How Do I Keep Rats Away From Compost Pile?

greenleaf_organic(8, TX)November 28, 2011

Hey guys,I am a comitted composter from way back for both environmental and soil building reasons. How can we deter rats from coming around because of compost piles? Are composting bins the only answer? If so, are there suggested makes or models which would make good healthy compost while keeping rats out?


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Even when I had compost piles, no containement, I did not have a problem with vermin digging in the compost because I did not put in material that would attract them. Most often when I have seen a compost pile that attracted vermin I found meat scraps and fats in the compost, so don't add those things to yours.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2011 at 6:35AM
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val_s(z5 central IL)

Personally, I think it's VERY hard to keep critters out of the compost piles. While I've not seen rats, I have seen chipmunks, voles and raccoons.

Rats will eat anything because they are scavengers, so unless you are planning on only using grass and leaves in your compost...

For me, the best solution I've come up with to control (but not eliminate totally) the critters is to use a contained bin for most of the table scraps and an open bin for everything else. However, I do throw things like pumpkins and end of garden veggies into the open pile. I've seen chipmunks and raccoons happily munching on the busted pumpkins and tomatoes (thrown in green and later turned red) that were thrown into the bin.

I also live trap for the smaller critters. You could try poison but then you run the risk of pets or children getting into it.


    Bookmark   November 29, 2011 at 7:46AM
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Maybe a bit .



    Bookmark   November 29, 2011 at 7:58AM
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greenleaf_organic(8, TX)

Yeah, I put no meat or fats, but yes I do add all sorts of fruit and vegetable peelings, cores, etc from the kitchen. The pile is next to the shed so convenient for the rats to hide out and come out to munch. I try to bury the table stuff under leaves, mulch material, etc but don't always keep up. The problem is that then they make their way into the attic so we have had to trap them, hire exterminator to seal off entrances into the house, etc but it has been an ongoing battle and my wife (who can blame her) is not so keen on composting lately.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2011 at 8:48AM
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Is your compost in some kind of bin? I made bins from hardware cloth (1/4" openings) and pressure-treated 2 x 2's, and even the raccoons leave them alone. Knock on wood, I've never had rats; I hope that you can get them to leave you alone.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2011 at 9:14AM
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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

consider having a worm bin in the garage or basement for the food stuffs.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2011 at 9:49AM
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I second having a wire bin for your food waste. It could be relatively small if you wanted. You could still have piles for garden and yard waste.

There are also enclosed plastic bins with lids, such as the Earth Machine (slightly conical, black, looks like Darth Vader's head), or the Home Composter which is a big black cylinder. I like the Home Composter better because it comes apart easily in two halves when you're ready to turn or remove the pile.

You may want to put chicken wire on the ground beneath your bin so they can't dig into it.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2011 at 12:19PM
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I suggest moving the bin away from the shed to an "out-in-the-open" location where there is nowhere to hide. Brave rats that try to move in on the the new location will be more likely to get picked off by birds of prey. Another idea is to get yourself a blender & dedicate it to kitchen garbage. Turn those tasty tidbits from the kitchen into a slurry & then mix the slurry with something less interesting, such as sawdust or shredded paper. Add the mixture to your pile. The rats may catch a whiff of food, but will be unable to find it, which I imagine would eventually discourage the rats.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2011 at 1:01PM
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I use to have two above-ground plastic bins. Never put in meat scraps and still had a few rats. Once I put in the pitchfork to turn the pile and had a rat jump out at me. :( Eventually switched to four in-ground containers and never had a problem again. Used old garbage cans with tight fitting lids and cut off the bottom and placed them in a hole. Got the idea from my parents who have composted many different ways. They don't cook as fast as the above-ground bins but for the past two years they've been growing an amazing amount of earthworms that I happily add to my garden when the compost is ready.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2011 at 8:38PM
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shermthewerm(8 PNW)

I don't really know how to keep them AWAY, but a good cat can sure keep the numbers down. I have a very good mouser/mole-getter, but since I've had a compost pile (I'm kind of a newbie--started my pile a year & 1/2 ago), my cat has been bringing me a lot of rats. So, even though my compost bin is completely enclosed in hardware cloth (even on the bottom), and I do not put meat/fat in it, I've seen an increase in the amount of rats in our area. Perhaps it's not related, but it seems a little coincidental--my cat is 10 years old, and she never had as many "kills" as she's had since we started our compost pile.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2011 at 9:04PM
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greenleaf_organic(8, TX)

Lots of good feedback here and I thank you all. I have a smaller suburban yard and cannot really move the pile to a more open location away from the shed. It is also back up against the fence with a drainage ditch (between myself and the neighbor in the back) which runs down into a wooded area which brings in lots of critters (possums, coons, squirrels, etc.) We do have a dog which catches his share of critters but can't get them all. I think I will have to fashion some kind of sturdy breathable screen to keep the vermin out of the house scraps area of the compost. Maybe take one of those super heavy duty tomato cages and wrap it from underground up with a heavy gauge screen material with a hinged closable top. Or maybe instead of a hinged top I can take some kind of round flat object with a handle in the middle like a trash can lid and use it to push down into the top of the enclosure to keep rats out. Let's see if I can outsmart a rodent! :) By the way, I now actually remember when we lived in another state 20 years ago that we got a neighborhood/city ordinance notice to do away with all compost piles because of rats, so all us composters had to comply. If I can get this compost enclosure to work I will post a picture to help others who may have the same challenge.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2011 at 1:15AM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

Let's see if I can outsmart a rodent! :)
Good luck with that! LOL
I recently had rats IN the house (shudder)!
My DD used to work for a pest control company and said that you have to eliminate ALL sources of food for the rodents!
They are most fond of carby type stuff-breads, noodles, beans, cereal etc, but they will NOT go past the veges! They got to my tomatoes and squash that were sitting on the table, getting ready to be sauced and frozen.Also fresh fruit that I had in a bowl on the counter.
One of the worst things to have in the house or in the yard is a bird feeder or (in my case) birds (unless you want to change the cage every day!) The seeds are rat gourmet!
I agree with all of the above, and might be starting a worm bin myself to help with the problem!
For now, I'm making sure there is a good thick cover of shredded leaves over every dump of kitchen waste!
Good luck! Nancy

    Bookmark   December 2, 2011 at 1:23AM
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Rats, as well as mice to a lesser extent, are the carriers of a fairly impressive list of nasty diseases. Let alone what they'll do to your wiring, and sometimes plumbing as they gnaw away at stuff.

I don't have rat issues now, but have had horrendous problems in the past in other locations, and it was a constant war. If you really want to get rid of them, get a ferret.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2011 at 11:47AM
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How about a moat filled with large snakes around the compost bin? Eh, maybe not a lot more practical than the attack helicopter.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2011 at 1:19PM
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I used to have rats (tree rats, black rats, Rattus rattus)

Then we got cats. We use compressed sawdust pellets as litter - stove pellets.

Sprinkling the cat-urine soaked sawdust from the used kitty litter around the edge of the yard and composting it (minus the feces, which we flush) has made the rats vanish.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2011 at 9:46PM
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greenleaf_organic(8, TX)

Well Merryberry, I went the easy way out here and bought a galvanized steel trash can with lid for $22.00 at Home Depot. I am thinking that I can drill it full of holes on the bottom, top, and sides and then bury a foot or two into the ground. Nice tight fitting lid should keep those buggers out while the holes will let in air and moisturure (and earthworms at ground level). I am considering pushing the lid down in a concave manner so that what little rain we get in S TX will filter into the compost. One last thing- why not set it immediately adjacent to my tomato cage so that the compost will boost my tomato production? (I have seen sketches of a wire compost bin surrounded by tomato cages so that the nutrients could leach into the ground and feed the tomatoes) That may be a good idea for those of you who are fortunate enough to have the room to do it. I have already made the choice to cover most of my yard with fruit trees.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2011 at 1:15AM
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I am considering pushing the lid down in a concave manner so that what little rain we get in S TX will filter into the compost.


I don't know if I'd do that. I tried to convert an old plastic barrel into a compost bin. It was constantly wet/soggy in there.

Might just be me, but if anything, I'd add more drainage holes and go easy on the moisture (your material will probably have plenty of moisture already).

    Bookmark   December 3, 2011 at 6:42AM
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greenleaf_organic(8, TX)

Good point TN Gardening. I will follow your idea on that one. I can always change the lid later if it needs more moisture but from what you are saying I doubt if I will need to.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2011 at 2:46PM
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bluegoat_gw(Zone 3b)

The easiest way to keep rats out of a compost bin is to elevate the floor. With a lid and latch, other, larger animals will be kept out.

Mice get through a very small opening and will always be a part of the compost process. Bears just tear the bin apart.

Here is a link that might be useful: Compost Bin Construction

    Bookmark   December 5, 2011 at 2:04PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

Having cats deters rats. Rats and mice like bread products and grains. I like a closed bin with a lid, and very little or no opening. This one is suppost to work, but I have not tired it.

Here is a link that might be useful: rodent free bin

    Bookmark   December 9, 2011 at 3:49PM
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2 outdoor cats effectively chase away all the rats from our yard, where we had lots of them before because of fruit trees. Rats like falling fruit.

Before the cats I used these infrared rat zappers outside. They work really well. Regular rat traps never worked well for me. Just bait the zappers with shelled raw peanuts. As a side benefit, it is easy to just bury the dead rats by your favorite tree, tomato, squash,... plant and they make great fertilizer.

One full size rat will keep a tomato plant green for about 2 months.

I ultimately got cats though to chase away squirrels also. The squirrels where too smart to get caught (very often) in the rat zappers.

Here is a link that might be useful: rat zapper

    Bookmark   December 20, 2011 at 3:45PM
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