Tony O’Neill, gardener and author of the popular “Composting Masterclass” and “Your First Vegetable Garden,” combines lifelong passion and expert knowledge to simplify the art of gardening. His mission? Helping you cultivate a thriving garden. More on Tony O’Neill
Rats are adorable as long as they are in children’s books. You probably do a great job keeping them out of your house, but the compost bin differs.
The process within compost bins helps organic matter break naturally into elements that enrich the soil and encourage beneficial bacteria and fungi. This, in turn, produces an earthy smell that attracts rats and other rodents. One of the main ways to avoid rat infestations is to refrain from putting food waste into your compost bins.
This piece discusses why rats are attracted to compost bins and some of the easiest ways to prevent these constant rodents from tampering. Read further to learn more.
What Attracts Rats to a Compost Bin?
Though unsettling, compost bins are a preferred option for rats and mice, especially during the cooler months of the year, due to their shelter and warmth. The persistent critters can chew through anything from wood to plastic to get to their food source, which makes commercial compost bins vulnerable to an infestation.
With their high breeding rates, a pair of rats can spawn nearly a thousand, leading to a chronic rat problem in your home or garden.
A compost bin with a high percentage of table scraps will likely experience a rodent problem. When the compost has a well-appropriated ratio of dried materials such as dried leaves, sticks, and straw, it will draw rats, especially if it isn’t regularly turned.
Rats can quickly hollow out a nesting area in areas with an undisturbed pile with much nesting material.
How to Keep Rats Away from Your Compost Pile
Rats are typically in search of two essential things, shelter and food. The presence of both in a compost pile creates a rat problem. There are simple ways to prevent rats from getting into your compost pile or getting them to leave if they are already there.
Don’t compost any food waste.
If rats are a big problem, you can forego adding more food waste into your compost pile. Rather than letting these valuable scraps go to waste, set up an indoor vermicomposting bin for your food waste. Another option is to bury this waste directly in a compost trench in the garden.
In the video below, I show you some practical ways to prevent rats in your compost bin. I use five large bays and have never had rats because I implement the tips within the video.
If you are worried about rats in your compost bin, you should check it out and read the rest of this article.
Use the Bokashi method to prevent rats from going to your compost
Bokashi is a great way to deal with your kitchen waste. The smell of fermented kitchen waste will keep even the hungriest rats away from Bokashi’s fermented food waste.
Bokashi is an anaerobic process that uses inoculated bran to ferment kitchen waste.
A university professor first discovered the fermenting process in Japan in 1982. It is inexpensive and takes only about two weeks. Put food waste in a Bokashi bucket, Layer it with bran and let it rest for two weeks. Add these contents to your compost pile, and the smell will automatically repel rats.
Turn your compost regularly to put rats off staying
Good compost needs to be periodically turned. The more often you choose to turn it, the more likely you are to discourage rodents from making the compos pit their home.
Constant movement scares them and will keep them at bay.
Rats don’t like the smell of mint. plant this near the compost bin
This method repels rats that work for many people just as it fails for others. The idea is worth a try. Rats and mice are reputed to be repugnant to the mint scent.
Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy.Wendell Berry
Planting a good number of mint plants near your compost pile may be sufficient to deter rodents. If the population of rodents within your compost is high, you may need to couple the planting of mint plants with another deterrent to prevent the rats fully.
Keeping the compost moist creates an environment that puts off rats
One of the things rats look for when invading a compost pile is shelter. A dried-out compost pile offers rats a haven and is easy to access. It is also inefficient in breaking down organic material into practical matter.
When dry, a compost pile provides warmth and insulated space for rats to inhabit and access tasty morsels; that is why it is essential to keep your compost moist but not wet.
This will deter rats from trying to nestle in it due to the unpleasant odors and anaerobic conditions. Remember to regularly turn and add water to the pile, especially during the drier seasons, to ensure it is inhospitable to rodents.
Enclosing the compost bin prevents air circulation, which makes rats choose other locations.
Use a tarp or lid to cover your compost. Even though the rats somehow get in, there will be less air circulation that will discourage them from staying. You can also switch from open-slatted bins for composting to solid-sided compost bins.
Raise the compost bin off the ground so as not to attract rats
Set up your compost pile raised off the ground to discourage burrowers from accessing it. In effect, increasing the bin denies rodents access to the supposed shelter they are looking for and will move on to more accessible areas around.
Deny the rodents security in the compost pit to keep them away
Rats and other rodents often feel safe near fixed walls and fences. Keep your compost bin free, standing out from walls or fences, offering good hiding spots and security.
Another way to ensure rats do not find a haven in your compost is by providing there isn’t dense vegetation around it, as it usually is a habitat for rats. Cut down tall grass and wildflowers near the compost pile to discourage rodent habitation.
Reduce ways to access the compost bin for rats to deter them.
Did you know that rats only need a tiny space to gain access? Find and seal any openings and holes in your garage and compost bin to keep rodents out. Use a mesh that is at least half an inch by half an inch thick to cover the bottom and sides of the bin and some connecting cables to secure it.
By breaking up the ingredients in the compost, you deny the rats from using it as food
Rats are attracted to the smell of decomposing food waste. Some great ways to deny them access to food would be:
|Avoid adding oils and meats to your compost
|Bury fresh food deep into the compost and cover it with finished compost
|Store your garbage and feedstock properly. Do not leave pet food and birdseed out at night.
|Encourage rat predators such as hawks and owls to your property.
|Ensure you keep out any eggshells from your compost. They are among a rodent’s favorite food.
|If you have trees with fruits or nuts or a vegetable garden, pick them up immediately when they are ripe. Do not leave fallen vegetables and fruits lying on the ground.
For the eggshell tip, if you intend on using the eggshells to deter slugs in the garden, it is best to wash them first to get rid of egg residue before placing them in the garden.
Introducing noise and disturbance will keep rats at bay from the compost bin.
Rats tend to be secretive pests, linger at the edges of things, and find their way into places without disturbance.
Put the bin where you often pass and give it a good whack on the side with a stick to discourage them from a residence in the compost.
Look into Traffic obstruction to keep rats at bay from the compost bin
Once rats have been set up, they prefer to use the same path to get around as they are creatures of habit. Look for rat paths, burrows, top offenses, and flower gardens, and install bird-repellent spikes. Even though it may not stop them, it will make them nervous and slow them down.
Move potted plants around occasionally, and it will help remove long-term rat nesting habitat.
Being neophobic creatures, rats find new things, change off-putting, and relocate to places where they can stick to a designated pathway.
Rats need water, so cap the one nearest the compost bin.
To breed, rats need a regular water supply. Often gardens offer a replenished water source that allows rats to infest your property and eventually find their way to your compost pile.
Fix leaking taps and any unintended water source that could offer rodents a convenient drinking source.
Consider a concrete or sand base for your compost bin
Typically, garden sheds sit on wooden joists that minimize ground dampness. Joints in these wooden joists often have gaps ideal for rats to live in.
When choosing a place for your compost pile, opt for a concrete or sand base, as it prevents rats from burrowing up through the voids or ground. A sand or concrete base makes detecting any rat activity easier.
FAQs on Do Compost Bins Attract Rats? How to Prevent It!
Can I use poison to kill rats?
There is a variety of commercial rodenticides that can successfully kill rats. However, using these proves dangerous and even fatal for pets and other wild animals present. Animals such as cats, dogs, foxes, squirrels, and rabbits that ingest the poisoned rats are in danger of being poisoned.
Will the rats leave on their own?
As long as the compost pile offers food and shelter, the rodents may not leave. However, if these favorable conditions are eliminated, the rats will soon move to other places with better survival conditions. Unlike other pests, rats readily move around and will not linger if their needs aren’t met.
Can I use traps to get rid of rats?
Traps are effective in catching rats and mice. However, it takes technique to ensure that only rats are trapped instead of other wildlife. It is also important to note that more rats will keep coming if the core of the situation isn’t dealt with, eradicating rats for good.
Do lights scare rats away?
Rats are typically nocturnal but do venture during the day if needed. There is a type of light that they actively avoid: flashing lights. Some companies market these as rat deterrents, but there will come a time when rats will get used to them, making them useless in the long run.
Do onions kill rats?
Raw onions specifically can kill rats, especially when ingested in large amounts. It can end the rat within half a day and is more effective if they don’t have water access. The raw onions will cause them to be severely anemic and thirsty, killing them in the given time frame.
Conclusion on doing compost bins attract rats.
Rats are opportunistic scavengers necessary for the planet’s ecosystem but not your compost bin. They are detrimental to composting and are a nuisance, significantly when they increase in number.
With all these warnings, you might think, what else is left for me to compost while keeping rats at bay?
You can look into composting organic materials like lawn clippings, sawdust, leaves, straw, newspapers, and many more covered in this article on composting for beginners. This will surely aid you in how to keep rats at bay while also doing compost for your garden. Feel free to check it out here.
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