rodents, they will chew through wires and pipes, resulting in costly damages. You may first notice their presence through the noise they make at night but what you can’t discern is the destruction they are causing.
Stopping rats without poison is easy but only if you take the right prevention methods. But if you are past this point and need effective action now, poison and traps are the best solutions to get rid of them both in your home and garden for good.
Listed down below are the preventive measures you can start applying.
1. Keep Your Outdoor Space Tidy
If your garden is tidy, rats are less likely to take up home and stay there. Keeping the grass cut short, clearing cluttered storage areas and removing rubbish, especially near fences and garden buildings, are a few of the ways you keep your outdoor space tidy, preventing the rodents to take over your place.
Minimising the overgrown areas of your garden will also help prevent them from finding a spot to nest and hide. Plus, if your outdoor space is clean and neat, you are also more likely to spot them immediately if they decided to pay a visit.
3. Watch Out for Bird Feeders
Although bird feeders are great for encouraging wildlife into your garden, many rats and mice will climb up and overrun the feeding station to get bird food. A perfect alternative you can do is to use squirrel-proof feeder instead as it has a protective metal cage that blocks other animals, including rodents, from chewing through.
Note: If you suspect a rat’s nest in your garden, it’s best to stop using bird feeder and store bird and animal food in secure containers instead.
4. Block Access to Decking
In gaps below the garden decking, rats can easily find a home since for these main reasons: it’s sheltered, hard to get through and food scraps are readily available through the decking’s gap.
To prevent your decking from being their headquarters, you’ll want to ensure that you always sweep up any fallen food after barbeques and eating outdoors. If the problem persists, block access underneath the decking or consider installing a patio.
5. Move Things Around
In order for rodents to not get too comfortable in your garden, try to move things around frequently. Also, keep in mind that they are neophobic, which means they have a fear of new things.
They don’t like disruption to their territory, so position obstacles in their runs and move your garden furniture around as much as possible.
6. Block Access to Garden Buildings
Be sure to block any holes in the walls, floors, and doors of your garden buildings. You can add a metal kick plate to your shed door to block their entryway. You may also want to keep your wooden sheds and greenhouses secured so they can’t get in the building easily.
7. Keep an Eye on Crops
If you own a vegetable garden, rats will likely to target and eat most of your crops, including sweet corns, pumpkins, squash and root vegetables. To prevent this from happening, store your newly harvest veggies somewhere secure once collected.
Note: If you suspect that your stored or growing crops have been nibbled by rodents, don’t eat them. Also, make sure seeds are stored in a sealed container.
8. Protect Your Compost Bin
Your compost bin can also be targeted by rats. With that, make sure your bin or heap is inviting. What you can do is to not add food scraps that include green and brown materials inside so the wastes remain moist.
Tip: Put chicken wire underneath to prevent access. But if they have made a home in your bin, don’t use the compost on edible crops.
9. Pets as Deterrent
While it’s not advisable to get a pet purely for the purpose of catching rats, especially that rodents carry disease, pets can be a good deterrent.
Having a dog or cat could limit your risk of rats in your home or garden as they are a disruptive force, making the rats less likely to stay.
10. Remove Water Sources
Unlike mice, rats can’t survive without water. If possible, remove any water sources from your garden, including dripping taps. This way, they will lose their supply to water and are more likely to move somewhere else.
Tip: Secure drain and add baffles to drainpipes.
1. Spring/Snap Traps
Designed to kill rodents instantly with a spring release mechanism, spring traps are triggered when the rodent steps into the trap or takes some food bait.
Note: They can be dangerous if you have pets and children, especially when used outdoors. So make sure to place them on high-activity areas of the rat colony, such as in darkened corners of your garden or along walls, behind appliances, and all areas where droppings are evident.
Tip: Since they need to touch surfaces as they move, place the traps accordingly from 15 to 20 feet apart.
2. Electrocution Traps
This kind of trap discharges a high voltage shock when a rat walks on metal plates inside a containment box. They are an expensive method and not all can be used outdoors.
Note: Electrocution traps should be checked frequently for any dead animals.
3. Live Capture Traps
These are usually a small cage with a trigger mechanism to enclose the rodent when it pulls on the bait. A live capture trap also needs to be checked frequently to release any non-target animals caught.
4. Ultrasound Devices
An alternative method used to disperse rats. Ultrasound devices emit sound at frequencies beyond the range of human hearing.
Rats and mice experience high volume ultrasound which can repel them without affecting humans. Ultrasound, however, dissipates quickly with distance and is blocked by objects that create shadows.
There are a number of ways you can control rats, but we hope our Rats in the Garden: Advice, Control and Elimination guide will help you solve your rodent problems.
For traps and poisons, you can buy them at any garden centres near you but make sure to use them properly! On the other hand, you can contact your local council or professional pest controller to deal with rats effectively and immediately.