How To Get Rid Of Rats In The Home

How to get rid of rats in the home

Here’s everything you need to know

Are you looking for ways to get rid of rats in the home? Rats can often carry disease and bacterial infections, so it’s important you remove them as safely and as swiftly as you can.

We asked the experts to find out the most effective ways to get rid of rats in your home.

How can you recognise the signs of a rat infestation?

«Rats are always in search of warm, dry harbourages and new food sources, particularly during periods of inclement weather. Rodents are nocturnal and can be very difficult to spot in the daytime,» David Cross, Head of Technical Training Academy at Rentokil Pest Control tells Country Living.

David says there are some number of tell-tale signs that can indicate a rat infestation. These include.

1.Smell and sound
«Rats have a very strong ammonia smell. On top of this they are often very noisy, making audible scrabbling noises as they move around the home.»

2.Droppings
«Rats excrete about 40 dark, pellet-shaped droppings per day, which are up to 14mm long. These can be found near any harbourages or entry points.»

3.Smears
«Rodents use established routes along walls due to their poor eyesight. You may notice grease marks where rodents brush up against walls and surfaces.»

4.Footprints
«Rats can leave foot and tail marks in dusty, less-used areas of your premises. Shining a strong torch at a low angle should reveal tracks clearly. To establish if an infestation is active, sprinkle fine flour or talc along a small stretch of floor near the footprints and check for fresh tracks the next day.»

5.Damage
«Rodents can chew through electrical cables, which is perhaps the most dangerous aspect of an infestation as it causes a fire hazard, while also being very difficult to spot. Gnaw marks, shredded paper and damage to storage containers are also common signs of rodent activity.»

How do you get rid of rats in the home?

«If you do identify a rodent problem, there are a number of simple steps that can be taken to minimise the risk of a full infestation from developing in your home,» David says.

1.Seal any gaps
«Rats can get into your home through exterior gaps and holes, so seal them with wire wool, caulk, metal kick plates or cement. They are also known to enter premises through damaged drains, so it’s important to make sure that these are well maintained and checked regularly.»

Remember: If you’re unsure how rodents could be entering your home, don’t hesitate to ask pest control experts to analyse the site and advise on the potential causes of the issue.

2.Declutter and clean
«Keep clutter to a minimum and move objects away from walls to ensure you can check what’s hiding behind them. Less clutter means less places to hide. Ensure waste is kept in closed bins, and clean pipes and drains regularly if possible.»

3.Eliminate potential food sources
«This can be done by storing dry foods in tightly sealed containers, making sure food is not left sitting out on counters, and cleaning up any spillages.»

4.Know who to contact

«Whether you’re dealing with a pest problem or are simply looking to prevent one, it’s important that you know who to contact. It’s the role of external contractors to be fully up-to-date on the latest legislation changes in their area of expertise.

«Pest controllers are no different, so if you’re in unsure of best way to prevent rodents in your home then it’s always best to check with the experts.»

How can you keep rats out of your home?

«There are some simple things you can do to help discourage rats from moving in and around your home, stopping an infestation before it occurs,» Dee Ward-Thompson, Technical Manager at British Pest Control Association (BPCA) tells Country Living.

Dee says some of the ways to keep rats out of the home include:

1.Keeping bins closed
«Cover any household waste where rats can get access to it. Keep your bin lids closed. Try and keep your bins out of direct sunlight to help reduce the smells and decrease the rate of decomposition pests are attracted too. Regularly clean out your containers also.»

2.Be careful when feeding birds
«
Rats aren’t picky eaters. Remember if you’re feeding birds or other wildlife in your garden, this will encourage rats too. If you feed garden birds, use a feeder basket. Don’t put out too much food at once.»

3.Check entry points
«Check for entry points in and around your home and outbuildings. Seal gaps around pipes and under sheds. Even small holes can create easy access for pests. Rats can squeeze through any space you can fit a thumb through.

4.Keep your garden tidy

«Keeping your garden tidy by cleaning up debris and woodpiles limits potential nesting sites for rats.»

What scent will keep rats away?

Rats don’t like the smell of peppermint, so placing peppermint oil on cotton wool balls in corners of your home will help to keep them away. Replace this every few days to ensure they keep their distance.

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What are the best DIY methods of removal?

If you’re looking for ways to easily remove the rodents yourself, there are some simple cost-effective ways you can try. These include.

  • Create a ‘bait station’ to trap the rat (without harming it) and then release it safely away from your home. You can use foods such as dried fruits, nuts or even bacon to attract the rats.
  • Use a traditional rat trap. These can be purchased in local hardware stores.
  • Place peppermint oil, cayenne pepper, pepper and cloves around the home to keep them away.
  • Sprinkle crushed pepper, or spray a pepper spray, near openings and holes.

When should you call an exterminator?

«If it’s too late and you’ve already got an established infestation, then you might need some professional help,» Dee says.

«While you can pick up rat poison (rodenticide) from a DIY store, amateur rat control can be ineffective and sometimes dangerous. Always read the label on any rat bait you purchase and make sure it cannot be accessed by wildlife, family pets or children.»

«Many areas in the UK now have rats that are resistant to some poisons,» she adds. «Pest management professionals have access to different products not on sale to the general public and can manage poison-resistant rats. They’ll also be able to protect other non-target species and give you some advice on how to stop rats from re-infesting your property.»

Remember: Failed DIY treatments can actually make infestations worse, so always use a trained, insured and audited pest management company.

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www.countryliving.com

Top tips on how to get rid of rats

A notoriously destructive and stubborn plague, rats require patience and determination to eradicate.

How to deal with rats, from Country Life

Rat infestations

Rats can cause huge damage to crops, carry deadly diseases to humans and cause huge damage to properties. Their numbers have exploded to around 70 million in the UK and with many councils now charging households for pest control, you will want to avoid rats ever becoming a problem.

How do you know if you’ve got rats?

How do you tell whether you have rats? The answer is If you see a rat, you’ve got rats; if you see rats you’ve probably got an infestation. Other tell-tale signs such as droppings, rat runs and the gnawing of wood are also key indicators. The trick is not to attract them in the first place so don’t leave food accessible in plastic bin bags, put meat into compost or allow bird table spillages to accumulate.

How do you get rid of rats?

To get rid of rats is not easy. They are ingenious, suspicious and generally move at night. However, rats need two things: food and water. If you can cut off their supply to these the rats will disappear. Rats, unlike mice, are dependant on a regular water supply. If this is not possible you are going to have to kill them.

How to kill rats

Poisoning rats

Unquestionably poison is the most effective way of dealing with a rat infestation. Poison is obtainable at garden and farm supply stores. The best method is to put the poison in a series of rat boxes and place them between their holes and their food or water source or where there are signs of droppings.

Rats are suspicious and it may take a week for them to accept the box as part of their environment and start using it. The poison should be checked every three to four days and replaced as necessary. It is vital that the poison is kept out of reach of cats, dogs and other animals. Most rats that take poison will die in their holes, but any found should be disposed of, preferably by burning. In some cases, it is worth taking the poison to the rats and to do this I was taught to put some poison in a ball of cling film and put it into a hole, covering the opening with a brick. Some rats are becoming resistant to poison and it is worth trying different makes over time.

Traps

Due to their suspicious nature traps should be baited for a week, replacing bait as it is taken before setting the traps. Traps have the advantage in that you will not end up with a dead, stinking rat under your floorboards, but it is not generally a successful method if you have got a serious problem.

Other methods of rat removal

Get a cat – cats kill vermin, but the best ratters tend to be farmyard cats that live out of the house and ‘work’ for a living.

Get a terrier – terriers can be very effective, if used in conjunction with various devices for smoking out rats of their holes.

Electronic devices

These emit electromagnetic waves and/or high pitched sound waves inaudible to humans. The jury is still out on these but, if you have had your house invaded, I would certainly try them. I know of people who swear by them.

www.countrylife.co.uk

How to Get Rid of Rats

Rats, Chickens, and Cats—Oh My! An Adventure in Reducing a Rat Population

By Cynthia Smith (Veterinarian in Washington) – I hate rats. I hate the way they dig dirty holes in my nice clean barns. I hate the squishy way the floor feels when there’s a rat tunnel underneath it. I hate the sick feeling I get when I see a rat whisk past my feet as I open the barns in the morning. I hate their furry little brown disease-carrying bodies that make me feel like my backyard chickens are a menace to all the neighborhood and like, any minute, the next Black Death will descend upon the world and all because I just had to raise poultry. My hatred of rats and their presence on my property lead me to search for solutions on how to get rid of rats.

Act 1: The Discovery

I feel like rodents are the dirty little secret of the poultry world. The one thing we hate to discuss or admit to (like having fleas on your dog or cockroaches in your house); acknowledging that you have seen a rat in your barn is like saying you are a bad person — one with really crummy hygiene. My son, Rob, has been well-trained never to say the word in public. (The last thing I want the neighbors to know is that the cute little backyard farm next door might be less than perfect, let alone a potential reservoir of disease.)

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Indeed, when I told Rob I was going to write this article, his first words were: “I hope it’s going to be anonymous!” I didn’t always hate rats. I had the pet white variety as a child and saw them occasionally in my practice as a veterinarian. It was only after I acquired chickens (about eight years ago at the age of 43) that the loathing began.

Our first order of chickens on my son’s birthday arrived in a cheeping little cardboard box from the Murray McMurray hatchery. While they grew inside of a puppy pen in the house, my husband and 8-year-old son labored to build a raccoon-proof coop in the backyard. Feed was stored in the next-door shed (which had an elevated floor).

All went well, as far as we knew, until the following summer when my husband reached to the upper shelves of the shed and pulled down last year’s nylon swimming pool. The blue plastic came down in a heap, along with the rats that had been nesting in it. As furry bodies rained over my husband’s head and shoulders, an impossibly high-pitched shriek emerged from his masculine throat and my son was witness to a burst of profanity the likes of which he had never heard his Christian father utter. “Mommy, Daddy swore!”

After the gnawed plastic and gruesome tale were revealed to me on my arrival home, I began my first foray into the business of extermination and researching how to get rid of rats; not something a veterinarian is particularly well-trained in. My husband proudly brought home electric traps, a tip he’s received when researching how to get rid of rats. They were supposed to give a quick painless death to the rat when it stepped on the plate. Either they didn’t work, or the rats never touched them. Nary a body did we ever see from those expensive devices. Then there were the glue traps. Guess what, the glue isn’t sticky anymore if it gets anything on it, like dust or shavings. Strangely, my coops were not dust-free. Then there were the good old-fashioned oversized mouse traps designed for their rattish cousins. These at least got some action. We found them exploded six to 10 feet from where they were set, but again, both bait and rat-free. I need not even mention the “humane live catch” trap (it was sized for mice anyway, who seem to be a lot dumber than rats). The plan was that mice could get in but not out again, so one was supposed to check the trap daily and humanely release Mickey and Minnie back into the wild. My husband only tried this once. He forgot to check the trap for two weeks, after which there were multiple cannibalized mouse corpses in the trap; the aftermath of a rodent-style Hunger Games and clearly not a humane way to die.

At this point, I felt there was no option except to try poison as a means of how to get rid of rats. All my efforts to employ natural ways to kill mice and rats were unsuccessful. I never wanted to use rat poison. Goodness knows, we see enough dogs and cats poisoned either by the poison itself or by consuming the poisoned animal. Years before we ever had poultry or had thought of using poison, we lost a pet cat to DeCon poisoning.

An excellent mouser, she would bring back just the tails and line them up at night for our admiration. Twice, she must have eaten a poisoned animal. The first time, we pulled her through. The second time, we were too late. So I know the risk of poison to the animals nearby. Unfortunately, I also understand the risk of a rat incursion in a populated area, both to property and to health. Something had to be done.

Intermission: Safe Rat Control Options

A word here must be inserted about what is certainly the most natural and safe of rat-control options: the domestic or farm cat or, perhaps, a rat terrier. People swear by this option for how to get rid of mice. The terrier was right out as, in my experience, dogs that kill rats also really enjoy killing chickens. But what about a cat? I counted. We have had 12 cats in the past 29 years. Of those, three were excellent mousers. Two of three died before they attained late middle age (about eight years), presumably because of their outdoor lifestyle. We are responsible citizens and have our pets spayed and neutered, so frequent replacement was not an option. The two cats who currently reside on my bed would not dream of soiling their precious paws with a filthy rodent. If you have a healthy supply of competent barn cats and are reading this article thinking what a dangerous poison-wielding idiot I am, my hat is off to you.

Act 2: Back to the Rat Story

Let us return to the saga. I contacted our Washington State Poultry Vet at the lab that does necropsies on poultry. If you do not have the access to a brilliant poultry resource like Dr. Roccio Crespo in your state, you have my pity.

Dr. Crespo informed me that I needed to buy little locking plastic boxes that hold the poison tightly confined on stakes. In this way, the rat must eat the poison in the box and cannot carry a chunk away to possibly poison another animal. I bought Tomcat boxes and bait at the local feed store. They were easy to use. The poison disappeared, dead rat bodies appeared and were immediately disposed of. There was no collateral damage in birds or other animals. Whew!

Fast forward to our move from our little house on a small lot to our littler house on a large (1.3-acre lot) a few years later. In the classic reverse market savvy that runs in my unhappy family, the real estate market crashed mere weeks after the papers were signed. Our new house was immediately worth much less than we paid, the mortgage was underwater and our old house unsalable unless at a very great loss. Doggedly, we muscled on as have many ethical Americans in the same situation. Refusing to renege on our word because circumstances had changed, we paid for our now overpriced home and prepared to become landlords as our old house was now vacant. Another rat crisis worsened our situation. When we abruptly removed every bird to our new barn on the new property, the current invisible rats grew and hungered. They went looking for food. They found it in grass seed stored in the garage, in camping food locked away in the attic, in water and food stores stored in plastic 24-hour kits. Before we knew it, we had rats that had moved uptown: highfalutin rodents living high in the attic and sporting top hats and monocles. The traps were again a failure. Once again, we were forced to resort to the poison. It worked, but with a small side effect. These rats did not do us the courtesy of quietly dying in their holes underground.

Noooo, they went to the far reaches of the attic and vents to die. It was summer. Chanel Number Fur permeated the house in several unexpected areas: the master bedroom, the hall closet, and the pantry — open these doors and prepare to run. All searches for their desiccating bodies proved futile. The house was, most certainly, not fit to go on the market. Eight months later, in the depths of winter, eau de rodent being but an unpleasant memory, we could finally begin to make preparations to lease out our money pit.

Act 3: The Return to Chickens

We had by now narrowed our focus to breeding only show varieties of bantam Polish and Araucanas. Some of our old flock remained as pets, along with turkeys, geese, and ducks acquired variously as lawn candy. Most birds were free range on our 1.3 acres, with the show birds confined to covered pens. A locked poison box was kept in each pen and rarely needed emptying. All was well. There are several other people in our neighborhood who keep a few birds, including a lovely next-door family who acquired nice birds and joined our 4-H club.

Suddenly, the rat population swelled. Poison boxes were still full but the Tomcat poison seemed barely nibbled. An experienced friend recommended, “Just One Bite,” a tasty looking poison with embedded grains. The rats loved it. The poison disappeared again and so did the rats. I diplomatically (I hoped) donated poison to my chicken-keeping neighbor. Whew. Back on track.

In 2013, the situation changed yet again. My neighbor went back to school and I offered to place her birds for her. Once the birds were homed, hungry rat hordes moved to the nearest source of food: us. This was the worst ever! On one night I saw six — count ’em, six — rats running around like they owned the place. (And I was taught that, if you see one, there are 10 more you didn’t see.) Neighbors down the street also discovered rat damage under their houses. Exterminators were called. I felt like Typhoid Mary.

The poison boxes were once again loaded and distributed. Chicken feed and water disappeared, but the bait stayed pristine. My friend was again consulted. Take out the feed so they have to eat the poison, she advised. Laboriously, every night we lugged feed out of all six pens, refilled the bait boxes, and lugged feed back out in the early morning before work. Chicken chores were becoming less fun and my teenage son was far less enthralled with his feathered friends. It worked (sort of), as the bait disappeared.

Indeed, we went through 24 pounds of bait, both the Tomcat and the Just One Bite, in the following three months.

However, while the bait was gone, the rats seemed totally unaffected. Fat rats, baby rats, all cavorting with seeming impunity in and among our birds. Then it hit me. Every morning I had to refill, not only the feed, but all the water! Full waterers at night were empty in the morning. My two remaining tired neurons finally made the connection: what did I put in my water? Apple cider vinegar. What does the vinegar contain, among other things? Vitamin K. How does rat poison work? By destroying the body’s vitamin K stores, thus causing them to slowly bleed to death.

Excellent, I’d spent three months administering the antidote along with the toxin. Fine work indeed. The darn poison itself was getting a lot harder to acquire too. The FDA had decided to ban sales of most of the really effective products to regular consumers. My local Del’s feed store and local hardware store no longer carried them. I was forced to pick up the Just One Bite in 8-pound cases from a feed store 120 miles away. I had to sign for it too. This would be OK except that it still wasn’t working well. Now I was carrying birds’ water and feed out every night and every morning, a feat which required I give up an extra 45 minutes of sleep before the work day and stumble around in the dark loaded with water that poured all over my shoes. Oh, I was loving raising chickens, you betcha.

An example of a safety trap, that keeps the rats from dragging poison into places also shared by pets and poultry.

We found a few dead rats, to be sure, and the Just One Bite was disappearing nightly by the pound, but the influx of baby rats playing fearlessly in my show cages convinced me I was still fighting a losing battle. To make matters worse, I had a deadline approaching. Soon I would have abdominal surgery, which would necessitate me turning over all the care of the birds to my son Rob for a while. No way was he going to be able to spend that kind of time lugging feed and water before his 6 a.m. Bible Study and 7:30 a.m. school. What to do?

Several things came to light in my frenzied research on how to get rid of rats that did not involve going back to a life without birds.

1. Visits to the affected neighbors informed me that their exterminators had tracked their rats to a neighborhood sewage drain source. (I was so worried they’d target me!) These people paid premium prices for professional exterminators who did exactly what I’d been doing: Put bait boxes all around the areas and when finished, advise their clients to buy their own boxes and keep them full as further sewage incursions were a certainty. (Whew! I wasn’t going crazy: there were indeed plenty of rats coming in faster than I could kill them.)

2. I discovered that the United Kingdom is experiencing a serious outbreak of poison-resistant rats in their sewage system. While I found no such reference in the U.S., it does not seem a far reach to assume that we, too, have rats that have evolved to be able to eat the stuff with minimal damage.

3. I decided I was quite unwilling to try the newer poisons that do not antagonize vitamin K. These poisons have no antidote whereas, with a $9 bottle of vitamin K given daily for a month, a pet that one presumes may have been poisoned can be saved. (I found my own cat eating a single rat this summer, and considering her incompetence, felt that there was no way she would have caught it unless it was already dying. A pill a day for a month and she lives to purr on my pillow for years to come.

4. There are many variations on the vitamin K antagonizing poisons. The trick, I decided, was to find a poison these rats had never seen before and that was tasty enough to compete with the feed. (We continue to put away the vinegar-enriched water at night, though.)

I found that product in First Strike Soft Bait. These soft packets must be stuck tightly on the stakes so the rats cannot carry them away, but they must taste delicious and we’re finally seeing corpses everywhere, even though we’re leaving the feed in at night. I am confident that, for a while at least, the vermin are in retreat. First Strike uses an ingredient called Difethialone at a concentration of 0.0025 percent.

As I mentioned, a product that I have really liked in the past is Just One Bite, which has the active ingredient, Bromadilone.

The bait stations (locking boxes) that I use are made by Tomcat, the Tomcat poison sold with the trap contains bromethalin and has the added advantage of being waterproof if you need to keep bait stations outside. It does seem to be considerably less palatable than the other two, so rats with a choice of goodies may not go for it.

And that’s it. As you may understand, I have written this article with great trepidation, not wanting to be branded as the chicken breeder with the rat problem. Please be constantly aware that, if you do have to treat with poison boxes, animals may still be at risk if they eat poisoned rats. Keep a sharp watch and immediately dispose of dead or dying rodents. Consult your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pet has been poisoned, and bring a copy of the package so the doctor may ascertain proper treatment.

A recent visit to two admired breeder’s facilities convinced me that I am not alone in having trials dealing with these pests. I hope that my information may prove helpful, or may at least make you feel smug that you don’t have that disgusting problem or that your cats are competent. (If so, you have my envy.) I have written this article in good faith, hoping to save others some of the trials we have been through. I would prefer not to receive a ton of hate mail from PETA members who adore their little rat friends or from naturalist believers who are sure Diatomaceous Earth and probiotics can cure rats, rickets, rabies and a rainy day.

My wish for you: May the words, “Oh, Rats!” come out of your mouth only when you drop the feed bag on your toe.

What other ideas for how to get rid of rats would you add to this list?

Originally published in Backyard Poultry June/July 2014 and regularly vetted for accuracy.

iamcountryside.com

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