Most of us typically encounter them inside our homes but rats can become a nuisance in our gardens as well. Failure to effectively deal with them can not only lead to infestation inside and outside your house but also destruction to the bulbs, fruits, vegetables and plants in your garden. More worryingly, rats spread parasites and diseases such as leptospirosis, which can lead to Weil’s disease. Leptospirosis is spread through their urine which could have been deposited on the vegetables and fruit you grow to eat or on the grass that your kids crawl on. It is important that the steps outlined below are implemented before an infestation develops, as rats can be one of the trickiest pests to get rid of.
There is a common misconception that if you want to get rid of rats in your garden, then you must first get rid of the rats themselves. However, you can take steps to discourage them from your property without resorting to killing them. It is also worth bearing in mind that rats will only remain in your garden if you make life comfortable for them by providing them with adequate access to food, water and shelter. Once you stop catering to one or all of these needs, they will simply move on.
Rats are nocturnal feeders which means that they feed during the night and so you are unlikely to encounter them during the day. On the rare occasion that you do, it would be because they have run out of food and are in search of new sources of food. That being said, there are some tell-tale signs that can help you determine if there is the presence of rats in your garden.
Nothing says we are here to stay better than the existence of a rat nesting area. Rats will choose a dry place with ideally a lot of debris (e.g. cloth, cardboard and paper), away from predators and close to a food source to reproduce and raise their young. So inspect any out houses such as sheds, garages, greenhouses, and also wood piles, compost bins and decking for any rat nests.
Rat droppings are larger and darker with blunt ends compared to the pointed ends of mouse faeces. In size they are about the size of a raisin, which is about three-quarters of an inch long. Their droppings are often found in nesting areas and along their rat runs.
Rats will aim for efficiency by establishing foraging tracks or runs up to 10cm wide between their nests and food source. They memorise these runs and never stray from them. So look out for footprints that point to four toes at the front and five toes at the back in dusty or muddy areas running alongside fencing, walls and hedges.
The front teeth of rats are continuously growing and so they are constantly trimming them back by gnawing. Rats can chew through almost anything (including wood, brick, plastic, aluminium, cement) so you should be wary if you notice any bite marks on garden hoses and gnawed openings around doors, windowsills, skirting boards or even electric cables that run into sheds and out houses. These entry points give them access to new sources of shelter providing insulation from the elements. You’ll also typically find these gnaw marks near their food source.
Rats will dig holes with a diameter of about one inch pretty much anywhere in your garden. Pay particular attention to holes in the ground near a path or walkway and around trees where they can enter from under your fence. You should also be wary of any raised mounds poking through soil. This could indicate a rat burrow which typically has an entrance hole between three to four inches wide with tunnels that are about six inches deep leading off from it.
If you have any of these signs, it is advisable to take the following steps to prevent your garden from becoming a place for them to get comfortable and multiply.
In order to keep rats out of your garden, it is important that you make sure your fencing is secure and in good condition. In some cases, a rat infestation may have been caused by the holes or gaps created through fence damage which allows them to continuously access your garden space.
You should also ensure that there are no piles of rubbish, wood piles or tree debris lying around where rats can hide from predators such as cats or birds of prey. We have encountered situations where a tree has been cut down and the remaining stump, which ideally should have been removed, has become a nesting hotspot for rats. Also keep the length of the grass in your garden short.
Rats will naturally seek shelter from the elements by nesting underneath or inside of outdoor buildings such as sheds, storage containers, greenhouses, garden buildings, garages and in compost bins. The spaces beneath raised decking where they can easily get underneath (such as gaps between joists), live undisturbed and have access to food scraps that fall through gaps in the decking from above, can also provide an ideal spot for them to nest.
It is advisable therefore to block any gaps and holes leading into these shelters. An easy solution would be to use wire mesh screens over any openings larger than 15mmX15mm (i.e. the size of a five pence piece).
It is recommended to refrain from leaving food waste, exposed pet food or bird seeds in your garden. If you need a bin in your garden, ensure that it is either free from food debris or is totally secured. We also discourage feeding wild animals as any food not eaten by them will inevitably provide sustenance for rats.
Rats are most likely to be found around water sources such as the taps, ponds, hosepipes and fountains in your garden. Rats are excellent swimmers and can chew through pond liner, hosepipes and land drains to access water. If you have fishes in your pond, their regular feed can be a source of food for rats. It is therefore paramount to block their access to water by removing any old buckets or containers lying around that might hold rainwater. If the water source on your property has dried up, then they will look elsewhere.
Implementing one or more of these recommendations will make your property less attractive to rats and encourage them to move on. If you have tried all of these methods and are still struggling to deal with a rat infestation in your garden, then call one of our pest exterminator on 01908 015 925 who will be happy to help.
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