How to Get Rid of Rats in Your Garden

With the existence of gardens, rats create their own invitations to visit, even if they’re unwelcomed. What’s worse is that you may not always see them – you just see signs of their presence, which makes getting rid of them challenging.

The good news is that there are ways to deal with rats. In this article, we’ll share with you some techniques on how to get rid of rats in your garden.

Remove Food and Water Sources

Like anything else in the world, rats need food and water to survive – having a shelter isn’t enough on its own. With that in mind, when you eliminate one of these out of the equation, rats are less likely to stay in your garden.

And when we say food and water, we not only mean the sources visible to the naked eye but also the ones that don’t cross your mind. For instance, check that the water taps in your garden aren’t dripping, stop using a birdbath if you have one, close any garden hoses, and similar. Just secure all drains and add baffles to every drainpipe.

Moreover, if you own pets, always make sure to remove their food and water bowls during the night. Also, if you have compost, it’s best to bury it in the bin where it can’t be seen and then tightly secure the bin lids. 

It also goes without saying that you can’t leave garbage bags outside over the course of the day.

Keep Your Garden Tidy

Rats are pretty smart, which is why they seek shelter in areas where they can go “undercover” and not be noticed. For that reason, if you always keep your garden tidy, they won’t be attracted to it since it won’t provide them with the hole-and-corner shelter they’re seeking.

To keep your garden clean, you need to work on removing excess piles of wood, eliminating garden clippings, cutting overgrown trees, bushes, or grass, clearing cluttered areas of storage, removing any garbage, and picking up any food (like fallen fruit or vegetables.) While you do so, pay special attention to areas near garden buildings and fences – that’s where rats reside most.

Observe Your Crops

Following up on fallen fruit’s note, it’s worth mentioning that you need to be on the lookout for nibbled crops by rats. That’s often one of the very first signs of rat presence since rats eat a lot of our usual crops, like vegetables, apples, pumpkins, or even sweetcorn. You should do your best to harvest them once they’re ready and secure them somewhere safe right away.

P.S.: Rats basically eat anything they come across, so you shouldn’t be surprised if you find them eating seeds as well. You may want to store those away as well. 

Use Peppermint Oil

Not a lot of people know this, but rats absolutely despise the smell of peppermint oil. And we love what rats hate! This is an incredibly effective way to stray them away. All you need to do is moisten a couple of cotton balls with pure peppermint oil and distribute the balls in various places around the garden (focus on the garage and shed, if any.)

Repeat this process a couple of times per week or even just reapply the peppermint oil on the same cotton balls, and you’ll be surprised by how absolutely no rats will stay any longer!

Make Your Compost Bin Uninviting

We’ve touched on compost very briefly, but we need to cover this more in-depth because of how significant of a role your compost bin plays in keeping rats in the garden away. Simply put, the trick is to protect your bin by making it uninviting. And by uninviting, we mean don’t ever leave food scraps there and include green material, so it’s moist.

Moreover, to ensure that rats can’t access the bin in any way, put chicken wire underneath. By the way, if rats have already established their shelter in your bin, make sure you don’t use the compost on any consumable crops.

Don’t Feed Birds

Unfortunately, if you feel like a rat is roaming around in your garden and you happen to love feeding birds, you’re going to have to stop until the rat(s) are gone. That’s because rats get very attracted when they see fallen food from bird feeders, and being the fantastic climbers that they are, they’ll be able to climb up the feeding stations.

This actually applies to just about any animals you may be feeding as well, from birds to hedgehogs. You could either use squirrel-proof feeders or store the animal and bird food in super-secure and tight containers that rats won’t be able to access, which can be a tough balance to strike, to be honest.

Disrupt Your Garden

By disrupting your garden, we mean frequently playing around with its setup. Keep moving things around since rats have a fear of new things. They absolutely love their comfort zones, so when they find you disrupting their shelter and putting more obstacles in their way, they pack their stuff and leave altogether – which is exactly what we want!

Block Rats Access – Everywhere!

Speaking of obstacles, you also want to make sure you block rats access to basically every place in your garden, from decking to garden buildings. Let us just tell you that the space under decking is the ideal shelter for rats because it’s covered, not easily reached, and food scraps just happen to come in through the planks. Could it get better for them?

Therefore, you need to make sure you completely eliminate all sights of fallen food after meals and hinder their access to the decks. If possible, it would even be best to install a patio!

By the same token, when it comes to garden buildings, you need to block all holes that exist, whether in the walls, doors, or floors. For more convenience, it would be great if you could add a metal “kick plate” to the garden shed’s door to prevent rats from entering it.

Get/Use a Pet!

Of course, you can’t purely get a pet dog or cat merely to drive away rats or catch them, but pets, in general, can be an excellent discouragement for rats. So, if you’re a pet owner, you’re already in luck! 

Let your pet stray free in the garden to be the disruptive force of nature that they’re created to be, and while they have fun, the rats will disappear in the process. It’s a win-win!

Use Snap Traps

While rat traps come in different variations, snap traps have been proven effective for years. Basically, the idea is to set snap traps in areas where you’ve observed rats’ presence, and you can set them in as many areas as you want.

To make the snap trap effective, use peanut butter and wrap a piece of gauze inside it. In doing so, the rats will quickly try to dislodge the peanut butter, which will lead to its teeth being caught in the gauze, delaying it until the trap works and the trigger is pulled.

Ideally, snap traps should be placed every 5-10 feet of your garden, and the bait should be replaced every couple of days to stay fresh and attract the rats. Also, don’t overuse the bait because that increases the rats’ chances of taking some of it and getting away without snapping the trap.

Tip: It’s not a wise idea to reuse an old rat snap trap that you have. Surprisingly, rats can smell their fellow dead rats’ odor and grow cautious of coming near the traps. It’s best to opt for a brand new snap trap as well as fresh bait to be on the safe side.

Attempt to Control Them

One last way to go about getting rid of rats in the garden is to try to control them. Firstly, that entails identifying where exactly they’re residing in your garden and what routes they’re navigating daily. 

For instance, you could use catnip from a garden center and disperse it in different areas around your garden and observe rat activity patterns. That’s a start!

By that, you’ll be able to understand where they stick around the most, and even maybe their number, since they tend to breed pretty fast. Once you’re aware of these details, you could use your preferred method of getting rid of rats, be it traps, bait stations, or poisons. 

However, always remember to use them according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and make sure you’re keeping your pets and children safe. 

When to Call in the Pros?

The tactics on how to get rid of rats in your gardens that we’ve discussed in this article have been tried and tested by many homeowners and even gardeners. In a nutshell, it would help if you tried to think like a rat and understand their preferences. Now that you’re aware of their main characteristics, you’re already a step ahead of them!

Despite that, sometimes you may encounter an entire rat infestation, or the situation is just too hard to handle. If you reach that point and things are becoming worse, you should hire a pest professional. These are usually certified people who have their own ways of handling rats in gardens, especially when it comes to installing tamper-resistant bait stations and bait.

Also, they tend to have a full-blown treatment plan to get rid of rats, and they monitor the situation with you over time. So, when things get out of hand, call in the pros!

FAQs About Rats In Garden

Should I Be Worried if I See a Rat in My Garden?

Not really. Rats in gardens are a widespread occurrence, and there are tons of ways you could get rid of them. However, that doesn’t mean you should completely ignore rats’ presence or take it lightly because they do pose a health hazard and carry a number of diseases. Also, they’re not exactly easy to get rid of, and they hide really well. So, make sure to get rid of them!

Are Rats in the Garden Dangerous?

Unfortunately, they can be, yes. They’re classified as “vermin,” which are wild animals that cause harm to crops, farm animals, or game and that usually carry diseases. Since they usually carry diseases, they also spread them, and these diseases can be severe.

For instance, rats can cause Leptospirosis, a blood infection that could possibly progress and lead to Weil’s disease, a severe bacterial infection that’s actually life-threatening. That’s just an example of the many harms rats can cause. 

They’re also harmful to growing fruits and vegetables, and the fact they feed on them doesn’t help either. They basically eat everything that we as humans eat, and they aren’t vegetarian like most mammals.

Andrew Cunningham
Andrew Cunningham
Hello, Andrew is the co-founder and lead editor for DailyPest.

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