For many people, their garden is the highlight of the home.
A place to relax outdoors, spend time with loved ones and socialise with friends, it’s important to keep yours in the very best condition in order to maximise your enjoyment and use of the space.
Gardens can face many kinds of threats, including damage from the weather (especially in the colder months), becoming overgrown due to a lack of maintenance and much more.
Another common issue gardens face is the threat of rats.
Rats are considered vermin and can cause a plethora of problems if an infestation visits your garden.
With this in mind, it’s essential to get rid of rats in the garden if you are unfortunate enough to encounter them.
In this article, we’ll explore the question of ‘how to get rid of rats in the garden?’ outlining everything you need to know about the issue.
Signs Of Rats In Your Garden
Before we look at how to get rid of rats in the garden, it’s important that you can identify the various signs and symptoms that might indicate the presence of rats.
These signs include:
- Rat droppings – One of the most obvious signs that your garden has a problem with rats is if you notice the presence of rat droppings. While droppings don’t necessarily mean that your garden specifically has a problem, (after all they could just be passing through) if you are finding droppings frequently then it suggests that they are probably lurking nearby. Rats defecate a lot. In fact, it’s estimated that they leave around 40 droppings per day! While this isn’t very pleasant, it does mean they leave a trace which makes them easier to identify. Typically, rat droppings are the size and shape of olives and are left in groupings. They’re different to mice droppings that are much smaller and pointier. Rat droppings do look very similar to squirrel droppings, but it’s worth noting that squirrels tend to do their business in the same location whereas rats will go just about anywhere.
- Footprints – While a little harder to spot than droppings, rat footprints are also a sign they may be on your premises. You might see the footprints in your garden’s dirt or soil, but again it’s not necessarily proof that you have a persistent issue. One technique you can try is to lay down some flour in your garden and look for consistent prints over a longer period.
- Burrows – Rats love to dig and another obvious sign that rats are present on your property is if you notice burrows. These will most likely be spotted in flower beds and grass as the rats use them for shelter.
- Bite marks – Like all rodents, rats’ front incisors never stop growing. This means they love to chew and gnaw, so if you come across teeth marks in cardboard, wood, plastic and other materials left outdoors.
Of course, physically seeing a rat or rats is undoubtedly the clearest sign that your home has a rat problem. However, like many creatures, rats follow a circadian rhythm which means they go about their business at night. So, unless you’re willing to forgo sleep to catch them in the act, they can be hard to spot. Some people will install night vision CCTV cameras in their gardens when seeking visual proof.
Problems Rats Can Cause
While some people keep rats as pets, wild rats that are not domesticated can cause all kinds of problems to our gardens and outdoor spaces.
The majority of these issues comes down to the fact that they are obsessed with chewing and gnawing which can do untold damage to all kinds of garden features.
However, the breadth of problems they cause can be significant.
This includes the following:
They destroy plants
Rats are not fussy when it comes to their food, and will typically eat pretty much anything. This means that any plants, flowers or vegetables you’re growing are likely to become victims of a rat’s diet if you do not deal with the issue promptly.
You may spot little bite marks in the leaves of your vegetation that indicate they have been enjoying a snack on your prized plants.
Containers and storage equipment damage
It’s not uncommon for homeowners to use outdoor space for storage, with packaging and containers often kept outside to store items like outdoor furniture.
As mentioned above, rats will chew and gnaw just about anything and you could find that your storage equipment becomes damaged as a result. Plastics and cardboard are particularly susceptible to this as they are ideal nesting materials for rats. Therefore, if you have boxes and the like lying around they’re likely to be damaged.
Not only will rats chew equipment, but the structures themselves can become damaged. Therefore, rats may gain access and cause damage to any outbuildings or sheds on your property. They can even bite their way through window frames, doors, beams and more.
Electrical wiring damage
Rats have been known to chew through wiring, so if you have outdoor lighting, power tool cables, lawnmower wires and other electrical products they could be permanently damaged by these rodents.
Perhaps the biggest risk to humans is that rats can carry all kinds of nasty viruses and diseases that can be spread to people. This includes leptospirosis (or Weil’s disease) which can cause kidney and liver failure and hantavirus which causes flu-like symptoms and respiratory problems.
How To Get Rid Of Rats In The Garden
Now we’ve outlined the common signs that you have rats in your garden as well as explained the various problems they can cause, let’s now turn our attention to how to get rid of rats in the garden.
There is a wide range of ways you can do this including the following:
Stop feeding birds
While many people have bird feeders in their gardens to provide local birds with a great source of food and nutrients, it might be worthwhile to stop doing this while you handle your rat problem.
This is because the grain and food that fall out of the feeders may attract rats and keep them coming back to your garden.
Keep your garden neat and tidy
A garden that is kept neat and tidy is far less likely to be attractive to rats compared to ones that are cluttered and overgrown.
This is because there are fewer places for rats to hide, burrow and make nests. You could also consider rearranging your garden and its outdoor furniture. Rats don’t like change, so moving things around and causing unexpected obstacles will likely spook them.
Block access to garden buildings
Minimising the number of places where rats can burrow and sleep is a great way to remove them from your property. If you spot any holes or gaps in sheds or outbuildings, block or seal them to prevent rats from gaining access.
The space beneath decking also provides a great spot for rats to live so block any gaps that may have appeared between planks, too.
Protect your compost bin
As well as reducing the number of places rats can live, minimising their access to food is another way to put them off your property. While compost bins are great for the environment and a solution to food wastage, rats can use them as a food source.
With this in mind, do your best to seal off your compost bin so rats cannot get to it. Also, don’t throw your leftover food scraps on there until the rat problem has gone away. This will hopefully stop them hanging around.
It’s also worth keeping the compost moist as rats hate wet environments.
Remove their water source
Rats cannot survive without a water supply, so removing this is one way to persuade them to look elsewhere. Secure your drains and stop taps from dripping.
Encourage the presence of predators
Another way to get rid of rats in your garden is to encourage nature to take its course. Rats don’t feature particularly highly on the food chain, and other nocturnal animals, like foxes, will happily eat them.
Encouraging foxes into your garden by leaving out food, such as meat, that they’ll enjoy could see them coming to visit your garden. They may then either eat the rats or at least scare them away. Foxes do not cause anywhere near as much damage to a garden compared with rats, so it’s far less of a problem to have them returning to your property on a regular basis.
Likewise, your household pets like dogs and cats may also be able to perform this role.
Use traps and poison
This is an absolute last resort and should only be used if you have no other choice. You can purchase traps and rat poison at local garden centres and it’s important to always follow the instructions on the label to make sure you’re using them correctly and not accidentally causing environmental harm.
For more great content and blogs on DIY, home improvement and garden care, check out the range of articles across our website.