Rats in the Compost Pile

fleemo17(z9 CA)January 17, 2012

I have rats in my compost pile. When I go to add something in my enclosed plastic bin, they'll scurry out of the bin through tunnels they've dug into the compost. Is this an issue? Could they be contaminating the compost? Are they eating all my good composting materials? Should I take steps (like traps) to get rid of them?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

They are there because your compost pile provides them with either shelter or a food source. If you were to turn the pile on occassion that would eliminate the shelter part. Look at what you are putting into the compost to determine whether or not that is a food source. Also, a working compost pile (internal temperatures above 120 degrees) would not be very hospitable to any vermin.
Whether they are "contaminating" your compost will depend on a number of things. Traps may well help.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2012 at 6:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
joepyeweed(5b IL)

blech. rats. I would do something to keep them out.

One thing you can do is refrain from adding food scraps for awhile, at least until you can get all the openings screened.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2012 at 12:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
fleemo17(z9 CA)

> If you were to turn the pile on occassion that would eliminate the shelter part.Oh, but I do turn the pile, kimmsr. I turn it every time I add kitchen scraps, which is once every three or four days. And yes, I would suppose our kitchen scraps would be a tasty meal for a rat. Currently, our compost pile is not very hot, but in the dead of winter I would think that'd be normal, no?

>One thing you can do is refrain from adding food scraps for awhile, at least until you can get all the openings screened.Probably a good idea, joepyeweed, though I hate tossing good compost materials down the kitchen sink. I didn't think about checking their entry point, kind of assuming they burrowed in from below. But rats don't burrow, do they?

    Bookmark   January 18, 2012 at 2:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ralleia(z5 Omaha, NE)

I would certainly go about trapping them.

They are most certainly eating your compost materials, and there is probably a small possibility of contamination by feces, or anything else they might drag in to improve their bedding. I have had intermittent problems with field mice, but never rats.

I swear by snap traps. Before I used the standard wood and metal spring-type, but now I much prefer a plastic type which you set without ever risking your fingers, called a "T Rex". There are different sizes for mice and rats. I have ten of the mouse-size which I deploy wherever I notice activity.

Do you have to be concerned with inadvertently trapping loose cats and dogs, or is the area fairly free of that kind of activity?

    Bookmark   January 18, 2012 at 3:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Is the whole pile turned inside out and upside down, or do you simply stir it around a bit? Rats are omnivours, they will eat anything, so saying "keep meat scraps out of the compost" means very little because rats can, and will, feed on anything.
Turning a compost pile, fully, every 3 or 4 days could be one reason why it does not get very hot since that turning could disrupt the thermophilic bacteria enough to slow them down, although there does seem to be no harm in frequent turning in a 14 day compost pile.
Fully turning your compost pile will drive the rats out and it could take a week or more for them to move back.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2012 at 7:44AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ZoysiaSod(6a/6b St.Lou TranZone)

Kimmsr wrote:
> Turning a compost pile, fully, every 3 or 4 days could be one reason why it does not get very hot since that turning could disrupt the thermophilic bacteria enough to slow them down

I just started composting and have a very small plastic trash can filled with a mix of chopped leaves, grass clippings, and the discarded fruit peels of bananas, grapefruits, and oranges.

The trash can is small. The mix inside the can is only occupying a volume that's about 14 inches wide by 19 inches long by 19 inches tall. But the temperature in there reaches well above 120* Fahrenheit, and I've been aerating the mix daily by simply putting my arm in the can and thoroughly mixing everything up a few times.

I check the temperature just once daily, about 24 hours after I arm-mix it. Within that short time frame, it zooms up well past 120* F. I'll have to go to Walmart and buy a better thermometer because my current thermometer only measures up to 120 but the number dial on the thermometer goes well past 120 into an unmarked zone when I do the measuring. So I'm guessing the temp is reaching somewhere between 130 and 140, but I can't wait to get a higher-measuring thermometer to be sure.

It surprised me that such a small volume of leaves and grass clippings with fruit peels could get so hot so fast with thorough mixing done daily. I'll probably mix it just once or twice a week from now on.

Of course, my small trash can is inside my basement during the winter. The air temperatue in the basement is about 64* F. I'm totally new to composting.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2012 at 11:07AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
dottyinduncan(z8b coastal BC)

You should trap them. As long as they are enjoying this nice dry home with free food, they will be breeding. Peanut butter on traps works well. You're braver than me. I won't go near the compost bin if something is living in it!

    Bookmark   January 19, 2012 at 12:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
joepyeweed(5b IL)

I'm just glad I haven't had to deal with rats, yet.

My friend in chicago has placed wire hardware cloth screen around her plastic compost bins. And she elevated them on a metal frame (made out of bent rebar), based upon a recommendation from another urban composter.

Getting them up off the ground helps and metal is the key.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2012 at 12:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
fleemo17(z9 CA)

Thanks for all the responses.

Ralleja, thanks for the T-Rex recommendation. I just ordered a pair off of Amazon.

Joepyeweed, I thought that it was beneficial to have your compost pile on the ground so that earthworms and other soil inhabitants could access the pile work their magic on it. No?

Kimmsr, how often would you recommend turning a compost pile? It's primarily leaf mold with kitchen wraps thrown in every couple of days in a large (4'x4') plastic bin. I didn't think it would do much in the winter so I'm not surprised that it doesn't get hot this time of year, but are you saying it could still get hot in the winter?

Again, thanks to everyone who chimed in.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2012 at 12:56AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The 4 x 4 x 4 compost piles I have would get turned when the temperature in the center of the pile started to drop below 135 degrees, indicating the bacteria had digested about all the available material. The next time would depend on when the peak temperature was reached and the temperatures started downward, that often was about 6 days after the initial build and then maybe 6 to 8 days after each turn.
How often you would turn your compost will depend on when that paek temperature was reached. All that said, there are also those that turn their compost much more frequently and make compost in 14 days.

Here is a link that might be useful: Compost in 14 days

    Bookmark   January 20, 2012 at 7:23AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
compogardenermn(4- Twin Cities, MN)

Rats should compost just fine. Just throw them in the middle and let em cook...

    Bookmark   January 25, 2012 at 8:51AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
fleemo17(z9 CA)

Skip this post if your squeamish.

So I received the T Rex rat traps and set one in the compost bin. Wasn't long before it snagged a rat. So far, I've loaded it three times and come up with a rat each time. How many might I expect to catch?

The weird thing was, before I set the trap there was a single entry tunnel. After the first one was caught, it appeared that the trap (rat and all) was dragged into the tunnel but got stuck, then several additional tunnels were dug to bypass the blocked tunnel. Each time, the rat-laden trap has been drug as far into the tunnel as it would go. That seems so odd to me. What do his colleagues want with the trap? Is it a case of leave no rat behind? Or perhaps they're trying to drag the cheese-laden trap back to their lair so they can attempt to salvage the bait?

    Bookmark   January 26, 2012 at 2:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
joepyeweed(5b IL)

Live rats will eat a dead rat. If you live in an urban area where rats are prevalent, there will be no end to the number of rats that you trap. You probably need to focus on keeping them out of the pile.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2012 at 3:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
fleemo17(z9 CA)

So they may be trying to take the dead rat back to the nest for a snack? Charming. :(

Joe, the rats managed to chew their way into my compost bin. The plastic is like 1/8" heavy duty plastic, and they managed to chew an 6" hole in the side of the bin. Not sure how I"m gonna keep 'em out if they can pull that off. :/

    Bookmark   January 26, 2012 at 4:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I've left bodies of rats I have shot laying on the ground near the colony entrances/alleyways, the bodies are always 'cleaned up' by the next day. Can't say for sure if they were consumed by their fellow rats, but I suspect it is so. Doesn't break my heart, I hates rats!

If you get them in the compost, get rid of them, they breed like, well, rats.


    Bookmark   January 26, 2012 at 5:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
joepyeweed(5b IL)

Metal. Use a metal can or wrap the bin in Wire mesh. It was mentioned previously, the plastic bins should be wrapped in wire hardware cloth, and elevated on a metal stand. Those are the two most common things that urban composters to do keep the rats out.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 1:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ZoysiaSod(6a/6b St.Lou TranZone)

What if you only fill your plastic barrel composter with leaves and grass? Would rats, voles, or other critters chew into the barrel then?

How about the occasional peels from oranges, bananas, and grapefruits? Would critters be interested in the barrel for those peels / rinds?

I guess the other question concerns open heaps and pens (like those made from pallets). IF critters aren't interested in grasses and leaves to munch on, would these open compost heaps and pens that hold leaves and grass still attract rats and critters as a place of shelter, breeding, chillin', or anything else?

What are the critter-proof compostable items, if any?

I would think grass and leaves might be critter-proof, unless rats, voles, and other creatures find heaps and pens a comfy place to live in or visit.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 3:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

I finally gave up and put out poison for the rats (OK, OK sorry!)
I also put the kitchen scraps into an old tumbler instead of the bin on the ground. The bin on the ground gets the leaves, grass and coffee grounds. NO kitchen waste.
Yes, some rats DO tunnel! When I had chickens, they had a great time tunneling through the chicken coop, looking for food!
My cat is too old to go hunting (14 or so) and I'm thinking of getting a "hunter" from the local rescue center to take care of the mice/rats.
Good luck! Nancy

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 9:30PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Some cats hunt rats. We had a slim tiny long-haired aristocratic beauty who killed rats, even though bigger cats are sometimes afraid of rats. Terriers hunt rats. I really think I don't have rats because homeless cats stop by occasionally. This is better than traps or poison, I think.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 12:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
joepyeweed(5b IL)

Not to mention the other critters who will eat the poisoned rat and then get sick. My friend lost her cat that way.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 5:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Rats will chew through masonry, wood, and plastic. They gladly eat their own kin. They dig multiple tunnels with several options for escape. They love compost piles because to them it is like living in a heated condo with regular take-out delivery. Poison is generally not recommended, because you have less control over where they actually die. If they have access to your home, no at all unlikely, you could be in for a real nightmare if they die inside a wall or in an inaccessible place below the floor. There is also the potential for unintended consumption by other animals, including the predators that would be interested in eating rats.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 6:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
fleemo17(z9 CA)

They'r'e baaaaack.

After trapping several rats in my compost pile and having no activity for a while, last week I opened my compost pile, thrust in my pitchfork, and heard a squealing sound as several baby rats scurried around the compost bin. The sight of the babies freaked me out and I left the pile alone. Apparently, I skewered mama, as a foul smell came from the pile, and my wife found a maggot-encrusted rat in the pile.

So, after I dispose of the corpse, should I dispose of the compost too? Is that likely to be contaminated? I plan on wrapping the bin with hardware cloth to keep future rats out, but I'm wondering if this current crop o' compost should be discarded?

    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 1:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Use the rats as fertilizer.
I catch rats with the infrared rat zapper, expensive but very effective. Uses peanuts as bait. Nice part is that it isn't messy and you don't need to touch the dead rat.

I bury the rats in my vegetable garden, the plants next to a buried rat will green up and become noticeably more vigorous.

If you bury them, they could provide all the fertilizer your garden needs.

Here is a link that might be useful: rat zapper

    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 2:27PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I too have rats in my compost pile. One issue I have is that I get compost from the neighborhood and have on average 10 gallons per day of vegan food scraps, so I can't simply "not put" certain things in my bins.

Another issue is that I did *not* line my bins with mesh, so the rats can tunnel under quite easily and this is a bummer mistake.

Our worthless cat pretty much refuses to hunt the rats. I think they are escaped pets, which makes them cute. Nevertheless, they really must go.

We have chickens and wild birds, so have to be careful what we do about the rats. I bought a rat live trap, which they are not falling for. We got some poison, and have killed 3 or 4 by putting it down their tunnels. As of right now, we still have at least 3, and they are likely breeding like mad somewhere.

We changed the place where we compost from the 3-compost bin (underneath which we think they are living) to a sheet compost system in our orchard area under fruit trees. We can see the rats run out from the nearby bushes and grab some veggie scraps and haul them off to eat in the safety of cover. My husband bought a pellet gun today and is going to try his hand with that tomorrow. I like the "rat zapper" concept, but the link seems to be defunct. I googled it and came up with something similar. The concept seems good, but there is no guarantee they will prefer to go in the trap for the bait when there is so much compost everywhere. It does seem though, like the chickens couldn't go into the zapper. Now the plastic rat traps which snap, a chicken could step into. Does anyone have those, and does this seem plausible?

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 11:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Old message thread, just got an email about it.

My rats prefer peanuts to compost. I do open pit composting in the winter (since it doesn't smell), yet rats still go into the trap. The only complication is to put the zapper in a rubbermaid tub, with holes cut in it, so it doesn't get wet when it rains.

Here's an amazon link:

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 1:05AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
bluegoat_gw(Zone 3b)

A simple method to keep rats out of the compost bin is to raise the floor. This also makes the bin a stand alone unit that can be added or removed independent of the other bins.

Here is a link that might be useful: Compost bin construction

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 2:00AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
tropical_thought(San Francisco)

This is why I like closed plastic bins with no slots and no door or anything. The things is small rats will move into a bin, they can fit into the slot and decide to live there. I would open the bin and see them. I put all the fresh foods in the one bin I have with no doors and vents, then I use the other bins that have vents and door to store the mostly finished compost.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 10:23AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have a worm bin in the basement for all of my kitchen scraps, and a regular compost pile outside for the yard waste. IâÂÂm a big fan of the worms. I donâÂÂt have to put anything tempting in my outside pile and I send zero food waste to the landfill. They process stuff in about a week too; such happy little workaholics :)

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 8:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Build your bin on pavers or bricks. It keeps the borrowing critters out and tree roots too while the worms still manage to make their way in.

to sense

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 1:23AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I've got a possum (family?) in my compost this winter. I've decided to just let them be until I need the compost come springtime.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 2:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

New member, 1st post, great thread.
I have been battling rats for many years now and I always end up back here one way or another so I finally joined :)

I feel for each and every one of you that has a mouse/rat problem.

We are in a large city and we had rats in our old 1960s garage that was just storing stuff and an old project 4x4.

Then we tore down and built new, no problems with rats for a couple years until I built a roofed outdoor storage area around 2 sides of the garage. With tires, truck parts, 2x4s rubbermaid totes it turned into a rats den.

I started off with victor metal spring traps which were effective for a while but now all they do is act as a plate and are always empty with the bait gone. Upgraded to the plastic jaws ones, I really like these because there is a much better no touch factor when getting rid of carcass and rebaiting is alot easier and safer. However, these have also turned into the second entree and they are licked dry as well. Seems the only rats I have caught in the last little while were rats who were scurrying along the wall and walked over it lol.

Now, Dec 2013 is the next upgrade, 2 electric rat zappers from amazon have just been set out 2 days ago.
I sprinkles some assorted nuts and beans around to give them a free taste and convince them everything is safe. :/ crappy thing is, its so cold and the little buggers are off camped in someplace warm and I hope its not my attic (Fingers crossed its not my attic!!)

Oh btw, we are changing out the old black compost bin that sits on the ground to a 55 gallon plastic drum DIY tumbling bin.Search google for it and theres many DIY tutorials.

Here is a link that might be useful: Amazon rat zappers $32 each

This post was edited by Metrogardener on Mon, Dec 9, 13 at 12:59

    Bookmark   December 9, 2013 at 12:56PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Lots of grass, not much "brown"?
So I live in the tropics of Australia, 4-5m of rainfall...
how would one add / help mycorrhizae
On another thread (very long and informative - why...
Miracle Compost Additive!
Added a bunch to my compost pile and it heated right...
what say you on on reusing ashes to soil?
We barbecue often and use charcoal (absolutely no lighter...
flyinbtsomypants (WestCent.FL Z9b-10a)
Using mushroom spawn or spores
How do I add mushroom spore or spawn to raised bed...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™