Homeowners with gardens are constantly at war with a variety of pests, but whilst most will think of insects as being the worst, rats are perhaps the least welcomed. Not only do they carry potentially deadly diseases, but these vermin will eat or chew their way through anything they can get their claws on. Because they’re nocturnal, you probably won’t even see them, and once they’ve had their way with your garden they’ll almost certainly invade your home next.
In order to effectively handle and remove pests from your garden, you first need to gather the right rat information to figure out what’s attracting them and then find ways of discouraging them. The problem with rats is, pretty much everything in your garden is attractive.
Having your own garden or plot can be a great way to grow vegetables and flowers, creating a veritable feast for rats to gorge on. Whether its favorites like potatoes and other vegetables or newly-planted seeds, your garden contains an abundance of foods for these vermin. But because rats are omnivores, they will eat anything. Literally. Days old trash? Composter? Bird feeders? It’s all food to rats.
Of course, nothing can grow without water, and like all animals, rats require water to survive – after all, eating everything is thirsty work. But unlike other rodents like mice, which are often able to get the water they need simply from the moisture in the food they eat, rats need a constant water source to stay hydrated.
Chances are you water your prized vegetables or flowers with sprinklers or hoses, which are a prime target for rats especially if they drip. Other sources rats will target include birdbaths – yes, they can climb! – and ponds or swimming pools, so be sure to keep them covered when necessary.
But your vegetable patch or flower garden also provides rats with another essential: shelter. Rats are warm-blooded, and although we often think of them as sewer-inhabiting creatures, they actually prefer to keep themselves and their young dry. As such, they’ll seek out dry, warm areas of your garden, which can include underneath plants or elsewhere in the vegetation.
Depending on the size of your garden, you might also have a shed, or a woodpile, which rats also love nesting in, and they’ll do whatever they can to get in it. Despite their size, rats are easily capable of getting through small cracks or holes, and though they aren’t as good at it as gophers, they can still dig holes underneath sheds. And if all else fails, they’ll just eat through the wood.
How do you know if you have rats in your garden?
The easiest way to find out is by seeing them, but because they’re nocturnal, it’s unlikely you’ll actually see rats in your garden. If you’re determined to see one – though we’re not sure why you’d want to – the best times are between dawn and dusk. Even then, it will be tricky, as they can travel along anything from fences and trees to power cables, so you’ll need to look up, down, and everywhere in between.
Another tell-tale sign is the suspicious disappearance of newly-planted seeds and growing sprouts, but be careful with this as it could be something else. Some animals like rabbits will get at plants from above ground, whereas vermin like rats and gophers will eat them from below, making them look like they’ve been pulled underground.
This means you might find tunnels and holes in your garden, giving rats an invisible human-free highway to attack it. One of the main issues with rats is they don’t disturb the soil as much as gophers, which leave far larger holes and mounds which often mark the entrances to their burrows. But rats do tend to use the same pathways and routes every time, so you might be able to see their tracks.
A more visible sign is damage to property in your garden like sheds, fences, or gates, especially if they’re made out of wood which rats are all too happy to chew through. Other targets for their teeth include hose pipes and any exposed electrical wires, which can double as a fire hazard if left unchecked.
When all else fails, you’ll certainly spot their droppings, which look like black grains of rice. Moist droppings in particular are a sign of recent rat activity.
If you do find rats in your garden, you should move quickly to remove or block access to any sources of food, water, or shelter they might use, especially compost bins and bird feeders. And if you do decide to use rat poison, seek advice from a professional pest controller first, as it can be fatally harmful to humans and other pets or animals.