What attracts rats to your backyard?
Urban gardeners are likely to have encountered rats in their backyards on more than one occasion as gardens provide excellent rodent territory with regular sources of food, water, shelter and usually safety. Bird feeders and vegetable gardens will certainly attract rats without taking precautions. Use this guide to learn about repelling rats from your backyard using natural methods only:
- Prevent rats and rodents from climbing your bird feed
- Use pest repellent plants such mint and catnip
- Cutback areas of the yard which provide cover for rats
- Keep lawn grass short, clean and tidy
- Store garbage waste and compost in metal or hard plastic bins
- Attract natural predators such as owls
- Remove piles of timber or rocks which rats can hide and nest under
- Improve drainage and remove standing water
- Move things around in your garden (rats don’t like new things)
- Use a rat trap as a last resort
Types of rat typically found in your backyard
There are 2 types of rat which plague our homes, buildings and damage property, spreading disease as they go. Norway rats (Rattus Norvegicus) are the most common and are often referred to as the brown rat or sewer rat and likes to nest in basements, beneath rubbish and wet areas around gardens and fields. Norway rats are found in all 48 States across America.
The second is the Roof rat (Rattus Rattus) and is the smaller of the two and a has a tail longer than its body. They are usually seen walking along fences and are highly agile climbers allowing them to quickly escape predators. Roof rats prefer warmer coastal climates.
Both types of rat can be deterred from your yard by putting measures in place to keep your yard tidy, free from sources of food and using natural home remedies.
Where rats like to nest in your yard?
Rats like dense vegetation and dark areas of your yard where they will feel protected. If you have dense areas of ivy, bushes, and foliage close to buildings you could be providing the ideal environment for them to bread. Norway rats live underground in burrows and as the population grows their burrows interconnect with a network of tunnels. Usually, these burrows only have one or two entrances with an escape hole. Fighting will start between rats as the infestation grows and food/water sources diminish.
Roof rats nest above ground in trees, dense vegetation and of course roofs and attics. Rats will venture into your home at night looking for food and are often found in basements and crawl spaces.
Rats have poor eyesight and use their whiskers as they navigate along walls and borders, usually in straight lines. Look for signs of grease marks from their fur along edging, fences, and walls. These smudges of grease is also a way of rats communicating with each other and removing them will help interrupt this. Make sure you remove any grease marks with vinegar or biodegradable soap.
To stop rats burrowing you could use a hardware cloth extended at least 10 inches below the ground, although rats can dig deeper than this it will deter them as they won’t want to waste energy trying to dig deeper.
Stop rats eating your fruit and vegetables
Rats are excellent climbers and jumpers (roof rats can jump up to 36 inches and can easily climb walls) so if you do grow vegetables and fruit you will need to protect them with chicken wire and put other steps in place to deter them. Grow mint and sprinkle crushed pepper around the border of your yard. Rats can’t solely live on fruit and vegetables as they need protein, fat, and carbs in their diets. If they don’t have access to these they will eventually move on. Avoid putting leftover food scraps which contain meats, oils, grains or fat in your compost bins as this will easily feed a family of rodents. Always make sure your garbage bins are made from metal or tough plastic containers with tight-fitting lids.
Keep rats off your bird feeder
Rats will be attracted to the seeds on and around your bird feeder so it’s imperative you take measures to stop rats from climbing your bird feeder. Use a bird feeder pole with an anti-climb baffle to stop rodents from climbing up. You should also make sure seed that is discarded by birds does not fall to the ground by using tray or sieve directly below the feeder to collect it. Vacuum regularly around the base of the feeder to collect any fallen seed. Grease the pole to make it harder for rodents to climb up. Anti-rodent bird feeders are available to buy which use a weighted mechanism which shuts off access to the seed holes when a rat or squirrel climbs onto it.
Getting rid of rats under your decking or shed
Backyard decking makes an ideal home for rats, especially if you BBQ and eat outdoors during the summer months. Food scraps can fall through the gaps and it’s hard for us humans to get to. Block access to the areas below the decking and any gaps between. Be careful with what you use to close up the access, rats can chew through wood and brick and as their teeth don’t stop growing they need to chew constantly (see what can rats chew through). Also, block holes and spaces under or into wooden sheds where a rat may like to make a nest.
Use plants to keep rats away naturally
Try planting in garden borders and around your home to form a natural defense against rodents. Catnip is known to be a successful deterrent against rats but it naturally attracts cats who love to eat it (which could be a good thing to keep away rats!). Plant any of the following in your backyard to help repel rats and mice from your garden: mint, lavender, daffodils, catnip, camphor plant, elderberry, euphorbias, and wormwood.
Smells and scents that keep rats away
There are some specific smells that will help deter rats and mice but these are best used in compact indoor spaces such as car gloveboxes, garages or tight spaces where you suspect rodents are present. You could try dripping strong peppermint oil on cotton wool balls and placing where you think the rats or mice are. Make your own home Ammonia remedy by mixing 2 spoons for detergent, a small glass of water and 2 cups of ammonia. Rats can’t stand the smell of ammonia so placing the mixture where rats are appearing will help repel them naturally. Some of my recommended rodent deterrents include:
- Vitacost 100% Pure Peppermint Oil
- SomaTherapy Mouse Away Concentrate
- Bonide 12-Pack Mouse Magic Pest Repellents
- Critter Out Mouse & Rat Repellent
Use owls and snakes to scare rodents away
Owls prey on rodents so attracting them to your yard can be a very effective form of pest control. Owls like dense trees and overgrown areas to nest and perch on. If you can’t attract the real thing why not install a fake version as a scare tactic. Mounted on a pole overlooking your yard these lifelike solar-powered versions even twist their heads to scare away pests. Alternatively, you could get a pet cat but this could lead to scaring away the other wildlife and birds in your yard.
Use traps as a last resort
If you don’t have any success removing rats naturally then you could try the best rat traps available. These are successful when be placed along the lines of fences or borders where rodents are likely to scuttle along.
The classic snap trap kills instantly when the rodent steps on it or takes the bait. Highly effective but not ideal when pets and children are present in the area as they can be dangerous.
Electric traps also work well for rats, mice, squirrels and other rodents by passing a high voltage to the pest instantly killing them. Dead rodents are easily emptied into the garbage bin by lifting the lid.
If you’re not keen on killing rats then using a live trap could be the best solution for you. They are easy to bait and set up with a sensitive pedal that when touched triggers the closing mechanism.