There are potentially between 200 to 300 million rats in the UK currently and there were a total of 225,430 residential rat infestations dealt with by local authorities in the last year – a 12 percent rise in callouts since 2020.
Keeping rats out of gardens is difficult, especially for those who want to encourage wildlife like birds into their garden.
However, adding bird feeders into gardens can quickly turn your outside space into a rat’s paradise, encouraging them to nest and breed.
While having rats in the garden may not appear to impact you directly, the pests can pose a serious threat to our health and our pets’ health.
Rats can spread illnesses such as hantavirus, leptospirosis, salmonellosis, and tapeworms, as well as cause damage to gardens.
In light of this, Lucy Taylor, manager of Vine House Farm, has provided advice on how to keep rats out of gardens, especially if you’ve got a bird feeder.
Use natural rat deterrents
Lucy suggested using certain plants and spices to deter rats from gardens and bird feeders.
She explained: “Place your feeder around plants and shrubbery like lavender, eucalyptus, garlic and mint.
“All these plants have a strong scent that rats dislike, which will repel them.
“In addition to plants, rats also dislike certain spices like peppermint so try spraying your feeder with peppermint oil to deter them.”
Keep the area clean
If you’re feeding birds, rats will be attracted to birdseed on the ground. One of the most important tasks gardeners need to do is prevent food spillage and clean up any debris that’s fallen to the floor straight away.
Other ways to keep the area clean:
Choose a waste-free bird feed
Lucy said: “Waste-free bird seed typically consists of high-quality seeds that are more likely to be eaten by the birds you want to attract, such as sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, or shelled peanuts.
“These seeds have higher nutritional value and are less likely to be discarded by birds, reducing waste and mess around your feeder.”
Add a seed-catching tray
This should catch any bird seed before it hits the ground, making the area less attractive to rats.
Get the right type of feeder
Weight-sensitive feeders keep rats and other rodents away from bird food as they only open when they detect weight on the feeder.
Metal and glass feeders are also more rodent-proof because rats cannot chew through them as quickly or as easily as plastic.
Bird feeders with platform trays should also be avoided as they allow bird food to be on display which makes it more accessible for rodents.
Use a baffle
Lucy said a baffle is a “protective shield that is placed over a bird feeder or bird table to prevent rats from climbing up to take the seed or jumping down onto the feeder from above”.
Baffles are usually in the shape of a dome and are quite difficult for rats to scale, climb and grip.