black rat in dark background

How to Get Rid of Rats In Your Garden Naturally

Rats are silent assassins for your garden – they usually come out at night, and by morning you find that their presence has graced your garden. As well as having the ability to cause considerable damage to your outdoor space, rats are considered vermin. They carry numerous diseases, including Leptospirosis – which leads to Weil’s disease, as well as salmonella, rite-bite fever and cryptosporidium. It is therefore crucial that you get rid of their threat as soon as possible, humanly, of course. This guide will show you how to get rid of rats in your garden naturally.

Signs of Rats in your Garden

As rats are nocturnal, you will rarely find them in the daytime. However, if you suspect a rat has infiltrated your garden, you should look out for these following signs:

  1. Tunnels: These are usually 6-9cm in diameter, whilst rat runs can go up to 10cm wide. They typically follow along fences, walls, sheds and buildings.
  2. Droppings: This is one of the most common signs of rats in your garden. Rats like to leave their mark, and their poop is a typical sign of this (usually 15mm long, 5mm wide).
  3. Ruined Wood: Rats can store their food in wood or usually gnaw their way through it, such as through your fence.
  4. Rats’ Nest: You will most likely find these nested in holes near or in your garage, sheds, under decking or compost heaps. These are constructed from scraps like fabrics and newspaper.
  5. Time of year: During colder seasons, rats are likely to hibernate in warmer environments, and if they are unable to access your household, they will probably nest nearer to your shed. However, they are resistant to cold temperatures, so just because it is cold does not mean rats will not terrorise your garden.
  6. Type of rat: In England, the most common type of rat you will find is the brown or Norway rat, which are most likely to eat crops such as root crops, fruit and veg. If you suspect rats in your garden and you are growing any of these crops, pay particular attention as to whether rats have been near them, such as teeth marks or rat hairs.

More information on Rats

Rats: Big rat on a red rose

How to Prevent a Rat Problem

Find below a list of natural ways for you to prevent rats from returning to your garden.

  1. Tidy Garden: Keeping your grass short and clear-cluttered will deter your rats from hosting in your garden as they will have less cover and rubbish to snack on. You should look towards reducing overgrown areas near buildings or fences in your garden.
  2. Tidy up bird seed: Bird food is very likely to attract rats that have fallen from bird feeders. This process will not be fun if you are an eager bird watcher, so instead, try to store bird and animal food in rat-secure containers.
  3. Blocking access: If you have decking in your garden, the space beneath is perfect for rats to run through, so therefore, you need to prevent this by blocking their entrances and exits, such as installing a patio. This will disrupt the rats’ path and moving other obstacles around your garden will prevent them from returning as they do not like change. Also, pay attention to blocking holes near your fences or other outdoor buildings.
  4. Water: Like other living creatures, rats need water to live, and although removing ponds or bird baths is not recommended, it can help to put nets over them, as well as preventing dripping taps and securing your drains. However, an alternative way of using rats against them would be to flood their tunnels but be aware that this may affect your crops.
  5. Predators: Household pets like dogs and cats, or even wildlife animals such as foxes, can help towards disrupting rats being in your garden. This does not mean you should tame foxes but giving them space to live in your garden will help too.
  6. Other options: Rat poison can be particularly effective towards getting rid of rats, but we would not recommend this method. Rat poison is harmful for the environment and kills animals further up in the food chain (in fact, there are a growing number of deaths amongst birds of prey who have ingested the poison that has killed their natural prey) [i]. On the other hand, using humane traps such as rat trap cages and then take the animal away from the area can be a temporary solution.

Read more on keeping animals out of your garden

brown rat in garden

How to stop rats eating your vegetable garden

If you are dedicated to growing your own crops, it is important you follow the precautions listed below about keeping them safe from rats:

  1. Tight-fitted containers: You will need to undertake a rat reduction plan in order to reduce rats infiltrating your vegetable garden. As well as eating crops, they also love wastage, so for compost and poo (dogs, cats, birds, etc) these should be removed every day into bins or containers with tight-fitting lids.
  2. Strong odours: Rats have a strong sense of smell, so spraying your crops with homemade remedies, pepper spray or peppermint oil on cotton balls, for example, can help to deter them. If you also grow onions, garlic, basil or thyme, it has been claimed that these can also prevent rats from coming near your garden, although evidence is vague towards this claim.
  3. Physical borders: Setting up a border around the perimeter of your garden will certainly stop rats coming through, although they can usually fit through a gap roughly 2.5cm wide, so use wire fencing too to enclose these gaps. Even if they try to climb over this fence, having it at least 30cm tall (1ft) will also help.
  4. Keep garden tidy: Rats do not like being out in the open, so removing anything they could hide in, such as low-lying bushes or high weeds (or even keeping these trimmed) will assist, as well as removing unused wood, stone, and others.
  5. Harvesting: Any of your crops that fall from their respective plant are liable to be detected by rats. If you harvest them frequently – whether it’s a couple of times a day – can reduce rats feeding on them.

Rat Them Out!

There are a wide variety of ways you can get rid of rats in your garden naturally without killing them, and it would be the easier option to do this, but it also means you need to dispose of them, which is not a pleasant task. Therefore, it would help if you considered the options listed in this guide and encompassed them into securing your garden and making it a rat-free zone.

Before doing anything further, you should check out the government website on pest control on your property to make sure you are not breaking any rules.

FAQs

Do rats come out during the day?

It is unusual that you will find a rat out in the daytime, as they are nocturnal and are usually active at night and either dawn or dusk. If their nests have been disturbed, however, they will likely run across your garden.

How do you know if rats are gone?

It could take rats anytime between three days to a week to leave your garden, but if you are unsure if they have gone then put down a white powder around the areas they have been hiding around your garden (talcum powder or flower). They will leave a trail of footprints through this trail if they are still present.

What happens when you disturb a rat’s nest?

If their nest has been disturbed by human or animal, rats will immediately leave it. As their nests are usually adjacent to your garden, disturbing them in the daytime will have them running across your garden.

What do rats hate?

Anything with a strong odder, such as garlic, hot peppers, peppermint, white vinegar or predator scent.

Keeping Rats Out of Your Garden Permanently

Rats, like many other insects and animals, are always strategic and dedicated, so it is essential that even if you undertake the methods listed above, it does not mean they will disappear forever. It is a stressful, arduous task to monitor as well as maintain the overall quality of your garden, so a lot of patience will be required before your garden can be a rat-free zone, but it will be well-worth it by the time your crops come to full fruition. Have you had any previous experiences about keeping rats away from your garden? Let us know!


[i] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/apr/06/toxic-rat-poison-killing-growing-number-england-birds-of-prey

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