Rats in the garden: how to get rid of compost rats again

A year-round comfortably tempered, spacious apartment with a well-stocked pantry: not only humans like this, but rats do too – in the form of a compost heap. But how do you get rid of the lodgers??

Rats love compost, but most of all they love raw food. That’s why exemplary compost piles in particular are very tempting to rodents. Many garden owners believe that waste from cooked meals is the problem when they have compost rats. But actually rats are vegetarians, who also eat leftovers from (meaty) lunches, but clearly prefer fruit and vegetable scraps.

They love garden waste like worm-eaten plums and rotten apples. But kitchen scraps like shriveled carrots, overripe bananas or potato peels are also a treat for the rodents. Such foods guarantee rats an ideal supply of nutrients.

  • To the article "Rats – the dogs of the little man

Fruits, vegetables and nuts: off to the organic waste bin

If you want to be on the safe side when it comes to rats, you should put fruit, vegetables and food scraps in the organic waste garbage can or buy a so-called quick composter, which – very important – is also latticed from below. Also, place a grid over open compost piles so rodents can’t get in, even from above. But this may only be part of the solution to the problem. For there are still the nut trees and shrubs in the garden.

Nuts end up on the compost heap more quickly than is generally assumed. It is sufficient if the compost heap is in the shade of a hazelnut bush or a walnut tree – both are popular plant species for the home garden.

Rat makes itself over waste - fruit and bread - down

© picture-alliance / OKAPIA KG, Germany | Werner Layer
Image rights: picture-alliance / OKAPIA KG, Germany | Werner Layer

Rats are not food eaters and are attracted by discarded food

Preventive measures: How to avoid a rat infestation

Rats only make themselves at home when there’s plenty of food and nesting opportunities for them, too. If they are deprived of their livelihood by preventive measures from the outset, a permanent settlement of these pests can be prevented, according to the Federal Environment Agency.

  • Seal all cracks and crevices that could be a gateway into your home. Grids prevent entry through light or air shafts. Don’t underestimate rats, they can make themselves amazingly small.
  • The cozy, constant temperature in the compost pile, in which rats feel so comfortable, is upset by frequent digging – it becomes too cold or too hot. Rats do not like this.
  • Make the tasty food out of reach, and the rats will go in search of more lucrative places to eat.
  • Make sure that garbage cans are closed and, for example, that yellow bags are out of reach of rats.
  • Store food and pet food – chicken feed, for example – in such a way that rats don’t stand a chance.

What rats infest the garden?

Most of the time it is the Norway rats that spread in the garden. An adult Norway rat can grow to be between 19 and 30 centimeters long – with the tail it can add up to 30 centimeters more. It can weigh up to a pound. The snout is relatively blunt, the fur on top is gray, gray-brown or brown in color, according to the Federal Environmental Agency.

Rats are very eager to reproduce. On average, a female rat gives birth to eight young six times a year. They are sexually mature after two months. Although a wild Norway rat only lives to be a year old, it can still quickly become a large rat infestation. So it is all the more important to detect an infestation at an early stage.

© picture alliance / blickwinkel/B. Ludwig | B. Ludwig
Image copyright: picture alliance / blickwinkel/B. Ludwig | B. Ludwig

Rats multiply quickly

How to recognize a rat infestation?

Rarely will you get to see them in person, although it may happen that they scurry along in front of your patio while you are enjoying your sundowner.

  • Because of the rapid reproduction, early detection of an infestation is especially important. This requires a bit of detective work: the clearest indication is the rat droppings. Rat droppings are similar in shape to a grain of rice, but are much larger. The droppings are usually found in clusters. Rats excrete a lot of it every day. If the droppings are soft and shiny black, they are fresh. Say: You have a problem – an acute rat infestation.
  • If you have a nose for it: An acrid ammonia smell may also indicate a strong! Be a rat infestation.
  • You may also discover prints of small rat feet on dusty ground? Rats always prefer the same paths, so that gnawing at the edge of the path can also be an indication. In addition, there are so-called smear marks, which are caused by the rats’ body fat mixing with dust and dirt and leaving behind a trail. If you follow these walking paths, it is not uncommon to find the rat’s nest.

© picture alliance / blickwinkel/F. Hecker | F. Hecker
Image rights: picture alliance / blickwinkel/F. Hecker | F. Hecker

Rat droppings – evidence of a rat infestation

Why should you control rats and are rats reportable??

Rats are pests. Once they are in the garden, they can also enter the house through the smallest cracks, crevices or other gateways. If the loophole does not fit, it is made to fit. Quite apart from the fact that they can gnaw a lot of things to pieces – from electrical installations to house insulation – rats are carriers of diseases and parasites. By Anfrab, excrement and urine they can contaminate supplies with disease germs and transfer up to 100 diseases as for example Salmonellen or tuberculosis – from ticks or fleas not to speak at all. Therefore, with all love for animals: rats have no business in the garden – and certainly not in the house.

By the way, there is no nationwide obligation to report rat infestations. However, if you suspect a larger infestation, play it safe by seeking the advice of your local health department or a pest control professional.

How to get rid of rats: home remedies or conventional methods?

First of all, if you suspect that it is not a rat loner, do yourself a favor to get a professional pest controller. He has better possibilities to get rid of rats safely and can estimate well on the spot how the rat problem can be solved best.

If you want to try it yourself: there are some home remedies you can try in advance. Some use vinegar essence or clove oil, which is sprinkled on the paths of the rats. Rats don’t like the smell and, in the best case scenario, they’ll run for the hills. Also used cat litter is supposed to have a similar effect. Free-roaming cats do their bit to prevent rat infestation. Curb an existing plague, they can’t.

If home remedies and preventive measures don’t bear fruit, you can resort to conventional remedies available in stores. However, Norway rats are very smart and difficult to catch using mechanical traps. Basically, exercise the utmost caution when using the various traps. In addition, the use of such traps is recommended only in the case of sporadic rats. If rats occur frequently, they can usually only be controlled with poison baits, according to the Federal Environment Agency.

With traps against rats: beat traps and live traps

There is a wide variety of remedies against rats offered on the open market. Into the so-called blow traps the rats with a bait are lured. If the rat triggers the kicking mechanism of the trap, it is beaten to death by a metal shackle. The problem is that you have to apply them professionally, so that the animals are dead immediately and do not torture themselves. Because no matter how critically you view rats, the animals should not suffer, even if you don’t want them in your garden.

A humane variant is to catch a single rat with a live trap and then release it in the forest. For all traps, the choice of bait is important for success. "For example, peanut butter or nut nougat cream is suitable as bait for traps", says the Federal Environment Agency.

© picture alliance / blickwinkel/A. Hartl | A. Hartl
Image rights: picture alliance / blickwinkel/A. Hartl | A. Hartl

Live traps are more humane.

Or rely on rat bait stations?

Rat bait stations can be bought in garden centers, for example. They are built in such a way that no other animals and above all also no children get to the poison. The rats can also not remove the poison fixed with a wire from the station, but only bite it down. Ideally, the bait station should be placed near the compost, on the path that the rat is likely to use. The station is by the way no trap in the actual sense, since the rat is not caught and can remove itself again. This prevents the clever fellows from making a connection with the trap when the affected rat dies immediately.

Strong poisons to control rats should be reserved exclusively for pest controllers. He can decide what is the right thing to do. Because more and more often there are also resistances in the animals.

Yes, it’s true: rats can come through the toilet

Again and again you hear that rats crawl up the toilet pipes from the sewer and look out of the bowl. Some think this is an old wives’ tale. But it is certainly possible, at least in older buildings where there are no backwater valves. If you frequently dispose of food scraps down the sink or toilet, you’re issuing an invitation to rats.

Do not provide opportunities for rodents to be comfortable in the home, yard, or garden. Then you have in the future hopefully no more rats in the compost or even in the house.

© BR
Image rights: picture-alliance/dpa

The plague has died out in our country, but the fear of rats has not. The animals are said to be dangerous disease vectors and, due to their strong reproduction, will eventually become a plague, according to popular opinion. But this is wrong!

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